Current situation and history

Current situation

In the Czech Republic, Charles University is the only institution of higher education which offers the study of the three major North-Germanic languages (Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish). The individual programmes of Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish have been taught at the Faculty of Arts at Charles University continuously since 1969.

Currently, they are housed within the Section for Scandinavian Studies at the Department of Germanic Studies.

Besides the Czech members of the academic staff, the department also has three lecturers who are native speakers from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The presence of three official (i.e. co-financed by their respective governments) Scandinavian lectureships at one university is globally unique and highly prestigious.

Aside from studying Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, it is also possible to attend courses on Old Norse here and, irregularly, modern Icelandic. Therefore, the Section for Scandinavian Studies at the Faculty of Arts represents the only all-Scandinavian department in the Czech Republic.

History of Scandinavian studies in Prague

Scandinavian Studies, sometimes called Nordic Studies, has a long-standing tradition at Charles University. As is the case with many other non-Scandinavian universities, this section first started to develop as a part of German Studies and the individual programmes did not emerge until later. At Charles University, the first academic publications focusing on Nordic countries were written as early as the second half of the 19th century, but Nordic studies in Prague only became more systematic in the 20thcentury.

The first noteworthy personality in the field was Arnošt Vilém Kraus (1859–1943), a professor of German Studies who also had a keen interest in the culture and literature of Scandinavian countries. His first lectures about the region were given at Charles University in 1894. Another prominent name in the field was that of Associate Professor Ladislav Heger (1902–1975), who focused mostly on Old Norse literature.

The Faculty of Arts also shortly employed Associate Professor Radko Kejzlar (1930–2012), a member of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, who authored a number of important publications on Nordic Studies. After leaving Czechoslovakia, he became a professor of Scandinavian literature at the University of Munich. Several generations of experts on Scandinavia were groomed by Associate Professor Helena Kadečková (1932–2018), whose broad scholarly work included everything from Old Norse literature to contemporary authors. Each of the above-mentioned scholars also produced a remarkable number of translations.

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