The City of Stories…

Chicago. The City of Big Shoulders. City on the Make. Hog Butcher for the World. Urbs in Horto. Paris on the Prairie….

The city has always had many personas, from its working class neighborhoods, to its world-class cultural destinations. From its gritty industrial corridors, to its miles of unblemished lakefront parks and beaches. From the slaughterhouses to the world’s first skyscrapers.

Chicago’s history has always been documented by storytellers across media and narrative forms. Stories told through literature, to be sure—poetry, essays, novels and short fiction, from Gwendolyn Brooks and Richard Wright to Ray Bradbury and Studs Terkel. But the narratives across this vast metropolis are also intrinsically woven into music: blues, jazz, hip hop and rock. Chicago stories also emerge in film, food, narrative radio, art, photography, architecture, journalism, dance, theater and beyond.

The spirit of any great metropolis is often most aptly captured by its artists. City of Stories is a First-Semester Experience class at Columbia College Chicago. The City of Stories class examines storytelling in Chicago, exploring how this dynamic and paradoxical urban landscape has shaped countless great creators, and how these artists, in turn, went on to irrevocably shape the city themselves.

The place we all create in is often central to our artistic identity.

This blog is an offshoot of the City of Stories class. Each week, students will examine Chicago storytelling in its myriad forms. Students will write about Chicago storytelling and storytellers—from jazz at the Green Mill, to readings at the Poetry Foundation. Students will venture out into the city as a sort of vast, urban classroom, exploring destinations of literary and artistic history, as well as vital destinations of present day storytelling. Students will write about their readings and their adventures right here. Each week, a select few essays from class will be posted to this blog. Students will reflect on the many voices of Chicago storytellers and, along the way, learn to discover the most important voice of all—their own.

And, here is the official City of Stories playlist!

(Sam Weller/Course Instructor)