Nick Yablon

Associate Professor of American Studies
Nineteenth-century US cultural and urban history, visual culture, memory
Secondary Appointment in History
716 Jefferson Building
Phone Number: 
(319) 335-0321

Curriculum Vitae

Nick Yablon’s research and teaching focus on the changing sensory and spatio-temporal experiences of American city dwellers during the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  His book, Untimely Ruins: An Archaeology of Urban Modernity, 1819-1919 (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2009), examines how those changing experiences found expression in a new poetics of the ruin.  Recovering numerous scenes of desolation—from failed banks, abandoned towns, and dilapidated tenements to the crumbling skyscrapers and bridges envisioned in science fiction and cartoons—Untimely Ruins exposes crucial debates about the economic, technological, and cultural transformations known as urban modernity.

Nick Yablon is currently writing a cultural history of the idea of posterity in the late nineteenth century, based on materials (e.g. photographs, phonographs, letters, and material culture) that were deposited in the earliest time capsules (1876-1914).  These time capsules, he will argue, were inspired by new concerns about the proliferation and decay of paper records, the inadequacy of monuments, and the specter of class warfare.

He is also working on a book on the connections between urban photography, historic preservation, and urban archaeology at the turn of the twentieth century.  The book focuses on an amateur photographer who surveyed the entire length of Broadway, from Manhattan’s southern to its northern tip.  In hundreds of photographs, newspaper clippings, and an accompanying text, this now-forgettn figure documented the buildings, neighborhoods, and natural features that were disappearing from the city.

Wider research interests include: urban history; architectural history; the built environment; technology; the history of time, business history and business fiction; visual culture (especially the history of photography); sound studies; memory (and monument) studies, disaster studies, and theories of modernity and urbanism.

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American Studies courses


AMST:1010 Understanding American Cultures
AMST:1500 American Celebrity Culture
AMST:3090 History of the Future
AMST:3090 Clocks, Calendars, and Capsules: A History of Time in America

Mixed (undergraduate and graduate)

AMST:3063 American Ruins
AMST:3060 Metropolis: Cities in American Culture
AMST:3051 The Office: Business Life in America
45:147 American Disasters

Graduate seminars

AMST:5000 Theory & Practice of American Studies I
AMST:6050 Topics in American Studies: Monuments, Memorials, and Memory in America
AMST:6050 Empire of Time: Temporality in American History
AMST:6050 Topics in American Studies: Money and American Culture
AMST:6050 Topics in American Studies: Architecture and the Built Environment
45:299 American Studies Proseminar: The Arts in American Studies

Awards & Service: 


NEH fellowship for research at the New-York Historical Society, 2013-14
Getty postdoctoral research fellowship, 2007-8
NEH fellowship for research at the American Antiquarian Society, 2002-3