Starting next year, NYU will have a J-Term — a January term — that lasts three weeks (January 4 to 20). Our spring term will begin on the first Monday — rather than the first Tuesday — after the Martin Luther King holiday. These courses are meant to be intensive and immersive, cramming fourteen weeks’ worth of instruction into thirteen days. Most of these courses will feature significant co-curricular activities.

For the 2011 J-Term, I’ve been asked to teach an NYU Abu Dhabi course on “New York and Modernity.” I’ll be teaching it here in New York, and the NYUAD students who elect to take it will be flown in from Abu Dhabi. There will be a few spaces for NYUNY students as well.

I’ve recommended that the NYUAD students be issued NYUAD-branded down jackets! I imagine that the biggest adjustment for some of them will be the weather rather than the jet lag. When I was in Abu Dhabi at the end of January, it was a lovely 75 degrees Farenheit during the day, 59 at night with a cool breeze. The weather in New York over the same period hovered around a high of 17.

The course I’m developing is an adaptation of a course I taught last year as a Freshman Seminar. Here’s the current description:

Modernism was a broad movement in literature, arts, music and architecture that flourished first in Europe and then the United States between from the turn into the twentieth century until just after the Second World War. This course will examine the ways in which New Yorkers reshaped European modernism and created a distinctive legacy that marks the city to this day. We will explore the reciprocal relationship between modernism and the city, investigating how modernism was shaped by urban experience and how, in turn, modernism helped to mold our conception of the modern city. We will investigate the parallels and contrasts among a variety of forms including literature, film, art, music, and architecture, stressing the uneven developments of the period, with special attention paid to the tension between highbrow and lowbrow forms. Coursework will be supplemented with film showings and outings that will include concerts, plays, museum trips, and walking tours. One of the goals of the course will be to see our investigation of New York’s relationship to modernism as a case study in the relationship between urban culture and modernity more generally. Students will develop a set of conceptual tools that will enable them to analyze modern urban life not only in New York but in other cities around the globe, from London to Abu Dhabi to Shanghai.

I imagine meeting for about three hours each morning, with afternoon activities Sunday through Thursday and nighttime activities on Friday and Saturday. Among the books that I’m contemplating for the syllabus are New York Modern: The Arts and the City by William Scott and Peter Rutkoff; the volume that I’ve just edited with Bryan Waterman, The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York; and Alex Ross’s wonderful account of twentieth-century classical music, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. There will be trips to MOMA, the Whitney, the Met, and the Guggenheim. Nighttime outings will probably include the Metropolitan Opera, the Philharmonic, and plays, hopefully one one off-Broadway and one on. I’m hoping there will be something by Eugene O’Neill playing that month.

If anyone has any suggestions for texts or activities that might be appropriate for the course, I’d love to hear them.