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 2016 Courses


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 2002–001

Dr. Michael Tomko

M/W 1:30–2:45 pm

Attribute: P&J

Where is life taking me? Why is happiness hard to find? Who and what do I love most? Whether we are ready or not, each day confronts us with questions about good work, family commitments, true friendship, money anxieties, our frail mortality, and even ethical eating. This contemplative but practical course provides the time, space, and wise company to engage with such major and necessary questions concerning universal and unavoidable aspects of the human experience, from birth through death. Together we will face our failures and aspirations in considering how to pursue the good amid the dramatic unfolding of our hectic lives. With an emphasis on how literature can be informed by philosophy and theology, we will explore the strange wonders that make us human while guided by authors such as Walker Percy, Aristotle, Abraham Heschel, Wendell Berry, Dorothy L. Sayers, Augustine, Tolstoy, and J.R.R. Tolkien.


HUM 1975–001

Dr. Michael Tomko

T/Th 2:30–3:45 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–H01

Dr. Kevin Hughes

T/Th 10:00–11:15 am

Attributes: CTHL, HON

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.


HUM 2900–002

Dr. James M. Wilson

T/Th 2:30–3:45 pm

Attribute: 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.      


AAH 2005–001

Dr. Margaret Grubiak

T/Th 11:30 am–12:45 pm

Attribute: FINE

The struggle to come to grips with modernity—those forces, technological and otherwise, that have profoundly shaped the world from the nineteenth century to today—is a crucial theme in history, literature, philosophy, and theology. But nowhere else is this struggle more visible or tangible than in architecture. While the “battle of the styles” dominated the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with architects recycling classical and Gothic forms, underfoot were new ways of thinking about aesthetics and architecture that responded to vast social, economic, and technological changes. These foundations gave way to a stunning architectural vocabulary in the twentieth century that imagined and visualized a world transformed.

In this course, we will examine modern architecture primarily in Europe and the United States with the understanding that architecture is another way to examine larger questions and approaches to human life. We will look at buildings and projects that both responded to modern conditions and shaped them from the late nineteenth century to today.


HUM 6000–100

Dr. Mark Shifmann

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.


PJ 2700-001

Dr. Eugene McCarraher

M/W 3:00-4:15 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? 

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