Learn how UPCES is responding to COVID-19


UPCES Cultural Studies Courses

Here you'll find the full list of UPCES courses related to Cultural Studies. Please note that all course offerings are subject to change or cancelation based on faculty availability and student enrollment.

Each course includes a detailed description, any cross-listed departments, and a downloadable syllabus.

Art, Architecture and Propaganda Under Socialism


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.

Central Europe: Shaping a Modern Culture 


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 Europe and its Transitions: The Czech Lands


This course aims to introduce students to the historical, as well as the contemporary, issues of Czech Society and Culture from an interdisciplinary perspective. Based on several ethnographic case studies, among other literary, academic and visual sources, we will make connections between memory and history, narrative and experiences, change and continuity, and past and present. By the end of the course students will be able to: recognize and analyze the most important events, symbols, and personalities of Czech history, demonstrate how myths, symbols and traditions make the identification of people as members of the Czech nation, describe the characteristics of life under the Socialist system in former Czechoslovakia, and explain how this system has been transformed into its present-day form in relation to the process of Europeanization and Globalization and what kind of anthropological research these changes have stimulated  (traditions, situation of minorities,consuming habits, food, family structure, the media, gender roles…).

Central European History:Textual and Visual Representations


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.

Collective Memory in Central and Eastern Europe


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.

Czech Culture and Society: Literary Perspective
(originally: Czech Culture and Society 1918–2018 Seen from the Perspective of Vaclav Havel's Life and Work) 


The objective of this course is to help students understand Czech culture and society from 1918 to the present. Students will learn about history and culture of this era from the perspective of life and work od Václav Havel (1936-2011), Czechoslavak and Czech president (1989-2003), the most important and influential personality of modern Czech history and culture. Using my extensive experience as an editor of Václav Havel´s Collected Writings and also my personal contacts with him and with many important Czech writers and artists of modern era, I have prepared a series of thirteen lectures on twentieth-century Czech culture and society, based on Václav Havel’s life and cultural and political activities, friends, family, and associates, and wide range of interests. Together these themes present modern Czech culture in its complexity, with its many links to world literature, culture, and politics. They provide a deeper and broader understanding of modern Czech culture and society in the historical and cultural perspective. In this course, lectures are combined with interactive discussions and tutored readings from essential texts. Further contact with the subject matter will be provided through excursions to places of direct relevance for our topic and through historical documents (musical recordings, photos, films). A further aim of the course is to bring students into personal contact with important figures of Czech public life (writers, critics, politicians, artists, translators) whom I have known and worked with for decades.

Economic History of Central and Eastern Europe
(Originally: Economic History and Long-Run Development)
3 credits]


Our economic lives are constantly changing: Technological change, economic and political crises shaped the world since the industrial revolution during the last 200 years. Countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in particular experienced several upheavals during the last 150 years: The collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, weak political and economic institutions after World War I, ethnic cleansing after World War II, a centralized planning economy and the transition towards a market economy after 1990 are partially still visible in socio-economic figures today. A long-term perspective on the evolution of economic figures can also help to understand changes and obstacles today. The course bases on a broader understanding of economic development. Despite classical economic measures like GDP, inflation or population growth, we will also discuss so-called soft economic variables such as norms, culture, trust and social capital.

Film as a Mirror of History, Ideology, and Individual Freedom


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


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.

Global Communication


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.

Lines of Light: Central European Cinema


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 sub-titles.

Prague as a Living History: Anatomy of a European Capital


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


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. 

Story of Religion in the Most Secular Country


This course aims to introduce students to the paradox concerning religion: though the historical visage of Prague is very religious, Czech society is currently classified as one of the most atheistic in the World. Through excursions to interesting religious sites we will interpret various historical roles of religion and in class discussions we will explore the roots of such a high degree of secularization today. The course will provide students with an understanding of the role of religion in western societies and of interactions between religion, culture and politics. We will also examine potential prospects for the future.

Urban Anthropology of Central European Cities


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.