AIFS Abroad

AIFS Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic
Fall 2021 and Spring 2022
Course Descriptions

   

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

East and Central European Studies Program (ECES)

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 as pass/fail. Students select their preferred option within the first days of the class taking place.

Czech 101 (3) (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 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, FILM AND CULTURE

Art/History/Politics 303 (3)
Czech Culture and Civilization: A Field Trip into the Czech Psyche
This interdisciplinary course is designed as a unique insight into Czech/Slovak history, politics and arts, and should provide the students with serious data and information as well as with a “lighter” reflection on certain specifics of the country’s development in the heart of Europe.

Students will not be limited to listening to lectures and attending screenings in classrooms, but rather, they should understand that Prague and other locations in the Czech Republic will give them a rare opportunity to study and form their own opinion in public spaces all over the country.

Learning through interactive seminars, visual arts and top-quality documentaries will enable the participants to gain an interesting experience on all levels. The course is open to students of history, sociology, political science, literature and visual arts as well as to anyone who is interested, eager to learn and has an open mind.

Art 304 (3)
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. 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. No prior knowledge of philosophy or musical education is required.

Art 312 (3)
Humor and Czech Culture
This course will take an interdisciplinary approach to the phenomenon of humor, combining literary studies, culture studies, rhetoric, philosophy, ethics and psychology. The first part of the course will present a historical introduction, comparing examples of humor and comedy from different parts of the world and different eras (from Aristophanes to Kharms and contemporary comedians). The second part will focus on Czech culture and the many ways humor 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.

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)
Gender and Culture
Students analyze how gender, ethnicity, race, class and sexual orientation are shaped by cultural and societal influences. The focus is on the comparisons of European and U.S. 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
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
This course is conceived as a rather passionate invitation to a collective exploration of and adventure in photography as an art form. It combines theoretical aspects of photography, its aesthetic and cognitive value with practical exercises. Several outdoor activities make an integral part of the course in order to improve students’ individual skills in artistic self-expression. Through students’ presentations, the course also offers a brief history of Czech(oslovak) photography.

Art 402 (3)
Reciprocity of Thoughts: 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 lands started 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.

Culture 309 (3)
Czech Cultural Studies: Official and Unofficial Czech Cultures in the Second 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 326 (3)
Czech and Slovak New Wave Cinema - Department
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.

Film 370 (3)
Picturing the Nation: National Filmmaking and Visual Culture in 20th Century Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic, and Slovakia
This course will focus on three of the main “national” cinemas which have been influential in Central Europe: Czechoslovak, Czech, and Slovak. There will also be a final series of lectures devoted to how these national cinemas changed in the course of dramatic upheavals of national boundaries in the late 20th century such as the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. In the course of the semester, we will examine approaches to the concept of national cinemas, how to read national cinemas in terms of nationalism and ethnic identity, and how to navigate the problems with this approach. In addition to watching films, we will also be discussing sociological and cinema theory and approaches to “reading” films, not only as movies, but also as multi-faceted cultural artifacts with an emphasis on the social and theoretical implications. 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 national cinematic cultures.

CZECH LANGUAGE

For students with higher levels of Czech language individual courses will be arranged.

Czech 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. Attention will be also paid to basic information on Czech culture to help students to communicate in a socially appropriate way.

ECONOMICS AND POLITICS

Economics 311 (3)
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. Lectures on 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.

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 latest European integration. The migration situation since 2015, the threats of terrorism, and the U.K.'s decision to leave the European Union within two years also have a broad influence on the political atmosphere in Central European countries.

Politics 315 (3)
Comparative Politics: Transformation of Czechoslovakia and Czech Republic
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.

HISTORY

History 301 (3)
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. 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.

History 302 (3)
Jewish History in Central and Eastern Europe
Study the political, cultural and economic situation of 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 312 (3)
The Formation of Europe and it's 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.

History 318 (3)
Czech and Central European History
The course covers history of Bohemia and Moravia (historically the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, today the Czech Republic) since primeval times till present; history of the peoples in this territory (ancient cultures, Celts, Germanic tribes, Slavonic tribes, Czechs, Germans, Jews, Slovaks, Gypsies, other minorities); broad geographical context (the Czech Lands – Central Europe – Europe); broad thematic context (political, social, cultural history).

History 329 (3)
Stunde Neull (Zero Hour): The End of the Second World War in Europe and its Aftermath (1944-1947)
The phrase “Stunde Null” (“Zero Hour”) refers commonly to the scheduled time for the start of some event, especially a military operation (parallel for example for D-Day as a military designation of the allied invasion to Normandy on 6 June 1944 etc.). However, historians use this term also as a metaphor to describe the time immediately following the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. In the course, we will try to discuss and understand the most important social, political and economic circumstances between the last months of the WWII and beginning of the Cold War.

History 335 (3)
Power and Powerlessness: Czechoslovak History, 1918-1993
This course approaches Czechoslovak history both chronologically and thematically, addressing some of the most important current strands of European historiography. Combining social, cultural and political history, the course examines the limits of understanding history as a purely top–down process. Bringing together significant recent scholarship from the Czech and Slovak Republics and elsewhere, the course introduces students to the current state of the field. Literature, film, photography and official documents provide an introduction to source analysis.

History/Art 351 (3)
The Construction of the Czech National Identity and its Symbols
The course focuses 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.

History 407 (3)
History and Memory of Pre-modern Prague
The course is intended to give more information about the pre-modern history of Prague. It consists from indoor and outdoor lessons focused on important historical and cultural periods of the city from its origins to the 18th century. The course follows also the reflection of pre-modern period in its memorial dimension using the concept of Pierre Nora's “realms of memory”. Each topic will be analyzed through lectures and source analysis in the classroom, followed by short excursions to the chosen areas.

History 408 (3)
Post-Communist Development and Transformational Processes in Central and Eastern Europe
The main aim of the course will try to introduce the foreign students key developing and transformational tendencies in the region of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. The course will comparatively demonstrate the differences and similarities in the development not only among the countries of three different spaces (Central Europe, Eastern Europe, South-Eastern Europe) but also among particular countries of those regions – for example the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary etc. The course will concentrate both on inner development (primarily on their political direction, economic and society transformation) of all countries and on their priorities in the sphere of foreign policy, particularly their inclination to western European (or Euro-Atlantic) institutions, or Russia and Euroasian projects.

LITERATURE

Politics/Literature 317 (3)
From Thoreau to Havel: Chapters in Czech and American Struggles 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”.

Literature 319 (3)
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.

Literature 357 (3)
Politics of Song: From Folklore to Hip-Hop
The course examines how songs relate to people’s attitudes to public life, and conversely, how attitudes 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). 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.

Literature 358 (3)
Prague Novels of the 20th Century
Over the course of the 20th century, Prague has served as backdrop for, and sometimes the protagonist of, numerous works of fiction by Czech, German and Anglophone writers. The course aims to cover the corpus of “Prague novels” with view to analyzing how a “real-life” geographical setting becomes transmuted into fictional space. The first half of the course will cover works by “local”, i.e. German/Czech authors, whose lives were firmly connected with the city (Meyrink, Hašek, Hrabal, Topol, Ajvaz). The second half will survey works by Anglophone/world writers whose acquaintance with the city was less biographical than textual/literary (Roth, Chatwin, Eco, McCarthy, Wilson). We will conclude by discussing a recent monumental Prague novel by an Anglophone writer firmly embedded in the Prague literary scene.

SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY

Psychology 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.

Psychology 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 353 (3)
Landscape 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.

Sociology 357 (3)
Czech Republic: An Urban Perspective
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. Students will have a basic introduction to the field of urban sociology; will have information and knowledge about Czech cities that will help them to benefit from their time here in CR. A short trip to a smaller town near Prague is planned. The main output is a paper. The paper will be discussed during the semester and gradually presented by the students in a short form of reports on their projects.

Sociology/History 360 (3)
Consumption and Everyday 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”.

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, circuit training, pilates, swimming, and weight room.