Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

Study Abroad in Prague: Courses

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Recommended credits are shown in parentheses. 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.

Czech 101 (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) - Section I | 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 301 (3) - Section II | Czech and European Art and Architecture

Covers the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods, up to Modernism and the Contemporary art scene. Special attention will be paid to the unique characteristics and developments of art (e.g. Prague Castle, Baroque churches, Czech cubism), and to the most glorious periods in the history of Czech Lands (era of Charles IV, Rudolf II). 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 310 (3) | Sociocultural Development of Soviet Russia (Soviet Union)

Examines the social and cultural history of the Soviet Union from revolution in 1917 until disintegration in 1991. Special attention will be paid to the role of architecture, art, cinematography, theater and music. The course will also concentrate on important changes in society with regard to religion, education, gender and ideology.

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

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 as well as presenting general ideas on their historical and social context.

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

Discusses the relationship between culture, politics and society by delving into Czech cultural expression. 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

Provides an overview of cinematic traditions, with specific focus on the themes of eroticism, power, and fate. The course examines a series of films from Central Europe from the silent era until the present day. 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.” The first few sessions will also function as an introduction to reading and interpreting films.

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

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. 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.

CZECH LANGUAGE

For higher levels of Czech individual courses will be arranged.

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

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.

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. 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

Although they shared the same geopolitical position within the Eastern Bloc 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. 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.

HISTORY

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

Study the political, cultural and economic situation of the Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries 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 World

Focuses on milestones of Soviet foreign policy, its principles, strategies and direction. Emphasis will be given primarily to the rivalry of the Eastern and Western countries during the Cold war but there will also be space for analysis of relations among the Soviet Union (Soviet bloc) and Middle East, Near Asia, Far East, Africa, Latin America, China and others.

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”.

LITERATURE

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

Covers selected chapters of 20th-century Czech literature as part of the Central- and Eastern-European and Anglo-American contexts. Students study the works of highly influential authors including Karel Capek and Franz Kafka. 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 Prague-based writers have re-entered into dialogue with other traditions and languages.

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

Provides 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 Politics of the Enlightenment

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

Examines the way in which identity is construed in the 20th and 21st centuries 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 339 (3) | Romanticism and National Identity in Central Europe

For many Central European nations Romanticism was a decisive cultural influence that shaped their emancipation movements in the nineteenth century. Organic models of community, based on the affinities between nature, culture and language became the foundation of nationalistic ideologies. The outcome of these developments was a deep and protracted crisis of many Central European nations in the twentieth century, affecting the best works of their cultures.

Literature 340 (3) | Imagining America, Imagining Europe

Major literary works are able to shed an often unexpected and always fascinating light on the “reality” they are dealing with. 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.

SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY

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

Possible course topics include effective communication principles, coaching, self-management, presentation skills, assertiveness and manipulation recognition, resolving conflicts, teamwork, group problem solving, stress management, and creativity.

Sociology 300 (3) | Sociology of Food

Food can become a political tool, a marker of social class and gender, a mirror of significant cultural differences. 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 to 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.

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

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 Sociology: Understanding of Czech and European Landscapes – (spring only) - Department

Holistically, landscape sociology incorporates philosophical, cultural, anthropological and ecological interactions between man and nature, and between social and ecological systems. 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

An overview of the last two decades of social change in the Czech Republic. 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.