Central Europe: A Birthplace of Modernity

online in summer 2021


12 July—25 July


400 EUR


31 May

About summer programme

This summer school will offer a complex take on the historical, cultural, and political developments taking place in Central Europe at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, which had a significant impact on European (intellectual) history and culture in the decades to come. The summer school will be held in English.

The school aims at familiarizing the students with the intricate interplay between the various innovations in the realm of culture as they manifested themselves in the region against the backdrop of sweeping socio-political changes. Typically, there will be four online periods (50 minutes) a day. In addition, there will be virtual tours through the city of Brno, focusing on its principal sights and its historical surroundings. During the course other important Central European locations - Vienna, Prague, Budapest - will also be presented.


Academic Overview

Online classes will take place at 9:00 CET Monday-Friday for four hours (two-double periods). The classes will be held via the communication platform ZOOM. Active participation during the online classes is required.

A virtual site visit will be arranged with the Mendel Museum of Masaryk University.

Theoretical framework:

The online classes focus on the historical, cultural, and political developments taking place in Central Europe from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The period begins symbolically with 1848, referred to variously as “the year of revolution” and “the springtime of the peoples” – the year that catapulted to the fore the concept of the nation and the power of nationalism, which were to have such a profound effect on the twentieth century in general and on Central Europe in particular. And the period ends, again symbolically, with 1948, the year of the Communist coup d’état in Czechoslovakia, which sealed the fate of most of Central Europe for the next forty years, cutting it off from the mainstream of European development that it had been part of until then and to which it had contributed so much.

In the period from 1848 down to the First World War, we will be looking at the growth of competing nationalisms in the Central European region, the emergence of new social strata and new political forces, the development of pioneering ideas in the sciences and social sciences, and the groundbreaking changes in all areas of culture, in particular literature, art, architecture and music. With the collapse of the previous order at the end of World War I, the focus will shift to the different challenges facing the new constellation of states, challenges reflected in their political life, international relations, social and economic structures and their efforts to create new national cultures. Finally, we will treat the growing trend in the region towards authoritarian regimes in the 1930s, the physical and human devastation of World War II, and the final extinction of democracy in most of Central Europe after the war with its absorption into the Soviet empire.

History selected topics (20 hours, 10×90 min):

  • Austria - Hungary 1867 - 1900
  • Vienna and Budapest as capital cities
  • Vienna´s Golden Age 1890 - 1914
  • History of WWI
  • Interwar History
  • History of WWII

Sociology selected topics (10 hours, 5×90 min):

  • What is central Europe and what is modernity?
  • Nations and nationalism
  • Nostalgia for modernity

Architecture  selected topics with a focus on architectural styles (10 hours, 5×90 min):

  • Historicism
  • Art Nouveau
  • Cubism and Rondo-Cubism
  • International Style

Architecture (2 hours, 1×90 min):

  • The lecture will focus on worldwide known Brno composer Leoš Janáček.
Our team

Don Sparling

Don Sparling is a Canadian who attended the Universities of Toronto and Oxford before coming to Czechoslovakia in 1969. Here he has lived and taught in Brno and Prague, working in language schools and then at Masaryk University in Brno, first in the Department of English and American Studies (where he twice served as Chair) and later, from 2000 to 2009, in the university’s Office for International Studies, in the position of Director. Since its inception in 2005 he has taught on the joint Masaryk University - University of Toronto summer school in Brno, which focuses on the history and culture of the Central European region.

Zuzana Ragulová

Zuzana Ragulová (*1987) is an architectural historian specialized in the first third of the 20th century and Jewish architecture. Her bachelor´s thesis focused on the City Accommodation Bureau, which was built in Brno in 1928. Her master´s thesis dealt with the Sochor family villas in Dvůr Králové nad Labem in the early 20th century. She co-organized the international Ph.D. student conference "Admired as Well as Overlooked Beauty", held in Brno in 2014. In June 2015, she participated in the "II coupDefouet International Congress" in Barcelona, presenting the paper Czech Art Nouveau Architecture in the Cities of Prague, Brno and Hradec Králové. In 2014 and 2015, she taught a seminar at Masaryk University about architecture in Bohemia in the early 20th century. Since 2016 she has also taught architectural history courses and seminars at Tomas Bata University in Zlín.

Tomáš Pospíšil

Tomáš Pospíšil currently serves as Vice Dean for International Relations of the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University. At the Department of English and American Studies, he teaches American literature, American and Canadian film and American cultural studies. He was an ACLS visiting scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz (1993/94) and Fulbright fellow at the University of Southern California (1999). His current research interests involve African American film representation, Canadian feature film, and the reception of American culture in the Czech lands.

He is the author of The Progressive Era in American Historical Fiction: Dos Passos’ 42nd Parallel and Doctorow’s Ragtime (1998), Průvodce cestovatele Amerikou (A Traveler’s Guide to America) (2001), Sambo tu již nebydlí? Obraz Afroameričanů v americkém filmu 20. století (Sambo Does Not Live Here Anymore? The African American Representation in American Film of the 20th Century, 2003). He also co-authored the volume Us-Them-Me, the Search for Identity in Canadian Literature and Film (2009) and edited a special issue of Brno Studies in English entitled The Five Senses of Canadian Cinema (2013).

Gábor Oláh

Gábor Oláh is a recent Ph.D. student at the Department of Sociology at Masaryk University, where he also works as a lecturer. He graduated from the Academic Study of Religions (2006) and Sociology (2008) and these fields form the background for his academic and research interests. Recently, he has been working on the topic of performativity of collective memory from a cultural-sociological perspective. His dissertation focuses on issues such as cultural trauma, event theory, iconicity, and materiality. His field of research is in Budapest, Hungary, where he explores statues, memorials, squares, and museums that provide conflicting meanings and are produced and maintained by interpretive and memory communities (Oláh & Szaló, forthcoming).

He participates in the department as a lecturer in the courses Introduction to Cultural Sociology, Sociological Theory, and General Sociology. He is in charge of organizing the Sociology department’s annual international conference Identities in Conflict, Conflict in Identities and the International Summer School on Cultural Sociology: Memory, Culture & Identity. He was a research group member in the projects Collective Memory and Transformation of Urban Space (2012-2014) (Oláh 2013) and Detraditionalization and Individualization of Religion in the Czech Republic (2006-2008) (Oláh, Hamar, & Ondrašinová 2008).

Since 2013, he has been an actively participating member of the curatorium of the non-profit Unfinished Past Foundation, which focuses on recent social and cultural problems in regional and global correlations. The first result of the foundation is the book Transnational Politics and the History of the Memory of the Holocaust (Zombory-Szász 2014 - published in Hungarian).

Oláh speaks Hungarian as his mother tongue. He was born in Slovakia and now lives in Brno, in the Czech Republic. He has a four-year-old son whom with he frequently goes to spot trains.

Tereza Richtáriková

Tereza Richtáriková is a historian specialized in modern history, whose research mostly focuses on the migration and minority politics in central Europe. Her master's thesis, Reemigration and Settlement of the First Transport of Reemigrants of the Slovak Origin from Romania to Czechoslovakia after WWII, has been awarded the Dean’s prize in 2019. She currently studies a postgraduate programme at the Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University. She is an active member of Historia Europeana, an association of academics interested in modern European history, and took part in the organization of an international postgrad conference Rethinking Europe.

Admission requirements & Application

Admission requirements

  • Full attendance of the online classes; essay (undergraduate students - min. 2000 words; graduate students min. 2500 words).
  • The required level of English language is B2 according to CEFR (TOEFL iBT score of 87 or higher / IELTS score of 5.5 or higher.
Please follow this link and choose the correct programme. Do not forget to include all the necessary information (and documents if requested) including writing a short statement of purpose. We will contact you afterwards to tell you if your application was successful and to discuss the further steps (including the deposit payment) with you.
What is included in the cost?

400 euro*
*The tuition fee includes the entire academic program and virtual site visit tour.

Recommended Literature


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  • Zatloukal, Pavel. A guide to the architecture of Brno, 1815-1915. Brno: Obecní dům, 2006.
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Mgr. Zuzana Ragulová

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