School of Athen by Raphael


Vancouver Island University Liberal Studies Summer Program in Prague 2004

[This page, which is maintained by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, is under construction, last revised April 9, 2004]

[Please note that this site is under continual construction.  Last revised May 15, 2004]

Please inform Ian Johnston of any defective links (they seem very fragile)

The material on this site is intended for students taking part in the Liberal Studies trip to Prague in July 2004.  The sections below include curricular materials, web links, background guides, and other information directly relevant to the courses in this program.

There is no information here about fees, visas, or other matters not directly related to the reading and the assignments.  Please address enquiries about these matters to John Black ( or Libby McGrattan (

For general information about Liberal Studies Abroad programs please use the following link Liberal Studies Abroad.


Course Outline: Reading List
Course Outline: Assignments--Journal
Course Outline: Assignments--Essays (Music, Science, Architecture)
Course Outline: Assignments--Essays (Art, History, Politics)
Course Outline: Assignments--Essays (Literature, Religion)
Architecture Project
Art Project
Creative Writing Project
Background Material: History, Art and Architecture, Language
Curricular Materials: Selection from Fleeming Jenkin
Curricular Materials: Gregor Mendel, "Experiments in Plant Hybridization"
Curricular Materials: A Commentary on Mendel's Paper

Sites Related to Assignments

The Czech Republic: Facts and Figures
Lecture on Czech History
Internet Site for Jaroslav Hašek
Lecture on Alfons Mucha and Art Nouveau    
Lecture on Czech Cubist Architecture       
Lecture on Hašek’s The Good Soldier Švejk
Czech Avant Garde Book Design
The Kafka Project     
Constructing Franz Kafka   
Milan Kundera Biography         
Milan Kundera: Gateway Site
Participation in and Marking of Seminars
Learning Spoken Czech

Links to the Web-Based Newgroup-Chat Room

If you forget your login name and the password, please contact an instructor.

Useful Sites for Visit to Prague

Radio Prague (an important source for current news and events and all sorts of advice about Czech culture)


The instructors for this trip are Russell McNeil ( and Ian Johnston (  The Program Manager is Libby McGrattan (  Once we are in Prague there will be other lecturers, guides, and translators available on temporary basis.

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Course Outline

The following is a list of the reading material and assignments for the courses involved on this trip. Please note that there may be some slight revisions to the details below.

Reading List

Students will receive a copy of the following material.  They are expected to read everything on this list.

Background essays (some photocopied material)
Rob Humphreys, Prague (Rough Guides) (some parts of this guide book will be assigned)
Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis and Other Selected Short Works (Prideaux Street Publishing).  Selections.
Josef Hašek, The Good Solder Svejk (Penguin) (up to p. 216)
Václav Havel, "The Power of the Powerless" and "Six Asides About Culture"
Milan Kundera, The Joke (Perennial)
Karel Čapek, R.U.R. (Dover)
Paul Wilson, ed. Prague: A Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press).  Selections.
Photocopied material on Mendel (available as e-texts: see below)

Other material will be made available for the music and art components of the curriculum or else students will be directed to certain material on the internet. 

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The curriculum for the Liberal Studies Summer School in Prague involves the following courses : LBST 290/390, LBST 291/391, LBSTA 292/392, each worth 3 credits.  Students take either the second- or third-year option.


In each of the courses the Journal is worth 20 percent.  It will be due at the end of the course in August.


In each of the courses Participation in seminars and other required curricular activities will count for 25 percent.

Course-Specific Assignments

LBST 290/390:       Essay 1: 30 percent Architecture Project: 25 percent
LBST 291/391:       Essay 2: 30 percent Art Project: 25 percent
LBST 292/392:       Essay 3: 30 percent Creative Writing Project: 25 percent

Upper-Level Students

The requirements for upper-level students are more demanding than those for lower-level students.  Aside from a demand for greater quality, the main difference is the length of the essays: lower-level students must write 1000 words (approximately 4 double-spaced pages), upper-level students 1500 (approximately 6 double-spaced pages).

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Assignment 1 (Journal: 20 percent in each course)

During our visit to Prague, you are expected to keep a daily record of your experiences relating to the trip and course of study.  When you return, you should use these notes and other materials to construct a journal project to be handed in at the end of the course (in August, soon after we return).  The assignment will be marked for both content and presentation.  The instructors will not make comments in the journal itself, so it may function as a permanent and personal record of your visit.

The focus, however, should be primarily on the intellectual and cultural components of  your experiences, not on the personally private or simply tourist aspects.  Of course, these will be intertwined to quite a large extent, but you should endeavour to avoid simply a catalogue of the day’s activities, without any consideration of the broader cultural issues they raise.  And it’s important to express your own reactions, not merely to gather souvenirs.

The Journal may incorporate material many different sorts—free writing, literary and artistic criticism, poetry, drawings, painting, photographs, photo-collage, newspaper and magazine clippings, expository writing, pressed flowers, ticket stubs, postcards—anything which expresses some aspect of your experiences on the trip.  If you use material from sources like magazines, there is no need to attribute it to a source, but it should be used to express or introduce your thoughts and reactions, not just those of the author.

You will need to purchase a suitable notebook for the journal.  And you might like to think about what you will need in Prague (a camera or a friend with a camera, sketching materials, and so on) or you can purchase the material in Prague.

Remember that a journal is not an essay (even though it may contain essay-like portions if you wish), and so does not need to be approached in the way you would an essay.  Be creative and honest in expressing your feelings and thoughts: they do not have to be organized in any way in support of a point of view.

If you wish to start the journal at the start of the course and include in it reflection on and reactions to the reading and discussions before we go to Prague, that is perfectly acceptable.  And if you would like to see an example of a journal from a Liberal Studies Overseas program, please consult Libby McGrattan.

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Assignment 2: Essays

You must write one essay for each of the courses you are taking.  For students in the second-year courses, each essay should be approximately 1000 words long; for those in the third-year courses each essay should be about 1500 words long.  These essay must be written on a word processor and printed, so that the instructors do not have to deal with hand written manuscripts.

Note that there is very little time to complete assignments once we return in Nanaimo at the end of July, and most of that time will be taken up completing the journal and the art project.  So at least two of these essays should be completed before you leave for Prague.

The instructors will be suggesting additional topics, and if you would like to come up with a topic of your own, you may do so, provided you get the instructor's approval to proceed (an important condition).

LBST 290/390 (Music, Science, Architecture)

1. Discuss briefly Jenkin’s objection to Darwin’s theory of natural selection in which he raises the mathematical problem of inheritance?  Why is that such a crucial problem and why is Mendel’s work in genetics important in dealing with it?

2. Discuss the importance of Czech folk music motifs in the music of Bedrich Smetana or Leos Janáček—both the musical importance and the wider cultural and political implications (if any).  Please anchor your discussion on one particular musical work (opera, choral work, and so on).

3. With a detailed and illustrated examination of one or two buildings you visited in Prague, discuss what is “cubistâ€