AIFS Abroad

AIFS Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic
Summer 2019
Course Descriptions


Course descriptions

During each session a number of core courses are offered. In addition there will be a number of elective courses. Courses are subject to change at the discretion of Charles University. Recommended credits are shown in parentheses.

Course Code and Credits:
Course Title: Survival Czech—Included for all students
Course Description:
In order to better prepare students for their stay in Prague, all students will participate in a two-day Survival Czech course taught by a Charles University professor. This eighthour course with small class sizes (fewer than 13 students) equips students with the necessary language skills in order to “survive” in Prague. Students will not only learn the basics, but also go on a field trip with the professor to learn more about the city. A textbook is included.
Course Code and Credits: ART 301 (3)
Course Title: Prague European Art and Architecture
Course Description:
Provides a general overview of the Fine Arts development in Europe with a special focus on Central Europe and monuments in Prague. The course covers the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods up to Modernism and the Contemporary art scene. Special attention will be paid to the unique characteristics and developments of art (e.g. Prague Castle, Baroque churches, Czech cubism) and to the most glorious periods in the history of Czech Lands. The course will also focus on important artists and movements that illustrate typical features of a certain time period. By studying detailed information about a particular piece of art, students will develop insight about the history of Fine Arts as an academic discipline. The class is divided into two parts; a lecture in the classroom and a field trip to a local museum or other monuments or buildings in Prague.
Course Code and Credits: ART 302 (3)
Course Title: Art, Architecture and Urbanism in Prague Within a European Context
Course Description:
The focus of the course is the architectural, artistic and urban development of Prague as a typical example of a European city. The City of Prague represents an illustrative model for learning about the significant attributes of European art, architecture and urban history throughout centuries with respect to the European context. The course also incorporates historical background and typical lifestyle in each historical period. The learning about the art, architecture and the town planning is based on the knowledge and understanding of the general philosophical concepts of European or world history, including multicultural dimensions. Prague, whose modern history was influenced by two totalitarian regimes belonging to the cities behind the Iron Curtain until 1989, is also used as an illustrative example of the function of the art and architecture in both dictatorships of the 20th century.
Course Code and Credits: ART 305 (3)
Course Title: Jewish Art and Architecture
Course Description:
Examines the architecture of synagogues in the Ancient world, the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque period as well as in the contemporary era, alongside an introduction to Jewish history, tradition and beliefs. Students learn about the specific features characterizing different architectural styles over centuries and the symbolism of architecture used in Jewish prayer rooms. Classroom lectures are combined with regular field trips and two one-day excursions including a visit to the oldest functioning synagogue in Europe, dating from the 1200s. Students will also visit the Jewish Museum in Prague.
Course Code and Credits: CZE 101 (3)
Course Title: Czech Language for Every Day Use - Level 1
Course Description:
The course is designed to teach students basics of the Czech language and at the same time, to extend their knowledge of Czech culture and everyday life. The communicative approach and everyday vocabulary are emphasized, students are supposed to communicate in various situations of everyday life (introducing oneself, asking about directions, shopping, restaurants, daily routine, likes and dislikes). Various linguistic skills should be developed in balance: knowledge of grammar, comprehension, speaking, and writing.
Course Code and Credits: CZE 102 (3)
Course Title: Czech Language for Every Day Use - Level II (Session 2 only)
Course Description:
Designed to teach students the basics of the Czech language and to extend their knowledge of Czech culture and everyday life. Everyday vocabulary is emphasized and students are expected to communicate in real-life situations (introducing oneself, asking for directions, shopping, restaurants, daily routine, likes and dislikes). Various linguistic skills should be developed in balance: knowledge of grammar, comprehension, speaking, and writing.
Course Code and Credits: ECON 310 (3)
Course Title: Economic Affairs: European Union and Asia
Course Description:
This course examines current and basic trends within the development of the world economy with a special emphasis on the comparison of economic systems in Europe and Asia. It familiarizes students with the principal actors of the global economic system (i.e. states, international organizations, transnational corporations, regional integration agreements and sovereign wealth funds) as well as with their mutual interconnections. A brief description of European integration and its main attributes is also provided. The central theme of the course is the introduction of the European and Asian economic systems and discussion about related problems.
Course Code and Credits: FILM 328 (3)
Course Title: Czech and Slovak New Wave Cinema
Course Description:
Bounded by the Germanic Empires to the West, the Russian Empire and Soviet Union to the East, Hungary and the former Ottoman holdings to the South, the Czech and Slovak lands have long been a site of conflict and creation. This course will explore the incredibly rich cinematic tradition of thought-provoking and entertaining films produced in the areas of the Czech Republic and Slovakia from the years between 1962 and 1972. In addition to watching films, we will also be discussing cinema theory and approaches to “reading” films, not only as movies, but also as multi-faceted cultural artifacts. To this end, our readings will contain primary source materials on cinema history, historical research, film theory, and literature intended to broaden our understanding of Czech and Slovak culture, cinematic and otherwise.
Course Code and Credits: HIST 205 (3)
Course Title: Shaping Central Europe
Course Description:
Focuses on the history of Central Europe through the study of the major phenomena that shaped it. The main themes considered in the course are the impact of the Habsburg dynasty on the region’s politics and culture, the rise of nationalism in the 19th century and its consequences for post-WWI Central Europe. The impact of World War II on the region is analyzed as well as the disappearance of Central Europe as a political and cultural entity under Communist rule and its rebirth at the end of the 20th century. Jewish history and its significance for the region are also explored. Each theme is illustrated by a field trip and/or a documentary.
Course Code and Credits: HIST 305 (3)
Course Title: Mitteleuropa: Central European and German History
Course Description:
Focuses on the history of the entity known as “Mitteleuropa” in the last two hundred years, the different definitions and ideological uses of this concept and the analysis of its moving boundaries, sometimes including Germany, sometimes not. The main themes studied in the course will be the unification of Germany and its rise as a great power, compared to the decline of the Habsburg Empire and the (re)birth of new states following World War I. Students will then analyze the rise of extremism in the 1920s and 1930s, especially National Socialism and its impact on the countries of Central Europe, including World War II and the its consequences, the disappearance of Central Europe and Communist rule over Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. The semester will end with the rebirth of Central Europe after the end of Communism.
Course Code and Credits: HIST 315 (3)
Course Title: Totalitarianism Revisited: Former and Recent Debates about the Nature of Nazism and Communism
Course Description:
A basic introduction to the development of historical and contemporary thinking about the two most significant authoritarian or undemocratic regimes – Nazism and Communism. Initial reading of fundamental ideological works and classical theoretical essays of totalitarian theory will provide students the most significant basis of understanding further debates on the field of history. Students will have an opportunity to be acquainted with both the most relevant general, theoretical and methodological debates and their concrete practical application in the research of the East-Central European history. They will have an opportunity to cultivate their abilities in discussing general preconditions of historical understanding of political power but at the same time, they will learn fundamental knowledge of the history of East-Central Europe in the 20th century.
Course Code and Credits: LIT 314 (3)
Course Title: Reading Prague: Literature, Architecture and Cultural History
Course Description:
Surveys Prague’s history, focusing on the lives and aspirations of its multinational inhabitants as they metamorphosed over the course of the last twelve centuries. The course proposes to read the city as a text and to treat literature and architecture as both expressions and symptoms of its evolution. Throughout the course, literature and architecture are explored through a critical reading of the motivations, techniques and achievements which are at play therein.
Course Code and Credits: LIT 318 (3)
Course Title: The Theaters of Václav Havel
Course Description:
Students will study the dramatic writing of one of Central and Eastern Europe’s most important cultural figures in the context of modern European and American drama. Working from an understanding of the political situation in which Havel wrote, students will read his plays alongside those by playwrights who inspired Havel to start his own theater career (Ionesco; Beckett), compare his work to that of writers with whom he had important working relationships (Beckett; Stoppard) and analyze his dramatic writing alongside that of his Central and Eastern European antecedents and contemporaries (Brecht, Capek, Mrozek). In addition, students will investigate parallels between Havel’s work and other modern dramatic representations of incarceration (Genet) and self-alienation (Adamov; Pinter).
Course Code and Credits: POL 315 (3)
Course Title: Comparative Politics
Course Description:
Sharing the same geopolitical position within the Eastern Bloc, the individual cases – i.e. Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and others – differed significantly, however, in their respective points of departure, as well as in political institutional solutions chosen in the course of their transitions. Students will be encouraged to challenge the mainstream understanding of “transition” as a predictable, gradual and irreversible progress towards the standard “Western” model. The course is designed as a seminar based on a guided discussion about carefully selected texts collected in a reader; active participation of the students is essential.
Course Code and Credits: SOC 300 (3)
Course Title: Sociology of Food
Course Description:
Eating is a natural necessity for almost all human beings. Food, however, does more than just help humans survive and grow. It can become a political tool, a marker of social class and gender, a mirror of significant cultural differences. On a more individual scale, it can be related to personal identity, habits and health. As their perspective in this course is sociological and semeiotical, students will look at food both as a source of embodied experience, and as a language that can be decoded. It is a symbolic system that reflects the everyday habits of humans, norms of societies, as well as deeper, internalized meanings. Food will thus become a lens through which students will see and analyze their different cultures in a new light. Students will ask questions such as: What is the place of origin of their food? How did their food get to them? How does food configure and change relations among people?
Course Code and Credits: SOC 345 (3)
Course Title: Contemporary Czech Art, Culture and Literature: Urban Semiotics
Course Description:
Acquaints students with the contemporary Czech art scene, its “roots” and transformations from three different perspectives. First, the course will pursue how Czech art and music are connected with activism, minority groups and mainstream culture. Second, focus will be placed on how to “read” contemporary urban performances, literature and works of art. Third, the course will familiarize students with the notions of performance art, digital media, counterculture, mass culture and show their impact on Czech individuals and society.
Course Code and Credits: SOC 354 (3)
Course Title: Social Changes in Czech Republic After 1989
Course Description:
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.