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Maxwell Street

Writing and Thinking Place

What is the nature of place, and how does one undertake to write about it? To answer these questions, geographer and poet Tim Cresswell looks to Chicago’s iconic Maxwell Street Market area. Maxwell Street was for decades a place where people from all corners of the city mingled to buy and sell goods, play and listen to the blues, and encounter new foods and cultures. Now, redeveloped and renamed University Village, it could hardly be more different.
In Maxwell Street, Cresswell advocates approaching the study of place as an “assemblage” of things, meanings, and practices. He models this innovative approach through a montage format that exposes the different types of texts—primary, secondary, and photographic sources—that have attempted to capture the essence of the area. Cresswell studies his historical sources just as he explores the different elements of Maxwell Street—exposing them layer by layer. Brilliantly interweaving words and images, Maxwell Street sheds light on a historic Chicago neighborhood and offers a new model for how to write about place that will interest anyone in the fields of geography, urban studies, or cultural history.


"Erudite. . . The rewards are plentiful as Cresswell goes about answering what appears a simple question, 'How to write about a place?', in 200-some provocative pages."

Chicago Tribune

"[A] kaleidoscopic history of Chicago’s iconic Maxwell Street. . . . Scholars of geography and related disciplines will find much to admire in this book, and its accessible clarity makes it ideal for undergraduates as well. As always, Cresswell writes about place with deep intelligence, enthusiasm, and style."

Social and Cultural Geography

"Cresswell’s wide-ranging, Benjamin-esque discussion of Maxwell Street, its history, its sights, sounds and smells, and of our discipline’s approach to writing and thinking about the concept and the reality of place is fascinating to read. His technique of illustrating the duality of place, as both experiential and socially constructed, by simply moving subheadings to the side of the page, allowing the text with its ideas, its quotations and its images, to flow through one sitting, is superb and provides (what seems to me, at least) a genuinely new approach to using the space of a page to tell a story."

Cultural Geographies

“Cresswell offers kaleidoscopes for understanding what ‘place’ can mean. With its richly archived and colorful past, Maxwell Street is the perfect choice for wandering with this geographer, poet, and philosopher. This tour de force may inspire you to begin your own explorations using his techniques.”

Gary T. Johnson, president, Chicago History Museum

“Through an extremely interesting set of sources, traces, and ideas, Cresswell generates a series of highly stimulating and imaginative juxtapositions. A fascinating addition to the current literature on Chicago, cultural history, and urban writing, Maxwell Street will appeal to diverse academic and public readerships.”

Matthew Gandy, University of Cambridge

“This book is a meditation on writing, Maxwell Street, and the practices through which places are represented and performed. Drawing on methods such as montage and assemblage, Cresswell offers us an evocative consideration of the importance of Maxwell Street while providing a wholly new way to consider the possibilities of place that goes far beyond any one urban neighborhood.”

Winifred Curran, DePaul University

“A renowned geographer and theorist of place, Cresswell has written a must-read book that not only draws together decades of thinking about space and place, but does so in an evocative and provocative way.”

Joseph Heathcott, The New School

"Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Place will appeal to readers interested in urban life, cultural geography and the city of Chicago, USA. It explores place from the real-world context of a colourful market in one of the city's oldest residential districts."


Table of Contents

Part One          Writing Place
Part Two         Market/Place
Part Three        Thinking Place

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