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!

Fall 2017 Courses


HUM 2002–001

Dr. James M. Wilson

M/W 1:30–2:45 pm

Attributes: P&J

It has been said that a crisis in humanism—an insufficient understanding of the human person—underlay the manifold political, social, and historical tragedies of the twentieth century and their ongoing repercussions. In this course, we will attempt to engage the major questions confronting us in the twentieth-first century by examining fundamental aspects of the human experience, from birth through death, and considering how to pursue the good in the dramatic unfolding of human life. We will consider together the manifold strange wonders that make us human, including food, family, friendship, education, work, and love. 


HUM 2004–001

Dr. Mary Hirschfeld

M/W 3:00­–4:15 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 2001–001

Dr. Anna Moreland

T/Th 10:00–11:15 am

Attribute: CTHL

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 2003–001

Dr. Jesse Couenhoven

T/Th 11:30 am­–12:45 pm

Attribute: PHI

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. Michael Tomko

M/W/F 10:30–11:20 am

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." But how can the wonder of such an “ah ha” moment change our lives? Can it ever mislead us? These aesthetic, social, theological, and ethical questions animate this sophomore literature seminar. 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 pursuit of the good life.


PJ 2700–H01

Dr. Eugene McCarraher

M/W 4:30–5:45 pm

Attributes: ETH, HON, HUM

“Give peace a chance.” That plea has been answered all too infrequently in history. Not only have tribes, empires, and nation-states resorted to warfare to settle their differences, but war itself has acquired a spiritual glamour that appears to outshine the humdrum pursuits of peace. Many if not most of our monuments commemorate the perpetrators of conquest, “defense,” and genocide; very few statues celebrate the makers of peace. Why is this so? What attraction does war have for human beings? Why is it so often seen as a crucible of character and manhood? Why is peace so difficult to make, or sustain? Is peace an absolute good, or are there times when, however awful we may find it, warfare is legitimate, even mandatory? What is “war,” and what is “peace,” anyway? Can war be relegated to the past, just as chattel slavery was, or are we condemned to incessant warfare, “just” or not? 


HUM 2900–002

Dr. Helena Tomko

T/Th 1:00–2:15 pm

Attributes: ENG, DIV2

Catholic novels flourished as some of the best-loved and most read mid-twentieth-century European fiction. This course examines how the highs and lows of human life appear when seen with the Catholic novelist’s sacramental vision of reality. Six celebrated novels explore overlapping literary and theological questions, including the depiction of the natural and supernatural in fiction; marriage, sexuality, and relationships; problems of love and identity; the intertwining of historical events and redemption history; and the workings of grace in the written word. Novels include François Mauriac’s Vipers’ Tangle, Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, and Muriel Spark’s The Girls of Slender Means.


HUM 2900–003

Dr. James M. Wilson

T/Th 2:30–3:45 pm

Attributes: ENG, FINE

In this course, you will be introduced to the elements of prosody, and will try your hand at composing poems in different meters, stanzaic forms, and genres.  We shall read exemplary poems in different forms from the English language tradition, from Shakespeare to Tennyson, Frost and Auden to Helen Pinkerton and Dana Gioia; consider the theoretical, cultural, and historical implications of versification; and become familiar with the conventions of verse craft.  Such readings will help you to become comfortable with the art of composition in rhyme and meter, so that the focus of the course may fall more productively on the writing of original poems, and on learning to perform poems with vitality and skill.      


HUM 2900–004

Dr. Paul Camacho

T/Th 4:00–5:15 pm

Attribute: PHI

We all know that love is—or can be—a problem, but we do not often think of it as a philosophical problem. There are few words in the English language that are more often used, and abused, than the word “love.” It often seems that “love” can mean anything, and therefore ends up meaning nothing in particular. The purpose of this course is to acquire insight into the nature of love through a careful reflection on texts in the history of philosophy and the Christian tradition.

The basic philosophical problem of love is expressed by the French philosopher, Pierre Rousselot: “Is a love that is not egoistic possible? And if it is possible, what is the relation between this pure love of the other and the love of self?” As we reflect on this basic question, we will also ask: What is the relationship between love and rational self-interest? What exactly do we love when we love another person, or when we love God? Is it even possible to love God or for God to love us? What, if anything, does Christianity add to our conception of love?


HUM 6000–100

Dr. Mark Shiffman

T 6:10–8:50 pm

Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is, quite simply, one of the greatest novels of all time. Against the background of the tension in 19th century Russia between the influences of European enlightenment liberalism and the traditional religion and morals of the Russian people, a story unfolds of love, jealousy, murder, and the difficult relationships among a father and his sons by different mothers. The novel explores the connections between profound moral, social and theological questions, including the tensions between faith and reason, and probes deeply into the psychology of love, self-loathing, belief, skepticism, and freedom and responsibility.  We will spend the semester reading and discussing the novel and occasional supporting materials. Students will keep a journal and write a short midterm essay and a long final essay.

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