Humanities classes often fulfill Core Requirements for students in all majors. Learn more about our courses.
FALL 2021 COURSES
Dr. Mary Hirschfeld
T/Th 11:30 am–12:45 pm
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.
Dr. Helena Tomko
T/Th 1:00–2:15 pm
What are we striving for in our lives? Do we know? Or are we chasing someone else’s expectations? What might a good, truly human life look like? This course takes as its point of departure the concern that insufficient and contradictory understandings of the human person underlie manifold historical, political, social, familial, and personal difficulties in our world.
We will consider fundamental aspects—from birth through death—of the human experience. Using fictional, nonfictional, philosophical, theological, and other sources, we will ask questions that all human persons seek to ask and to answer: How do we pursue what is good and true in the dramatic unfolding of human life? How can we do more than subsist in our humanity but flourish? How can we handle the trappings that make up a life without forgetting to live? How do we understand our struggles and difficulties in relation to the joy that life seems to promise? We will consider together the manifold strange wonders that make us human, including food, family, friendship, education, work, and love.
Dr. Mark Shiffman
M/W 1:30–2:45 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, DuBois, Dostoyevsky, Aristotle, de Tocqueville, Rousseau, Augustine, Nietzsche, Simone Weil, and Wendell Berry.
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 literary, social, theological, and ethical questions animate this core literature and writing seminar. We will engage in close reading of many genres, including novel, drama, poetry, short story, non-fiction, and film. Our authors include Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Zadie Smith, Franz Kafka, Karen Blixen, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Using a multi-faceted humanistic methodology, we will work on developing interpretative skills for both poetry and prose and writing thesis-driven critical essays about how literary art can illuminate what is good and what is beautiful.
Dr. Christopher Daly
M/W 4:00–5:15 pm
How did the early followers of Jesus wrestle with persecution, injustice, and empire? How did their understanding of the divine shape their communal practices, rituals, and beliefs? How did their sense of beauty and service drive their art, architecture, music, education, and health care? This course follows these difficult questions in the early, formative centuries of the Christian Church.
Dr. Mary Hirschfeld
T/Th 2:30–3:45 pm
Attributes: DIV 2, P&J, PSC
What is the economy for? Is it to accumulate wealth or to serve human life? Our habit of thinking that the economy aims at accumulating wealth obscures the vital role of the household in insuring that the economy serves human life. It also obscures the economic role of women. In this course we explore the economics of the household and the nexus between our understanding ofeconomic life, the family, and the role of women.
Dr. Margaret Grubiak
M/W 4:30-5:45 pm
Attribute: FINE ARTS
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. Shifts in architectural expressions of religion reveal changes in the practice of religion in the United States, which has been and remains a foundational component of American culture. This course examines architecture and religion in the United States within its context as a public expression of belief and its connection to place and landscape. Our charge in this seminar is to explore the many ways in which Americans have constructed religion and the sacred in the American landscape.
Dr. Michael Tomko
T/Th 10:00–11:15 am
“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.
Dr. Paul Camacho
M/W 1:30–2:45 pm
We all know that love is—or can be—a problem, but we do not often think of it as a philosophical problem. There are few words in the English language that are more often used, and abused, than the word “love.” It often seems that “love” can mean anything, and therefore ends up meaning nothing in particular. The purpose of this course is to acquire insight into the nature of love through a careful reflection on texts in the history of philosophy and the Christian tradition.
The basic philosophical problem of love is expressed by the French philosopher, Pierre Rousselot: “Is a love that is not egoistic possible? And if it is possible, what is the relation between this pure love of the other and the love of self?” As we reflect on this basic question, we will also ask: What is the relationship between love and rational self-interest? What exactly do we love when we love another person, or when we love God? Is it even possible to love God or for God to love us? What, if anything, does Christianity add to our conception of love?
Dr. Mark Shiffman
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.
Dr. Eugene McCarraher
M/W 4:30–5:45 pm
Attributes: CHIS, HUM
Should Americans think of the United States as an empire? Our economy, our conception of “freedom,” and our everyday lives have all depended on empire, but there has also been a long current of anti-imperialism in American culture. With readings ranging from Locke, William Penn, Chief Powhatan, Emerson, and Melville to Che Guevara, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fukuyama, and Friedman, this course considers the historical role of empire in our personal and social lives.