Prague, Czech Republic
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Prague Courses - 2020 Spring

Studying abroad can be a more meaningful and invigorating learning experience than at home—both inside and outside of the classroom. You may be more curious and alert than you usually are so use this heightened energy to enhance your studies as well as your cultural and geographical explorations. You may also encounter different teaching styles and course processes; be prepared to adapt and to learn.


You will enroll in 12 to 18 credits per semester comprised of a three-week intensive Czech language course plus electives in Czech language, European politics, culture and art studies. Course availability is contingent upon student enrollment and is subject to change.

Visiting Professors

Local faculty teach most USAC courses; however, the following US professors are also teaching as Visiting Professors.

Fall Semester:

Dr. Louis Marvick | University of Nevada, Reno

Courses offered:

Louis Marvick (Ph.D. Columbia University) is a Professor in the Department of World Languages and Literatures. His research focus is on the relationship of music to poetry in the late nineteenth century. In recent years he has published a novel, a collection of uncanny short stories and articles on Alexander Scriabin and Edgar Allan Poe.

Spring Semester:

Dr. Arthur Scarritt | Boise State University

Courses offered:

Arthur Scarritt has lived and traveled on four continents, researching in rural villages in Andean Peru, and in Harare, Zimbabwe. In college, he studied in Mexico and Argentina, visiting most Latin American countries. His research interests focus on how people challenge and reproduce the multiple forms of inequality that make up their daily lives.

Fall Semester

Language Courses

All students are required to take the two-week intensive Czech Conversation and Culture course. Advanced students have the option to take advanced Czech language courses through Charles University.

European Politics, Culture, and Art Studies

Spring Semester

Language Courses

All students are required to take the two-week intensive Czech Conversation and Culture course. Advanced students have the option to take advanced Czech language courses through Charles University.

European Politics, Culture, and Art Studies

Field Studies

USAC helps you explore the historical, cultural, and natural features of the region with carefully planned excursions and field trips. These experiences combined with academic components (readings, research, lectures, written assignments, etc) deepen your understanding of the subject matter. The optional Vienna, Budapest, and Central Europe Tour can be taken as a Field Study course.


USAC internships are rich resources for your academic and professional development and are counted as part of your credit load. The work will be done in an English-speaking environment but some knowledge of Czech language is helpful. Interns earn credits but no financial compensation. The schedule and the number of work hours will be determined by the schedule of USAC courses.

Previous placements have included: the National Library, HAMU-Academy of Music, NGOs, cultural centers and associations, banks, art agencies, galleries and a glass-making workshop. Other internship sites are possible. Placement is not guaranteed by USAC, rather it will be determined by your application and supporting materials and an interview on site with the internship sponsor.

Eligibility: enrollment in the Prague program, a minimum GPA of 3.0 and junior standing at the time of the internship. A refundable fee of $200 is charged and returned upon successful completion of the internship.

Host University Courses

Students who wish to study more advanced language may take the following courses offered by Charles University, for an additional fee. Each course may be taken for 3-12 credits, depending on how intensively you study the language. 12 language credits are equivalent to four semesters of study. Note that if you choose to take 12 credits of language in one semester, the number of elective USAC courses you can take in European Politics, Culture, and Art Studies will be limited.

Course Descriptions

Alternative Culture, Literature, Music, and Lifestyles

Fall (Anthropology, Sociology; 400-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Anthropology, Sociology; 400-level; 3 credits)

This course provides critical insights into a social function of modern and postmodern art, street-art, underground, dissent, alternative, experimental, performance, situationist, alter-globalization movement, etc. Multidisciplinary perspectives of cultural, literary, and media studies are explored. Seminal readings on the listed topics 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 diverse events and sites are a part of this course.

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Art Photography and Genius Loci

Fall (Art; 300-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Art; 300-level; 3 credits)

This course combines theoretical aspects of photography, its aesthetic, and cognitive value as a unique art form, with practical exercises and authentic experiential outdoor activities. Providing a basic orientation in the Czech(oslovak) photographic art of the 20th century. The focus is not so much on the technique, but rather on the styles, different views of reality, the difference between the concept and the percept of the world, and how photography as an exquisite artistic medium expresses (or at times suppresses) the individual bias, aesthetics, period style, and the societal and cultural boundaries. The course will also examine the age-old debate about the documentary versus artistic value of photography, and similarly the argument on the nude arts versus pornography.

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Behind Reality: Czech Documentaries

Fall (Art, Film / TV Production; 400-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Art, Film / TV Production; 400-level; 3 credits)

The course will inform students about various approaches to the documentary film, as well as, provide the overview of the Czech (and Czechoslovak) documentary filmmaking. The aim is to initiate discussion about what the documentary is, whether it is more "trustworthy" than the fiction film, which/whose "truth" it shows if any, etc. The students will watch the documentaries in their entirety and will discuss them in the class. Reading should be prepared for the day on which they are listed on the course schedule. Come to class ready to discuss and ask questions.

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Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought

Spring (Philosophy, Religious Studies, Sociology; 300-level; 3 credits)

This course will provide the students with information regarding how Judaism was shaped by the thoughts of Torah – in large the whole Hebrew Bible, sometimes mistakenly called Old Testament. In this course we will recognize, what so lucidly said Martin Buber – "for us, Jews, the Old Testament is neither Old, neither Testament." Torah, the Tree Of Life, shaped the mind of Jewish generations throughout the whole existence of Jewish civilization. Taught in English. (Spring semester)

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Culture Shock: Applying Sociological Inquiry to Explore Difference

Spring (Sociology; 400-level; 3 credits)

In this class, students use the tools of sociological inquiry to engage with the local culture and understand its frequently shocking differences from their own. We will examine some of the major defining characteristics of US society and contrast them to how they work in the Czech Republic. This includes issues such as inequality in race, class, and gender, as well as touchstone issues such as the environment and democracy.

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Czech Cinema - Image and Memory

Fall (Art, English, Film; 300-level; 3 credits)

The aim of the course is to show the most important trends and moments in the history of Czech cinematography and also to put the films within their historical, political and cultural context. The topics are not in a chronological order because the “reverse motion” arrangement helps to illustrate some specific aspects in the development of Czech cinematography. Historical facts and artistic and theoretical (respectively ideological) ideas are explained using specific examples from the history of Czech cinema. During the course students will watch selected feature films in their entirety (with English subtitles or commentary) or there will be short examples illustrating the topic discussed. Students will read the texts required for each lesson and discuss them in the class. Lively discussion is expected. Students should ask anything that is not clear enough, bring their own ideas, and participate actively in the programme of the course. Part of each lesson is dedicated to film work of Jan Švankmajer. Taught in English.

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Czech Conversation and Culture

Fall (Czech; 100-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Czech; 100-level; 3 credits)

REQUIRED COURSE. The course focuses on providing students with basic skills needed to communicate on a daily basis. This course includes basic grammar, conversation, listening and reading comprehension.

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Czech Cooking and Cuisine

Fall (Nutrition; 200-level; 1 credit)
Spring (Nutrition; 200-level; 1 credit)

The course is based on the principle that cooking is a way to get to learn the culture and language of the Czech Republic. The theoretical part of the course consists of discussions and readings on the history, geography, and social customs of the country. Students will learn about Czech traditions, traditional holidays, as well as about the local cuisine; additionally, they will have the chance to sample some typical Czech dishes. The practical side consists of learning to prepare, as well as to taste, various Czech dishes.

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Czech Language for Daily Communication I

Fall (Czech; 100-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Czech; 100-level; 3 credits)

This course is designed to introduce you to the Czech language and to provide skills for basic communication. The instructor supervises model conversations as well as real conversational situations during walks in the Old Town. Students with previous knowledge of the Czech language attend the advanced module of this course, read short articles in local newspapers, and do independent research on the social and cultural life of Czech society.

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Czech Language for Daily Communication II

Spring (Czech; 100-level; 3 credits)

This course is intended for yearlong students who have taken Czech for Daily Communication I in the fall and wish to continue their language study during the spring semester. It is also intended for students who have completed previous Czech language coursework. The goal is to build reading, writing, listening and, above all, speaking skills. Topics discussed and written about in class focus on the history and culture of the Czech society. Taught in English. (Spring semester)

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Czech Social and Economic Transformation After 1989: Winners and Losers

Spring (Economics, Political Science; 400-level; 3 credits)

The Czech post-communist transformation was a fascinating process which encompassed profound change of political, social, cultural and economic structures but also meant radical change in people’s lives. The objective of the course is to help the students better understand the dominance of the market narrative in the 1990s, the political utilization of the communist past, and some of the paradoxes of transition winning and losing.

Each class will include a short introductory lecture followed by a student presentation and discussion of the readings, film screenings, fields trips, debates with guest speakers etc. The course is open both to students new to transition studies and to those who took the “Czech Society: Transition from Communism” course in the Fall term.

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Czech Society: Transition from Communism I

Fall (History, Sociology; 300-level; 3 credits)

The objective of the course is to help students better-understand the nature of the socialist dictatorship, the political, economic, social and cultural aspects of the transition, and the complex problems associated with the memory of communism. Each class will include a short introductory lecture followed by a presentation and discussion of the readings, film screenings, fields trips, and discussions with guest speakers.

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Diplomacy and Its Language: The Art of Restraining Power

Spring (Political Science; 300-level; 3 credits)

This course takes a synchronic as well as diachronic approach to diplomacy and provides inter-mediate level of insight into what diplomacy is, what its role in international relations is, and what unique tools and instruments it uses. It is partly based on the case study and an exploration of Czech and U.S. foreign policies, both historical and current. It also makes excursions to the major and paramount diplomatic events in the 20th century in Europe and in the world. The emphasis is placed on the current international issues as a result of policies and diplomatic actions. It also discusses EU, its major bodies and mechanisms on which EU operates on the international political scene.

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Dvořák and Prague Composers: Cultural Influences in Music History

Fall (Music; 300-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Music; 300-level; 3 credits)

Prague is one of the traditional musical cities, once home to composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, or Dvorak. The music lover may experience here a true musical feast for low cost student tickets. The Music course is combining the lectures on various genres and époques, seminars, or visits to concerts, giving the students the theoretical background for a learned appreciation of various styles, genres, and cultures. A basic understanding of music fundamentals will be taught so that even students without music backgrounds can succeed in this course.

The course covers non- European musical cultures and their influences as well as the survey of European music. The survey is structured in these blocks: medieval and renaissance music, great Baroque masters, from classicism to national schools of music, styles after WWII and contemporary scene.

The other focus of the course is a close contact with a particular piece of music, Students will be required to watch and listen to a number of music recordings, analyze them in class, and follow the line in study music scores; however, if a student misses class, it is his or her responsibility to access these recordings. – We use Naxos music library online. The lecturer will pay attention to the main events of the Prague music life. He will provide free tickets to concerts held at the Academy of Performing Arts and elsewhere.

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European Integration: Past, Present and Future of the European Union

Spring (Political Science; 400-level; 3 credits)

The very existence and the radical enlargement of the European Union is becoming one of the defining events of the early twenty-first century. The students will get acquainted with history and ideology of European unification process which still play an important role in both philosophical and political discussions of many Europeans. The emergence and transformation of political institutions is the essential part of the class. The collapse of communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe 1989 posed new challenges, culminated in the decision to massively enlarge which has presented new problems: the necessity to write a comprehensive Treaty for Europe. The analysis of the new Reform Treaty (The Treaty of Lisbon) for Europe and the process of its ratification will be one of the central parts of the course. Special attention will be dedicated to the financial crisis in the EURO-zone.

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Experiments in Czech Film

Spring (Art, Film; 300-level; 3 credits)

The course will offer the insight into the Czech cinema from the "other side". The aim is to show different faces of Czech filmmaking, i.e. the variety of approaches toward the film media. Alongside the classic Czech movies the students will have a chance to watch experimental films, the documentary, and poetic film. They will learn what magic realism and surrealism is and how these two "ism"s present themselves in the cinema. They will watch the films of a variety of genres, mainly those that are very unique for the European cinema (e.g. Western). They also will watch the films that to a certain extent, experiment with the form of the film - using interesting flashback pattern or excluding a spoken word.

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From Medieval to Contemporary: Exploring the Great Art and Architecture of Prague

Fall (Architecture, Art; 300-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Architecture, Art; 300-level; 3 credits)

The course is an introductory survey of styles, trends and movements focusing on the fine arts and architecture in Prague and Czech Lands against the background of European influences. It covers the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque times, up to Modernism and the Contemporary art scene. Special attention will be paid to the unique characteristics and developments of art (e.g. Prague Castle, Baroque churches, Czech cubism) and to the most glorious periods in the history of Czech Lands (era of Charles IV, Rudolf II). Tours, field trips and visits to museums and galleries are a substantial part of the course.

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Gender and Post-Socialist Transformation in Central Europe

Fall (Sociology, Women's Studies / Gender Studies; 400-level; 3 credits)

The course is focused on a region in political and economic transition, as well as on a mode of interpreting the self and the world which is itself constantly in transition. We will explore the extent to which gender relations have operated, been acknowledged and have a bearing on political, social and cultural life in the Czech Republic and in the wider post-communist Eastern European context.

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Gender Studies: A Global Perspective

Spring (Sociology, Women's Studies / Gender Studies; 300-level; 3 credits)

This course will examine how definitions of gender and sexuality are constructed in the context of globalization and trans-national movements. It will examine key gender issues and debates relating to multiculturalism, western feminism and cultural imperialism, global labor movements and migration, sex-trafficking, virtual reality and pornography, ‘third sex’ global communities, war and its impact on gender relations and religion.

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Global Economy

Fall (Economics; 300-level; 3 credits)
Spring (Economics; 300-level; 3 credits)

This multi-disciplinary course covers different aspects of globalization. Special attention is paid to the environmental, cultural and economic dimension of globalization-international trade and the role of multi-national corporations (MNC’s).

The aim of the course is to help students to understand the process of globalization and its influence on the world economy. It explains the dynamics and importance of internet and mass media for fostering cross-cultural communication. The course combines theoretical approach with case studies and practical discussions. Students are expected to follow press and electronic articles to be able to participate actively

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Great Czech Writers

Fall (English; 400-level; 3 credits)

The course will explore the development of Czech literature in the modern era, from the National Revival to the present time. It will focus on the study of seminal texts by major Czech novelists of the twentieth century and on the representation of personal and historical experience in fiction. As well as primary texts – Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk, Kafka's The Trial, Hrabal's Too Loud a Solitude, Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Topol's City Sister Silver City - the course will introduce students to a broad selection of Czech literature and explore the cultural and historical contexts of its production. The course will feature guest lectures by Czech authors.

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Introduction to Diplomacy, Diplomatic Theory, and Practice

Fall (Political Science; 300-level; 3 credits)

This course intends to provide students with an introduction to diplomacy as a distinct area of study and explain them foreign policy of the Czech Republic as well as its diplomatic efforts. While mastering the basics of diplomatic theory, students will have chance to experience diplomacy in practice. The course will include excursions to the most important institutions relevant to the Czech foreign policy and will also feature guest lectures by Czech diplomats.

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Medieval Culture and American Parallels

Fall (History; 300-level; 3 credits)

The course aims to analyze some basic features of medieval culture on the case example of Czech Lands, as well as to initiate discussion about parallels between European Medieval Culture and distant American Modern Culture (distant at least both in time and in space). It will also explain the basic methods of historiography and look at primary sources used for interpreting medieval history. Students will learn how to approach the remains of the past critically and will use this knowledge for practical training in the environment they are more familiar with – American frontier history of the years 1840-1890.

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Modern Central European and Czech Politics

Fall (Political Science; 400-level; 3 credits)

Central and East European (CEE) countries seem to be standing at the crossroads. Liberal democracy is challenged across the region. Populist, authoritarian and anti-politics tendencies are rising. Does this stem from unresolved legacies of the Communist past? Or does it reflect pre-Communist authoritarian political cultures? Or does it simply mirror contemporary global tendencies of anti-establishment moods? With a similar geopolitical position in the former East Bloc, countries like Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary differed significantly in the types of their communist regimes, as well as their transitions to democracy in 1989-1991. 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.

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Modern History of Central Europe

Fall (History; 400-level; 3 credits)
Spring (History; 400-level; 3 credits)

The course will provide the students with basic knowledge of the Modern Central European political, social and cultural history. For practical reasons, the course will primarily use the example of Czech history in order to stimulate independent reflections of other cultures, seemingly familiar yet very different from that of the students. It will compare and contrast the Czech modern experience with the histories of other Central European countries, which all historically shared the same fate of small nations between two large historical rivals: Germany in the West and Russia in the East. An integral part of the class will be several field trips.

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Mystery of Words

Spring (English, Linguistics; 200-level; 3 credits)

The course introduces the basics of etymology and language history in an accessible and understandable way. It explains why and how words and languages change, as well as covers various processes that cause changes (sound change, analogy, folk etymology, taboo, metaphor etc.). It reveals surprising and sometimes curious changes of the words throughout the course of time (e.g. the “Czech” origin of American dollar). Special attention is paid to the question of language contact, borrowing, and the influence of one language on another one. The language phenomena covered are demonstrated mostly with English and Czech lexical material, but other languages may also be used to illustrate certain issues.

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Politics and Literature in the Twentieth Century

Fall (Political Science; 400-level; 3 credits)

This course examines how literature has been both a means of political expression and a narrative of political experience. Topics include the effect of literature in shaping political events, literature as a critique of ideology, literary testimony of the experience of violence and imprisonment, and the struggle between public conformity and private conscience. Through readings by Orwell, Brecht and Borowski, as well as by authors involved in the Prague Spring of 1968 and the Velvet Revolution of 1989, such as Václav Havel and Milan Kundera, we will examine how political factors influenced the shaping of personal identity and set the terms of moral choice in the twentieth century.

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Sociology of Work

Spring (Sociology; 300-level; 3 credits)

This class focuses on work as a contested activity, fraught with political contestation, powerful forms of coercion and control, major social rifts, and the chance for us to define who and what we want to be. As such, we focus on the politics of work, especially how they intersect with the many larger divisions of society, such as gender, race, and, of course, class. We look at how work shapes us as humans, how we inject humanity into our work, and the larger social consequences of these strategies. As part of this class, we use sociological tools to investigate how people work in Prague, the drudgery and the satisfaction, and analyze some of the larger implications of what people do locally. By understanding the complex dynamics of the nature of work, we can address critical and creative ways of changing it, of making it more an enabling vehicle for self-actualization rather than one of exploitation and control.

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Stalinism in Eastern Europe

Fall (History; 400-level; 3 credits)
Spring (History; 400-level; 3 credits)

The establishment of Communist systems of government in Russia and postwar Eastern Europe was a major phenomenon in 20th-century European history. The ideological basis of these governments was a creative adaptation of Marxism, an innovative alternative to classical capitalism, in reaction to world wars, economic crises, and new international power relations. Stalinism emerged as a striking phase in the development of the communist movement involving intense power struggles and highly developed systems of oppression and corruption, as well as relative economic development and the emancipation of privileged social strata.

The objective of the course is to help students examine the role of the Stalinist era in the region’s history. Each class will include a short introductory lecture followed by a discussion of the readings, film screenings, field trips, and debates with guest speakers.

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The Holocaust:Twentieth-Century Jewish Studies

Fall (History, Sociology; 400-level; 3 credits)

This course covers the history of Jewish communities in Central Europe since the 12th century. However, it focuses mainly on 20th century events: the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the evolution of succession states and the condition of Jews in each of them, the spread of fascism in Europe and the post-war situation. We will also focus on particular aspects of modern Jewish thought and post-Holocaust theology, the relationship between Judaism and Christianity after the Holocaust and historical aspects of Jewish Prague and Central European Jewry. We will also delve into the "Philosophy of Judaism", and reflect on such luminaries as the American religious thinker Abraham Jehoschua Heschel, philosophers of traditional Judaism, like Buber, Rosenzweig as well as Karl Marx and the French philosopher Jacques Derrida.

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The Image of Prague: Literature, Architecture, and Cultural History

Spring (English; 300-level; 3 credits)

The introduction to European architectural styles since the Romanesque period will be studied through reading historical records, fine literature and through walks in the neighborhoods surrounding Charles University. Students will study gothic, renaissance and baroque paintings and sculptures in the collections of the National Gallery in Prague. The main focus of the course will be modern art from 1890 until the present. Students will study all art genres of the 20th century and will visit the Gallery of Modern Art frequently. Students will study literary styles and will read texts (in English translation) of Franz Kafka, Jaroslav Hašek, Karel Capek, Milan Kundera, Bohumil Hrabal and Václav Havel.

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The Modern World

Fall (History; 200-level; 3 credits)

Through lectures and discussions, we will analyze Europe’s legacy in shaping world ideas, institutions, and cultures from the fifteenth century to the present. Topics include the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, the development of science and industry, political revolutions, colonialism and post-colonialism, feminism and globalization. Attention will be paid to developments in many areas: literature, the arts and sciences, political and social theory and practice, philosophy, and public and private life. In order to give a living face to this vast subject, we will move at every phase from a general outline of motives, events, and ideas to specific texts and instances. Critical thinking and writing are strongly emphasized.

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The Peoples of Europe - Their Origins, Histories, Contacts

Fall (Anthropology, History; 300-level; 3 credits)

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, geography, ethnology or linguistics.

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Vienna and Budapest Field Study

Fall (History, Political Science; 400-level; 1 credit)
Spring (History, Political Science; 400-level; 1 credit)

Students will gain an introduction to the culture and civilization of Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary, both in historical and contemporary social and politics perspectives. A fee is charged to cover transportation, lodging, lectures and entrance to museums.

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