Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

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Courses - January Term 2021

Classes are taught Monday through Friday for 4 hours per day a total of 45 hours. Choose one course from those listed below.

ART 304 (3) | Music Between a Universal Language and Local Culture

The course will provide an introduction to Czech (and Central European) music and at the same time explore key topics in the philosophy of music, popular music studies and culture studies. Is music a universally comprehensible language or rather a locally specific and arcane form of community formation? The concepts introduced will allow us to discuss this question in general terms while we attempt to pinpoint what makes Czech music unique. Themes covered will include: music and technology, works of art, musical communities and identities, music and emotions, performance, mechanical reproduction, music and visual arts, and others. The classes will consist of interpreting short excerpts from various texts on music, discussion, listening to musical samples, and field trips. Students will be introduced to major Czech and Central European classical composers as well as popular and alternative/underground music groups. Reading excerpts will be taken from texts by philosophers such as Roland Barthes, Theodor Adorno and Jacques Attali, music critics like John Blacking and František Stárek as well as by musicians like David Byrne, John Cage or Miloš Štedron. No prior knowledge of philosophy or musical education is required. In previous semesters, various guest lecturers have also been invited to the course, such as contemporary composer Miloš Orson Štedron.

ART 403 (3) | Czech Folklore and Popular Culture

The course presents introduction to vernacular layer of culture of the Czech lands: folklore, collective mythology, traditional rituals, everyday customs, and popular culture in general.

Firstly, we introduce a range of theoretical approaches to study Czech folklore and popular culture, exploring the intersection between oral and literary tradition, social and local memory, popular entertainments, and broader political and historical contexts within the East and Central Europe. We will briefly analyse history of discussions on Czech folklore, starting with the High Middle Ages and Bohemian Reformation (folktales and exempla), followed by Humanism (historical and local legends and proverbs), the Enlightenment (folk beliefs and local legends), Romantism and Romantic Nationalism (folk songs and folk poetry) and Art Nouveau (folk art and material culture), concluding with foundation of serious academic interest in folklore in the end of the 19th century.

Secondly, building on knowledge of these conceptual approaches and popular genres, we will examine several examples of political uses and misuses of Czech folklore and popular culture during the 20th and 21st centuries by various political (and also seemingly apolitical) ideologies such as Czech and German nationalisms, Czech Marxism, state socialism, and neoliberalism.

During final part of the course, we will try to interpret possible pecularities and/or cultural specifics of Czech folklore and popular culture – with special attention devoted not only to traditional folktales and legends, but also more contemporary folkloric genres: urban legends, jokes, graffiti, and memes.

Integral part of the course will be several short guided walks to specific sites connected with Czech folklore and popular culture (e. g. visit to the Ethnographic Museum in Prague) and screening of a movie which interprets Czech vernacular culture.

POL/LIT 317 (3) | From Thoreau to Havel: Chapters in Czech and American Struggle for Social Justice

The course reacts to the current polarization of political life both in the United States and the Czech Republic. It discusses important U.S. and Czech writers, artists, and activists who have believed in the indivisibility of freedom (“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison” – Thoreau) and entered into dialogue with the powerful as well as the powerless in face of dogmatism, fear, and indifference. These writers, artists, philosophers and activists have been broadening the notion of democracy and have been keeping the precious “fragile democratic experiment” alive – by fighting for ballot for women and African Americans, by fighting anti-Semitism in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, by fighting injustice and complacency in Socialist Czechoslovakia, by helping children “of the Enemy,” or by confronting ongoing racial injustice in the United States and the Czech Republic. The course will foster dialogue between American and Czech humanistic thinkers, artists, and activists. The course draws inspiration from African American philosopher Cornel West who understands truth “as a way of life” that “allows suffering to speak.”

LIT 357 (3) | Politics of Song: From Folklore to Hip-Hop

The course examines how songs relate to people’s attitudes to public life, and conversely, how attitudes to public life translate into songs. While focusing on lyrics, the course places selected Czech songs within their political, cultural, historical, and social contexts. Songs will be regarded as either challenging or confirming the status quo, and as either intrinsically political, or political because of the given context of reception (rock’n’roll in the Soviet Bloc). It will be worthwhile to keep these four categories in mind, as the course runs through song material spanning from 19th century Habsburg empire to current day, covering genres from traditional ballads to social bandit songs, protest songs, anti-military songs, revolutionary songs, patriotic songs, topical songs on police shootings against worker’s demonstrations, rock ’n’roll in the Eastern Block, Czech folk singers-songwriters, Roma songs of empowerment, Neo-Nazi pub rock, alternative rock, contemporary rap, and more. Based on relevant theoretical readings questions will be asked such as: Can a song ever be “innocent,” that is, stand outside of politics? Was Ronald Reagan right – was it rock’n’roll that destroyed the Soviet bloc? Did the establishment react differently to rock musicians in the Eastern and in the Western block? Is there an inherent link between the genre of hip hop and oppressed minority cultures? How does it happen that a song shapes the reaction of a nation to a traumatic experience? What did the Nazi and Communist regimes share in their view of modern trends in songs? What are the roots of the Czech tramping movement? Etc. Students will co-create the class by bringing in songs of their choice from their own contexts. Guest speakers and field trips will bring a further dimension to the class

SOC 354 (3) | Social Change in the Czech Republic

The aim of the course is to overview social change in the Czech Republic. After a short introduction to the historical and social development (1918-1989) and basic comparison to other CEE countries, the course focuses on basic perspectives on social change (“shock therapy vs. gradualism”) and then deals with the changes in economic and social structure and political attitudes in general. To provide a deeper insight into the development, the transformation of housing and higher education system is presented in detail. The seminars consist of discussing short texts or relevant topics (covered in lectures), watching documentaries and presentations of students. However, the main output is a paper that students have to develop and write on a topic of their choice. Depending on the availability, relevant cultural events (i.e. exhibitions) are included as well.

Download PDF with full program details on all AIFS Czech Republic programs! Offerings!

Download PDF with full program details on all AIFS Czech Republic programs!

Download PDF with full program details on all AIFS Czech Republic, Prague programs!