UCL European Institute


Barcelona: Spectacles and Speculations

2024 SELCS Turing Summer School, led by Uta Staiger

Barcelona from above

Barcelona part physical, part imaginary

La reforma de Barcelona!… Quan un barceloní, quan qualsevulga català, pronuncia o escriu aquestes paraules, posa en elles tot son poder d’ensomni, tota la impaciència de la seva vocació per les creacions enèrgiques.

The reform of Barcelona!... When a citizen of Barcelona, when any Catalan, pronounces or writes these words, he invests them with the full power of his imagination, with the impatience of his calling for vigorous constructions.

                (Eugeni d’Ors)

In the early 20th century, with the noucentisme in full swing, the essayist Eugeni d’Ors invoked Barcelona as an entity part physical, part imaginary, its ideational and material urban development the very expression of a new programme of modernisation. At the very least since Cerdà’s 1859 construction of the Eixample, the city has been continually built and rebuilt by the twin engines of ensomni and reforma.

The course will explore constructions and contestations, districts and divisions, spectacle and speculation, which all characterise Barcelona in one way or another. We'll do so by recourse to the history of urban planning, literary texts, film, non-fiction and critical essays, and academic literature from a variety of disciplines. Each session addresses a key topic, a historical period (from the 1880s to today), and a particular part of town. Almost every day, in addition to the seminars, we will venture out for site-specific and interactive activities to situate and broaden our discussions - guided walks, a workshop with a local artist, an object-finding mission to the Mercat dels Encants, a visit to a literary agency, a roundtable with translators, and so on.
The SELCS Summer School in Barcelona will be hosted by the Universitat Pompeu Fabra; we will hold half of our sessions on its Campus de la Ciutadella.

The programme

As an integral part of learning, students participate in a range of associated activities. These usually take place in cooperation with a local institution or organisation and are often hosted by them. In the past, these have included:

  • the Fundació Joan Miró on Montjüic;
  • the Biblioteca Juan Marsé in the district El Carmel;
  • the Institute Ramon Llull in the Eixample;
  • the Carmen Balcells literary agency.
  • the cultural organisation Trànsit Projectes in L'Hospitalet

The summer school will run from 10 June 2024 and consists of two parts:

PART 1: 2-week intensive course. From Monday 10 June to Friday 21 June, you will attend ten, two-hour seminars, usually 10:00-12:00, although some will be held at other times, usually followed by an associated activity. You will need to set aside some time do reading and preparatory tasks during these days.

PART 2:  Independent study in the city. Following the group sessions, you have two weeks of self-guided study in Barcelona, during which you will research and begin writing your coursework 3,000-word essay. (Online) group meetings and 1:1s will be offered during those times.

The module leader

Dr Uta Staiger is Associate Professor of European Studies and Director of the UCL European Institute. Find out more about this year's programme by getting in touch with her (u.staiger@ucl.ac.uk).

Get in touch with Uta Staiger