USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies

2015 Citation Recipient

Friederike Kind-Kovács

The University of Southern California Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies, established in 2009 and sponsored by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern Europe, or Eurasia in the fields of literary and cultural studies in the previous calendar year.

Co-Winner: Friederike Kind-Kovács
Title: Written Here, Published There: How Underground Literature Crossed the Iron Curtain (Central European University Press)

Friederike Kind-Kovács’s Written Here, Published There represents a monograph on a topic many of us may seem to know. Yet her account is innovative and brilliant in that it provides a high-resolution picture of a phenomenon that has actually been in need of being revisited. The author presents a detailed analysis that amounts to a revision of our understanding of the Iron Curtain in the domain of culture. Her carefully researched material shows that the Iron Curtain was not so iron-clad as it claimed to be. The author documents and analyzes the flow of cultural material, including underground literature that was constantly crossing the Iron Curtain. The scope and details of this analysis is truly monumental. Virtually all relevant geographic domains are analyzed, including the former GDR. Kind-Kovács’s narrative begins with the late 1950s, including the celebrated case of Doctor Zhivago, moves step by step to the late 1980s and beyond, to the first wave of reflections that occurred in the 1990s. Significantly, her monograph goes well beyond a chronicle—it is conceptually innovative and nuanced. The author pursues the methodology of a histoire croisée, tracking networks that crossed the Curtain. Among her conceptual concerns is the bridging of gaps between samizdat and tamizdat, the immediacy of human rights, and eventually the emergence of a culture that connects the continent like no other event, leading to a transnational intellectual community with its attendant social practices, debates, and discourses. In the end, Kind-Kovács convincingly challenges the assumption that tamizdat was just a publishing project.

Co-Winner: Rachel Feldhay Brenner