Course Description

Course Name

Magic and Myth in Czech Life and Literature

Session: VPGS1124

Hours & Credits

45 Contact Hours

Prerequisites & Language Level

Taught In English

  • There is no language prerequisite for courses at this language level.


Course description & objectives:
This course will introduce Prague not only as the city that has had the reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but also as one of the most mystical and atmospheric. There is nowhere quite like this capital of Bohemia with its chaotic and rich mix of symbolism and imagery. Even from the time of its mythical foundation by Libuše, a Slavic princess who was also a magician and oracle, it has been associated with enchantment. Few nations have created so many myths about themselves as the Czechs. As with other national mythologies, Czech myths mostly concern the history and self-perception of the ethnic group.  In this course we examine authentic historical texts from various magical traditions to find the truth behind the fiction and the historical events that sometimes permitted and sometimes persecuted the religions, philosophies, and sciences we have come to call “magic.” In this course you will study not only mythical Bohemia but also post-reformation Bohemia and the practice of magic during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II in the discourse of heresy. We will concern ourselves primarily with how the practice of magic affected politics and religion as well as with how politics and religion affected the practice of magic.  You will also expand your knowledge of the history of Bohemia and the city of Prague and it will give you some ideas about “magic” influence on the modern Czech culture such as Czech Puppet Theatre or literature.   
Course contents:
 (This is a sample only; changes can be made based on current developments, students’ requests etc. Some issues will be discussed in several sessions. The issues at hand will overlap to some degree.) 

  1. Old Czech mythology and the “national revival”: Medieval chronicles. Cultural memory
  2. Prague legends : Genius loci of Prague. The Headless Templar
  3. Pagan traditions: Attributes of saints
  4. The Castle - Power and defense : Castle as a center of mediavel power
  5. Rudolf II. And the Occult Arts : Kabbalah  
  6. Prague Mannerism and the Magic Universe : Astrological Debate of Rudolf II.
  7. Golem and the Wondrous Deeds of the Maharal of Prague
  8.  Baroque Devotion in the Landscape : Pilgrimage and Baroque religious festivity. Recatolisation. Witch – hunt.
  9. Czech Puppet Theater : the Cradle of Czech Animation. Puppets turned into film stars 10. Farewell to the Modern Era: Kundera and Culture 

*Course content subject to change