Current Course Offerings

Spring 2015 Course Offerings

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


HUM 2001-001

Dr. Anna Moreland

T/Th 10:30-11:15 am 

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.  Attribute: CTHL


HUM 2003-001

Dr. Jesse Couenhoven

T/Th 11:30 am-12:45 pm

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.

Human Person 

HUM 2002-001

Dr. James M. Wilson

Th 6:10-8:50 pm

In the last century, entire populations were murdered to “make room” for the coming of (Democratic, Communist, Marxist, Capitalist, etc.) Super-Men.  In our day, philosophers scoff at the very idea of there being such a thing as human nature to destroy, much less transcend, while many persons look with a mixture of hunger and horror toward a time when technological advancements will “change” human nature and human life—perhaps even rendering human beings superfluous in a world of which they once thought themselves stewards.

It has been said a crisis in humanism, i.e. an insufficient understanding of the human person, underlies these manifold political and historical tragedies of the twentieth century, and that it lies at the heart of our own uncertainties and anxieties about ourselves as students, persons, and creatures.  In this course we will attempt to engage the major questions confronting us in the twenty-first century by examining fundamental aspects, from birth through death, of the human experience and considering how to pursue the good in the dramatic unfolding of human life.  Like Everyman in the medieval morality play, we shall ask and try to answer, “Who am I?,” “What should my life contain?,” “What should its form be?” and “Where should it lead me?”

Epiphanies of Beauty

HUM 1975-001

Dr. Michael Tomko

M/W 3:00-4:15 pm

The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that at the heart of many works of art is a moment of recognition, when a protagonist moves from a state of ignorance to knowing something that radically changes his or her view of things. The work of art can both depict and elicit such moments of recognition. 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, according to its own “specific dictates.” 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, i.e., the late-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. We will engage in close, analytical reading within a range of genres including the novel (Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), the novella (Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde), drama (Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, Wojtyla’s The Jeweller’s Shop), poetry (Hopkins’s “Pied Beauty” and other poems), and short story (O’Connor’s “Parker’s Back” and “A Good Man Is Hard to Find;” Isak Dinesen’s Babette’s Feast). We will develop interpretive skills for both poetry and prose, proceed in a multi-faceted and theoretically complex humanistic inquiry, articulate arguments about literature in a discursive seminar setting, and construct thesis-driven critical essays about the role of literary art in human life. Attribute: ENG

Architecture & Religion in America

HUM 2900-001

Dr. Margaret Grubiak

T/Th 4:00-5:15 pm

Religion occupies a vibrant part of American culture, and religious architecture tells us much about what Americans believe.  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.  Religious architecture has changed significantly from the seventeenth century to today, revealing changes in the practice of religion in the United States.

Our charge in this seminar is to explore the many ways in which Americans have constructed religion and the sacred in the American landscape and in this way understand American culture in a new light.  We will focus primarily on architecture of the Judeo-Christian Tradition—Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish—with an acknowledged focus on Christian spaces.  Among the topics we will explore are L’Enfant’s plan for Washington, D.C.; H.H. Richardson’s Trinity Church in Boston; Frank Lloyd Wright’s  Beth Sholom Synagogue in Philadelphia; and the rise of the mega church.  Attribute: FINE

Modern Myths: Faust, Frankenstein, & Friends

HUM 2900-002

Dr. Helena Tomko

T/Th 1:00‐2:15 

The legend of Faust—the scholar turned necromancer who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for preternatural knowledge—is often invoked to describe the dark human urges that have led to some of modernity’s greatest accomplishments and most despicable atrocities, from space travel to the atom bomb.  The modern myth of Faust emerged in early modern Europe as an echo of the ancient question of how far created beings will go in their quest to surpass the limits of knowledge.  In this course we will journey with Faust and the devil Mephistopheles from the Garden of Eden and into our own twenty-first-century capitalist world:  Is the setting of one's own limits the ultimate freedom or the ultimate violation of freedom?  What happens when humanity becomes estranged from God?  Is all knowledge to be known?  Is enough ever enough?  The abiding philosophical and theological questions that are at the heart of the modern myth of Faust will be treated in the context of major literary and philosophical works.  These texts include the Elizabethan Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s monumental German Faust, the British Romantic Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the decadent Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as texts by Josef Pieper, Charles Taylor, and Wendell Berry. Attribute: ENG

Saints & Sinners: Medieval Church

HUM 2900-003

Dr. Christopher Daly

M/W 4:30-5:45 pm 

This course offers a historical narrative of the Catholic Church between 800 and 1521.  Among the topics considered will be the development of the Carolingian Church and the extensive missionary efforts in Europe; the varieties of western monasticism; the rise of the papal monarchy; the origin of the crusades; the role of the church in the Renaissance; the state of the church on the eve of the Protestant Reformation and the early years of the Lutheran movement.

Classical Statesmanship

HUM 2900-004

Dr. Mark Shiffman

M/W 1:30-2:45 pm

This course will examine Plutarch’s presentation of the actions, choices and character of the great statesmen of classical Greece and Rome.  We will begin by considering philosophical characterizations of the ends and motives of statesmanship in Plato and Aristotle, then see how these themes play out in Plutarch’s biographical writings.  We will also consider a few works of practical political advice by Plutarch that bring the concerns of Plato and Aristotle into the context of life in Greece under Roman dominion.  Throughout our study we will try to clarify how a view of statesmanship is related to understandings of human nature, the human capacity for knowledge, the divine, and the nature of political life. Attribute: Classics, PSC

Otherworldy Literature: Lewis, Tolkien, & Inklings 

HUM 3001-001

Dr. Michael Tomko

M/W 1:30-2:45 pm 

This course will explore the fantasy literature and theoretical writings of the Inklings and those connected with them.  We will focus on the ways that their literary writing aesthetic attempts to create, recreate, and represent “Other Worlds” in connection with “Worldly” philosophic, theological, political and religious trends in their time period. 

The goal is to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the body of work produced by the Inklings, to improve literary analysis skills, to integrate philosophical/theological/religious with literary inquiries, to mount an argument about the Inklings’ work in scholarly essays, and to engage in ongoing critical conversations about the nature and significance of the Inklings’ contributions to British religion and culture in the 20th century. Attribute: ENG

Senior Symposium

HUM 6500-001

Dr. Michael Tomko

T 7:30-9:30 pm 

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.

Radical Traditions

HON 3150-001

Dr. Eugene McCarraher

T/Th 10:00-11:15 am

To be "radical" means "to go to the roots."  In this course, we will explore what it has meant to go to the roots of social and political life, especially in the modern world where self-consciously "radical" movements -- of the "left" and the "right" -- have emerged over the last two centuries.  What are the roots of politics?  What is "politics," after all?  What do we mean by "revolution," "reform," or "reaction"?  Are varieties of "radicalism" -- not long ago consigned to the dustbin of history -- re-appearing in our turbulent age?  Does the traditional "left-right" axis make sense any longer?  Ideas and movements examined will include socialism, communism, anarchism, feminism, fascism, and Islamism.  Attributes: HUM, PJ

Ethics & Economics

HON 5700-001

Dr. Mary Hirschfeld and Dr. Peter Wicks

T/Th 11:30 am-12:45 pm

Our economic life raises a number of important ethical questions: At what point does economic inequality become unjust? Are there moral limits on what may be bought and sold? Is a thing's price always a sign of its value, and if not how can its value be determined? Economic theory increasingly influences the way in which we think about rational choice and human welfare, but does the economic approach to human behavior illuminate or obscure the true nature of the decisions we face? In this interdisciplinary, team-taught course we will examine some of the most fundamental questions at the intersection of economic theory, moral philosophy and theology. Attributes: HUM, PJ, ETEP

Department of Humanities 

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

Dr. Kevin Hughes 
Marie Kelly