Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

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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)


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 within the first days of the class taking place.

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

The mandatory 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 (Fall)/6 (Spring) courses. Where “Department” is listed after a course title, this indicates that the class is also offered to Czech students.


HIST/POL/ART 303 (3) spring only | 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.

ART 304 (3) spring only | 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.

ART 309 (3) spring only | Czech Cultural Studies: Official and Unofficial Czech Cultures in the 2nd half of the 20th century

Course description coming soon.

ART 312 (3) fall only | Humor 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.

ART 313 (3) | The Story of Prague: Ten Centuries of Architectural Heritage

The course serves as an introduction to the city of Prague as a specific cultural and social milieu, seen through the lens of its artists, architects and their works. It is also intended – particularly through the reading list – to inspire an interest in the unique blend of storytelling and legend that underpins much of the city’s character and history. The scope of the course includes the major periods of European architectural development: from medieval to modern, as well as aspects specifically reflecting the history and heritage of the Czech nation. In structuring the course according to artistic styles and movements, it is hoped that students will recognize the ways in which artists of widely varying origins and temperaments responded to, influenced, or disrupted the artistic conventions of the day, and how their work continues to reflect the social and political dynamics of the city.

ART 314 (3) spring only | Gender and Culture

Students analyze how gender, ethnicity, race, class and sexual orientation are shaped by cultural andsocietal influences. The focus is 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. 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.

ART 323 (3) | Alternative Cultures

This course 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 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.

ART 403 (3) fall only | Czech Folklore and Popular Culture

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

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.

ART 309 (3) spring only | Czech Modern Art and Architecture and its Intellectual Context

The course investigates the history of Czech modern art and architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries in the context of Bohemian artistic and architectural tradition. Mostly since the early 19th century, the Czech nationality started to be built on the thought of its own past, separated from German or Austrian historical tradition. Through this intellectual influence, the artistic and architectural legacy of Bohemian landsstarted to have its effect on modern art. Therefore, the course will discuss art and architecture in Bohemia since the Middle Ages until the 18th century as the base for shaping the modern art and architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries.

FILM 328 (3) spring only | 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 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.

FILM 368 (3) fall only | Politics, Visuality, and Experimentation - Czech and Slovak Cinema 1950 to Present

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.


CZE 102 (3) | Czech Language for Everyday Use

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.


POL 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 the end of 2019 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. Special attention will be paid to the results of the elections to the European Parliament in May 2019.

ECON 305 (3) spring only | 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).

ECON 311 (3) fall only | Economic Decline of European Empires

Power of a great empire was always based on its 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, institutional mismanagement and others. 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. 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. Major focus of this course lays on the CEE, therefore, most of the time will be dedicated to economic powers that have affected the CEE economic environment (Hapsburg Empire and Germany). Other economic powers (e.g. Ming China, Soviet Union or the United States) might be briefly discussed in the lectures.

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.


HIST 301 (3) spring only | Nationalism - Origins, Theories, and Consequences on Central Europe

The course will introduce students to the phenomenon of nationalism and to the ways nationalism has shaped the history of Central and Eastern Europe. Firstly, students will explore in depth key theories of nationalism, differentiate between the three fundamental concepts of nation, nationalism and state and familiarize themselves with the idea of nation-building process. The course will then focus on historical circumstances in which nationalism emerged in order to fully understand the ideological bases that enabled the emergence of modern nations in Central and Eastern Europe. Students will analyze the building process of the first modern nations (England, the USA and France) and will then focus on Central European nations (German, Polish, Hungarian and Czech) in the context of multinational states in Central and Eastern Europe (especially the Habsburg Empire). They will analyze the way nationalism impacted the redrawing of the European map after World War I, explore the interaction between nationalism and National Socialism and Communism. The course will conclude with a discussion of the role played by nationalism in post-Communist Central Europe and of the rise of right-wing populist parties.

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.

HIST 312 (3) spring only | 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.

HIST 318 (3) | Czech and Central European History

This course covers the history of Bohemia and Moravia (historically the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, today the Czech Republic) since primeval times till present and the history of the peoples in this territory (ancient cultures, Celts, Germanic tribes, Slavonic tribes, Czechs, Germans, Jews, Slovaks, Gypsies, other minorities...)

HIST 321 (3) fall only | Cold War and the Soviet Block: Impacts for Eastern Europe and World- Department

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 (2×45 minutes per week) and seminar (2×45 minutes per week). Lectures will offer key information to the topic while seminars will develop acquired knowledge through discussions, examples, presentations, projections etc.

HIST/ART 351 (3) | Construction of Czech National Identity and Its Symbols

The course is focusing on the construction of Czech national identity during the 19th and 20th century. Although the Czech national awakening started first with the beginning of the 19th century, it used the symbols and references through all the historical eras of Czech lands starting with the early medieval times. The course will follow the roots of Czech national consciousness from the first ruling dynasty, through the gothic, renaissance, baroque times until the foundation of Czechoslovakia and its history in the 20th century. Special attention will be dedicated to the symbols and symbolical places, which were used during the creation of Czech national revival as patterns of Czech national identity (e.g. Slavín cemetery, National Museum, National Theatre, Municipal house, the monument of Battle of White Mountain, National Memorial on the Vítkov Hill). By visiting these symbolical places the students will be able to see, what kind of national symbols were used and in which way. The course will be divided into two parts: the first one will be theoretical, in the in order to outline the topic and background of the lecture. Secondly, there will follow field trips to one of the museums/memorials, where the different problematics will be discussed more precisely.

HIST 408 (3) spring only | Post-Communist Development and Transformational Processes in Central and Eastern Europe

The course deals, primarily, with main developing and transformational tendencies in the space of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe after decline of the Communist block and Soviet Union in 1989–1991. This interdisciplinary and comparative course focuses on key political, economic, social and cultural development in this region in last twenty-five years. It tries to explore successes and failures, differences and similarities of various post-Communist (post-Soviet) states in their effort to transform society and policy. The course will be divided into three wider territorial blocks: firstly, it will concentrate on the development of the postSoviet space where Russian Federation became after the Yeltsin times of crises the dominant country in major parts of the former Soviet territory – Moscow tried to play the decisive role in countries of the so called Near abroad (former republics of the Soviet Union). Despite some countries, such as Baltic states, Georgia and partly Ukraine, Moldova and Azerbaijan inclined more or less to the West, Russian politicians, particularly after Vladimir Putin came to power, at least partly succeeded; secondly, the course will assess transformational efforts of the states in the Central Europe (Eastern Germany which became part of the big Germany, Czechoslovakia which divided peaceably into two states – Czech Republic and Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and the Baltic states) which culminated in their joining the European Union, NATO and other European institutions. Despite their clear direction to co-operate with the Western world they faced, however, a number of different problems inherited from their communist past; thirdly, the course will focus on the space of the South-Eastern Europe which faced in the 1990s the bloody war among the successional states of the former disintegrating Yugoslavian Federation. This war and subsequent complex search for the political settlement in this region led to many losses and delays in later clear tendency of majority South-Eastern countries to join the European projects. Despite this effort only two countries of the former Yugoslavian Federation (Slovenia and Croatia) became members of the European Union. While others, such as Serbia and Montenegro, aim to rejoin the European Union in the horizon of ten years, others face complex problems which almost surely exclude their early joining the European Union.

HIST 409 (3) spring only | Cultural Histories of Late State Socialism and Postsocialism

The course provides critical insights into contemporary cultural history of Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe (CEE and SEE). Besides history, perspectives of anthropology and cultural studies are explored. Seminal readings in the given research field will be discussed. Visual and sound materials as well as two field trips are a part of this course. Overall, we will be seeking a deeper understanding based on “history from bellow” of late state socialism and postsocialism, while giving special attention to similarities and differences within the (former) “socialist bloc”.


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 / HIST / POL 317 (3) spring only | 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”.

LIT 319 (3) spring only | The Fiction of Franz Kafka and Milan Kundera

The course aims to cover the corpus of arguably the two greatest “Czech” writers of the 20th century, Franz Kafka and Milan Kundera, both of whose life and work challenge stereotypical notions of nationality and identity. Both are also exemplary figures of fiction writing created in the face of oppression. Kafka, the wretched unrecognised Prague-German genius, wrote allegories of racial and religious persecution, diagnosing the failures of both solipsism and collective identity while warning against the danger of stereotyping of any kind. Kafka still stands also one of the most prophetic of early 20th-century writers, not only by anticipating the imminent grim fate of European Jewry, but also by portraying the bureaucratic and exploitative alienations of late-modern capitalism. Kundera’s early brush with and sympathy for, and later break from and abandonment of communist ideology led him to write explicitly political fiction warning against the vagaries of 1950s communism and post-1968 socialist state oppression. His later 1990s fiction, written in French in his exile in Paris, deals with issues of memory, of identity, of the relativization of values, thus best exemplifying the postmodern reconceptualizations of human subjectivity, individual and collective alike.

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

The course examines how songs relate to people’s attitudes to public life, and conversely, how atttitudes to public life translate into songs. While focusing on lyrics, the course places selected Czech songs within their political, cultural, historical, and social 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, rock ’n’roll in the Eastern Block, Czech folk singers-songwriters, Roma songs of empowerment, Neo-Nazi pub rock, alternative rock, contemporary rap, 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? Was Ronald Reagan right – was it rock’n’roll that destroyed the Soviet bloc? Did the establishment react differently to rock musicians in the Eastern and in the Western block? Is there an inherent link between the genre of hip hop and oppressed minority cultures? How does it happen that a song shapes the reaction of a nation to a traumatic experience? What did the Nazi and Communist regimes share in their view of modern trends in songs? What are the roots of the Czech tramping movement? Etc. Students will co-create the class by bringing in songs of their choice from their own contexts. Guest speakers and field trips will bring a further dimension to the class

LIT 346 (3) fall only | Great European Authors: Karel Capek and Other Writers and Artists of His Time

This course is centred on the Czech literature and culture of the first half of the 20th century, particularly the 1920s and 30s (though some of the literary figures discussed lived and worked till the 1970s or 1980s). It is based on analyses and discussions of short pieces (stories, essays, columns and poems), one novel and extracts from plays and prose; however, pictures, field trips and films are also incorporated. The main focus is on the versatile personality of Karel Capek (1890-1938), one of the great European writers of the last century and arguably the best Czech writer of all time, who was a distinguished novelist, playwright and journalist in interwar Czechoslovakia. Famed for giving the word ‘robot’ to the world (having used it in his play RUR), Capek was a vital part of the burgeoning artistic scene of the 1920s and 30s. An unfaltering advocate of humanism and democracy, he warned against nationalism and communism as early as the 1920s, and campaigned against fascism, which precipitated his death in 1938. He was a phenomenal author and journalist whose views are particularly relevant to our time and Europe. This course serves as an introduction to his varied oeuvre while offering scope for close analysis of some of his works. Students will learn not only about Karel Capek and his brother and co-writer Josef Capek, who became a celebrated artist, but also about a host of other writers and artists who were their contemporaries, or their friends and fellow intellectuals belonging to what has been termed the Capek generation. Lectures and discussions will illuminate students on wider literary European contexts and on the cultural and political climate of Czech and European history leading up to the Second World War.

LIT 359 (3) spring only | Praise of Bohemian Folly: Histories of Brother Jan Palecek in the European Context

The late 16th century in Bohemian history saw the integration of religiously rather unruly Czech lands into the territory of the Habsburg Monarchy, a process characterised by strong Catholic reconversion under Ferdinand I. The country’s Hussite past was, however,far from forgotten. This era produced a curious little book entitled Histories of Brother Jan Palecek. A slim cycle of tales, the anonymous work recounts the life and adventures of its eponymous hero, a court jester to King Georgeof Podebrady,who ruled Bohemia a century before. Apart from being a jester, but equally important, Palecek was a member of the Unity of Brethren, a faction of reformational Christianity whose religious and social agenda was manifest in a radical pacifism based on resolute faith and love. The course will place Jan Palecekwithin a larger context of the Renaissance literature of folly. We will start with Erasmus’ Praise of Folly, a work that introduced a new and paradoxical kind of philosophising to the European mind. We shall work from the great bodily farces of Eulenspiegel and Rabelais’ giants; through to the follies of the civic society as exposed in the texts of Aretino. After paying close attention to Shakespeare’s folly, the course will look into Cervantes’ fooling with both fiction and Renaissance reality. Such tour of early modern Europe will show the uniqueness of Jan Palecek, the Bohemian wise fool, andultimately tell a story ofan age that coped with its own contradictions through the dynamic and multifaceted discourse of folly. Finally, we will examine two shining examples of later wise folly in Czech, in the context of all previous readings: the good soldier Švejk and Jára Cimrman. Since the working language of the course will be English, the primary texts for the course will be provided in English translations, but students are strongly advised to work with originals, if possible. Primary texts will be accompanied by further reading. Each session will be introduced by a 10-minute student presentation covering key points from both primary and secondary texts. A discussion will follow, moderated by the instructor and concluded by instructor’s closing remarks or a short lecture.


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 workshops where students will try to cook a Central European meal and discuss it with a Czech chef.

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) fall only | 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.

SOC 353 (3) spring only | Landscape and Sociology. Understanding of Czech and European Landscapes (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

SOC 357 (3) spring only | 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 Czech urban situation. At the end of the course, they 1) will have a basic introduction to the field of urban sociology; 2) will be to understand how cities work from the sociological perspective and 3) will have information and knowledge about Czech cities that will help them to benefit from their time here in CR. In the second part of the semester 1) a short commented film trip to smaller town Nebo Prague is planned; 2) if possible a talk in class given by an urban professional (i.e. planner) and 3) students’ presentation focused on the comparison of the cities of their origin and Prague. The main output is a paper. The paper will be discussed during semester and gradually presented by the students in a short form of reports on their projects.

SOC/HIST 360 (3) spring only | Consumption and Every Day Practices in State Socialism

In this seminar we are going to address the specifics of consumption culture in state socialism. As a central societal and political phenomenon, it had potentially legitimizing and delegitimizing effects on socialist states. Coming from the perspective of the every-day and cultural history we will be looking at how ordinary people influenced state policy through their practices and vice versa. Overall, we will be seeking a deeper understanding of consumption in socialism while giving special attention to similarities and differences within the “socialist bloc”.

PSY 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.

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

Soft skills have got a great impact on our success and satisfaction in life. The concept of soft skills consists of both intra-personal and inter-personal aspects. This course presents a well-balanced practical overview of the soft skills world. Self-experience is one of the most important outcomes of this seminar and therefore active learning methods will be used in every session (discussion, role-play, simulations, exercises, art, reflective journal, peer counselling, etc.). The whole class is more practice-oriented than theory oriented.

Sports Course

Each semester the Department of Physical Education at the Faculty of Arts offers students the opportunity to take a 1-credit sports course alongside local Czech students. These practical courses give students the opportunity to play matches with and against their classmates and are recommended for students who are interested in interacting with Czech students. Previous courses offered include football (soccer), volleyball, basketball, circuit training, swimming and Pilates.

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!