Henry Hart lists 13 works that absolutely, positively should be
included in any post-WWII anthology of American literature. (He also explains
why one didn't make it.)
Death of a Salesman. Arthur Miller's classic play about the tragic
consequences of the American dream (and especially the dream of financial
"The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket." Robert Lowell's allegorical poem in
which Captain Ahab plays the role of a violent America that will stop at nothing
to achieve its goals.
"A Good Man is Hard to Find." Flannery O'Connor's story set in the South
that juxtaposes grace and violent crime.
"Howl." Allen Ginsberg's poem about the American counterculture-its
visionary quests and mad excesses-before it officially became the counterculture
of the 1960s.
"The Swimmer." John Cheever's short story that documents the epic journey of
a suburban American that turns out to be a kind of alcoholic delusion.
"Daddy." Sylvia Plath's playful, but ultimately vociferous assault on the
patriarchal tradition represented by her father and her famous husband, Ted
"Diving into the Wreck." Adrienne Rich's examination of feminine myths, the
destruction they have caused in the past, and the need to revise them.
A Streetcar Named Desire. Tennessee Williams's ferocious drama set in
New Orleans that centers on the dreamy, neurotic Blanche DuBois and the
hard-hitting realist Stanley Kowalski. (I included and wrote about this play,
and then was told, as I remember, that Norton had the rights to the play and
therefore I couldn't include it. So, instead, I included Williams's The Glass
"I Have a Dream." Martin Luther King's stirring speech that urges all
Americans to abide by their country's foundational principles of freedom and
justice for all.
Angels in America. Tony Kushner's controversial play dealing with
AIDS and many other aspects of 1980s America.
"Sonny's Blues." James Baldwin story that recounts the different ways two
African-American brothers cope with racism.
"The Things They Carried." Tim O'Brien's candid story about the realities of
the Vietnam War.
"Saint Marie." Louise Erdrich's tale of a young woman's conflict between her
Native American community and Christian obsessions.