Augustine and Culture Seminar Program (ACSP)


The Augustine and Culture Seminar is a two-semester humanities sequence (ACS 1000: Ancients, and ACS 1001: Moderns) which educates students in Augustinian inquiry through a great-books curriculum and an intensive program of critical reading, writing, and discussion. The title first invokes St. Augustine as a model for the fearless pursuit of wisdom.  Through the word “culture,” we are reminded that the pursuit of wisdom includes, in the words of Matthew Arnold, “the best that has been thought and known.”

All first-year students are housed by their ACS assignment; some participate in selective learning communities.

Through ACS, all Villanova students engage in a distinctive first-year experience:

  • Small seminars of 16 students, taught in most cases by full-time faculty members;
  • A two-semester humanities sequence that is interdisciplinary and concerned with foundational texts;
  • Broad engagement with the Augustinian intellectual tradition;
  • Writing-intensive curriculum that emphasizes argument and analysis;
  • Students from diverse colleges (A&S, Engineering, Business, and Nursing) engaged in a common intellectual conversation;
  • Integration of classroom studies and lived experience through common housing, learning communities, and required co-curricular cultural events.


Key Elements of ACS:

Fundamental Question: “Who Am I?”

In Book VIII of Confessions, Augustine tells the story of his conversion, the miraculous change that, it might be thought, would end the intellectual wanderings of his youth and bring peace to his restless heart.  Yet Augustine goes on to pose some truly fundamental questions near the beginning Book IX: “Who am I, and what am I?” (IX.1.1). Even after his conversion, that is, there is much that Augustine fails to understand about himself:  his mind, his heart, his failings, and his place in the world.  He still confesses to God, “In your eyes, I have become a question to myself” (X.33.50).

The “Who Am I” question thus guides the student’s journey through the ACS 1000 and 1001 sequence, from the ancients to the moderns.  In order to ask, “Who am I?” as Augustine did, students must examine not only the ancient world but the modern world as well—our world. Accordingly, if ACS 1000 is about “Augustine and His World,” ACS 1001 may be said to be about “Augustine and Our World.

Augustine’s Confessions as the unifying text for ACS 1000:

For more than 1500 years, seekers from all walks of life have turned to the Confessions as a model.  The book is particularly appropriate for our first year students.  Like Augustine, our students are encountering the key texts of Western civilization in hopes of learning the truth; Augustine’s life-journey is a model for their own education. 

Confessions describes Augustine’s wandering through the world of late antiquity—a world of Christians and pagans, Manicheans and Platonists, aristocrats and beggars.  For Augustine, beginning to understand himself meant coming to grips with these different people and, in many cases, with the books they read.  Moreover, in contrast to Augustine’s strictly theological texts, Confessions is generally accessible to the common reader.  For these reasons, studying the Confessions is a formative experience for all first year Villanova students.

Studying the Confessions is a formative experience for all first year Villanova students.

In addition, ACS 1000 students share the common experience of reading selections from the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, the Greeks, and the Middle Ages.

All sections study a play by Shakespeare, at least two texts on the Moderns Common Texts reading list, and at least one text from a Catholic Intellectual Tradition reading list.

Every two years, a faculty committee revisits the Catholic Intellectual Tradition reading list and the Moderns Common Texts reading List. 

A curriculum committee works in conjunction with the other Foundational courses (Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics) to prevent overlap in common texts.

Dr. Ian Clausen and Student Karen McGuire
Dr. Ian Clausen and Student Karen McGuire. Prof. Clausen will mentor Ms. McGuire who will be doing research as a summer resident.