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Czech Literature, 1948–2019: Works in English

Class at Faculty of Arts |


Please note there is no class on Friday, 21 February, and Friday, 4 April. I will try to make up these classes at the end of the semester.Because this course is being taught for the first time, some of the syllabus might change slightly during the course of the semester.

Thanks for your understanding.Week 1: IntroductionWeek 2: Holub in the 1950sMiroslav Holub, "Náš všední den je pevnina"Pavel Blažíček, "Poezie všedního dne: Skupina Května 1956-1958"Miroslav Holub, Denní služba (selection)Weeks 3-4: American RootsLawrence Ferlinghetti, A Coney Island of the Mind (1958)Weeks 5-6: Arriving in Idlewild: Holub in the 1960sHolub poems (see Sebrané básně)Slabikář (1961)Hodina dějepisu, Déšť v noci, Moucha, Cvičebnice mrtvého jazyka, Náves, Polonius, Láska, Kosti, "Prohřát lidským teplem", Křídla, Ruka, Óda na radostJdi a otevři dveře (1961)Pes v lomu, Dveře, Advent, Vodník, Pohádka, Žito kouzelník, VynálezyAchilles a želva (1962)Panoráma Prahy, Televize, Hlasy v krajině, Astronauti, Majakovský, Funkcionář, Lenin, Michelangelo staví průčelí San LorenzaKam teče krev (1963)Model člověkaTak zvané srdce (1963)Diskobolos, To slovo, Plánování, Nový dům, Historie světa, Pád Troje, Jaké je srdce, Mléčný zub Hamleta prince, Infarkt,Jiří Brabec, Afterword to Anamnéza, by Miroslav HolubPavel Blažíček, "Generace Května v šedesátých letech"Miroslav Holub, Anděl na kolečkách (selections)Week 7: Espionage & PoetryIan Milner, "Personal Statement," in Vincent O’Sullivan, Intersecting Lines: The Memoirs of Ian Milner (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1993). Mar. 1, 1956.

As yet I have been unable to obtain the full text of this statement. Please let me know if you can find it.Aaron Fox, "The Pedigree of Truth: Western Intelligence Agencies versus Ian Frank George Milner and William Ball Sutch," In Trapeznik, Alexander and Aaron Fox (eds) Lenin’s Legacy Down Under: New Zealand’s Cold War (Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 2004), 115-130.Denis Lenihan, "Was Ian Milner a Spy? A Review of the Evidence" (Wellington: New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, 2008), Hrubý. "Ian Milner a spol." Nebezpeční snílci: australská levice a Československo.  Trans.

Petr Hrubý and Libuše Kodešová. Brno: Stilus, 2007. 123-96.Jan Čulík, "Jak "byl básník Miroslav Holub u estébáků" 8-9: The World According to Mr AlvarezAl Alvarez, "Beyond All This Fiddle"--, Introduction to The New Poetry, "Beyond the Gentility Principle"Poems by Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, John Berryman, Philip Larkin, from The New Poetry (2nd ed., 1966)William Wootten, "Fifty Years On: The Triumph of the Penguin Modern Poets," TLS 25 Apr. 2012. 10: An Englished PigeonAl Alvarez, Introduction.

Selected Poems, by Miroslav Holub. Trans.

Ian Milner and George Theiner. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967. 9-17.A.

Alvarez, "Czechoslovakia," from Under Pressure: The Writer in Society: Eastern Europe and the U.S.A. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965)TLS  reviews of Holub (1967, 1971)Seamus Heaney, "The Fully Exposed Poem" (on Holub)Justin Quinn, "California Dreaming: Miroslav Holub and Seamus Heaney." In Ireland and the Czech Lands, eds. Ondřej Pilný and Gerald Power (New York: Peter Lang, 2014), 177-99.Weeks 11-13: Late Auden, Mid-Life Ginsberg, Early HeaneyThe poems below should be available online.

If there is a problem let me know as soon as possible.Auden poems: Under Which Lyre, The Fall of Rome, In Praise of Limestone, A Walk After Dark, Ischia, The Shield of Achilles, Bucolics, Horae Canonicae, Homage to Clio, Thanksgiving for a HabitatGinsberg poems: Kral Majales, Wichita Vortex Sutra, September on Jessore Road, Reading Bai JuyiHeaney poems: North


How did the Cold War - as theme, translation practice and hermeneutic activity - affect the reading of literature, in particular poetry? How did those particular historical circumstances change the nature of World Literature? Can literature, or more particularly poetry, survive as an autonomous space, irreducible to historical or ideological circumstances? What does such transmission tell us about the way that anglophone culture absorbs new models, during the Cold War, and beyond?

The second semester examines the arrival of Czech poet Miroslav Holub into English in the early 1960s. The conditions of his reception are of interest not only for what they tell us about translation and transnational passage, but also for what we learn about the state of contemporary poetry in English. To that end we will be reading the work of W. H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, Seamus Heaney, posing the question: how does it help us to read their work in a Cold-War context? What are the implications of such a reading for canon formation in a global context where national canons have been exploded, but still inflect our reading? What are the implications for the status of poetry as a discourse distinct from both theory and politics?

Although this course stretches over two semesters, students may take only one component if they wish. Knowledge of Czech is necessary.