Please join us Friday, 5/26 for the Interdisciplinary Approaches to Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia (REECA) workshop!



The paper to be presented is:


The Cowards’ Guide to World Literature

Brian Goodman, Pozen Center Postdoctoral Fellow (UChicago)




After the official rejection of Stalinism across the Soviet bloc in 1956, American literature and culture enjoyed a brief renaissance in Czechoslovakia, thanks in large part to the efforts of a small but committed group of writers, translators, and critics. Chapter 3 of this project examines the shifting status of American culture—from Ernest Hemingway and Langston Hughes to Dixieland and blues music—in fifties-era Czechoslovakia by focusing on the early career of the novelist Josef Škvorecký and his work at the groundbreaking journal Světová literatura (“World Literature”). I also tell the story of Škvorecký’s debut novel The Cowards, which became a central work of postwar Czech literature after it was attacked by hardline critics for its innovative departure from socialist realism and its embrace of vernacular modernist and African American cultural forms, particularly jazz. The novel was banned until the mid-sixties, but his translations remained in circulation. As the Škvorecký example demonstrates, the idiosyncratic interests of an individual figure could have an outsized influence on what forms of culture circulated between the blocs.


Discussant: Michaela Appeltova, History PhD Candidate (UChicago)

May 26, 2017

11am-12:20pm in Foster Hall, Room 103

University of Chicago 


Tea and cookies will be served. You are welcome to bring your lunch.