Jonathan Bolton


My research crosses back and forth between literary studies and history. My book Worlds of Dissent combines approaches from both disciplines to offer a new approach to the dissident movements in East Central Europe under Communism. I teach graduate and undergraduate courses on Czech literature, history, and culture, as well as comparative European literatures more generally.

I am particularly interested in the relationships between literature and political power: the mechanics of political crackdown and repression; dissent, protest, and dissident movements; and the complex negotiations between repressive regimes and the writers they are trying to control. I also study conceptions and ideologies of Central European identity; language and narrative form in first-person writing; and literary theory and theory of literary history. My current research is on conceptions of the "political novel" as they have played out in different national traditions, and have responded to different ideas of what politics actually is. My piece on Ivan Olbracht's Nikola the Outlaw has appeared in Public Books' B-Sides series.

I translate Czech prose and poetry, and have edited and translated a book of poems by Ivan Wernisch, In the Puppet Gardens: Selected Poems, 1963-2005. My translations have appeared in Dalkey Archive's Best European Fiction 2018, as well as in Circumference: Poetry in Translation, BODY: Poetry, Prose, Word, and elsewhere. My translations of Czech poet Petr Hruška will appear this year in Modern Poetry in Translation.


Ph.D. 2001 University of Michigan
M.A. 1995 University of Texas at Austin
B.A. 1990 Harvard University


  • Translation of "Multicultural Center," a short story by Igor Malijevský, in Best European Fiction 2018, ed. Alex Andriesse Shakespeare (Dalkey Archive Press, 2018): 245-250.
  • Translations of “A Room for the Night,” “Titan,” and “Face” by Petr Hruška, BODY: Poetry, Prose, Word (November 23, 2015).
  • “Translations of “As the Snow Melted,” “They Gave Me Back My Coat…,” and “Roadside Pub” by Ivan Wernisch, BODY: Poetry, Prose, Word (November 16, 2015).
  • “The Old Church Road,” “Snow-covered house: Amalia Richter is speaking,” and “Vogelbird” by Radek Fridrich, Circumference: Poetry in Translation (spring 2015).
  • "The Story of King Candaules" by Jiří Kratochvil and "The Sorrows of Devoted Scoundrel" by Alexandra Berková, in Daylight in Nightclub Inferno: Czech Fiction from the Post-Kundera Generation, ed. Elena Lappin (North Haven, CT: Catbird Press, 1997): 103-159.
  • “Two” and “Last Century,” poems by the Moravian poet Petr Hruška, Circumference 5 (Fall 2006).
  • "Dylan Thomas" by Jiřina Hauková, in Dylan Remembered:  Volume II, 1935-1953, ed. David N. Thomas (Bridgend, Wales: Seren, 2004): 160-164.


  • "O úskálích překladu i 'kauze Kundera' s bohemistou z Harvardu [On the Perils of Translation and the 'Kundera Affair' with Harvard's Professor of Czech Literature.]"  5000-word interview with Karel Hvížďala.  Mladá fronta DNES (Prague), Sept. 19, 2009: D5-D6.  
  • "Portrét: Rozhovor s Jonathanem Boltonem [An Interview with Jonathan Bolton]."  2000-word interview with Dalibor Dobiáš.  Krajiny češtiny (Prague) (December 2009): 23-26.
  • "Když jsem uprostřed devadesátých let..." [reply to poll of literary scholars on Ludvík Vaculík's place in Czech literature], Host (Brno), 23:10 (December 2007): 9.

Invited Public Lectures:

  • "Pathways of the Political Novel in Eastern Europe." Taylor Lecture, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford, February 18, 2020. 
  • "A Czech Dreambook: Dissent as an Everyday Experience," sponsored by English PEN, Czech Centre London and Karolinum Press. Free Word Centre, London, February 20, 2020.
  • “False Cognates and Genuine Renegades: What is Missing from our Narratives of the Prague Spring?” Invited lecture for the conference Tracing Impacts and Representations of 1968, Center for European Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, October 12-14, 2018.
  • Moderator and speaker for the panel 68/77/89: Arts, Culture, and Social Change,sponsored by the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library at the Embassy of the Czech Republic, Washington, D.C., March 16, 2018.
  • Keynote lecture: “A Guest from the Unknown: Jan Patočka, Antigone, and the Theater,” for the conference “Heresy And Heritage: Jan Patočka on Philosophy, Politics, and the Arts,” Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, May 5, 2017.
  • Roundtable on Worlds of Dissent, with Françoise Mayer, Francesco Tava, Rajendra Chitnis, Petra James, and Astrid Muls, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, May 6, 2017.
  • “Thoughts on Translating the Very Short Lyric.” Michael Heim Memorial Lecture, University of California, Los Angeles, April 20, 2017.
  • "The Shaman and the Greengrocer: Revisiting Václav Havel's 'The Power of the Powerless.'" Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures and Center for European and Russian Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, May 4, 2016.
  • "Displaced Tyrannies: Allegories of Repression in East Central European Literature." Keynote Address for AATSEEL-Wisconsin, Madison, October 9, 2015.
  • "Dissident Roles, Dissident Lives: Four Questions for the Study of Dissent." Post-Dissident Studies: Between Collaboration and Dissent in Central Europe," Harvard University, September 20, 2013.
  • "Narratives of Dissent: Three Scenes from the Life of Charter 77." Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, Claremont McKenna College, December 3, 2012.
  • “Legends of the Underground: Ivan Jirous, Egon Bondy, and the Beginnings of Czech Dissent.”  Center for European Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, March 31, 2011.
  • “Three Theories of Central European Dissent,” guest lecture for the course "Central and East Europe: An Interdisciplinary Survey," taught by David Danaher. University of Wisconsin, Madison, April 8, 2010.
  • “Legends of the Underground: Ivan Jirous, Egon Bondy, and the Prehistory of Czech Dissent.”  Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison, April 8, 2010.
  • “When Does Private Become Public?  Charter 77 and the Literature of Alternative Communities in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s.”  Slavisches Institut, University of Heidelberg, Germany, July 6, 2009.
  • “The Senses of Displacement: Two Poems by Ivan Wernisch.”  Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University, March 7, 2008.
  • "The Forms of Demobilization: Legacies of 1968 in Czech Culture."  Humanities Center New Faculty Lunch, Harvard University, February 7, 2008.
  • "Czech Dream: Precedents and Antecedents in Czech Culture."  Introduction to screening of the film Český sen, followed by discussion, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, October 26, 2007.
  • “Small Nations and Grand Narratives: History as Antagonist in the Central European Novel.”  Center for European Studies, University of Florida, Gainesville, September 13, 2007.
  • “The Case of the Missing Poet: Anti-Semitism and the Beginnings of Czech-Jewish Literature.”  Russian and East European Jewish Studies Seminar, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, October 24, 2005.
  • “What Lies in Wait Behind the Wall: Metamorphoses of Domestic Space in Recent Czech Literature.” Brown University, October 28, 2004.

Selected Honors and Awards:

  • Member, Collegium Karolinum, Munich, 2019 - present.
  • Walter Channing Cabot Fellow, Harvard University, 2012-2013.
  • Three-year fellowship in Harvard Society of Fellows, 2002-4 and 2005-6.
  • Rackham Distinguished Dissertation Award, University of Michigan, May 2002.
  • Fulbright-Hays Fellowship (declined), 2001.
  • Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship, University of Michigan, 2000-2001.
  • Sophia Freund Prize, Harvard University, June 1990.
  • Bowdoin Prize, Harvard University, May 1989.

Editorial Boards

  • Česká literatura (Prague)
  • Estetika (Prague)
  • Svět literatury (Prague)