Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

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Study Abroad in Prague: Courses

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Course descriptions

Below are details of the courses offered in Summer 2020. Some new courses will be offered in 2021, and this page will be updated. Recommended credits are shown in parentheses, and courses that 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.

Sessions B and C

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

This introductory course (50 teaching hours) for beginners is designed to equip students with the necessary Czech language skills in order to communicate in everyday situations. Students will learn basic Czech grammar, vocabulary, and common conversational phrases. The communicative approach and everyday vocabulary are emphasized. Students are supposed to communicate in various situations of everyday life (introducing oneself, asking for directions, when shopping or eating in restaurants, talking about family). Various linguistic skills should be developed in balance: knowledge of grammar, speaking, listening with comprehension, and writing. Students will also become familiar with Czech cultural norms and practices (e.g. greetings, politeness, eating habits). The course includes lectures, in-class activities, and local field trips.

Field Trips: Activities and field trips comprise approximately 10 hours of the total course.. Field trips may include, but are not limited to, the following: film screening, museum/gallery visit, trip to the grocery store, café, or visiting a historical site.

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

More than ever before, Europe is standing at the crossroads. Multiple crises in the EU and beyond (financial crisis, refugee crisis, Russia-Ukraine geopolitical crisis, Brexit crisis) have had vast impact on Central Europe which is a “natural mirror” of the above-mentioned European crossroads, reflecting both West-East and North-South structural divisions. The transformation of Czechoslovakia (and later of the Czech Republic) from a communist satellite state into a European Union member state is an exciting story, but it is also an intellectual challenge. It encompassed a profound change of political, social, cultural and economic structures while at the same time meant a radical change in people’s lives. Without understanding some deeper historical conditions of this transformation this intellectual challenge cannot probably be met. The course will start with a short introduction to Czech pre-communist politics and regimes. Then a survey of communist rule follows, concentrating on the role of the party, propaganda and political life, looking also at the daily life under communism. Next two radical political changes will be discussed: The Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the “Velvet Divorce” of 1992-1993; these will be taken as models of change with much larger implications for the whole Central and Eastern Europe. The focus will be on the discussion of key political institutions and parties in comparative perspective.

Session B Only

ART 312 (3) | Humour and Czech Culture

Since Antiquity, humour has been listed as one of the defining traits of human beings. At the same time, it often serves to express antagonism between different groups of people (offensive or subversive humour). As a cultural phenomenon humour is ever evolving and acquires so many forms it defies definition and even poses a threat to theory itself. In any case humour is a great gateway to the study of the peculiarities of a particular culture. This course will take an interdisciplinary approach to the phenomenon of humour, combining literary studies, culture studies, rhetoric, philosophy, ethics and psychology. The first part of the course will present a historical introduction, comparing examples of humour and comedy from different parts of the world and different eras (from Aristophanes to Kharms and contemporary comedians). Key concepts like satire, irony, parody, black humour, wit, hyperbole, absurd humour etc. will be clarified and major philosophical theories of humour will be discussed. Current problems like the limits of humour, political correctness, identity and outgroup derogation will be introduced, to be further discussed in the second part of the course. This part will focus on Czech culture and the many ways humour is present in it. Apart from literary masterpieces by Hašek, Kafka, Havel, Kundera and others we will take a look at comedy in theatre (Jára Cimrman Theatre), film (Czechoslovak New Wave) and other forms of art. The readings will always include an excerpt from a humorous text and a short theoretical text pertaining to the type of humour or the problem presented. From the divine to the obscene, from the hyper-intellectual to the nonsensical, from practical jokes to political satire, the rich palette of humour will give us a unique view of Czech culture and humanity in general.

ART 314 (3) | Gender and Culture

Students will analyze how gender, ethnicity, race, class and sexual orientation are shaped by cultural and societal influences. The focus will be on the comparisons of European and U.S. 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.

ECON 305 (3)  | Global Economy and Crises

This course combines application of International Economics and International Political Economy to the processes of globalization and economic downturn. It explores different ways in which globalization changes the position of different actors of the global economic system as well as the balance between the state, markets and their interactions. The course focuses on analysis of historical and contemporary issues in the global economic order both in theoretical and applied perspective. The course is divided into three main parts. The first part makes students familiar with the long-term trends of the global economy, i.e. with globalization as well as with comparative analysis of the past crises. The second part provides students with an introduction and comparison of the principal actors of the current global economy, especially the states, their regional integrations (RTAs) and transnational corporations (TNCs) organizing the production in the Global Value Chains. The last part of the course provides a local insight on the topics discussed in the previous parts, from the perspective of the Central and Eastern European economies (CEE).

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.

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, and historical 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, street ditties, rock ‘n’ roll, Czech folk singers-songwriters, Roma songs of empowerment, pub rock, tramping song, punk, contemporary rap, current alternative scene, 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? Were Ronald Reagan and Frank Zappa right – was it rock that shook the Soviet bloc? In what ways is R’n’R fetishized in the East? Did the establishment react differently to generation revolt in the East and in the West? Is there an inherent link between the genre of hip-hop and oppressed minority cultures? Can a song shape the reaction of a nation after a traumatic experience? Why both Nazis and Communists hated swing and jazz? Are really modern listeners such complete slaves to producers of popular music, as Theodore Adorno argues? Students will co-create the class by bringing in songs of their choice from their own contexts.

LIT/POL 320 (3) | Reading Prague: Literature, Architecture, 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. The aim of this course is to introduce the students to selected works of modern Czech?fiction within the frame of Czech history and architecture of the city of Prague.

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

The course reacts to 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 in 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”.

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 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 our perspective in this course is sociological and semiotical, we shall 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 we will see and analyze our different cultures in a new light. We will ask questions such as: What is the place of origin of our food? How did our food get to us? How does food configure and change relations among people?

During our comparisons and practical workshops, we shall trace the histories of some of the most significant meals of the Czech Republic (and former Austro-Hungarian empire). Their transformations will help us understand the social changes that took place in Central Europe from a different perspective. Questions such as gender relations, families, political economy, health (obesity, anorexia, bio food), ecology and the nation-state will be discussed. We will read academic articles that react on these questions in various national and ethnic contexts.

The class will include a few workshops related to cooking, food preparation, and diet, as well as an excursion to the local Czech brewery.

Session C Only

ART 323 (3) | Alternative Culture

Provides critical insights into counter-culture, graffiti, street-art, underground, punk, hip-hop, political art collectives, etc. Perspectives of anthropology and culture studies are explored. Seminal readings on subcultures, protest and new social movements are used to discuss the practices of ‘alternative’ urban lives in postindustrial society and certain trends of artistic production. Focus is on political interpretation of youth subversion and disclosures of power mechanisms. Visuals and field trips to graffiti and other subcultural sites are a part of this course.

ART 403 (3) | Czech Folklore and Popular Culture

The course presents an introduction to the 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 entertainment, and broader political and historical contexts within East and Central Europe. We will briefly analyse the 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), Romanticism and Romantic Nationalism (folk songs and folk poetry) and Art Nouveau (folk art and material culture), concluding with the foundation of serious academic interest in folklore at 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 the final part of the course, we will try to interpret possible peculiarities and/or cultural specifics of Czech folklore and popular culture – with special attention devoted not only to traditional folktales and legends, but also to more contemporary folkloric genres: urban legends, jokes, graffiti, and memes.

An 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.

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

The course continues 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 ability to understand, speak and write Czech.

FILM 302 (3) | Red Planets: Science Fiction in the 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 205 (3) | Shaping Central Europe

This course 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 WWII 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.

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. Learning through interactive seminars, visual arts and top-quality documentaries will enable the participants to gain an interesting experience on all levels. The course is divided into thirteen weekly sessions, 180 minutes each. Students will write four short mini-essays after each of the larger blocks as per the detailed syllabus below, and a final test.

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.

LIT 304 (3) | Interpretation of European Fairytales

Fairy tales are a significant part of culture which has been attracting attention of various fields of knowledge. Through their variety, diversity and colourfulness you can observe diversity and colourfulness of the world whereas their specifities and peculiarities show distinction and specific nature of particular countries, peoples and cultures. This course first seeks to introduce the area of European fairy tales as a genre within its broader historical, geographical, and cultural context, in relation to other European folk genres as myth or legends, with focus on Czech fairy tales and their specifics. The main goal of the course is to show fairy tales as symbolic narratives bringing a lot of information about the world around us as well as about ourselves. There are various theories searching for the disguised symbolical meanings of European fairy tales and the significance which they contain and refer to. While folklorists have been trying to organize and classify fairy tales, psychologists, literary critics and other scholars have been trying to interpret them: to find out which messages, recommendations or other information they bring – about society, its rules, customs or beliefs but also about human wishes, desires or visions. The course will describe and survey the changes in the approach to European fairy tales within the development of scholarship about them. It presents sociohistorical, psychological or anthropological interpretations, as well as biologically based and gender or feminist methods of their interpretation. It touches upon the topics like ethical or moral principles in fairy tales, gender and social roles, or historical and political influences to fairy-tale adaptation.

LIT/POL 320 (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.

The aim of this course is to introduce the students to selected works of modern Czech?fiction within the frame of Czech history and architecture of the city of Prague.

SOC 345 (3) | Contemporary Czech culture, art, and literature: Urban Semiotics

The course will acquaint students with contemporary Czech society and art, their “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 music from a sociological and semiotic perspective (i.e. art as social life). We will ask: How and why do performances address and fascinate their readers? What value-hierarchies and culture-changing signs do they produce? 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.

The course will elucidate the transitions in Czech art scene after 1989, together with their socio-historical context. It will explore different understandings of post-communist movements as represented in the performances and works by Czech artists and thinkers. Czech perspectives will be confronted with Western social and literary criticism.

SOC 354 (3) | Social Change in 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!