Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

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Study Abroad in Prague: Courses

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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 and courses which state "Department" are shared with Czech students.

| Survival Czech—Included for all students

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 eight-hour 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.

Courses offered in all sessions

CZE 102 (3)  | Czech Language for Every Day Use - Level 1 

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.

POL 315 (3) | Comparative Politics: Transformation of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic

While sharing the same geopolitical position within the Eastern Bloc, the individual cases – i.e. Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and others – differed significantly in their respective points of departure, as well as in political institutional solutions chosen in the course of their transitions. This comparative aspect will be studied and students will be also 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.

Session A or Session B

ART 313 (3) | The Story of Prague: Ten Centuries of Architectural Heritage

The course serves as an introduction to the city of Prague as a specific cultural and social milieu, seen through the lens of its artists, architects and their works. It is also intended – particularly through the reading list – to inspire an interest in the unique blend of storytelling and legend that underpins much of the city’s character and history. The scope of the course includes the major periods of European architectural development: from medieval to modern, as well as aspects specifically reflecting the history and heritage of the Czech nation. In structuring the course according to artistic styles and movements, it is hoped that students will recognize the ways in which artists of widely varying origins and temperaments responded to, influenced, or disrupted the artistic conventions of the day, and how their work continues to reflect the social and political dynamics of the city.

ECON 311 (3)  | Economic Decline of European Empires

The power of a great empire was always based on its economy. Sustainable economic growth is therefore crucial for keeping the political influence as well as ensuring the prosperity for its inhabitants. Economic power and prosperity of the past empires were often threatened by similar economic policy failures as we know today: fiscal crises, inflation, extensive regulation, institutional mismanagement and others. Lectures will provide an overview of the economic policy and institutional failures that led to economic decay of the selected European powers in the past. In the seminars, students will widen and apply the acquired knowledge to the current economic issues. This course combines application of basic Institutional Economics and International Political Economy. Major focus of this course lies on the CEE, therefore, most of the time will be dedicated to economic powers that have affected the CEE economic environment (Hapsburg Empire and Germany). Other economic powers (e.g. Ming China, Soviet Union or the United States) might be briefly discussed in the lectures upon students' request.

FILM 326 (3) | Wave of the Future: Czech and Slovak New Wave Cinema

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.

HIST 302 (3) | Jewish History in Central and Eastern Europe

The course focuses on Jewish history in Central and Eastern Europe with an emphasis on the 19th and 20th century. The primary goals of the course are to study the political, cultural and economic situation of the Jews in Central and Eastern Europe and analyze the different forms of Jewish cultural and political identity. In the analysis, special attention will be paid to the history of Central and Eastern European countries at the beginning of the 20th century.

HIST 312 (3) | The Formation of Europe and its Nations

The course focuses on the processes and events that have been making the ethnical and political borders of Europe since the arrival of Indo-Europeans until present times. It follows the formations, expansions and differentiations of the Celtic, Germanic, Romance, Slavic and other peoples, the formation of medieval nations or changes in the political map of Europe in the last centuries. It also explains how and when peoples like Basques, Albanians, Hungarians, Turks appeared in Europe. Due to its comprehensive character, the course is suitable for students interested in history, politics, anthropology and linguistics.

LIT 314 (3) | Reading Prague: Literature, Architecture, and Cultural History

The course will survey Prague’s history through the lenses of Czech literature selecting Prague as its locus, focusing on the lives and aspirations of the city’s multinational inhabitants as they metamorphosed in 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 will be explored through a critical reading of the motivations, techniques, and achievements which are at play therein

PSYC 310 (3) | Psycholinguistics

Introduces the fundamental aspects of psycholinguistic research, discussing the methods used in psycholinguistics and a summary of the knowledge achieved so far in the field. In the second part of the course, the process of language acquisition in children is discussed, together with examples of developmental language disorders such as dyslexia. 

SOC 300 (3)  | Sociology of Food

Eating is a natural necessity for 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? 

Session A or Session C

ART 314 (3) | Gender and Culture

Students analyze how gender, ethnicity, race, class and sexual orientation are shaped by cultural and societal influences. The focus is on the comparisons of European and US gender regimes and diversity differences, interpretation and evaluation of social actions by religious, gender, ethnic, racial, class, sexual orientation groups affecting equality and social justice in Europe and the U.S. Discussions within this framework include Communist concepts of gender equality, post-socialist transformation and globalization as well as of current cultural gender representations, beauty myth, advertising etc. Documentaries, other visual materials, field trips and a guest speaker lecture are a part of this course.

ART 324 (3) | Edges of Photography: Techniques, artistry and Czech Photographers

Although photography is a regular art discipline, due to its broad accessibility, it is perceived by many as a mere technical tool to record reality. Such perception is unsubstantiated on so many levels! The technical aspect of photography is only one part of it. The other, and perhaps even more important is the artistic part: Photographic technology can be seen as a tool in the service of a creative human soul. In addition, both these elements also correspond with and reflect a particular historical timeframe, which has an impact on the overall purport of every single image. This is certainly true about documentary photography, in which the seemingly ‘trivial’ photographer’s choices (such as camera exposure settings, framing/cropping, angles, focal length, composition, depth of field, etc.) have an impact on the outcome and perception of the photograph. It’s even more evident in abstract photography, in which reality/real objects are only used as mere creative tools for self-expression, a parable, a metaphor, a visual story. This course is conceived as a rather passionate invitation to a collective exploration of and adventure in photography as an art form. It combines theoretical aspects of photography, its aesthetic and cognitive value with practical exercises.

Several outdoor activities make an integral part of the course in order to improve students’ individual skills in artistic self-expression. Through students’ presentations, the course also offers a brief history of Czech(oslovak) photography.

CZE 202 (3)  | Czech Language for Everyday Use - Level II 

The course continues the Czech Language for Everyday Use I and aims at extending students’ knowledge of the Czech grammatical system (most of the cases and tenses are introduced) as well as their ability to communicate in various situations and discuss various topics (shopping, travelling, cultural events, weather, etc.). The knowledge of grammar should go hand in hand with the ability to understand, speak and write Czech.

FILM 302 (3) | Red Planets: Science Fiction in Central and Eastern European Cinema and Literature

Science Fiction has long been a place for visionary thinkers and cultural critics to explore the possibilities of human society, as well as discuss its failings and problems. This course will focus on how Central and Eastern European authors and filmmakers saw the science fiction genre as a space for exploration, critique, and as one of the last refuges of imagination during times of crisis. Throughout the semester, we will be watching films and reading plays, novels, and critical texts which have left lasting impacts on both the science fiction genre, and the world around us.

HIST/POL/ART 303 (3) | Czech Culture and Civilization: A Field Trip into the Czech Psyche

This interdisciplinary course is designed as a unique insight into Czech/Slovak history, politics and arts, and should provide the students with serious data and information as well as with a “lighter” reflection on certain specifics of the country’s development in the heart of Europe. Students will not be limited to listening to lectures and attending screenings in classrooms, but rather, they should understand that Prague and other locations in the Czech Republic will give them a rare opportunity to study and form their own opinion in public spaces all over the country. The course is open to students of history, sociology, political science, literature and visual arts as well as to anyone who is interested, eager to learn and has an open mind.

HIST 306 (3) | The Habsburgs - Power and Culture in the Centre of Europe

This course will focus on the political and cultural impact that the long reign of the Habsburg dynasty had on Central Europe, with an emphasis on the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. After having analyzed the emergence of the Central European empire of the Habsburg, we will study major political and cultural phenomenon, such as the Protestant Reformation, Enlightened absolutism, the “concert of Europe”, the birth of modern nationalism, the legal and societal place of the Jews, and the influence of these phenomenon on the nature of Habsburg power. The course will then propose an interdisciplinary analysis of the “fin-de-siècle” and of Habsburg decline and the last part will be dedicated to the traces of Habsburg political and cultural influence on Central Europe in the 20th century. This multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach will provide a global perspective on the history and culture of Central Europe.

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.”

SOC 345 (3) | Contemporary Czech Culture, Art and Literature: Urban Semiotics

Course description coming soon.

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

Course description coming soon.