Humanities classes often fulfill Core Requirements for students in all majors. Learn more about our courses.


HUM 2001–001
Dr. Jahdiel Perez
T/Th 10:00-11:15 am
Core: Advanced Theology

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 2002–001
Dr. Helena Tomko
T/Th 1:00-2:15 pm
Cross List: Peace & Justice, Public Service Administration

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.

HUM 2003–001
Dr. Jesse Couenhoven
T/Th 11:30 am–12:45 pm
Cross List: Environmental Studies, Philosophy, Sustainability Minor

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. Veronica Ogle

T/Th 2:30-3:45 pm

Cross List: Peace & Justice, Political Science, Public Service & Administration

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, Aristotle, Rousseau, Lewis Mumford, Nietzsche, John Ruskin, and William Morris.

HUM 1975-001
Dr. Helena Tomko
T/Th 8:30–9:45 am

Core: Literature & Writing Seminar

Cross List: English

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.

HUM 2900-001

Dr. Paul Camacho

T/Th 11:30 am —12:45 pm

Core: Theology

What is the relationship between faith and reason? Is rationality opposed to faith? Or, on the contrary, is it reasonable to have faith? For that matter, what good is reason? Should we have faith in reason's ability to know the truth? Is "reason" just another word for justifying our beliefs and desires? The relationship between reason and faith is not just a religious question, it is one of the most important human questions. If wisdom involves understanding how to live well, and if living well involves fidelity to the truth by way of reason, then wisdom has something to do with integrating faith and reason. 

In this course, we will ask what relationship ought to exist between faith and reason. We will explore what is at stake—both personally and politically—in being able to claim rational truth for one's faith. We will spend several weeks considering various attempts at reducing our confidence in reason, attempts that threaten a proper integration of faith and reason. Once we have developed a robust notion of reason, we will look at philosophical arguments for and against God, and will discuss the necessity of rationality for faith. This will lead us to a more direct reflection on the nature of faith and what it means to believe. Finally, we will take a fictional depiction of a person’s coming to faith as a “case study,” and will come to understand human wisdom as inescapably involving both reasonable faith and faithful rationality.

HUM 2900–002
Dr. Eugene McCarraher
M/W 4:45 - 6:00 pm
Core: History

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.

HUM 2900–003
Dr. Colleen Mitchell
M/W 1:55-3:10 pm

Core: Diversity 1
Cross List: Peace & Justice, Political Science

Can one be politically efficacious while retaining one’s moral principles? When is compromise unacceptable? How do our identities inform what role(s) we play in our political communities? In this course we will consider these questions by examining three prominent American antebellum and Civil War figures: Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass. In the first third of the course, we will examine the debates over slavery during the founding and antebellum periods and discuss Stephen Douglas’s support of popular sovereignty. Then we will turn to Lincoln to understand his disagreement with Douglas and why he thought that the issue of slavery required a principled stance beyond popular vote. In the last third of the course, we will consider Frederick Douglass’s moral arguments for abolition and equality, as well as his relationship to Lincoln and America more broadly. In addition to delving into these three specific examples, students will engage with constitutional theory, U.S. antebellum history, the and the abolitionist movement. Throughout the course, students will grapple with important questions about leadership and character, the relationship between politics and morality, and the institution of slavery in the United States.

HUM 2900–004
Dr. Christopher Daly
T/Th 4:00–5:15 pm

This course focuses on the development of the late-medieval and early-modern state in western Europe. In particular, we will think about the rise of centralized monarchies in France and England, the shifting structure of religious hierarchy and practice in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, and the cultural shifts in music and art from the late medieval period to the early baroque. As we examine the political, religious, and cultural patterns of this extended period, we will reflect on different aspects of faith and belief, of attitudes towards citizenship and personal autonomy, and social cohesion and disarray. Beyond western Europe, we will consider enterprises of colonization and proselytization in Japan and the Caribbean.

HUM 2900–005

Dr. Kevin Hughes

M/W 3:20-4:35 pm

Core: Advanced Theology

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 2900-006
Dr. Elizabeth-Jane McGuire
M/W/F 10:40 —11:30 am
Core: Fine Arts

Cross List: Music

Music is often called “the universal language” because it has the ability to appeal to listeners outside of its cultural context. However, how exactly does music function as a language? Does music communicate precise ideas, or only abstract concepts, or perhaps nothing at all? If it does communicate meaning, how does it do so—through specific intervals and harmonies, or by its overall timbre and mood? How do we judge whether music is good? As we explore these questions, we will consider who we are as music makers and music listeners, and what role music plays in the human endeavor.

In this course, music itself will be a primary text as we listen to Palestrina, Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Wagner, Debussy, Mahler, Gershwin, Simon and Garfunkel, U2, Pärt, and many others. Music listening will be supplemented by readings from Augustine’s De musica, Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and modern essays, including a series on music making by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. The course will conclude with a “Soundtrack of My Life” project.

PJ 2700–H01

Dr. Eugene McCarraher

M/W 3:20—4:35 pm

Core: Ethics, Honors, Humanities


“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? 


Department of Humanities

St. Augustine Center Room 304
Villanova University 
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085

Chairperson: Dr. Michael Tomko

Why Humanities?

Our Curriculum