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Core Course: Contemporary Approaches to Anglophone Literatures and Cultures

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Mandatory; Lectures and seminars (seminars facultative)

Procházka, Robbins, Veselá, Roraback, Pilný, Nováková, Vichnar

Wed 15:50-17:25, Room 111


The general objective of the course is to flag up principal contemporary research issues and methodologies in the various areas of Anglophone literary and cultural studies covered by the department. The specific objective is to introduce individual special programmes available at the department and to assist students with their choice.

(A) English Literature

This topic will be covered in three sessions (5, 12, 19 October) prof. PhDr. Martin Procházka, CSc. 1. Transformation of the Field: From English Literature to Literatures on the British Isles

From the late 1970s, political devolution of the UK has contributed to the rewriting of cultural identities and literary canons. This lecture discusses the major features of the transformation of English literature as a discipline in the past four decades: the end of consistent historical narratives, the uses of periodization, the role of the “print culture”, intersecting perspectives and discourses, diversity of meanings across cultures in the case of Shakespeare and the Scottish invention of English literature. The last part contains a brief comparison of making new national, or rather post-national, literatures on the British Isles.


Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. edn. (London and New York: Verso, 1991) (moodle).

Sacvan Bercovitch (gen. ed.), The Cambridge History of American Literature, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

Joseph Black (ed.), British Literature: A Historical Overview (Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2010).

Robert Crawford, Devolving English Literature (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000) (moodle).

Jacques Derrida, “Letter to a Japanese Friend,” trans. David Wood and Andrew Benjamin, A Derrida Reader, ed. Peggy Kamuf (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991) (moodle).

Jill Levenson and Robert Ormsby, The Shakespeare World (a draft proposal of a volume for Routledge, 2013).

Herbert Shaw, Terrestrial‐Cosmological Correlations in Evolutionary Processes, USGS Open‐File Report 88‐43 (Menlo Park, CA: U.S. Geological Survey, 1988). 2. New Views of Scottish Literature as Multilingual, Multiethnic and Multicultural Discipline

This lecture will develop the topics of the previous one, especially with respect to several problems:

(a) construction of the multi-ethnic and multilingual origins of Scottish culture (earliest Scottish literature in The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature, 2007).

(b) reassessment of the Scottish contribution to British, American and European Romanticism (the volume Scotland and Romanticism, ed. Murray Pittock, 2011).

(c) Redefinition of Scottish literature as part of European, and not primarily British, culture. This has both historic causes (orientation of early modern Scotland on France and hostilities with England) and contemporary reasons (weighing the possibility of independent Scotland as part of the EU).


Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. edn. (London and New York: Verso, 1991) (moodle).

Ian Brown and Susan Manning (gen. eds.), The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007) (moodle)

Murray Pittock, Scottish and Irish Romanticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Murray Pittock (ed.), The Edinburgh Companion to Scottish Romanticism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011) (moodle)

Murray Pittock (ed.), Scotland in Europe, special issue of Litteraria Pragensia, 19.38 (2009): including Tom Nairn, “The English Postman,” 19-29 and Murray Pittock, “What is a National Culture,” 30-47. (moodle)

Kurt Wittig, The Scottish Tradition in Literature (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1958) 3. Romantic Studies: Changing Views

This lecture will focus on four main trends in the transformation in the study of Romanticism, both on the British Isles and in comparative, European, perspective:

(a) comparative study of romantic genres (David Duff, Romanticism and the Uses of Genre, 2009),

(b) new comparisons of Romanticism and Post-modernism (Peter Otto, Multiplying Worlds, 2011),

(c) new trends in reception studies in the project of the British Academy and the Continuum Press, The Reception of British and Irish Literature in Europe, organized by Elinor Shaffer,

(d) synthetic and multi-perspective features of recent textbooks (Nicholas Roe’s Romanticism, 2005).


David Duff, Romanticism and the Uses of Genre (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) (moodle)

Elinor Shaffer (gen. ed.), “Series Editor’s Preface,” The Reception of Percy Bysshe Shelley in Europe, ed. Susan Schmidt and Michael Rossington, The Athlone Critical Traditions Series (London and New York: Continuum, 2008) xi-xvi.

Peter Otto, Multiplying Worlds: Romanticism, Modernity and the Emergence of Virtual Reality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) (moodle)

Nicholas Roe (ed.), Romanticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) (moodle)

(B) American Studies

This topic will be covered in three sessions (26 October, 2 & 9 November). 1. Consumerism & the Unconscious in US Prose Fiction & in Continental Theory

Erik S. Roraback, D.Phil. (Oxon.)

This seminar will offer critical comment on the following texts of US fiction: Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (1853), William Dean Howells’s The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899), Henry James’s The Ambassadors (1903), Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (1905), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), and Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (1936).

We shall explore how the formal aspects and content of these literary texts paved the way for a truer understanding of experience, of commodity culture, of consumerism, and of ‘the society of the spectacle’. These areas are now seen as crucial for imagining other possible futures, while tapping into a narrative arc of America and beyond.

Special focus will in addition be given to European Continental theories on the commodity form from Theodor W. Adorno, on consumerism from Jean Baudrillard, on theories of experience, of commodity culture, and of ‘materialist aesthetics’ from Walter Benjamin, on the society of the spectacle from Guy Debord, on the status of Bartleby in Melville’s short story from Gilles Deleuze and from Giorgio Agamben, and the North American scholars Jonathan Crary and Henry A. Giroux will also be points of reference for thinking about contemporary capitalism and hyper-consumerism.


Adorno, Theodor W. Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life. Trans. E.F.N. Jephcott. London: Verso, 1974/1978.

Agamben, Giorgio. “Bartleby, or On Contingency” in, Potentialities: Critical Essays on Philosophy. Ed. and trans. with an Intro. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.

Baudrillard, Jean. Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. Trans. Chris Turner. London: Sage Publications, 1998.

Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project. Trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge, USA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999.

Bouchard, Donald F. Hemingway: So Far From Simple. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010.

Crary, Jonathan. Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. London: Verso, 2013.

Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: Zone Books. 1991.

Deleuze, Gilles. “Bartleby, or the Formula” in Essays Critical and Clinical. Trans. Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Giroux, Henry A. The Giroux Reader. Ed. and intro. Christopher G. Robbins. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2006.

Roraback, Erik S. The Dialectics of Late Capital and Power: James, Balzac and Critical Theory. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007.

---. “A Benjamin Monad of Guy Debord & W.D. Howells’s The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885); or, Individual & Collective Life & Status as Spectacle” in Profils américains, 21: William Dean Howells. Ed. Guillaume Tanguy. Montpellier: Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2009.

Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. Intro. Cynthia Griffin Wolff. New York: Penguin, 1985. First published 1905.

Žižek, Slavoj. Less than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. London: Verso, 2012. 2. Emerson and the American Scholars: Emerson in the Hands of the "Old" Americanists, the "New" Americanists, and the "Post-New" Americanists

Prof. David L. Robbins

This session will examine the respective constructions of American literature and culture by the founding generation of Americanist Scholars (F.O. Matthiessen, Perry Miller, Stephen Whicher, Richard Chase, and their contemporaries, 1940-70), the left-critical generation of "New" Americanists (Sacvan Bercovitch, Richard Brodhead, Carolyn Porter, John Carlos Rowe, Myra Jehlen, Julie Ellison, Jonathan Arac, and Wai-Chee Dimock, among many others, 1970-2000) that recontextualized, rehistoricized, and often harshly denounced the formulations of their forbears, and the constellation of Americanist Scholars (including Stanley Cavell, Richard Poirier, Harold Bloom, Donald Pease, Branka Arsic, Johannes Voelz, Jonathan Levin, and Randall Fuller, 1985-present) that has emerged to offer counterpoint to the "New" Americanists and which is currently involved in nuancing, contesting, and innovating upon the methodologies and interpretations suggested by them. To illustrate and illuminate these successive strategies and approaches, the seminar will examine the respective