Among the works that helped shape theatre studies as a university field at the Faculty of Arts are the academic endeavours of the aesthetics scholar Otakar Zich and his university lectures on the theory of dramatic art (from 1913). The theoretical classification of dramatic art in Zich’s The Aesthetics of Dramatic Art (Estetika dramatického umění, 1931) laid the foundation of Czech theatre studies. It did not, however, lead to the creation of a specific methodology, nor the establishment of a new field of study in the arts. What significantly contributed to that was the study of linguistics and theory of art by the Prague structuralist school (Prague Linguistic Circle) continuing the work of Otakar Zich and building on Russian formalist theory. The basic viewpoints and tendencies of structuralism in many ways ran parallel to the tendencies of leftist avant-garde artists active in the interwar period.
During the years 1937-38 Jan Mukařovský, a leading Czech structuralist, began lecturing on the aesthetics of drama at the Faculty of Arts and offered a theatre seminar. And so theatre studies was established as an independent discipline beyond the fields of theatre journalism and dramatic theory, which were only loosely methodological. Previously, these endeavours comprised the majority of essays and articles about theatre published in the period of the First Czechoslovak Republic between 1918-1938 and during World War II. In the interwar period, the issues of dramatics were discussed during literary seminars led by Václav Tille and Otakar Fischer. The seminar of Professor Jan Mukařovský on theatre and drama was resumed after the re-opening of Czech schools in 1945, and in 1948 theatre studies gained the status of a stand-alone course of study at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University.
The study of theatre at the Faculty was also supplemented with lectures on the history of medieval Czech theatre by Professor Václav Černý at the Department of Comparative Studies (dissolved in 1948). The transfer of the theatre studies department to the Theatre Faculty at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague after the communist coup d’état in February 1948 meant turning away from dramatics as such and taking several steps back in the evolution of the field. Prague theatre studies was no longer an aesthetics programme, instead it focused on history and narrowed its scope exclusively to dramaturgy. In 1960 the department returned to Charles University’s Faculty of Arts and re-entered the context of the studies that had been established previously.
Under the leadership of Professor Jan Kopecký, the Department of History and Theory of Theatre concentrated on the study of the history of Czech theatre, or rather the theatre performed by the Czech-speaking segment of the population, and the history of European and world theatre cultures. Its staff initiated the founding of the Czech Theatre Studies Department at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and the publishing of the four volumes of The History of Czech Theatre. Its principal editor, Professor František Černý, had been a long-time teacher and the head of the department; he later became the first Dean of the Faculty of Arts after the Velvet Revolution. In 1969 a film studies section arose within the Department and at the beginning of the period of normalization in 1968 a governmental decree established a department of music, theatre, and film studies. Professor Miroslav Kouřil was appointed head of department. The socio-political landscape, consolidation of several art fields into one department, and Kouřil’s management did not allow any substantial developments in the 70s and 80s. Simply put, during the period known as normalisation the approach was a continuation of earlier trends. The members of the Department focused on individual areas in the history of Czech (Prof. F. Černý) and world theatre (Prof. Milan Lukeš, Doc. Jan Hyvnar, Doc. Dana Kalvodová).
After 1994 the Department of Theatre and Film Studies was directed by PhDr. Petr Pavlovský, who in 1996 helped make the theatre section independent and re-establish the Department of Theatre Studies as a self-contained field.
Between the years 2007-2017 the department was led by Doc. Petr Christov. The current department head is Doc. Martin Pšenička.