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 2021. Recommended U.S. credits are shown in parentheses. Courses are subject to change at the discretion of Charles University.

| 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 

The course lays stress on the productive skills of speaking. It is to help learners master basic functional grammar and vocabulary by providing a number of both readymade and improvised everyday life conversations. The attention will be also paid to basic information on Czech culture to help students to communicate in a socially appropriate way.

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 colorfulness you can observe diversity and colorfulness of the world whereas their specifics and peculiarities show distinction and specific nature of particular countries, peoples and cultures. 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. 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.

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. 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.

SOC 354 (3) | Social Changes after 1989

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.

Session B Only

ART 323 (3) | Alternative Cultures

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.

FILM 328 (3) | Waves 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 following World War II up until the beginning of the 21st century. 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.

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 valuehierarchies 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.

ECON 311 (3) | Economic Decline of European Empires

Power of great empires was always based on their economy. Sustainable economic growth is therefore crucial for keeping the political influence as well as for 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 or institutional mismanagement. Lectures of this course provide an overview of the economic policy and institutional failures that led to economic decay of the selected European powers in the past. Lessons from history will be compared with the current situation in Central Europe. 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.

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.

Session C Only

FILM 368 (3) | Czech and Slovak Cinema from the 1950’s to Present: Politics, Visuality, and Experimentation

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 following World War II up until the beginning of the 21st century. 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.

ART 314 (3) | Gender and Culture

Students analyze how gender, ethnicity, race, class and sexual orientation are shaped by cultural and societal influences. This courses focuses 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. Documentaries, other visual materials, field trips and a guest speaker lecture are a part of this course.

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.

There will be workshops where students will try to cook a Central European meal and discuss it with a Czech chef, as well a field trip to the local Beer Brewery to learn about the process of beer making and the cultural aspect of its local consumption.

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

The course examines how songs relate to attitudes to public life, and conversely, how attitudes to public life – be they subversive or supportive of the existing state of affairs – translate into songs. While focusing on lyrics, the course places selected songs within their historical, cultural, and literary contexts. The course covers songs from the dawn of modernity to current day and discusses diverse genres such as traditional songs, Communist marches, Czechoslovak pop, folk and alternative rock, Roma/Gypsy songs, and rap.

While the first part of every class will be lectures on crucial moments of history of song in Czechia, the students’ presentations will discuss related moments in American and European song-scapes. Seminal theoretical readings will be introduced – from Theodore Adorno and Alan P. Merriam to Mark Fisher – and questions will be asked such as: Does a pop-song stand “innocently” outside the political world? How did the printing press relate to commercialization of music? What connects the genre of hip-hop with oppressed minority cultures? What is the relation between “privatization of stress” in capitalism and melancholy in Western popular music of the last decades? Do songs change the world by changing people’s thinking?

Students will co-create the class by bringing in interpretations and songs of their choice from their own contexts. Guest singers and field trips will add still further dimension to the class.


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!