Current Course Offerings

Humanities classes often fulfill Core Requirements. Check out the attributes below to see how you can walk through your Core with us!

Spring 2017 Courses


HUM 2001–001

Dr. Mark Shiffman

T/Th 11:30 am–12:45 pm


The Christian tradition has long held that “God is love.” In this course we seek to understand what Christian claims about God mean, what they imply, and whether they are well founded. As we inquire into the nature of divine life, we will also consider what talking about God reveals about the nature of human life

The course begins by considering modern critiques of religion that help us understand our own uses and abuses of religion. We then inquire whether it is responsible to love and believe in a Christian God. In doing so, we must consider the possibility that God reveals Himself precisely to help us know and love God. After investigating claims about revelation, we turn to theological questions that arise out of the experience of having a relationship with God. We conclude with a dramatic investigation of the major themes of the course.  


HUM 2004–100

Dr. Mary Hirschfeld

Th 6:10–8:50 pm

Attributes: P&J, PSC

We live in a time when political, economic, and family life compete to occupy our horizon of concerns. Our culture is often cynical about the possibility of finding meaning in these fundamental aspects of human society. But is that right? How well does the modern view of society as a contract amongst consenting individuals really work? What insights can we glean from a more ancient understanding of society as a fulfillment of human nature? Does society help or impede our quest to find truth or to become our best selves? To truly understand the human person, it is essential to think hard about our relationship to society. To do so we will take up  Hobbes, Locke, Becker, Dostoyevsky, Adam Smith, Aristotle, de Tocqueville, Austen, Augustine, Nietzsche, and More. 


HUM 2003–001

Dr. James M. Wilson

T/Th 10:00–11:10 am

Attributes: WREN

The way we look at and understand the natural world affects the way we think about ourselves, and vice versa. In this class, we will consider the conceptions of the world most common today, discuss their origins, examine their presuppositions, and think through their implications both for our relationship toward the world and also for our understanding of what it means to be a human being. Among the topics we will cover are: how we experience, observe and conceptualize the world; what it means to give a causal explanation; what it means to speak of God as creator and why one would do so; the relationship between science, philosophy, and religion; and the meaning of the human person and social order in relation to the world.


HUM 1975–001

Dr. James M. Wilson

T/Th 4:00–5:15 pm

Attributes: CLAWS, ENG

An “epiphany” is a moment of recognition that sheds light on the human condition and the mystery of creation. Pope John Paul II, himself a poet and avant-garde playwright, spoke of how a deep engagement with literary art can realize new moments of recognition, which he called "epiphanies of beauty."  An examination of “epiphanies of beauty” animates this Core Literature and Writing Seminar, which explores major formal, aesthetic, social, and ethical questions that arise in the encounter with literature. We will engage in close reading of primary texts within a range of genres, including the novel (Joyce’s Portrait of the Arts as a Young Man and Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray), drama (Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, Karol Wojtyla’s The Jeweller’s Shop), poetry (G.M. Hopkins’s “Pied Beauty” and other poems), and short story (Flannery O’Connor’s “Parker Back,” Kafka's "The Hunger Artist"). Using a multi-faceted humanistic inquiry we will work on developing interpretative skills for both poetry and prose and writing thesis-driven critical essays about the role of literary art in human life. 


HUM 2900–001

Dr. Margaret Grubiak

T/Th 2:30–3:45 pm

Attribute: FINE

Religion and the sacred have taken on many forms in the American landscape, from traditional churches on the town green to more ethereal constructions of spirituality in parks and cities. Shifts in architectural expressions of religion reveal changes in the practice of religion in the United States, which has been and remains a foundational component of American culture. This course examines architecture and religion in the United States within its context as a public expression of belief and its connection to place and landscape. Our charge in this seminar is to explore the many ways in which Americans have constructed religion and the sacred in the American landscape.


HUM 2900–002

Dr. Helena Tomko

T/Th 1:00–2:15 pm

Attribute: ENG

The legend of Faust—the scholar turned magician who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for limitless knowledge—is often invoked to describe the dark human urges that have led to some of modernity’s greatest accomplishments and worst atrocities, from space travel to the atom bomb.  The modern myth of Faust emerged in early modern Europe as an echo of an ancient question: How far will created beings go in their quest to surpass the limits of knowledge?  In this course, we will journey with Faust and his devil from the Garden of Eden and into our own twenty-first-century world:  Is the surpassing of limits a mark of freedom or a violation of freedom?  What happens when humanity becomes estranged from God?  Is all knowledge to be known?  Is enough ever enough? We will read the classic Faust stories alongside philosophical and theological accounts of the Faustian condition, beginning with ancient myth and scripture and moving through Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Goethe’s monumental Faust, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as well as texts by Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Charles Taylor, and Wendell Berry.


HUM 2900–003

Dr. James M. Wilson

T/Th 2:30–3:45 pm

Attribute: ENG

Near the end of his life, the Anglo-Irish poet W.B. Yeats enjoined his successors thus:

Irish poets, learn your trade,

Sing whatever is well made,

Scorn the sort now growing up

All out of shape from toe to top,

. . . . .

That we in coming days may be

Still the indomitable Irishry.

In linking the artist’s trade with a vision of national identity and a conception of goodness and beauty (the “well made”), Yeats was not alone.  In the first decades of the Twentieth Century, Irish nationalist movements sought to make a case that Ireland was a distinct culture and nationality from Great Britain and therefore deserved political independence.  They sought to define and in some sense create what it meant to be Irish as an individual person and member of a community so that they could make an argument for how one ought to live in the world and how one ought to exist as a member of an ancient Irish nation and as a potential citizen of a modern Irish state.  At stake was not merely who could be included as Irish, but whether the Irish nation as a coherent entity had any distinct role to play in the history of civilization and in the modern world.  This course will explore five of the major answers to these questions in the works of a handful of modern Ireland’s most accomplished and influential writers, taking specific account of how their religious and political beliefs give form and substance to a particular definition of the Irish nation.  We shall read the poetry, plays, and prose of W.B. Yeats, the cultural criticism and short stories of Daniel Corkery, the stories and novels of James Joyce, a novel by Elizabeth Bowen, and conclude with a study of the “European Catholic modernists,” Brian Coffey, Denis Devlin, and Thomas MacGreevy.


HUM 3001–001

Dr. Michael Tomko

M/W 1:30–2:45 pm

Attributes: ENG, WREN

In this class we will explore the “otherworldly” fiction as well as the theological, critical, and philosophical writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. These works have often been dismissed as either escapist nostalgia or mere entertainment, but the Inklings saw their writings as offering alternative ethical, social, and even ecological visions. Tolkien set out specifically to write a mythology for England. We will investigate why these writers turned to the aesthetic, especially a mythological or fantastic aesthetic, at this time. Why did they employ a literature that was either mythologically, theologically, historically, or perspectivally “otherworldly”? How do these works, so often viewed simply as fantastic or supernatural, relate to the worldly and the natural? In what ways did these writers wrestle with literary traditions, such as Romanticism, and engage with the major intellectual questions of the day including issues in science, gender relations, and political power? In an interdisciplinary approach that engages both literary and theoretical texts, we will ultimately ask if this group formed a coherent cultural movement and consider their place in accounts of the twentieth-century religion and culture in Great Britain.


HUM 6500–100

Dr. Michael Tomko

T 6:10–8:50 pm

Attribute: WRINT

One of the primary aims of the Humanities Department is to help you achieve a human and integrated perspective on your learning. As the “capstone” to your undergraduate career, the senior symposium is an opportunity for you to reflect, with your classmates, on what you have learned in the major, to tie together the various ideas to which you have been introduced, and to explore a particular question that has especially struck you over the course of your studies. There are two major components of the course.

First, we will engage in the type of intellectual conviviality that characterizes Humanities in discussions of short writings from the themes of each of the Gateways. This will enable us to review and consolidate those central courses and will reinforce your intellectual habits and vocation to the intellectual life for the world beyond Villanova.

Second, you will take on a major writing project, the senior essay, that will allow you to explore a topic in depth and synthesize a particular theme, question, or issue from your time at Villanova. This meaningful project, drawing on both the Gateways and Electives, should deepen your relationship with yourself and your world.


P&J 4000–H01

Dr. Eugene McCarraher

T/Th 4:00-5:15 pm

Attributes: HON, HUM

"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at," Oscar Wilde once wrote. In this course, we'll be looking at maps that did include Utopia, and determine whether or to what extent they are worth glancing at. From Eden and Atlantis, Cockaigne and El Dorado, to the technological utopias of modernity, people have imagined ideal societies throughout the ages, communities in which justice, dignity, and love have triumphed--once and for all. While utopias have been invaluable in spurring reform or revolution, they have also been sources of disappointment and bloodshed. We will trace the utopian imagination in a number of genres and disciplines, from literature, philosophy, and theology to science fiction and advertising, and consider some examples of dystopia as well.

Contact Information

Department of Humanities

St. Augustine Center Room 304
Villanova University 
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085 
Phone: 610.519.6165
Fax: 610.519.5307

Chairperson: Dr. Mark Shiffman
Administrative Assistant: Luisa Ruggieri