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 2018 Courses


HUM 2001–001

Dr. Anna Moreland

T/Th 10:00–11:15 am

Attributes: CTHL, RESEARCH

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

Attributes: ENVA, 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 2004–001

Dr. Eugene McCarraher

M/W 4:30–5:45 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, Marx, Baldwin, Dostoyevsky, Adam Smith, Niebuhr, Aristotle, Augustine, Sayers, Nietzsche, and Mumford. 


HUM 2002–001

Dr. Margaret Grubiak

M/W 3:00–4:15 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 1975–001

Dr. Helena Tomko

T/Th 8:30–9:45 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.


HUM 2900–001

Dr. Helena Tomko

T/Th 2:30–3:45 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, by three women and two men, explore overlapping literary and theological questions, including the depiction of the natural and supernatural in fiction; women's live, 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 2900–002

Dr. Mark Shiffman

M/W/F 11:30 am–12:20 pm

Attributes: DIV3, P&J

This course will seek to understand the kind of concerns that animate the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement (especially as expressed in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2015 book Between the World and Me) within the larger historical tradition of African American literature of social criticism and the philosophy of democracy. The passions that animate the protest take shape against the backdrop of and in reference to notions of the kind of dignity that our understanding of American democracy seems to promise to uphold and respect. Through constructive dialogue between political philosophers seeking to understand democracy and its animating aspirations and African American authors concerned with the manifestations of these issues in American democratic culture, we will try to clarify and deepen our understanding of the puzzling and challenging interplay of race, democracy and dignity.


HUM 2900–003

Dr. Michael Tomko

T/Th 10:00–11:15 am

Attributes: EDU, HON

“The child is the father of the man” wrote the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. The claim is that childhood experience crafts our adult selves, an insight that helps to explain the intensity of our contemporary debates about reforming education or improving parenting. But do we know what type of adults we want our children to raise? Exploring assumptions about the human person that frame our current approach to children, we will consider developments that either reduce the child’s intellect to a marketable utility or neglect to envision any form of the good life. We will also gain a clearer understanding of what goods we seek in children and in ourselves and how best to pursue those goods, drawing on the philosophical insights of Josef Pieper and Abraham Heschel, the theologically-informed teaching theories of Sofia Cavelleti and Maria Montessori, and the classic work of children’s literature, The Secret Garden.


HUM 2900–004

Dr. Margaret Grubiak

M/W 1:30–2:45 pm

Attribute: FINE ARTS

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 2900–005

Dr. Jesse Couenhoven

T/Th 1:00–2:15 pm

Attributes: CTHL, ETH, DIV3, P&J

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. 

Contact Us

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