American Studies Brian K. Goodman Book Talk

Thu February 1st 2024, 4:30 - 6:30pm
Event Sponsor
Department of English
Green Library, Bing Wing
459 Lasuen Mall, Stanford, CA 94305
Bender Room, 5th Floor

Stanford Libraries and Stanford's American Studies Program are pleased to welcome Brian K. Goodman in discussing his latest book, The Nonconformists: American and Czech Writers across the Iron Curtain. Copies will be available for purchase and signing at the event. Co-sponsored by the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, and the Department of English.

The Nonconformists examines how risky encounters between American and Czech writers behind the Iron Curtain shaped the art and politics of the Cold War and helped define an era of dissent.  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.

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.

Brian K. Goodman is an assistant professor in the Department of English at Arizona State University, where he is also a faculty affiliate of the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, & East European Studies and the Center for Jewish Studies. Before coming to ASU, Goodman was a Postdoctoral Instructor in Human Rights at the University of Chicago. His writing on literature, dissent, and free expression has appeared in American Literary History, the Bloomsbury Handbook to Cold War Literary Cultures, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Public Books. His first book, published by Harvard University Press, is The Nonconformists: American and Czech Writers across the Iron Curtain. Goodman graduated from Stanford in 2006, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in American Studies from Harvard. His new book originated in his research in Stanford’s Special Collections for his honors thesis as an American Studies major.