Laughter and Tears: History in East European Literature
Caught between East and West, modernity and tradition, Slav and “European” identity, the region today known as Central Europe has produced some of the most vital, moving and irreverent literature in the world. This course will serve as a general introduction to modern Czech literature and film,
focusing mostly on post-1918 works, with a comparative foray into former Yugoslav literature. We will pay special attention to the role 20th-century
history and national tragedy have played in Czech culture, as well as how authors deploy humor and sex as a strategy of resistance, survival and
celebration. In addition to reading novels and shorter pieces by Karel Čapek, Bohumil Hrabal, Milan Kundera, Ivan Klíma and others, we will also
watch films by Jiří Menzel, Věra Chytilová and Jan Svěrák. The course concludes with a discussion of the current, post-socialist state of Czech
literature, film and popular culture.