American & Canadian Literature– WWII to Present

B.A. Level
Study year
Credit value
Klára Kolinská
Justin Quinn
Erik Sherman Roraback
Hana Ulmanová
Pavla Veselá
Clare Wallace



The explosive social and political changes that the US witnessed in this period had a profound effect on the nation’s culture, especially in the key decade of the 1960s. The onset of the Cold War in the 1950s set the scene for much of the conservation and revolt that followed, which is especially apparent in the Beat Generation. The emergence of African-American literature ignited other hyphenated literatures that can be grouped around Multiculturalism. Sout­hern Literature and American-Jewish Literature are also central phenomena of the period. Post-modernity is a further important concept that illuminates the work of several important novelists of the period, and this will also be dealt with in detail.

Wtr 2017

Wks 1-3 (4 - 18 Oct) ER on prose African American with special reference to Ralph Ellison; Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, and Postmodern Prose 

Wks 4-6 (25 Oct - 8 Nov): HU Jewish American plus Southern Literature

Wks 7-8 (15 - 22 Nov): CW Drama, 1945-present

Wks 9-10 (29 Nov - 6 Dec): KK Canadian Literature, 1945-present

Wks 11-13 (13 Dec, 20 Dec, and 3 Jan): JQ on poetry, 1945-present; Richard Ford & Dirty Realism

To conclude their study of American literature students have to pass an oral examination (souborná zkouška). For the latter the student will be examined in two of the five historical periods on the B.A. reading list (right side bar; the choice of periods is at the student’s discretion). To demonstrate their knowledge of the texts representative for the selected periods students must submit reading lists to their examiner. These lists do not have to be identical with sections of the B.A. list, but they must correspond to them in terms of quantity, range of reading, and historical as well as aesthetic importance of selected texts.

This course deals with the main movements and figures of American and Canadian literature from the end of World War II to the present. Through the consideration of canonical texts, the seminar will also engage general historical and cultural transformations of the period. In this respect, the core of the course will be the decade of the 1960s, and its consequences in the years that followed. Emphasis will vary in individual seminars according the specialization of the tutor, however the following texts will be covered in all seminars: the stories of Flannery OConnor; Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire; Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49; selected poems of Elizabeth Bishop and John Ashbery (viz., Norton Anthology of American Literature).

To receive their credit students are required to attend at least 70% of classes and single subject students must also present an essay of 2,000 words (further requirements regarding presentations will be stipulated by individual instructors). 


Hana Ulmanová

  1. O´Connor: The Life You Save May Be Your Own, Good Country People
  2. Updike: The Happiest I´ve Been, Oates: Golden Gloves
  3. Malamud: The Magic Barrel, Roth: Defender of the Faith
  4. Ellison: Invisible Man (Prologue, Chapter I), Walker: Everyday Use
  5. Ginsberg, Bishop, Plath, Rich, Ashbery
  6. Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire
  7. Miller: Death of a Salesman
  8. Shepard: True West
  9. Pynchon: Entropy, The Crying of Lot 49
  10. Silko: Lullaby, Erdrich: Lulu´s Boys

All the texts are included in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, vol. 2. (you need both the third and the fifth editions).
All the students are required to read all the assigned titles in the BA final exam reading list as well; obviously, the sooner the better, as we may be referring to some of those during the class, too.

Note: The subject of the paper must be approved in advance by the instructor, and to this end students must draft a 100-word proposal. Each student must also deliver a substantial oral presentation (this will be explained directly in the class).