Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

Study Abroad in Prague: Courses

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Following orientation ECES students then take a minimum of 4 or maximum of 5 courses. Each course meets for 52 hours per semester, for 12 or 13 weeks and is recommended for 3 credits. You can therefore earn up to 18 credits (including the 3-credit orientation component). Courses are taught in English.

Courses are subject to change at the discretion of Charles University.

East and Central European Studies Program (ECES)

2-WEEK ORIENTATION PROGRAM

The Czech Language and Culture course is taught during orientation. It is a combination of Czech language instruction, cultural activities, and excursions throughout Prague. Classes are held for 4.5 hours per day, 5 days a week during the first 2 weeks of the program. Two all-day field trips are also included in the orientation.

All students must take the following course, but have a choice whether to receive a grade or take it pass/fail. Students select their preferred option when registering for courses in advance of the semester.

Orientation

Czech 100 (3) (required) | Intensive Czech Language and Culture

The mandatory two-week Intensive Czech course is designed to teach students the 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 communicate in various situations of everyday life: introducing oneself, asking for directions, shopping, at a restaurant, one’s daily routine, likes and dislikes. Various linguistic skills should be developed in balance: knowledge of grammar, comprehension, speaking, and writing.

ECES Semester Courses

Choose up to 5 courses in addition to Czech 101. Where “Department” is listed after a course title, this indicates that the class is also offered to Czech students.

Art and Culture

Art 301 (3) | Czech and European Art and Architecture

A general overview of the Fine Arts development in Europe with a special focus on Central Europe and the monuments of Prague. Particular pieces of art that represent an époque or style are presented and students analyze the details, historical context, iconography and formal qualities that represent the individual style. The course will include field trips to museums.

Art 304 (3) | Music and Modern Thought: Music between a Universal Language and Local Culture

The course will explore key topics in the philosophy of music, popular music studies and culture studies and thus serve as a general introduction to the field. 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 from classical as well as popular music, and field trips. Excerpts will be taken from texts by philosophers such as Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes and Jacques Attali as well as by musicians like David Byrne or John Cage. No prior knowledge of philosophy or musical education is required.

Art 330 (3) | Czech Culture and Society, Past and Present

This course offers insights into Czech society and culture. It is rather a practical guide how to better understand the Czechs. It describes basic characteristics of Czech culture (values, style of communication, customary behaviors, etc.) and shows how they are reflected in many aspects of Czech life which the foreigner encounters. The course covers two thematic parts: Part I gives information about specific aspects of Czech life, about Czech values, attitudes and behavior (daily do´s and don´ts, behavior in public places, non-verbal communication, taboos, etc.) Part II presents general ideas on Czech historical, social and cultural contexts, as without taking these factors into consideration it is impossible to form a coherent and encompassing impression.

Art 351 (3) | From Page to Screen: 20th century Czech Literature on Film

The course aims to cover selected chapters from 20th-century Czech fiction as source for innovative cinematic adaptation. Some of the greatest texts in 20th-century Czech fiction that have inspired some of the most talented filmmakers of the period will be addressed through a series of interconnected questions: What constitutes a text’s “literariness” and how does the linguistic medium of literature get translated into the audio-visual material of film? Is there a particular language to film adaptations of literature? What are the limits of trans-medial transactions, where does “adaptation” give way to original “creation”? The canonical Czech (and Bohemian-German) authors include, among others, Franz Kafka, Karel Capek, Vítezslav Nezval, Arnošt Lustig, Bohumil Hrabal, Václav Kaplický, Ladislav Fuks, Milan Kundera, and Václav Havel. Filmmakers covered will include the foundational figures of modern Czech cinema (Otakar Vávra and František Vlácil) and the trailblazers of the Czech New-Wave cinema of the 60s (Jirí Menzel, Juraj Herz, Jan Nemec, Jaromil Jireš) as well one important representative of contemporary Czech cinema (Vladimír Michálek). The course will conclude with the one cinematic experiment of none other than Václav Havel. Discussion of the literary texts and films will be complemented by their historical/theoretical backgrounds, provided by secondary sources in the reading list.

Culture/Art 309 (3) | Czech Cultural Studies: Official and Unofficial Czech Cultures in the 2nd Half of the 20th Century (Spring Only)

This course will discuss the intricate relationship between culture, politics and society in the region of Central and Eastern Europe by delving into Czech cultural expression in the second half of the 20th century. In addition to lectures we will watch films and documentaries from and about the period, analyze independent photographs and propaganda posters, listen to pro- and anti-communist songs and read works of fiction. Where appropriate, we will take site visits within Prague.

Film 301 (3) | Screening History: Central and Eastern Europe through Film, 1945-1990

This course offers students an insight into the post-World War II history of Central and Eastern Europe through the medium of film. Major historical stages and turning points such as the aftermath of World War II, the political purges of the 1950s, Soviet and Polish Thaws, the 1968 invasion, the Czechoslovak “normalization,” perestroika and the fall of the Iron Curtain will be discussed. The discussion will be based on screenings of Czechoslovak, Polish and Soviet films that deal with these historical events as well as on readings of scholarly articles, essays, memoirs and primary documents on the history of the region. The course has two thematic focuses: The students learn about shared histories but also significant differences across the national borders. We will study the complex dynamics between the Soviet Union, the dominant political force in the region, and Poland and Czechoslovakia as examples of its “satellite countries”. At the same time, we will examine key works of Czechoslovak, Polish and Soviet cinema in the second half of the twentieth century. We will treat film as an aesthetic object and as a historical document reflecting the tumultuous social and political developments.

Film 340 (3) | The Cinema of Central Europe: Eroticism, Power, and Fate

This course provides an overview of the cinematic traditions in Central Europe in historical and political context, with specific focus on the themes of eroticism, power, and fate in these films. This course examines a series of films from Central Europe (including present day Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) from the silent era until the present day. Primary areas of focus are: the pre-WWII period, the various “New Waves” of the 1960s and 1970s, and the developments after 1989. Beginning with the assumption that eroticism, power, and fate are somehow interrelated, the course addresses how each film approaches this thematic constellation and how cinematic treatment of these themes has developed over time and throughout the region. In this analysis, consideration is given to the broader social, political, economic, and cultural contexts (both nationally and between nations) in which the films were made as well as the impact of these films within “Central Europe.” Since no previous experience in film studies is assumed, the first few sessions will also function as an introduction to reading and interpreting films. To this end the course reader is also supplemented with recommended texts that offer an overview of relevant aspects of film theory and analysis. Throughout the course we will also touch on various elements of film theory and modes of film analysis.

Film 368 (3) | Czech and Slovak Cinema from the 1950s 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, students will also discuss cinematic theory and approaches to “reading” films, not only as movies, but also as multi-faceted cultural artefacts. Readings will include primary source materials on cinema history, historical research, film theory, and literature intended to broaden the understanding of Czech and Slovak culture, cinematic and otherwise.

ECONOMICS AND POLITICS

Economics 303 (3) | Transition Process of the Czech Republic and European Union

Recent economic development in Europe has been markedly influenced by two major factors: by the process of European Integration and by the Transition Process in Central and Eastern Europe. However the European Union tries to integrate European Economies into a single market, economic systems of European countries markedly differ. The economic systems comparison is thus another aim of the course.

Economics 305 (3) | Global Economy and Crises

This course combines application of International Economics and International Political Economy to the processes of globalization and current economic downturn. It explores ways in which current globalization changes the position of different actors of the Global Economic System as well as the balance between state and market and their interactions. The course focuses on historical and contemporary issues in the Global Economic Order both in theoretical and applied perspective.

Politics 302 (3) | Central Europe in the Context of European Integration

This course reacts to the last developments in the Central European space in the dynamic process of the European integration. The migration situation since 2015, the threats of terrorism, the decision of the Great Britain to leave the European Union within two years are largely influencing also the political atmosphere in Central European countries. This class will make an attempt to explain the interdependence of both the developments of five Central European countries (Czech republic, Slovakia, Poland, Austria, Hungary) after the historical changes in 1989, as well as those developments inside the EU caused by the enlargement of the EU into Central Europe.

Politics 315 (3) | Comparative Politics: Transformation of Czechoslovakia and Czech Republic - Department

Sharing the same geopolitical position within the Eastern Bloc 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 encouraged to challenge the mainstream understanding of “transition” as a predictable, gradual and irreversible progress towards the standard “Western” model.

Politics 337 (3) | Czechoslovakian Dissent Under Communist Rule: Political Thinking from the 1950s-1990s

The aim of this course is to give an overview about relevant figures, events and texts in communist Czechoslovakia. This will include political debates during the Prague Spring, the dissident movement and its political thinking in the 70s and 80s, as well as a few representative articles from the early 90s.

Politics 339 (3) spring only | Political Philosophy of Central European Dissidence - Department

The main topic will be the political thought of dissidence and “unofficial” thinkers in Central European countries (Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia) during the 1970s and 80s. Students will read and discuss texts by Václav Havel, György Konrád, Adam Michnik and others, presented within the theoretical background of western political philosophy. The course will include analysis of the differences between committed political writings (mostly) from behind the Iron Curtain on the one hand and parallel ways of thought in the academic political philosophy of the West on the other hand. Students will discuss and analyze problems like moral responsibility, moral demands of resistance against authoritarian regimes, lie and the nature of ideology. Since many authors criticize not only communist authoritarian states but “politics as such” (e.g. Havel or Konrád), we will try to find out whether these authors offer some kind of alternative to the usual conception of politics and liberal democracy.

HISTORY

History 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 and analyze the different forms of Jewish cultural and political identity. Students will have a better understanding of the context that led to the Holocaust and of its dramatic consequences and will have familiarized themselves with the most important Jewish political writers.

History 321 (3) | Cold War and the Soviet Block: Impacts for Eastern Europe and the World

The course deals, particularly, with the foreign policy of the Soviet Union and East-European countries during times of the so called Cold war. It analyses the development of international relations with special emphasis on Eastern Europe. It focuses on basic and forming milestones of the Soviet foreign policy, its principles, strategies and direction. The great emphasis will be given primarily to the rivalry of the Eastern and Western countries during the Cold war (the lectures will be devoted also to the foreign policy of the Soviet satellites) but there will be also space for analysis of relations among the Soviet Union (Soviet block) and Middle East, Near Asia, Far East, Africa, Latin America, China and others. The course will concentrate also on the key assumptions of the Soviet foreign policy, such as ideology, propaganda, viewing of others etc. It contains two parts: lecture (2x45 minutes per week) and seminar (2x45 minutes per week). Lectures will offer key information to the topic while seminars will develop acquired knowledge through discussions, examples, presentations, projections etc.

History 318 (3) | Czech and Central European History

The course is a survey of history of what is now the Czech Republic (Bohemia and Moravia) from primeval times until the present day with a greater focus on the modern period. However, the complete history of the Lands of Bohemian Crown from prehistoric times, the medieval Czech state, Early Modern Ages, Bohemian regimes under the Habsburg Monarchy, Czechoslovakia, and finally the Czech Republic are examined from the historical-geographical context.

History 325 (3) | Politics of the Enlightenment

It is well known that the cultural and political character of the Euro-American civilization is influenced by the age of enlightenment. The ideas of liberty, equality, tolerance as well as the concept of human rights originated in the enlightenment that Immanuel Kant defined as “man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage”. He argued that the immaturity of man was caused by the inability to use “ones´ own understanding without another’s guidance”. The enlightenment, also called the age of reason, can be thus characterized as the period in which reason aspires to its own autonomy, while declaring the universality of its laws. This vision of enlightenment was widely criticized by Adorno and Horkheimer who demonstrated its dangerous consequences in their Dialectic of Enlightenment. They claimed that the raise of fascism and other totalitarian forms of thought was conditioned by the heritage of the enlightenment. There is, however, another side of enlightenment that shows the heteronomy of reason and the contingency of its laws. A typical representative of this kind of thinking is Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu. In The Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu denounces the tyranny of reason that enforces its laws regardless of local conditions of life, which can be even nowadays used as a strong argument against colonialism or totalitarianism. In Persian Letters, he takes the heteronomy of reason and contingency of its laws as a basis for his narrative which describes the impressions and experiences of Persians visiting Europe. This literary strategy makes it possible to view ones´ own world, society and culture from outside, and thus get rid of ones´ own prejudices. What is interesting in the attempt to free ourselves from our prejudices is precisely the role and character of that outside. We shall therefore examine it not only in Persian Letters, but also in Voltaire’s “Micromegas”, “Letters of Amabed” and others texts. Another topic which is characteristic for the period of enlightenment is the problem of human nature that appears in discussions concerning the state of nature and natural law. We will follow these discussions in the works of Montesquieu, Diderot, Rousseau, Locke and Hume reflecting on their impact on the understanding of society and politics. This reading should bring us to a differentiated view of enlightenment that appears to be essential in the contemporary world where the Euro-American civilization struggles to define its identity in the clash with civilizations that lack the historical experience of enlightenment.

History 340 (3) | Conflicting Identities: The Influence of "Germany" over Central Europe (from the Middle Ages to 1945)

The course focuses on the history of Central Europe through the perspective of German influence. It will shed light on complicated and controversial notions such as “Central Europe”, “Germany”, and “Mitteleuropa” as well as “nationalism”, the “nation state”, and “multinational states”. The course is divided into three main units which follow the chronology and reflect the evolution in the meaning of the “German” as well as the changing nature of its interactions with the non-German elements in Central Europe: The Habsburgs and their assertion of control over the majority of Central Europe, thereby placing its population under German rule (from the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century) The Age of Nationalism, the development of specific central European identities and political strategies against German rules(s) and the resulting modification of the European map after World War I. The German “Mitteleuropa”, the weak democracies of Central Europe and the growing threat of German revisionism for the non-German states and population in Central Europe. Added emphasis will be placed on the role played by the Jews in shaping the history and culture of Central Europe and on their relations with the other Central European peoples.

CZECH LANGUAGE

Czech 102 (3) | Czech Language for Everyday Use

In this course students will learn basic Czech which will help them to communicate in everyday situations in the Czech Republic. Students will be able to talk with Czech speakers in shops and restaurants, in theaters and on the street, and the knowledge of the language will help them to come to know the Czech mentality and culture.

LITERATURE

Literature 310 (3) | 20th-century Prague Literature in International Context

This course aims to cover selected chapters of 20th-century Czech literature as part of the Central- and East-European and Anglo-American contexts, presenting Prague and the literature produced here at the crossroads of multiple languages, traditions, poetic and aesthetic systems. The canonical Czech-writing authors include, among others, Jaroslav Hašek, Karel Capek, the poetist poets (Nezval, Seifert, Biebl), Milan Kundera, Josef Škvorecký, Ivan Blatný, or Václav Havel. The international context is provided by German-writing authors such as Gustav Meyrink, Franz Kafka, or Robert Musil, by the Russian writers Vladimir Mayakovsky, Mikhail Bulgakov and Marina Tsvetayeva, as well as the many French and Anglophone poets writing in/about Prague. The course will conclude with an overview of the post-1989 situation, where Prague literature has once again become the locus of lively international exchange and prominent Czech or Praguebased writers (Jáchym Topol, Michal Ajvaz, Lukáš Tomin, Louis Armand) have re-entered into dialogue with other traditions and languages. Discussion of the literary texts is complemented by their historical/theoretical backgrounds, provided by the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Martin Esslin, Sigmund Freud, Angelo Maria Ripellino, et al.

Literature 318 (3) | The Theatres of Vaclav Havel

Students on this course 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, we will read his plays alongside those by playwrights who inspired Havel to start his own theatre career (Ionesco; Beckett), compare his work to that of writers with whom he had important working relationships (Beckett; Stoppard) and analyse his dramatic writing alongside that of his Central and Eastern European antecedents and contemporaries (Brecht, Capek, Mrozek). In addition, we will investigate parallels between Havel’s work and other modern dramatic representations of incarceration (Genet) and self-alienation (Adamov; Pinter). This comparative approach will allow us to examine broader questions related to Havel’s dramatic style: Can Havel be included as part of what Martin Esslin termed the ‘theatre of the absurd’? How do Havel’s representations of key intellectual topics of the 20th century such as self-alienation and a perceived estrangement from language compare to those of his theatrical contemporaries? How might we imagine future stagings of Havel’s work? The course will involve a guest lecture on the 1989 Velvet Revolution and visits to Divadlo na zábradlí [the Theatre on the Balustrade], where Havel worked as a playwright, as well as to the Václav Havel Library, home to Havel’s archive.

Literature 320 (3) | German – Jewish Literature in Prague

This course examines literature by Jewish authors who wrote in German and lived in Prague during the first half of the 20th century. A primary goal of the course is to provide an understanding of the political, social, and cultural situation of German-Jewish authors during the interwar period. We will consider the precarious position of the German-Jewish community, which lived in a metaphoric “double ghetto” (as both “German” and Jewish) in Prague, and the various ways that their literary texts navigate issues related to national identity, language, religion, and social integration.

Literature 325 (3) | Words Around Us – The Mystery of Their Origins and Histories

The course introduces the basics of etymology and language history in an accessible and understandable way. It explains why and how words and languages change and goes over various processes that can cause the changes (sound changes, analogy, folk etymology, taboo, metaphor etc.). It reveals surprising and sometimes curious changes of the words in the course of time (e.g. the “Czech” origin of American dollar). Special attention is paid to the question of language contact, borrowings and the influence of one language on another one. All the language phenomena are demonstrated mostly on the English lexical material, but also other languages are used to illustrate certain issues. The students are expected to actively cooperate in the classes, trying to reveal covert relations between words, suggesting their etymological solutions and seeking appropriate examples of respective phenomena in their native languages.

Literature 326 (3) | American and Czech Literature from European Perspective: Identity and Role Play

The course examines various conceptions of “identity” in connection with selected literary examples. Students will examine the way in which identity is construed in the 20th and 21st century through the works of American and Czech authors from Melville to Kundera. Specific topics include formations of identity, power, confidence, racial and gender stereotypes, “minority” vs. “mainstream” literature in Czech and American societies.

Literature 340 (3) | Imagining America, Imagining Europe

This class operates with the assumption that major literary works are able to shed an often unexpected and always fascinating light on the “reality” they are dealing with – and the more so, once the author reflects upon that reality from a critical distance, given by e.g. his/her different culture. Thus, the chosen works are not only canonical, but also thematize either Europe, or America (and once they thematize America, certain theoretical concepts that are considered European will be tested on them in a meaningful, relevant fashion). What will hopefully emerge is a deeper understanding of a constructed nature of fiction and possibly also both America and Europe. On the basis of close reading of the selected texts, we will investigate relevant broader issues (see the actual syllabus below). While the approach and methods are interdisciplinary, the main emphasis of this course is on cultural studies, literary theory (explaining and applying basic literary terms), literary history (both American and European) and literary criticism (analyzing different responses to given works), and, if applicable, also on philosophy, psychology, and sociology. Students will learn how the individual literary works were translated into Czech, and what was lost and gained in each individual translation (no detailed knowledge of Czech required); together, we will trace the main trends in the actual translated texts and in translatology in general. I will also explain how were the chosen titles received in the Czech cultural context (both before and after 1989, both official and popular, and, if relevant, also underground) – and, even more importantly, why. References will be made to other European cultures, too. With the exception of the first two classes, every class will start with an oral presentation delivered by a student, followed by a minilecture by the teacher, followed by class discussion.

SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY

Sociology 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.

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

The course will acquaint students with the contemporary Czech art scene, its “roots” and transformations from three different perspectives. The course will elucidate the transitions in the 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 by Czech artists. Czech art perspectives will be confronted with Western literary and cultural criticism.

Sociology 353 (3) | Landscape (and) Sociology: Understanding of Czech and European Landscapes – Department (Spring only)

Holistically, landscape sociology incorporates philosophical, cultural, anthropological and ecological interactions between man and nature, and between social and ecological systems. European, and particularly Czech, landscapes represent ecological as well as sociocultural heritages. Human experiences with landscapes, social and cultural constructions and transformations of landscapes, and the ways in which we bring meaning to landscapes are the main topics of this course.

Sociology 354 (3) | Social Changes after 1989 – Department

The aim of the course is to overview the last two decades of 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 the housing and higher education system is presented in detail.

Psychology 321 (3) | Language, Culture and Social Cognition

The course introduces students to selected topics centered on the relationship between social cognition (i.e. folk psychology, theory of mind), language and culture. In spite of its cross-disciplinary scope, its chief focus is on questions of human development. It is designed for students in both arts and the sciences and will be run as a combination of lectures and seminars.

Psychology 349 (3) | Introduction to Philosophy of Psychiatry

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 18 suffer mental health problems in any given year. Our course introduces the major questions, controversies, and debates in the Philosophy of Psychiatry. Although no previous formal experience with philosophy is required there may be some challenging readings and it is expected that the student will bring an open mind and a willingness to ask questions.

Psychology 355 (3) | Selected Topics in Social Psychology: Soft Skills

This course presents a well-balanced practical overview of the soft skills world. Possible topics are: effective communication principles, coaching, self-management, presentation skills, assertiveness and manipulation recognition, resolving conflicts, teamwork, group problem solving, stress management, and creativity.