AJ4302 Contemporary American literature and society

Faculty of Education
Spring 2018
Extent and Intensity
0/2/0. 2 credit(s). Type of Completion: z (credit).
Mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A., Ph.D. (seminar tutor)
Mgr. Jiří Šalamoun, Ph.D. (seminar tutor)
Guaranteed by
Mgr. Lucie Podroužková, Ph.D.
Department of English Language and Literature - Faculty of Education
Contact Person: Jana Popelková
Supplier department: Department of English Language and Literature - Faculty of Education
Timetable of Seminar Groups
AJ4302/01: Mon 12:05–13:45 učebna 58, Z. Janík, J. Šalamoun
AJ4302/02: Mon 10:15–11:55 učebna 63, Z. Janík, J. Šalamoun
Course Enrolment Limitations
The course is only offered to the students of the study fields the course is directly associated with.
fields of study / plans the course is directly associated with
Course objectives
On the course, students read canonical examples of contemporary US literature to examine some quintessentially American questions: Can the American dream still be lived? How is meaning found in postwar America? What motivates American writers to create art? In practice, we will read texts by Updike and Cheever in the context of abundant yet anxious 1950s and 60s. We will discuss works by Barth and Barthelme in the light of America's (at first) playful (and then) exhausted three decades long romance with postmodernity. Graphic texts by Eisner and Spiegelman will be discussed as the source to the rise of graphic novel (and to a lesser extent) ethnic literature. Finally, texts by Walker, Silko, and Kingston will be discussed in connection to America's nod towards feminist and ethnic awareness.
Learning outcomes
By the end of the semester, students should be able to: (1) identify and describe major trends in postwar American literature and understand their relationship to American society and culture; (2) develop your skills in analytical reading and proposal writing; (3) research, prepare, and hand in a proposal which meets the requirements of the State Exam in literature; and (4) understand and frame literary works as a form of social commentary which responds to specific historical occurrences.
  • 1. Cultural, social and literary themes of contemporary USA
  • 2. Theories of poststructuralism as a tool to interpret contemporary culture
  • 3. Postmodern Identity (Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Kurt Vonnegut)
  • 4. Revisiting History (E. L. Doctorow, Toni Morrison)
  • 5. New ideas, new genres (graphic novel, cyberpunk)
  • 6. Critique of literary canon and critique of poststructuralism (Adrienne Rich, Gloria Anzaldua, Barbara Christian)
  • 7. Identity and Race (Alice Walker, Amiri Baraka, Lucille Clifton)
  • 8. Identity and Ethnicity I (Sandra Cisneros, Amy Tan) 9. Identity and Ethnicity II (Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie)
  • 10. Identity and Gender (Ursula LeGuin, Adrienne Rich, Olga Broumas)
  • 11. Queer Identity (Leslie Feinberg, Olga Broumas)
  • 12. Transnational Identity (R. Jarrar, Iva Pekarkova)
  • The Columbia history of the American novel. Edited by Emory Elliott - Cathy N. Davidson. New York: Columbia University, 1991. xviii, 905. ISBN 0-231-07360-7. info
  • The Heath anthology of American literature. Edited by Paul Lauter. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1990. xxxix, 261. ISBN 0-669-12065-0. info
  • Columbia literary history of the United States. Edited by Emory Elliott. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. xxviii, 12. ISBN 0-231-05812-8. info
Teaching methods
Discussion, small group work, lecture, in class writing exercises.
Assessment methods
Weekly writing exercises in Moodle (25%)
Participation (20%)
In-class low-stakes writing (5%)
A research proposal consisting of annotated bibliography and an abstract (50%).
Language of instruction
Further Comments
Study Materials
The course is taught annually.
Teacher's information
The course is also listed under the following terms Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022.
  • Enrolment Statistics (Spring 2018, recent)
  • Permalink: https://is.muni.cz/course/ped/spring2018/AJ4302