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Unit information: A Kidnapped West?: Czech Literature since 1918 in 2021/22

Unit name A Kidnapped West?: Czech Literature since 1918
Unit code RUSS30077
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Chitnis
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Russian
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Milan Kundera once described that part of Central European culture that fell under the Soviet sphere of influence between 1945 and 1989 as a ‘kidnapped West’. Since 1918, Czech literature can claim to have been repeatedly ‘kidnapped’ by cultural models and ‘hijacked’ by political and nationalist ideologies, and has leaned both West and East in its influences. In this unit, students will explore these shifts through key examples of prose, poetry and drama, examining both unexpected continuities and perceived ruptures. They will examine, for example, Czech responses to Surrealism, Existentialism, Socialist Realism, the Absurd and postmodernism, earnest, sentimental and witty reflections on political and artistic utopianism, German occupation and Communist dictatorship and expressions of nationalism, dissent, political and religious conviction. Students will thus develop an understanding of the place of Czech literature in the competing currents of twentieth-century European culture.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will have

1) Developed a critical understanding of the key themes of Czech literature since 1918.

2) Have understood how Czech literature has reflected and informed the period’s key literary movements and how Czech literature has reflected and debated its historical experience in the period.

3) Developed a thorough understanding of the ways that literary texts can be approached and interpreted.

4) Have become particularly adept at using the vocabulary of literary analysis, building extended arguments based on close reading of texts and writing extended comparative analyses of complex texts, appropriate to level H.

Teaching Information

Two seminar hours per week across one teaching block (22 contact hours).

Assessment Information

2 x 3000-word essay (50% each).

The first 3000-word essay, to be written on ONE of the first three texts studied, will test skills of close reading and literary analysis, and focus on the author’s approach, for example, to narration or characterisation, use of language, imagery or genre, relationship to particular literary movements etc (testing ILOs 1-4).

The second 3000-word essay, to be written at the end of the unit, will test skills of comparison and awareness of changing artistic trends and/or socio-political attitudes (testing ILOs 1-4). The essay will compare TWO texts studied (on which the student has not previously written) to explore, for example, different approaches to nationalism, history, prevailing ideologies, particular historical experiences (e.g. German occupation, Communism), particular figures, groups or themes (e.g. Masaryk, Jews, the exotic, the individual and collective) or literary representation and experiment (e.g. between 1920s, 1960s and 1990s Avantgardes).


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. RUSS30077).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.