The twentieth century has been a period of turmoil, rupture, and change in Central Europe. Czech culture often tended to respond
with humor, subterfuge, and absurd wit. In this course, we will read literary
works and study other areas of culture to see how individual authors reacted to
the changing forces of history. The initial segment deals with the late days of
the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (including the Czech-German-Jewish culture of Prague before 1914) and
the impact of World War One (including the work of Jaroslav Hašek). The next segment focuses on the First Republic (1918-1938), both as a literary phenomenon and a period during which a modern
lifestyle, comparable to that of the German Weimar period, emerged. Works by Karel Èapek and Milena Jesenská are among those
discussed. The World War Two period, the so-called Protectorate (1939-1945), is
represented by Holocaust authors, including Jiøí
Weil. Finally, the post-1945 era will be surveyed, with foci on liberalization
in the 1960s and the underground literature of the dissidents after 1968.
Authors of this segment include Havel, Hrabal, and Kundera.
Throughout, the course will emphasize the overall cultural fabric of the
period. There is substantial treatment of visual arts (Czech Cubism, Poetism, and Surrealism), film, as well as the interface of
political power and literature.
readings are in English translation.
Evaluation of students' work will be based on an essay,
midterm examination, and class-participation.
No prior knowledge of Czech and Slovak
history is necessary.
Class will alternate lectures with discussion of assigned readings.