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UPCES Literature Courses

Here you'll find the full list of UPCES courses related to Literature. Please note that course offerings are subject to change or cancelation based on faculty availability and student enrollment. All course subjects must be approved by your home institution for departmental credit.

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

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with the subject matter will be provided through excursions to places of direct relevance for our topic and through historical documents (musical recordings, photos, films).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.

Kafka in Prague
[LITERATURE, 3 credits]


This seminar will engage some major prose compositions by the important modernist Prague-born writer, Franz Kafka (1883-1924). In so doing we shall also engage some key works of criticism on Kafka by authors, critics and theorists who are themselves thinker-writers of stature and interest; these will include Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, Stanley Corngold, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Michael Löwy, J. Hillis Miller, Paul North, David Foster Wallace, Benno Wagner and Slavoj Žižek. Moreover, we shall watch a 1962-film based on Kafka's novel work, The Trial, by the American-born director Orson Welles (1915-85). We shall also visit the Franz Kafka Museum in Prague. The seminar aims to achieve a great awareness of the possible roles of literature and of Kafka for the individual and social imaginary.

Literature and Society: Central European Writers


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.