Cities & Signs: Rethinking Calvino's Urban Imaginaries

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Reading a literary text means placing it in a context and constructing a meaning. It implies inserting the text in the world and observing how it makes us think about that world while confronting us with critical insight and social knowledge. Literature presents the world as Vorstellung or scenario. In this chapter, the five pieces entitled ‘Cities & Signs’ will be scrutinized and put in a context. After an introduction on the strategy of reading, the question addressed is what is the implication of the ideas on signs and signification presented in the texts, when we connect these to the notion of ‘urban imaginary’ (Andreas Huyssen) and to ideas on ‘ways of seeing’ (John Berger)? Subsequently, the focus will be on the newcomer in town: the explorer who does not know where to look and what to make of signs observed. In this part Calvino’s literary text will be tied to non-literary online texts describing the experience of expats in European cities. In the conclusive section, I argue that Calvino’s text can be read as representative for a spreading global mobility.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterrupting the City
Subtitle of host publicationArtistic Constitutions of the Public Sphere
EditorsSander Bax, Pascal Gielen, Bram Ieven
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherValiz, Amsterdam
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9789492095022
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Public Sphere


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