2018 Graduate Student Essay Prize
The 2018 Graduate Student Essay Prize was awarded to Szabolcs László for “‘Performing for the Capitalists’: Cold War Cultural Diplomacy Experienced by Hungarian and Romanian Writers at the Iowa International Writing Program” (Indiana University-Bloomington)
The winner of the 2018 ASEEES Graduate Student Essay Prize is Szabolcs László. His essay, “‘Performing for the Capitalists’: Cold War Cultural Diplomacy Experienced by Hungarian and Romanian Writers at the Iowa International Writing Program,” offers a valuable case study of cultural competition and diplomacy that examines institutions and actors on both sides of the Cold War.
This engaging and highly original essay offers insight into what the author calls “an immersive form of Cold War propaganda in action.” The Iowa International Writing Program (IWP) — and, more specifically, its longtime director Paul Engle — constructed a project that both made use of existing Cold War frameworks to secure resources from interested parties (including the state and corporations), and was itself useful in facilitating the spread of “internationalist idealism” abroad through its continuous and intimate engagements with writers from the communist world.
László uses a rich primary source base — including the archives of the IWP, the accounts of literary participants, and the personal papers of the program’s founder (Engle) — to recreate the complex (and often entertaining) ways in which both sides performed their imagined role in the larger drama of the Cold War. The essay offers a unique perspective on the political calculations that underpinned the cultural and intellectual life of the Cold War period, and will be of interest to scholars working on the Soviet Union, the Cold War, and the intersections of political and cultural life more broadly.