Spring Courses


Instructor:  Lukáš Přibyl

This course will expose students to diverse cinematic depictions of the Holocaust - both documentary and narrative fiction - and to subjects, ongoing debates and controversies faced by filmmakers, film critics, filmgoers, historians and philosophers. We will focus on how the film medium deals with a wide variety of issues pertaining both to the historical event itself and to problems of contemporary concern, as well as deal with the evolution of current interpretations and representations. The class will explore the ways cinema documents and imagines the Holocaust, reconstructs or constructs history and memory and shapes our views on and knowledge of the Holocaust.

Students will be asked to grapple with a range of complex and challenging questions, among others: Should we consider the Holocaust to be beyond representation? Or what are the limits, if any? What are the ethics of cinematic representation? What is a responsible and irresponsible approach to historical fiction and where lies the distinction if there is one? What is and is not remembered, how is it remembered, how are these remembrances recollected or reenacted and what are the consequences of particular ways of representing and interpreting the Holocaust? Can films persuasively communicate the experience of the Holocaust, approximate what really happened and how it was experienced? In what way have films impacted public awareness of the Holocaust and influenced or created the public’s opinions? How has the production and reception of films about the Holocaust changed over time and in different places? What are the political, social, psychological, religious and theological reactions to the Holocaust as echoed in films? Can we derive aesthetic pleasure from depictions of atrocities? What are the aesthetic considerations and cultural implications of the transition of the most extreme and extraordinary historical experience into art? Is there such a thing as fantasies of witnessing the Holocaust, identification? How is the gender discourse reflected and expressed?

Part of the course includes a one-day excursion to Terezín
Located near Prague, the garrison town of Terezín (Theresienstadt) was turned into a “model ghetto” by Nazis to which Jews from Bohemia and Moravia and later also from Germany, Austria, Holland, Denmark and Slovakia were deported. With “self-government” and cultural life, Terezín was abused by Nazi propaganda to present to the world a “Jewish settlement” and to conceal the true fate of the Jews. The fortress city in fact functioned primarily as a transit camp and a point of embarkation to extermination centers in German occupied Baltic States, Belarus and Poland. Of the approximately 140,000 Jews transferred to Theresienstadt, about 33,000 died there and further 90,000 were sent further east, sending an absolute majority of them to their deaths.
Since a number of films screened in the class depict or refer to Terezín, a tour of the town will confront the physical reality of the former ghetto and concentration camp with the cinematic interpretations of its history.



Instructor: Pavel Sládek

Jewish Studies represent one of the most fascinating disciplines in contemporary humanities. On one hand, the research of Jewish history, culture and civilization is highly specialized, most importantly in its traditional requirement of philological tools (knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic but often also Arabic, Latin and other source-languages). On the other hand, the current state of knowledge in Jewish Studies enables and often even calls for the application of modern research methods borrowed from general historiography, sociology and especially from historical and contemporary cultural anthropology. During the past decades many of the essential and most pressing problems in Jewish Studies have been newly addressed from interdisciplinary perspectives and not surprisingly, a number of classical interpretations deemed up to recently inviolable, have been reconsidered.
The aim of the present course is to discuss some of the central themes of Jewish history, culture and civilization in the light of the contemporary research and to evaluate the way in which the recent research corrected the older traditional notions and interpretations.
The course proceeds chronologically and topically in weekly blocks. Chronologically, the emphasis is on Medieval and Early Modern period (1000–1800 CE). The course focuses on Jewish communities in Christian Europe.



Instructor: Josef Zaruba-Pfeffermann

The course will provide an inside look at Jewish culture in the Czech lands and Central Europe. Prague offers a microcosm of both – the representative art and the collision and intersection of different cultures. It will explore the subject from different points of view with special attention to architecture, fine arts and music. The impact given on ‘experience’ means that students will have an opportunity to explore all different features and characteristics of Jewish cultural monuments on field trips. 

Part of the course includes mandatory weekend excursions to Vienna and Berlin

The two weekend class excursions to Vienna and Berlin provide a full idea of Central Europe – the most important region in forming Jewish intellectual life, identity and historical consciousness in the 21st century. 
Students will have the opportunity to experience and see inter alia the following:

Vienna, Austria
• Jewish Museum Vienna
• The Judenplatz
• Sigmund Freud Museum
• Schonbrunn, the political center of Austro-Hungarian Empire
• Upper Belvedere: Gustav Klimt

Berlin, Germany
• Reichstag Building
• German History Museum
• Pergamon Museum
• Brandenburg Gate
• Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall
• Unter den Linden Avenue



Instructor:  Aleš Weiss

The course explores a variety of attitudes towards inner and outer “Others” within Judaism from the perspective of Judaic religious law (Halakhah). It will focus mainly on three groups, which have been subject to various legal limitations: Women, Heretics and Apostates, and Non-Jews. We will analyze both inclusivist and exclusivist approaches in traditional Jewish sources and we will present them in their historical, social, and cultural contexts. We will try to identify fears, conflicting emotions and conditions of Jewish life which gave rise to some traditional ideas pertaining especially to women and Non-Jews. In this regard, a special attention will be paid to the arguments about halakhic status of Islam and Christianity, however, the halakhic response to Eastern religions will be dealt with as well. The three aforementioned themes provoke a serious discussion among contemporary Jewish thinkers. It relates to issues such as gender in Judaism, boundaries of the Jewish community, Jewish denominations, Jewish relation to other religions, religious authority, and many others. As all of the three major themes of this course are reflected in the contemporary discussions on Judaism and Human Rights, the respective issues will be addressed in the closing lecture of every main section showing both constructive and disruptive role that religion can play in the democratic society.

The three major themes will be divided into thirteen lectures. Each lecture will be followed by a seminar where students will work with traditional and contemporary textual sources which relate to particular issues. Students will be expected to participate in critical, sensitive, and informed discussions. All texts will be available both in English and Hebrew.



Instructor: Aleš Weiss

This course is intended to introduce the students into the basics of modern Hebrew language. They gain basic reading, writing, conversation and comprehension skills which should suffice for basic conversations of everyday life. Their knowledge should form a firm basis for their future study of Hebrew language.

By the end of the course the students should know about 500 words and should be able to have  basic conversation skills. They are supposed to know basic syntactic and grammatical structures, numbers, inflection of the strong verb in the past and present tenses, and frequent forms of weak verbs.



Instructor: Zuzana Lejčarová

The intensive course is designed to teach students with no previous Czech knowledge, the basics of Czech and, at the same time, to extend their knowledge of Czech culture and everyday life. The communicative approach and everyday vocabulary are emphasized. Students will communicate in various situations of everyday life (introducing oneself, asking about directions, shopping, restaurant, daily routine, likes and dislikes).

Various linguistic skills should be developed in balance: knowledge of grammar, comprehension, speaking, and writing.



The two-week Czech Intensive course meets before the semester begins for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, in morning or afternoon sessions. The course is a combination of Czech language instruction, cultural activities, and excursions throughout Prague. Students are automatically registered in this course. It is worth 3 U.S. credits or 6 ECTS.



HOLOCAUST_ON_FILM2012.pdf451.45 KB
Essential_Trends_in_Jewish_Studies2012.pdf448.74 KB
JEWISH_PRAGUE2012.pdf642.96 KB
The_Jews_and_the_Others2012.pdf576.47 KB
MODERN_HEBREW2012.pdf423.48 KB
Czech_Intensive_Language_and_Culture2012.pdf356.27 KB