Humanities classes often fulfill Core Requirements. Check out the attirbutes below to see how you can walk through your Core with us!
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.
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.
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.
In his 1999 “Letter to Artists,” Pope John Paul II, himself a poet and avant-garde playwright, called the modern world into a deeper engagement with literary art on its own terms. This critical endeavor, he argued, would realize new moments of recognition—“epiphanies of beauty”—that would shed light on the human condition and mystery of creation. John Paul II’s call to artistic encounter animates this Humanities sophomore writing and literature seminar, which explores major formal, aesthetic, social, and ethical questions involved in the interpretation of literature. The course addresses these questions through primary texts from Western Europe and North America in the modern period. We shall study such authors as James Joyce, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Flannery O’Connor, Oscar Wilde, and T.S. Eliot.
Dante’s Divine Comedy is one of the centerpieces of Catholic culture and world literature. This course will center on close textual reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy in translation. Following the lead of the poem, we will explore its theology. Attention will be given to Dante’s literary technique, but always in the service of illuminating the fundamental theological questions that the poem itself explores and elicits, in conversation with the wider Christian tradition. Questions will include: grace and freedom, hell, divine justice, sin, purgation and purgatory, human eros and divine eros, incarnation and sacrament, death, resurrection of the body, heaven, and the beatific vision. Evaluation will be in the form of three shorter papers (3-5 pp) and a take-home final (10-12 pp).
Catholic novels flourished as some of the best-loved and most read early 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 open up intersecting literary and theological questions, including the depiction of the natural and supernatural in fiction; marriage, gender, 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.
This course is a survey of architecture and urban planning in the United States from the nineteenth century to the present. Themes of crafting of a specifically American identity, the emergence of modern design via foreign influences, and the continuity of traditional architecture shape this overview. We will pay particular attention to social and cultural interpretations of the American landscape. Architects Frank Furness, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Robert Venturi, and Frank Gehry are some of the major figures we will study this semester.
Despite its importance for our own everyday lives there is still much disagreement about both the nature of forgiveness and the circumstances under which it is appropriate to forgive. Our discussion in this seminar will center on a handful of basic but difficult questions: On what basis can we forgive? Does forgiveness abrogate justice? Does forgiveness mean we should always resist anger? Can a person who has not repented be forgiven? What is the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation? Do differing religions think about forgiveness differently? And finally, Can forgiveness be a duty? Answers to these questions are significant in part for personal reasons; we need to know how to relate to other persons who have wronged us. It is no surprise, then, that forgiveness has become a topic of increasing importance for psychologists, theologians, and philosophers. Questions about forgiveness are also significant because of their implications for political choices in troubled times, as we will see in discussing the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa, and in comparing the ways different religions approach forgiveness.
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.
Department of Humanities
St. Augustine Center Room 304
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085
Dr. Kevin Hughes