RESEARCH AND SCHOLARSHIP
Our award-winning faculty are engaged in dynamic and active research projects, and their many books, translations, journal articles and poetry collections have appeared in a wide range of venues.
The Department of Humanities faculty have won major awards in scholarship, teaching, and service to the College and University, to the Catholic Church, and to Humanities education.
Theology and philosophy lead the way in our approaches to political science, literature, economics, ethics, history and architectural history.
NEW FACULTY BOOKS
Eugene McCarraher, PhD, The Enchantments of Mammon: Capitalism as the Religion of Modernity (Belknap Press: An imprint of Harvard University Press, 2019)
Eugene McCarraher, PhD, challenges the conventional view of capitalism as a force for disenchantment. He argues that, from Puritan and evangelical valorizations of profit to the heavenly Fordist city, the mystically animated corporation, and the deification of the market, capitalism has hijacked our intrinsic longing for divinity, laying hold to our souls.
Mary L. Hirschfeld, PhD, Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy (Harvard University Press, 2018)
Economists and theologians usually inhabit different intellectual worlds. Economists investigate the workings of markets and tend to set ethical questions aside. Theologians, anxious to take up concerns raised by market outcomes, often dismiss economics and lose insights into the influence of market incentives on individual behavior. Mary Hirschfeld, PhD, who was a professor of economics for fifteen years before training as a theologian, seeks to bridge these two fields in this innovative work about economics and the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.
According to Dr. Hirschfeld, an economics rooted in Thomistic thought integrates many of the insights of economists with a larger view of the good life and gives us critical purchase on the ethical shortcomings of modern capitalism. In a Thomistic approach, she writes, ethics and economics cannot be reconciled if we begin with narrow questions about fair wages or the acceptability of usury. Rather, we must begin with an understanding of how economic life serves human happiness. The Thomistic economics that Hirschfeld outlines is thus capable of dealing with our culture as it is, while still offering direction about how we might make the economy better serve the human good.
Anna Bonta Moreland, PhD, Muhammad Reconsidered: A Christian Perspective on Islamic Prophecy (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020)
Scholarly attempts to understand Islam in the West over the past several years have failed to take Islamic theology seriously. This book engages Islam from deep within the Christian tradition by addressing the question of the prophethood of Muhammad. Anna Bonta Moreland calls for a retrieval of Thomistic thought on prophecy to view Muhammad within a Christian theology of revelation, without either appropriating the prophet as an unwitting Christian or reducing both Christianity and Islam to a common denominator. This historical recovery leads to a more sophisticated understanding of Islam, one that honors the integrity of the Catholic tradition and, through that integrity, argues for the possibility in principle of Muhammad as a religious prophet. Muhammad Reconsidered not only is a constructive contribution to Catholic theology but also has enormous potential to help scholars reframe and comprehend Christian-Muslim relations.
Margaret M. Grubiak, PhD, Monumental Jesus: Landscapes of Faith & Doubt in Modern America (University of Virginia Press, 2020)
The American landscape is host to numerous works of religious architecture, sometimes questionable in taste and large, if not titanic, in scale. In her lively study of satire and religious architecture, Margaret Grubiak, PhD, challenges how we typically view such sites by shifting the focus from believers to doubters, and from producers to consumers. Dr. Grubiak considers an array of sacred architectural constructions―from "Touchdown Jesus" at the University of Notre Dame to the Wizard of Oz Mormon temple outside Washington, D.C., to the renamed "Gumby Jesus" of the Christ of the Ozarks statue in Eureka Springs, Arkansas―that show how religious doubt is made manifest in the humorous, satirical, blasphemous, and popular culture responses to religious architecture and image in modern America.
The concept of predestination has been an essential topic in theology and philosophy since, at least, the time of St. Augustine and is notoriously among the most contentious of religious doctrines. Many people of faith have found the belief that God destines them for eternal joy a source of great comfort, but many others have found it deeply troubling. Above all, those who reject predestination have been motivated by concerns about the doctrine's implications for human free will and divine responsibility for evil.
Couenhoven addresses these issues by taking up two important questions: “What does predestination actually imply?”, and “How have great theologians defended their doctrines of predestination?” He answers these queries by analyzing why Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth found the doctrine attractive, and explaining the different ways in which they combined belief in predestination, freedom, and God's goodness. The book concludes with a constructive chapter in which Couenhoven defends predestination as a doctrine of hope.
Jesse Couenhoven, PhD, 2020-2023 “Collaborative Inquiries in Christian Theological Anthropology” Grant, Templeton Foundation
Mary L. Hirschfeld, PhD, 2019 “Economy and Society” Award, The Centesimus Annus—Pro Pontifice Foundation
Mary L. Hirschfeld, PhD, 2019 Aldersgate Prize, John Wesley Honors College, Indiana Wesleyan University
Jesse Couenhoven, PhD, 2018-2020 Planning Grant, Science-Engaged Theology, Templeton Foundation
Michael Tomko, PhD, 2018 Mid-Career Scholar Award, Villanova University
Thomas W. Smith, PhD, and Kevin Hughes, PhD, the first two chairs of the Department of Humanities, 2018 papal Cross pro Ecclesia et Pontifice
James Matthew Wilson, PhD, 2017 Hiett Prize in the Humanities, Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture
Margaret Grubiak, PhD, 2017 Catherine Bishir Prize for Best Article in Vernacular Architecture, Vernacular Architecture Forum
Michael Tomko, PhD, 2016 Book of the Year Award, The Conference on Christianity & Literature
For more on our faculty’s writing, publishing, speaking and research
Jesse Couenhoven, PhD, receives $3.9 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation
Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) has received a three-year, $3.9 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to explore how the theology of human nature engages scientific approaches to humanity. The largest grant ever received by CLAS, it will fund a new research initiative, “Collaborative Inquiries in Christian Theological Anthropology,” directed by Jesse Couenhoven, PhD, a professor of moral theology in Villanova’s Department of Humanities and the Department of Theology, and the project’s principal investigator.
The interdisciplinary effort, supported by nearly $700,000 in additional contributions from Villanova, the University of Notre Dame, and 12 other colleges and universities, will explore how the theology of human nature engages with biology and the social sciences. Its primary goal is to nurture ambitious, science-engaged theological scholarship that addresses topics such as human flourishing, moral agency, freedom and the development of virtue
Mary Hirschfeld, PhD, earns Economy and Society International Award
In 2019 Mary Hirschfeld, PhD, was awarded the Economy and Society International Award from the Fondazione Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice, given every two years to individuals who are making significant contributions to implementing the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, for her book, Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy (Harvard University Press, 2018). Dr. Hirschfeld traveled to Rome to receive the award from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising.
Casey O'Donnell '21 CLAS, a double major in Humanities and Theology, was awarded the Department of Humanities Senior Essay Prize in 2021. Her essay, "The Song of Creation: A Divine Love Song Transposed,” retrieves a rich analogical exegesis of the natural world, ourselves, and our relationships. The essay is a beautiful celebration of Casey's undergraduate studies, spurred by her lifelong love of the movie The Sound of Music to the high peaks of literary and theological reflection in the company of C. S. Lewis, Karol Wojtyla, and others. Casey is currently studying for a graduate degree in Education at Villanova.