Today at 9:30 a.m. Bryan and I will be greeting a new crop of 120 NYU undergraduates who’ve enrolled in our Writing New York lecture course. Last year, because of a knee operation, I was limited basically to the role of occasional guest lecturer, so I’m looking forward to shouldering half the load once again.

This year we’ve made a few changes: we’ve eliminated some of the Dutch materials from the first week, which will now focus on E. B. White’s Here is New York and Washington Irving’s A History of New York. The Irving readings are excerpted from Betsy Bradley’s fine new edition from Penguin, which we’ve written about here already. We’re also going to try out one of the volumes from Continuum’s 33 1/3 series of brief monographs about individual albums: Patti Smith’s Horses by Philip Shaw. (Bryan and I have each submitted proposals to the series for albums by Television and the Rolling Stones respectively. If the proposals are selected, we’ll be including the books in future versions of our course. Fingers crossed!)

The big change this year will be the use of essays from our forthcoming Cambridge Companion to the Literatures of New York City. We’re about to turn the manuscript in to Cambridge, so our students will be getting unpublished, cutting-edge stuff!

Some things that won’t be different this year: Bryan and I will share the stage today, something we do only twice more during the term. And we’ll be showing a video montage with clips from Ric Burns’s New York: A Documentary Film (1999), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), On the Town (1949), Manhattan (1979), and the Naudet Brothers’ documentary 9/11 (2002). Plus references to Adam Gopnik, Anthony Appiah, David Hollinger, Tom Bender, Michel de Certeau, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Dreiser, George Foster, and “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Yes, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” (Ask Bryan.)

You can find a copy of this year’s syllabus over at