Zdeněk Vančura

(11 January 1903, Prague – 5 May 1974, Prague)

Eminent literary scholar, the first professor of American literature at Charles University

From 1921, Vančura studied Czech, Romance, and English philology at Charles University. After obtaining a doctorate in philosophy, he continued his studies in the USA (Columbia University, Harvard University). In the 1930s, he taught English at a business academy in Prague and also at the Prague Business College, where he submitted his habilitation in 1937. From 1945, he worked at the Department of English Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, from 1946 as professor and throughout the 1950s he served as head of the department. During this period, he also served twice as the dean of the faculty. From 1953, he was the chief editor of the journal Časopis pro moderní filologii (The Journal for Modern Philology) and later he edited the journal Philologica Pragensia.

As a representative of Marxist literary studies, he focused especially on the historical and ideological context of literature. His interest in G. B. Shaw and the philosophy of his plays resulted in the monograph Umění G. B. Shawa (The Art of G. B. Shaw, 1958). His most important contribution to the history of American culture is the monograph Otcové poutníci a počátky americké literatury (The Pilgrim Fathers and the Beginnings of American Literature, 1965). His last project was a dictionary of U.S. literature (published several years after his death, in 1979), for which he compiled most of the entries.

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