Modern culture is the culture of large cities. The special conditions created by millions of human beings living together in cities have influenced the thinking and behaviour of not only the city-dweller but the rest of western civilization as well. Today, there is no corner of a country that is not influenced by big city life.

New York is the big city, and the names of its streets and buildings have become symbols of modern life itself. Wall Street, Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Times Square are other words for finance, fame, fashion, and fast living. The Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building mean freedom and pride. The Bronx and the Bowery spell crime and poverty.

Large cities fascinate and puzzle the individual. Cities take on many forms and are full of contrasts: people of all races and classes walk the same streets, city areas are divided into separate neighbourhoods, the very rich and the very poor can be found within spitting distance of each other. The response to this experience is wonder and amazement or frustration, confusion, and indignation.

The large numbers of people continuously surrounding the individual lead to paradoxical feelings of isolation and loneliness. Nowhere is a person more lonely than in a city, an experience that leaves many individuals in a troubled state.

The city also gives freedom to the individual. The constraints of small community life are absent, and loneliness can be converted to personal fulfilment. The individual is free to pursue his or her desires and longings, and it is easy to find other people with similar inclinations. This possibility results in the emergence of new social groups that cut across old class boundaries. As alternatives to the official culture a range of subcultures contend for attention: bohemians, dandies, gays, punks, and rappers to mention but a few.

An individual moving about in a city is in daily contact with many people. These contacts are brief and superficial. There is no time to get to know the newspaperman at the corner, the man who serves you coffee, or the hundreds of people working on your floor. In these circumstances appearances become all-important as a way of communicating with others.

The city offers people a possibility of liberating themselves from old views and traditional moral standards, but always at the risk of being turned adrift in a moral void. Individual liberation also has the effect that old social and family structures break down, and questions of identity arise.


This anthology of texts about living in New York traces the development of a city mentality through more than a hundred years.

The reader will come across some recurring themes. One of them is the young person coming to the great city. Another is survival: finding an identity, coping with life on the streets, keeping intact as a human being.

A third theme is the expression of individuality and personal freedom: liberation, living in the fast lane, and paying the price - misery and loneliness.

The reader will meet a large variety of human types: immigrants, Blacks, drug addicts, the rich, the homeless, yuppies, outcasts, and criminals.

He or she will also be confronted with differing attitudes to big city life. Some writers are attracted to the city, others feel repulsion.

Parts of a sociological essay on urbanism, the study of the culture of cities, have been added to give a vocabulary with which to discuss and understand the wider implications of living in cities.

The texts cover a wide range of genres: articles, social exploration, autobiography, short stories, novels in extract, poetry, and lyrics.

How to Use the Book

The texts have been arranged chronologically to support a historical and sociological approach as well as to emphasize that city life is an aspect of cultural history. Background information on New York and a short reference guide to decades have been included for the same reasons.

The questions to each text are mainly meant as guidelines for literary analysis and can be used at the teacher’s discretion.

A thematic grouping of the texts outlines aspects of city life and mentality that can be pursued as group work by the students.

New York City: The Making of the Urban Individual is for use by advanced students of English in the upper grades of secondary schools (HF, the Gymnasium and business schools).

The anthology meets the official requirements of the curriculum for the Gymnasium and HF. For second year students "særligt studeret emne", "emne med historisk synsvinkel", "tekster før 1900"; for last year students also "aktuel kulturstrømning" and "teoretisk tekst".

New York Internet Sites

1. New York City

New York Convention and Visitors Bureau
Wide-ranging visitor information about New York City. Features a calendar of events and listings for attractions, restaurants, accommodations, stores, tour itineraries, sports and outdoor activities, suggestions for traveling on a budget or with children, business meeting and convention services, and air and ground transportation, with customizable searches for many of these topics. Also offers extensive background materials including facts and statistics, average annual temperatures, and a directory of links.

2. Daily News

Daily News: Most New York 

Online edition of this New York City daily newspaper.
Contains city news, opinion, finance, technology, travel, health, style, home, entertainment, and sports. Features a "City Guide" of New York's mainline, exclusive, and offbeat – from dog runs and pool halls to boutique hotels; restaurant, film, and television reviews; and Caribbeat, a monthly magazine for New York's Caribbean community.

3. New York City, New York

City.Net Travel by Excite
Extensive coverage of tourist attractions, cultural offerings, and other resources for New York City. Provides current weather and transportation information, maps, a telephone directory, and travel-planning assistance. Includes supplemental links to other city guides, many of which emphasize community affairs and local businesses.

4. New York City Subway Ressources

New York City Subway Resources 

David Pirmann et al.

Extensive information about New York's subway system, plus maps and photo tours of the rail systems of other cities. Includes historical and contemporary route maps, track maps, and train yard maps; history and photos of the city's subway and trolley systems and of individual subway cars; features on abandoned stations and on other rail systems in the region around New York City; a collection of postings to newsgroups; a comprehensive bibliography of books and videos; and an annotated directory of rail- and transit-related sites.

Bemærk venligst: Forlaget kan uden varsel lukke for denne side og dens undersider.