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City of Words

Screen Grab from City of Words Website

Project Director: Laura Fisher

Designer: Ali Shamas Qadeer


City of Words is a digital and public humanities project that geo-locates literary texts on a map of New York City. The initial iteration of the project is a website that connects literary and physical landscapes around the theme of vice, providing a non-linear, literary tour of bad behavior in New York City from the nineteenth century to the present day. The digital map connects short texts, or excerpts from longer texts, with a location in New York City that is referenced in the work. The project tracks how concepts of vice have changed historically, and asks how cultural notions of crime, immorality, and corruption correlate with space and neighborhood, and with questions of race, class, gender, sex, and citizenship. As a research and teaching tool, City of Words seeks to visualize unequal geographies and facilitate unexpected encounters with literature in cities. The back-end of the site allows registered users to upload photographs and sound files, input bibliographic information, and provide written annotations and tags for each entry. In our next phase of the project, we hope to produce an abstract, universal version of City of Words that any educator or researcher can adapt and use.