Jun 20, 2014
05:31 AM
Education

Connecticut Professor's Book Gets "House of Cards" Cameos on Netflix

Connecticut Professor's Book Gets "House of Cards" Cameos on Netflix

Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Western Connecticut State University history professor Kevin Gutzman (below) and actor Kevin Spacey (left) have more in common than their first names.

Gutzman’s book James Madison and the Making of America has been making cameos in Spacey’s hit Netflix show “House of Cards” for two seasons, and in Season 2 Spacey’s character walks around reading it and keeps it close to his desk. Despite the significant screen time James Madison and the Making of America has received on the show,  Gutzman only found out about his book’s brush with Hollywood recently.

Read our story on how a bridge over Long Island Sound
(a "House of Cards" Season 2 subplot) almost became a reality. 

“A complete stranger sent me the news on Facebook,” says Gutzman who hasn’t yet watched the show. “The same person later told me that he saw it in one episode of Season 1 and four episodes of Season 2.  Spacey's character is only reading it on Season 2; in Season 1, it's on a bookshelf behind him.”

In the show Spacey plays Frank Underwood a ruthlessly ambitious politician attempting to advance his career at any cost. Gutzman, who lives in Bethel, believes his book was chosen for the show to further emphasize this ambition.

“[It gives] the impression that Spacey's character, an obsessively ambitious politician, spends his free moments studying the careers of successful American politicians,” Gutzman says.

Asked if there are any similarities between Madison and Spacey's character on the show, Gutzman says, “James Madison became the first party leader in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives, and that became a springboard for his ascent first to the position of secretary of state, and finally to the presidency.  Spacey's character is a House of Representatives party leader who aspires to the presidency.”

As a historian Gutzman is no stranger to success. In addition to James Madison, published in 2012, he is the author of many works including the New York Times best-selling The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution and Virginia’s American Revolution: From Dominion to Republic, 1776-1840, and co-author of Who Killed the Constitution? The Fate of American Liberty from World War I to Barak Obama. He is a frequent guest on C-SPAN, Fox News and CNN.

Gutzman holds a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, and he earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia. He has master’s degrees from both schools, as well as a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Texas.

Though Gutzman’s biography of Madison was published in 2012 it has long been in the works. 

“Once I had embarked on the constitutional history path, I found that it led over and over again to consideration of James Madison's role in American history,” he says. “Virtually each time I encountered Madison, I was surprised to see that the primary materials led me to disagree with what other historians—even very eminent ones—had said about him.  When I had five or six major points of disagreement, it was clear to me that I needed to write a book about his role in creating the American constitutional system.”

Gutzman’s next book will be a study of Thomas Jefferson's revoultionary ideas called Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary, which  that will be published by St. Martin's Press.

“Readers may be surprised to learn that Jefferson envisioned a Virginia in which all were free and all free men were landholders, and that he proposed having Virginia give every man who didn't already have land 50 acres of Virginia's public lands,” Gutzman says. “Also of particular contemporary interest are his mixed actions in regard to slavery, which he considered philosophically and morally unjustifiable, and his vision of constitutional government, which he saw as strictly limited to the functions the people had knowingly given it.”

We can't say for certain, but we've got a hunch Spacey will be reading about Jefferson on Season 3 of "House of Cards." 

For more information about Kevin Gutzman visit his website, kevingutzman.com.

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and Google +

Connecticut Professor's Book Gets "House of Cards" Cameos on Netflix

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