Welcome to the UPCES Course Catalog! Here you will find the full list of UPCES courses listed in alphabetical order. Each course includes a detailed description, any cross-listed subjects, and a downloadable syllabus.
You can view UPCES courses listed by their related subjects here.
The final course list for any given semester is based on course enrollment and faculty availability. Some of the courses listed below may not be offered. The subjects listed below each course must be approved by your home institution for departmental credit.
Please view the faculty directory for information on the professors of each course.
NOTE: UPCES students may choose no more than two Economics courses.
UPCES Course List
Click on each course for course description and syllabus.
Art, Architecture and Propaganda Under Socialism
[ARCHITECTURE, ART HISTORY, CULTURAL STUDIES, 3 credits]
Art, Architecture, and Propaganda under Socialism explores how ideologies informed and keep informing visual aspects of art and architecture produced before and after the Velvet Revolution in what is now the Czech Republic. We look at individual pieces of art, architecture and material culture, propaganda posters and excerpts from movies, and search for ways in which they are in/formed by different ideologies. We do this both in class and on our field trips around Prague. The course will enhance your understanding of (not just) the totalitarian period of local history using pieces of visual culture; you will learn to analyze visual material and will understand the importance of concepts such as modernity, modernism and ideology.
CEE Economic Growth and Development
[ECONOMICS, 3 credits]
Why are some countries poor and other countries rich? What are the factors of growth? What is the role of political and economic institutions in the development process? How can aid foster growth and development? These questions are of central interest not only for academics, but also for policy makers and international organizations shaping policies for sustained growth and development. Providing the answers is particularly relevant for any country undergoing a strong transition and development process, such as the former Soviet Union countries. It is however also important for the European Union, whose member countries vary significantly in their original economic environments. This course aims to address these questions in view of the theory and empirics of economic growth. This course is divided in two parts. The first part overviews the facts of growth and presents the main theories that try to account for them. Special attention is given to understanding the central role of institutions in this process. The second part of the course analyzes the role of foreign aid and also discusses the role of international organizations, such as the World Bank and the IMF. Throughout, the course puts emphasis on the growth experience across European and former Soviet Union countries.
For Economics majors only
Central Europe: Shaping a Modern Culture
[HISTORY, CULTURAL STUDIES, SOCIOLOGY, 3 credits]
This course discusses the emergence of major modernist movements and ideas in the three Central European cities: Prague, Vienna and Budapest. In the period between the late 19th century and the beginning of WWII, these cities were the main centers of the disintegrating Austrian-Hungarian Empire and, later, the capitals of three independent states—Czechoslovakia, Austria and Hungary, respectively. Despite the political turmoil, all the three cities became a watershed of ideas that remain to be the sources of Western culture even today, including the dominant trends in the current North American culture. Thus, we shall see how dominant ideas in the fields as diverse as religion, philosophy, science, economics, psychology, art and architecture that have shaped the 20th century culture in the West can all be traced back to the works of the Austrian, Czech or Hungarian intellectuals such as Franz Brentano, Sigmund Freud, Adolf Loos and Georg Lukács. We shall have the extraordinary opportunity to study the fermentation of these ideas “on site,” in the very places in which these ideas originated.
Central European History:Textual and Visual Representations
[HISTORY, CULTURAL STUDIES, ART HISTORY, 3 credits]
This course will introduce the participants to the crucial phenomena of Central European history and culture. While the turmoils of the twentieth century are covered by several UPCES courses, this class concentrates on tracing the foundations of contemporary identities and the roots of modern complexity. It covers Central European history from its origins to WWI, dealing with a wide range of topics such as chivalry and courtly culture, the Reformation and confessional conflicts, or nationalism and revolutions. All these subjects witness the evolution of social order, the search for ideal political systems, transformation of intellectual paradigms, and changes in artistic sensibilities. Every topic is studied through both key texts and emblematic images which facilitate the explanation of typical features of the given period. Close reading of sources and iconographical analysis is accompanied by extracts from films and excursions to museums and historical sites. The course will provide students with an understanding of the development of Euro-American culture and the milestones of medieval and early modern history. It will also enhance students’ interpretative skills and the competence to “read” specific cultural products which emanated from contexts quite different from their own background.
Central European Philosophy
[PHILOSOPHY, 3 credits]
This course introduces ways of philosophizing in Central Europe in the second half of the 20th century. The emphases are put on non-Marxist thinking and liberal Marxist ideas as well as the opposing dogmatic state-endorsed philosophy of the Soviet-style Marxism-Leninism. The effort will be made to underlie similarities and distinctions in ways in which harshness of political regimes, ever-present ideological dominance, courage, and the personal stance of individual thinkers shaped the way they adopted and developed Western style philosophizing.
Collective Memory in Central and Eastern Europe
[ANTHROPOLOGY, SOCIOLOGY, CULTURAL STUDIES, 3 credits]
The course will offer a set of conceptual tools for understanding multiculturalism, ethnicity and collective memory in Central and Eastern Europe since the 20th Century to the present. From an anthropological perspective and the analysis of some relevant ethnographic case studies, some of the questions that will be discussed in class are: What is the relationship between ethnicity and other types of identity? What is collective memory? How do ethnic groups remain distinctive under different social, economic and political conditions? What is Multiculturalism and its relation to the process of Globalisation? In which ways can collective memory be important in the creation of ethnicity? Is nationalism always a form of ethnicity? What ethnic conflicts do we face in contemporary Central and Eastern Europe? What can be the roots of ethnic differentiations and therefore, potentially, ethnic conflicts: religious, political, economic, linguistic or “racial”? Memory, silence and forgetting; how we should deal with the past in order to advance with the project of Europe.
Comprehending The Holocaust
[PHILOSOPHY, HISTORY, 3 credits]
Comprehending the Holocaust (Shoah) goes beyond understanding the historical fact that six million Jews and other innocent victims were brutally murdered in Nazi-occupied Europe. The Holocaust is a lesson in what happened in our modern rational technological society and in what can happen again in spite of all trusted safety measures. What does it mean to comprehend the Holocaust – is it possible at all? We will concentrate more on the nature of modern genocides, their underlying ideological patterns and their modern features. The Holocaust as a significant and unique event in history continues to have universal implications. This mass murder has specific features that make it different from all other genocides. It is not only a historical event but rather a turning-point of our history. We will go through the rise and history of Christian anti-Judaism, its transformation into modern forms of anti-Semitism, we will discuss what is exceptional and what is normal about the Holocaust and define the role and responsibility of the individual in modern democracy. We will learn about the role of intellectuals during the Holocaust and discuss how good people can kill other people so easily. We will also try to understand the function of Nazi propaganda and its major themes. We will touch on the phenomenon of “denying the Holocaust”, which is a modern form of anti-Semitism.
Economics of Transition
[ECONOMICS, 3 credits]
The course deals with main economic issues related to transition from centrally-planned economies of the Soviet bloc, Yugoslavia, and China to market economies. Compared to other similar courses, this course will be less descriptive and more analytical; we will use economic models and results of econometric studies where appropriate. We will also try to apply an experimental approach in order to provide the students with direct experience with asymmetric information markets and soft-budget constraints. The course tries to focus on aspects of transition which can be used to shed light on more permanent problems of economics systems and which can help reduce future exposure to similar errors.
The first part of the course deals with the theory of comparative economic systems, reviewing the theory of capitalism and analyzing the functioning of central planning and selected topics related to corporate governance under central planning (e.g. Yugoslavian self-managed firms). The second part provides an explanation of the gradual economic decline and main structural problems experienced by the former central planning countries, and it also focuses on main transition steps and their economic logic. We will also deal with basic theoretical models that attempt to explain problems experienced by transition economies. The last part will deal with the performance of firms and the role of corporate governance, ownership and institutions.
Elementary Czech (Mandatory)
[CZECH, FOREIGN LANGUAGES, 4 credits]
This course targets students that are staying in the Czech Republic for a limited period of time and need to cover the basics of the language in order to communicate in everyday situations. The ultimate aim is to provide the students with basic skills, grammar, and vocabulary for handling everyday life in the Czech Republic, and to give them an idea of the Czech language system as well as Czech culture. The instruction uses a communicative method of teaching: the material is based on situations the students face, not on a grammatical overview of the language, with an emphasis on both receptive and productive language skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing). Grammar is used functionally, as a tool to reach a communicational competency, but it is not the core purpose of the learning process.
Environmental Economics in the Central European Context
[POLITICAL SCIENCE, ECONOMICS, ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES, 3 credits]
The aim of this course is to introduce students to some basic economic principles and theories explaining environmental issues and problems today and to explore existing policies at the national, international, and global level. Students will learn about concepts such as externalities, the tragedy of the commons, enforcement as a public good, interventionist solutions to the externality problem such as taxes and marketable pollution permits, as well as non-interventionist solutions to the externality problem such as the Coasian solution and self-regulation. Students will also review the debate over the environmental Kuznets curve. Because experimental evidence nicely complements theoretic insights, field data, and simulating models, we will conduct in-class experiments and also review some research articles that draw on the experimental methodology.
Europe in the Global Context
[POLITICAL SCIENCE, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, HISTORY, 3 credits]
The overriding goal of this course is to reach an understanding of the key strategic issues facing Europe in today’s global context. We will track how Europe has reached the present critical juncture in its history and consider where it is headed, including the options available to European policy-makers amid the on-going crisis in the EU. To this end, we will examine the key events of the 19th and 20th centuries that led to the foundation of the EU and have shaped contemporary Europe. At the same time, we will consider Europe’s relations with the U.S. as today’s sole superpower, the challenges posed by the resurgence of China and Russia and Europe’s role as a major player in the resource-rich Eurasian continent, where a new round of great power competition is unfolding. The course is interdisciplinary: it draws on political economy, history, international relations and geopolitics. It aims to raise questions and stimulate discussion rather than provide clear-cut answers.
European Integration: Why and How
[POLITICAL SCIENCE, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, ECONOMICS, 3 credits]
This course covers the main political, social, cultural, and economic factors which conditioned and accompanied post-war European integration. It invites students to critically rethink what the motivations were behind European integration at its emergence and how they have been changing up until the present. The course material includes historical texts, documents and audiovisual material. In the first part of the course students get acquainted with the milestones of European integration and interests and positions of key players. The key reading on history is Tony Judt's Postwar – one of the few books covering both the Eastern and Western 'halves' of Europe in the period under scrutiny. The second part of the course focuses on the major driving force of European integration – the EU's outreach beyond its borders via enlargement and neighborhood policy. The final session addresses some of the major challenges facing Europe today: immigration, integration of minorities, and economic crises. After taking the course, students should have a strong knowledge of various competing interpretations of what the EU is and what it should be for its citizens and in the international system. The course consists of lectures, discussions, and simulations based on the required readings.
European-American Relations in the 21st Century
[POLITICAL SCIENCE, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, 3 credits]
This course explores the history and the current state of political, economic and cultural relations between the United States and Europe. Ever since the end of World War II, the cooperative relationship between these two parts of the world, often described as "the West“, has been a bedrock of international stability, security and prosperity. After the end of the Cold War, this relationship has undergone changes, along with the whole system of international relations. Recently, on both sides of the Atlantic, the talk has been about a crisis of the Euro-American relationship. We will examine the validity of these claims, the causes of the current problems and possible ways of overcoming them. Throughout, we will emphasize the overwhelming nature of common values and interests on both sides of the ocean as well as the risks stemming from a potential rift for both Europe and America. We will examine the compatibility of current European and U.S. policies with respect to third countries or regions, such as Russia, China and the Middle East. We will also analyze the specific role played in this relationship by countries of Central and Eastern Europe as relative newcomers to democracy, to the Atlantic Alliance and to European Union.
Film as a Mirror of History, Ideology, and Individual Freedom
[FILM AND MEDIA STUDIES, CULTURAL STUDIES, SOCIOLOGY, 3 credits]
This lively and original course is open to students who have an interest in studying the social and political transition in Central Europe through an understanding of its cinema. This is not a traditional film course: We will focus on the films’ social, political and historical contexts.
Films produced behind the Iron Curtain were not considered only commercial products. They were instruments of artistic expression and ideology, and also of protest and testimony. The stories of the postwar Czech, Slovak, Polish and Hungarian film industries – the fate and the moral dilemmas of their most talented artists and their specific and strong film language before and after the political changes in Europe of 1989 – will be a discovery for those seeing the films for the first time (as well as for those already familiar with them but who wish to enlarge their knowledge).
Gender and Minorities in Post-Socialist Europe
[ANTHROPOLOGY, SOCIOLOGY, CULTURAL STUDIES, 3 credits]
This course aims to introduce students to historical and contemporary issues of gender and “minorities” in post-socialist Central/Eastern Europe. In recent years the territorial frontiers of the European community towards the outside and the internal political frontiers between the community and its member states have been shifting significantly. Based on ethnographic work, among other sources, we will analyze how the project of Europe is trying to guarantee the coexistence of different ethnic, religious and political forms across national borders based on the principle of cultural diversity and cosmopolitan tolerance.
[COMMUNICATIONS, FILM AND MEDIA STUDIES, 3 credits]
This course aims to bring together diverse issues and perspectives in the rapidly evolving and changing area of international/global communication. Through a multidimensional, historical perspective, a framework will be established for the appreciation of the immense scope, disparity, and complexity of this field. Students will be encouraged to critically assess shifts in national, regional, and international media patterns of production, distribution, and consumption in the larger context of globalization. Essential concepts of global communication will be examined, including trends in national and global media consolidation, cultural implications of globalization, international content flows, supranational communication law and regulation, and trends in communication and information technologies.
Gothic, Baroque, Modern: Arts in Bohemia Culture
[HISTORY, ART HISTORY, ARCHITECTURE, 3 credits]
This course will survey the visual arts—including some photography and film—and architecture in the Czech Lands since the Middle Ages through the 20th century, with an emphasis on the last 150 years or so. That is still a lot of material, so we shall concentrate, as far as possible on the artifacts available in Prague that we can go and see for ourselves. Throughout, we shall not cover only the Czech artists, but also other nationals who either worked in the Czech Lands, or were highly influential here. Thus we shall cover the work of the French, Bavarian and Italian artists and architects during the Gothic and Baroque times, such as the Dientzenhofers or Arcimboldo; the influence of the Norwegian painter Edward Munch on the Czech art around the 1900; the relations between the Czech and the French surrealists; etc. etc. We shall also situate art within a larger context of social and intellectual history, seeing, in particular, how nationalism, religion and ideology shaped the development of Czech art and architecture. Last but not least, we shall notice the specificities of stylistic developments in Czech art, such as the recurrences of the elements of Gothic and Baroque in the Czech versions of Art Nouveau and Cubism.
The Housing Market in a Central European Context
[ECONOMICS, 3 credits]
This course will provide an introduction to the standard tools for the assessment of housing markets and house prices used in traditional economics, such as present value and structural models, but it will also discuss and compare institutional contexts among CEE countries. It will explore the effect of state interventions on the nature of housing systems in the CEE region, and the impact of changes in housing systems on the behaviour of market agents. The similarities and differences in market-based housing finance, housing subsidies, private and social renting among CEE countries will be discussed with a view to examining convergence and divergence trends. These trends will to some extent also be compared to US and other EU countries. The final part of the course will be devoted to tenure choice (renting or owning a dwelling) and a discussion of the psychological and sociological aspects of decision-making in a housing market that is characterized by a high level of uncertainty. Knowledge of the specific institutional context of the post-socialist housing transformation and the sociological and psychological aspects of housing market decisions will represent added value to the standard tools used in housing economics for the analysis of house price determinants and will provide a deeper understanding of housing markets in this part of the world.
For Economics majors only
Human Rights in Central and Eastern Europe
[POLITICAL SCIENCE, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, 3 credits]
The course aims to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of the international human rights framework in Central and Eastern Europe, where the human rights system mirrors the historical developments of the countries within the globalizing world. This course invites students from all disciplines to explore and make sense of the current human rights issues, cases and problems in the region. By the end of the course students will be familiar with the core principles of human rights and have a sound understanding of the issues and recurring themes of human rights violations in the region. Rather than offering simple answers, the aim of the course is to allow for critical thinking and discussions. This course offers an immersion into the human rights system not only through the academic prism but also through active engagement with human rights practitioners and activists.
Ideas Behind Politics: Communism, Post-Communism, and Civil Society in Central Europe
[PHILOSOPHY, POLITICAL SCIENCE, HISTORY, 3 credits]
The post-communist countries of Central Europe - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - are struggling hard to overcome the legacy of the totalitarian regime and to establish liberal democracy and free market economy. The objective of this course is to help students better understand the history of Central Europe and the ideal resources that might enable it to succeed in the transformation from communism. The students will learn recent Czech and Central European political history and get familiar with the various ways in which the predicament of these countries was reflected upon in the thought of the most prominent political theorists from the region concentrating, in particular, on the idea of civil society. We will search in the Central Europe of the 20th century and in its unique historical experience for events and figures that shaped and articulated an understanding of politics that might be viewed as the specifically Czech and Central European contribution to political problems faced by mankind in general. An indispensable touch of reality will be added through excursions to places of relevance for our topics and through historical documents (musical recordings, films).
In Love with Power: Non-Democratic Regimes in Central and Eastern Europe After 1945
[POLITICAL SCIENCE, HISTORY, 3 credits]
This course introduces traditional and modern theoretical views on non-democratic regimes in Central and Eastern Europe in the second half of the 20th century, as well as the historical and political experience of this part of Europe from the year 1945 until the present. Following the end of World War II and the drawing of the “iron curtain” across Europe, there started a period of Soviet Union domination in Central and Eastern Europe through the decades-long rule of communist regimes in this part of the world. Political scientists most often define these kinds of regimes as “totalitarian," however, the reality is more complex, with many variations and “specific paths” (Yugoslavia, Romania). The totalitarian “core” of most communist regimes during the whole period of Soviet dominance, including former Czechoslovakia, is questioned by some authors. However, the year 1989 (“annus mirabilis”), which marked the downfall of the Soviet Union and communistic regimes across Central and Eastern Europe, was not the end of non-democratic rule in the whole region. In those unstable times, when hopes were high and democracy was not established, new leaders came to power and created very specific non-democratic regimes; Meciar's short rule in Slovakia, autocratic regimes that played the main role in the Balkan wars in the 90's (Miloševic in Serbia, Tudjman in Croatia), Kuchma's rule in Ukraine, and Belarus under Lukashenka, one of the last and still surviving non-democracies in Europe. The theory of non-democratic regimes and its tools, combined with knowledge of modern history and the current realities of concrete countries, will help us to analyze and characterize these repressive and bizarre regimes, a rarity in today’s Europe.
Kafka in Prague
[LITERATURE, 3 credits]
Franz Kafka (1883–1924) has become recognized as one of the leading figures in world literature. Perhaps more than any other major author, Kafka is associated with one geographical location: the city of Prague. Kafka’s works themselves are not explicitly about Prague, nor are they set in Prague. But we cannot say that Prague is irrelevant to Kafka’s works, for Kafka spent almost all of his life in the city. Therefore, we cannot “read” Prague through or into Kafka’s works, but comparing the two is surely fruitful. The most obvious connection between Kafka’s works and the city of Prague is Franz Kafka the historical person. While one always wants to be cautious about biographizing creative work, this course will take into consideration Kafka’s life and times in reading and analyzing his fiction. Such an adventure is best undertaken in the city of Prague itself. The course will focus on several of Kafka’s many short stories and his most important novel, The Trial. Critical material to provide context and insight on Prague, Kafka’s works, and Kafka himself will also be studied.
Lines of Light: Central European Cinema
[FILM AND MEDIA STUDIES, CULTURAL STUDIES, 3 credits]
This course covers a select band of Central European filmmakers (along with a special bonus, the Soviet bloc film-artist Andrei Tarkovksky) and their collective attempt to deal with and to follow their search for a medium to present and to formalize leading edge questions concerning the full complexity of individual and collective political life and historical experience. In this way, the truth peeks through some of the aesthetic units of the cinematic image in our chosen films as so many lines of light. This course adopts creative inter-disciplinary attention to its target films, including cultural-studies, literary-historical, philosophical, and psychoanalytic approaches to the cultural form. Particular attention will be paid to the Czech New Wave movement of the late 1960s. Screenings include pictures or clips from ten important film-directors or directoresses: Věra Chytilová (Czech Republic, 1929-present), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Germany, 1946-82), Miloš Forman (Czech Republic, 1932-present), Juraj Herz (Slovakia, 1934-present), Jan Hřebejk (Czech Republic, 1967-present), Fritz Lang (Germany, 1890-1976), Jiří Menzel (Czech Republic, 1938-present), F. W. Murnau, (Germany, 1888-1931), Jan Němec (Czech Republic, 1936-present), and Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-86). No background in the study of cinema or cultural-studies is required. All films have English inter-titles or subtitles.
Literature and Society: Central European Writers
[LITERATURE, SOCIOLOGY, 3 credits]
This course of selected works in English translation will sample significant contributions of 20th Century writers from Austria, the former Czechoslovakia (and its successor states), Germany, Hungary and Poland. It will introduce students to the major ideas and themes that have made Central European literature a distinct and vital genre in the pantheon of world literature, one that in particular has left a lasting mark on modern consciousness vis-à-vis the moral answerability of individuals and societies.
Prague as a Living History: Anatomy of a European Capital
[HISTORY, CULTURAL STUDIES, ART HISTORY, ARCHITECTURE, 3 credits]
This course and accompanying excursions will introduce students to the history of the Czech Republic and its capital city, Prague, while also showing the development of its urban structures and main social functions. By using the city of Prague as a classroom, students will gain a deeper understanding of the particularities and intricacies of urban life as it evolved through centuries. Excursions to other urban sites in the Czech Republic will allow students to compare various types of cities and their development, typical of continental European culture.
Psychoanalysis and Cultural Studies
[PSYCHOLOGY, CULTURAL STUDIES, 3 credits]
This course examines in detail a select band of the seminars offered by the major post-Freudian psychoanalytic thinker, teacher and practitioner, Jacques Lacan (1901-81), and some outstanding Lacan-criticism. The course also covers some important post-Lacanian thinkers with special reference to Slavoj Žižek (1949-) and to Julia Kristeva (1940-) in order to use psychoanalysis as a powerful critical tool to diagnose both individual and social reality, as well as individual artworks.
Urban Anthropology of Central European Cities
[ANTHROPOLOGY, SOCIOLOGY, CULTURAL STUDIES, 3 credits]
The goal of the course is to introduce the main concepts of urban anthropology, emphasizing the urban life and culture of Central European cities. Central European cities have been undergoing rapid social and economic change, which has had major effects on their physical make-ups. It has also affected the ways in which people – urbanites as well as non-urbanites – perceive these cities and urban life in general. This course aims to investigate how, in the post-communist context, city dwellers perceive, define and use this rapidly transforming urban space, as well as how they try to shape and appropriate it. We will focus on the urban experience in the post-communist period and contrast it with the communist period, i.e. the ways people have lived their urban lives and how they have lived through the changes. Other topics the course will deal with are urban landscape, urban culture, property issues, social cleavages, class divisions, city migration, and transnationalism. Students will have a chance to learn more about the cities they will explore on their trips: Prague, Krakow, and Cesky Krumlov. Students learn how to look at cities through an anthropological lens and do field projects analyzing some aspects of city behavior. We will look at the strategies people use to cope with the demands posed by urban environments. The approach will be comparative, drawing on research mainly focused on Central and Eastern Europe.