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LIT 406 Vaclav Havel: Theater, Politics & Dissent International Business Program Spring 2020 Semester - Prague

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LIT 406 Vaclav Havel: Theater, Politics & Dissent

LIT 406 Vaclav Havel: Theater, Politics & Dissent Course Overview


CEA Partner Institution: Anglo-American University
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Primary Subject Area: Czech Language & Literature
Instruction in: English
Course Code: LIT 406
Course Details: Level 400
Recommended Semester Credits: 3
Contact Hours: 42
Additional Fee: $35.00
Additional Fee Description:* An additional course fee of approximately CZK 800 is charged to cover expenses associated with this course. Amount in USD is estimated and is subject to change based on exchange rate.


The primary objective of the course is to introduce the students to Václav Havel, a central figure of the Velvet Revolution in 1989, as Czechoslovakia's first post-communist president, and prior to this a leading political dissident and avant-garde playwright. Students will first discuss Havel's involvement in the theatre On the Balustrade in the 1960s. His early absurdist plays will be viewed also in association with the work of prominent European playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, whose work Havel helped to introduce in Czechoslovakia, and Tom Stoppard, who has acknowledged a debt to Havel's drama. The course will move to outline Havel's involvement as a dissident after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact, and follow his removal from the public sphere by the totalitarian regime. Havel's work as a political dissident will be traced through the reading of selected essays and petitions, including his letter to President Husák and the Charter 77 declaration. The latter will be read in its broader context of the coming together of various strands of political dissent (from opposition intellectuals through ex-communist politicians to the Czech underground movement) due to the persecution of the rock band The Plastic People of the Universe. Finally, Havel's official career as a politician will be outlined, from his role as a founding member of the Civic Forum in 1989, through two terms in office as President, up to his retirement from top politics and return to creative writing, as exemplified by his last play Leaving and his subsequent film version of the same. Throughout, Havel's career will be viewed on the backdrop of life in Czechoslovakia, through the mild thaw of the 60s, a return to totalitarianism in the 70s and 80s, up to the liberal atmosphere of the Velvet Revolution, with the objective to facilitate a better understanding of everyday life in these various periods. Finally, students will have a chance to discuss a recent (2020) biographical film about Havel, considering how it conceptualises Havel's importance and legacy. The course will be complemented by screenings of plentiful documentary material (and, the COVID pandemic allowing, the physical presentation of a variety of printed and other materials and artifacts).

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