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!

Spring 2019 Courses


HUM 2001–001

Dr. Mary Hirschfeld

M/W 1:30–2:45 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.  


HUM 2003–001

Dr. Mark Shiffman

M/W 3:00–4:15 pm

Attributes: CST, 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. Thomas W. Smith

T/Th 11:30 am–12:45 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. Michael Tomko

T/Th 10:00–11:15 am

Attributes: ENG, 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. Anna Moreland

T/Th 2:30–3:45 pm

Attributes: AIS, CTHL, DIV III, P&J

Intellectual discourse in our modern world occurs within a cultural context of radical pluralism. This pluralism takes shape in many forms, be it political, racial or religious. Some even characterize the contemporary situation as a clash of cultures. In this course we will examine one face of this situation, that of religious pluralism. We will analyze the emerging traditions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam in broad strokes. We will learn how each faith came upon the world stage, how each came to define its beliefs and practices, and how these were defined by conversation, confrontation and conflict with each other. This introduction to the three Abrahamic traditions will enable us to engage in inter-religious conversation from some knowledge of each tradition’s origins, beliefs, and practices.


HUM 2900–003 and 004

Dr. Margaret Grubiak

Section 003: M/W 3:00–4:15 pm

Section 004: M/W 4:30–5:45 pm

Attributes: FINE

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.



HUM 2900–004

Dr. Kevin Hughes

M/W 1:30–2:45 pm

Attributes: CTHL

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 3100–001

Dr. Michael Tomko

T/Th 1:00–2:15 pm

Attribute: ENG

In this class we will explore the “otherworldly” fiction as well as the theological, critical, and philosophical writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. These works have often been dismissed as either escapist nostalgia or mere entertainment, but the Inklings saw their writings as offering alternative ethical, social, and even ecological visions. Tolkien set out specifically to write a mythology for England. We will investigate why these writers turned to the aesthetic, especially a mythological or fantastic aesthetic, at this time. Why did they employ a literature that was either mythologically, theologically, historically, or perspectivally “otherworldly”? How do these works, so often viewed simply as fantastic or supernatural, relate to the worldly and the natural? In what ways did these writers wrestle with literary traditions, such as Romanticism, and engage with the major intellectual questions of the day including issues in science, gender relations, and political power? In an interdisciplinary approach that engages both literary and theoretical texts, we will ultimately ask if this group formed a coherent cultural movement and consider their place in accounts of the twentieth-century religion and culture in Great Britain.



PJ 2700–H01

Dr. Eugene McCarraher

T/Th 4:00–5:15 pm

Attributes: ETH, HON, HUM

“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? 



PJ 5000–001

Dr. Kathryn Getek Soltis

M/W 1:30–2:45 pm

Attributes: CRM, CTHL, DIV1, ETH, HUM

What is true justice and to what extent does our criminal justice system implement it? This course begins by engaging Scripture and classic theological voices in an attempt to reconcile divine justice with punishment, atonement, and notions of damnation/salvation. After also considering key ethical theories of justice and punishment, we examine the realities of criminal justice in America. Our focus on current practices in sentencing and corrections will include the war on drugs, solitary confinement, life without parole, re-entry, education in prisons, and the intersection of criminal justice with race and class. Ultimately, how might theological and ethical approaches to justice inform (and reform) our courts and prisons?

This course includes an optional service-learning component involving work (typically tutoring) with individuals in the crijminal justice system. More details about options will be available as the semester approaches. Students who participate in the service-learning will complete a series of 3-4 page reflection papers in lieu of a final 12-page research paper/project.


HUM 6500–100

Dr. Anna Moreland

T 6:10–8:50 pm

One of the primary aims of the Humanities Department is to help you achieve a human and integrated perspective on your learning. As the “capstone” to your undergraduate career, the senior symposium is an opportunity for you to reflect, with your classmates, on what you have learned in the major, to tie together the various ideas to which you have been introduced, and to explore a particular question that has especially struck you over the course of your studies. There are two major components of the course.

First, we will engage in the type of intellectual conviviality that characterizes Humanities in discussions of short writings from the themes of each of the Gateways. This will enable us to review and consolidate those central courses and will reinforce your intellectual habits and vocation to the intellectual life for the world beyond Villanova.

Second, you will take on a major writing project, the senior essay, that will allow you to explore a topic in depth and synthesize a particular theme, question, or issue from your time at Villanova. This meaningful project, drawing on both the Gateways and Electives, should deepen your relationship with yourself and your world.


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

ChairpersonDr. Mark Shiffman

Administrative AssistantLuisa Ruggieri