Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

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.

| 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 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.

Session B and C

CZE 100 (3) | Czech Language for Every Day Use - Level 1

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.

Session B Only

ART 302 (3) | Art, Architecture and Urbanism in Prague Within a European Context

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.

ECON 310 (3) | Economic Affairs: European Union and Asia

Socio-economic system of a state significantly affects successfulness of its economy in the global competition. In this course, selected European and Asian socio-economic models will be introduced. The course makes students familiar with basic characteristics of those models, focusing on the role of the state in European and Asian economies. Roles of the state and market are explained in the relevant historic and cultural context, covering differences in economic policies as well as institutional environment of selected states in terms of both, formal and informal institutions. The course is based on institutional economics, international political economy, economic history and is designed as introductory / basic.

HIST 205 (3) | Shaping Central Europe: The Historical Forces Which Defined Central European History

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 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.

HIST 327 (3) | Czechs In the Age of Extremes

The course serves as an introductory to the modern Czech history. During the so-called age of extremes, there were two major sources of social conflicts in the area of Bohemian Lands – nationalism and dictatorships. Starting with the formation of modern Czech nationalism in the second half of the 19th century, we are going to enter a little bit longer history of the Czech 20th century. Students are going to read most significant and recently published historiographical works and they are going to have an opportunity to consider the crucial reversals of modern Czech history. We are going to debate important themes of modern European history such as nationalism, fascism, and communism but at the same time, we are going to focus on the development of modern Czech society. There are three main topics:

  1. Formation of Modern Czech and Slovak Nation and State (1918–1938)
  2. Nazi Occupation and Renewal of Czechoslovakia (1938–1945)
  3. State Socialism, Czechoslovakia and Modern Society in Flux (1945–1992)

FILM 328 (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 (the primary area of focus), 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.

While this syllabus gives a fairly accurate portrayal of the material we will cover, additional material may be assigned (and assigned material may be dropped or altered) at any time as the semester progresses, in order to better suit the needs and interests of the class.

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

Sharing the same geopolitical position within the East 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 course of their transitions. This comparative aspect will be studied with special focus. 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.

PSYCH 310 (3) | Psycholinguistics

The course aims at introducing 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 analyse 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.

There will be 3 workshops where students will try to cook several Central European meals and discuss them with a Czech chef.

Session C Only

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

The course continues mandatory Czech Intensive Course 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.

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 312 (3) | The Formation of Europe and Its Nations (Department)

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/POL 320 (3) | Reading Prague: Literature, Architecture and Cultural History

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.

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.

POL/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.”

SOC 357 (3) | Czech Republic: An Urban Perspective (Department)

The aim of the course is to combine knowledge from the fields of urban sociology, general sociology and urbanism in order to give students detailed insight into the Czech urban situation. At the end of the course students will have a basic introduction to the field of urban sociology, will be able to understand how cities work from the sociological perspective and will have information and knowledge about Czech cities that will help them to benefit from their time here in the country. This course will include a short commented film trip to a small town near Prague given by a local guest speaker in the field of urban planning and students will present on the comparison of the cities of their origin and Prague.