Skip to main content

Brian Goodman on: The Nonconformists, American and Czech Writers across the Iron Curtain (Harvard UP, 2023).

Sponsored by

This event is over.

Event Details:

You are invited to join The American Studies Program for an exciting lunchtime talk with Brian Goodman (2006 graduate of Stanford American Studies), Assistant Professor of English, Arizona State University, speaking on his book: The Nonconformists, American and Czech Writers across the Iron Curtain (Harvard UP, 2023).

February 2, Friday, 12:00 PM | Terrace Room, Margaret Jacks Hall (BLDG 460)

Lunch will be served! RSVP’s are strongly encouraged! Please RSVP with this form no later than January 29th to help us plan for headcount.

This event is sponsored by the Program in American Studies, and is cosponsored by Stanford Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, Stanford English, and Stanford Libraries

About the book:

“In some indescribable way, we are each other’s continuation,” Arthur Miller wrote of the imprisoned Czech playwright Václav Havel. After a Soviet-led invasion ended the Prague Spring, many US-based writers experienced a similar shock of solidarity. Brian Goodman examines the surprising and consequential connections between American and Czech literary cultures during the Cold War—connections that influenced art and politics on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

American writers had long been attracted to Prague, a city they associated with the spectral figure of Franz Kafka. Goodman reconstructs the Czech journeys of Allen Ginsberg, Philip Roth, and John Updike, as well as their friendships with nonconformists like Havel, Josef Škvorecký, Ivan Klíma, and Milan Kundera. Czechoslovakia, meanwhile, was home to a literary counterculture shaped by years of engagement with American sources, from Moby-Dick and the Beats to Dixieland jazz and rock ’n’ roll. Czechs eagerly followed cultural trends in the United States, creatively appropriating works by authors like Langston Hughes and Ernest Hemingway, sometimes at considerable risk to themselves.

The Nonconformists tells the story of a group of writers who crossed boundaries of language and politics, rearranging them in the process. The transnational circulation of literature played an important role in the formation of new subcultures and reading publics, reshaping political imaginations and transforming the city of Kafka into a global capital of dissent. From the postwar dream of a “Czechoslovak road to socialism” to the neoconservative embrace of Eastern bloc dissidence on the eve of the Velvet Revolution, history was changed by a collision of literary cultures.

About the author:

Brian K. Goodman specializes in American studies, literature and human rights, and dissident cultures and has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books and Public Books. He is Assistant Professor of English at Arizona State University, where he is a Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Jewish Studies and the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies.