ENG 223: Contemporary World Literature I – Protest, Dissent, and Change

Instructor: Blanka Maderová
Credits: 3
GEP: Global Knowledge, Humanities

Course Description

This course explores the relationships between literature, culture, and political power in Central Europe between the 1950’s and 2000’s.

You’ll be looking into the dynamics of political repression, including dissent, protest, and alternative subcultures. The focus of the course will be on literary works that question, or have helped to co-create, the Central European identity. You will also explore how music and the political writing of the period became an important force for change.

Discussions will include the role of the Czech underground movement during communism, gender and race issues between 1960s and 2014, rock and folk musicians as political and ‘semi-religious’ agents, Czech identity (or a lack thereof) as reflected in architecture, and much more.

You can expect to come across the literary works of some of the most significant Czech writers including Milan Kundera, Václav Havel, Bohumil Hrabal, Jiřina Šiklová, Egon Bondy, Michal Ajvaz, and Franz Kafka.

Although the course will be focused on European cultural context and Czech specificities in the 20th century, other phenomena such as enlightenment, totalitarianism, rationalism, and the idealism of previous centuries will be explained as well.

Our reading, which will encompass both literary and socio-anthropological texts, should enable you to understand these phenomena in a wider context. The course will include field trips and guest speakers.