Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Apocalypse in Gotham: Author Examines 'City's End' at Washington College

Chestertown, MD — New York City looms large in the American imagination – as a magnet for hopes, fears and, intriguingly, apocalyptic fantasies. Max Page, Associate Professor of Architecture and History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will explore how the Big Apple inspires Armageddon-like visions when he presents “The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears and Premonitions of New York's Destruction” at Washington College's Litrenta Lecture Hall on Thursday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m.

The lecture is presented by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Department of Art and Art History.

Page's presentation is based on his 2008 book of the same title, published by Yale University Press, and a book signing will follow his talk. “One can never think of New York City – or cities in general – in the same way after seeing them through Max Page's eyes,” said Starr Center Associate Director Jill Ogline Titus. “He becomes the voice in your head telling you to linger, to look more closely, and to question your first impressions.”

From 19th-century paintings of fires raging through New York City to scenes of Manhattan engulfed by a gigantic wave in the 1998 movie “Deep Impact,” images of the city's end have been prolific and diverse. Why have Americans repeatedly imagined New York's destruction? What do the fantasies of annihilation played out in virtually every form of literature and art mean?

Scrupulously researched and profusely illustrated, The City's End is the first book to investigate two centuries of imagined cataclysms visited upon New York, and to provide a critical historical perspective to our understanding of the events of September 11, 2001.

The author examines the destruction fantasies created by American writers and image-makers at various stages of New York's development. Seen in every medium from newspapers and films to novels, paintings and computer software, such images, though disturbing, have been continuously popular.

Page demonstrates with vivid examples and illustrations how each era's destruction genre has reflected the city's economic, political, racial or physical tensions. He also shows how the images have become forces in their own right, shaping Americans' perceptions of New York and of cities in general.

The New Yorker praised The City's End as “richly detailed,” while the Wall Street Journal hailed it as “an informative and provocative read.” “Page is a lucid writer whose thesis is supported with reams of research,” enthused Newsday. “The book is worth getting for the illustrations alone.”

Page also is the author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940 (University of Chicago Press, 1999), which won the Spiro Kostof Award of the Society of Architectural Historians, for the best book on architecture and urbanism. In addition, he is the co-editor of Building the Nation: Americans Write Their Architecture, Their Cities and Their Environment (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003) and Giving Preserving a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States (Routledge, 2003).

For the 100th anniversary of Times Square in 2004, Page curated the centennial exhibition on the history of the Square at the AXA Gallery in New York.

A 2003 Guggenheim Fellow, he writes a regular column for Architecture magazine and has written for the New York Times, Metropolis, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe.

Litrenta Lecture Hall is located in the John S. Toll Science Center. Admission to “The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears and Premonitions of New York's Destruction” is free and open to the public.

About the C.V. Starr Center

The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience explores our nation's history – and particularly the legacy of its Founding era – in innovative ways. Through educational programs, scholarship, and public outreach, and especially by supporting and fostering the art of written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between past and present, and between the academic world and the public at large. From its base in the circa-1746 Custom House along Chestertown's colonial waterfront, the Center also serves as a portal onto a world of opportunities for Washington College students. Its guiding principle is that now more than ever, a wider understanding of our shared past is fundamental to the continuing success of America's democratic experiment. For more information on the Center, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment