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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!

Fall 2020 Courses


HUM 2002–001

Dr. Michael Tomko

M/W 1:30–2:45 pm

Attributes: 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 2004–001

Dr. Mary Hirschfeld

M/W 3:00–4:15 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, Dostoyevsky, Adam Smith, Aristotle, de Tocqueville, Du Bois, Austen, Augustine, Richard Adams and More.


HUM 2001–001

Dr. Anna Moreland

T/Th 10:00–11:15 am

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 1975–001

Dr. Helena Tomko

T/Th 8:30 am–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"). 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.

SOULS FOR SALE IN MODERN LITERATURE: Faust, Frankenstein, & Other Myths of Modernity

HUM 2900–001

Dr. Helena Tomko

T/Th 2:30–3:45 pm

Attribute: ENG

What would you gamble in exchange for your heart's deepest desires? This class studies how the Faustian "devil's bargain" surfaces and resurfaces in modern literature, culture, and thought. The legend of Faust—the scholar turned magician who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for limitless knowledge—is often invoked to describe the human urges that have led to some of the modern world's greatest accomplishments and worst atrocities, from space travel to the atom bomb. How far will created beings go in their quest to surpass limits?

In this course, we will journey back to the future from the Garden of Eden into our own twenty-first-century world: Is the surpassing of limits a mark of freedom or a violation of freedom? What happens when we become estranged from God and from one another? Is all knowledge to be known? Is enough ever enough? We will seek explanations for and alternatives to the lurking restlessness that moves us to risk all for uncertain gain. We'll talk about the limits and power of our knowing and desiring. Includes texts by Christopher Marlowe, Goethe, C. S. Lewis, Oscar Wilde, Mary Shelley, Wendell Berry, Josef Pieper, Aquinas, and Hans Christian Andersen.


HUM 2900–002

Dr. Margaret Grubiak

M/W 4:30–5:45 pm

Attributes: FINE ARTS

The struggle to come to grips with modernity—those forces, technological and otherwise, that have profoundly shaped the world from the nineteenth century to today—is a crucial theme in history, literature, philosophy, and theology. But nowhere else is this struggle more visible or tangible than in architecture. While the “battle of the styles” dominated the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with architects recycling classical and Gothic forms, underfoot were new ways of thinking about aesthetics and architecture that responded to vast social, economic, and technological changes. These foundations gave way to a stunning architectural vocabulary in the twentieth century that imagined and visualized a world transformed.

In this course, we will examine modern architecture primarily in Europe and the United States with the understanding that architecture is another way to examine larger questions and approaches to human life. We will look at buildings and projects that both responded to modern conditions and shaped them from the late nineteenth century to today.


HUM 2900–003

Dr. Kevin Hughes

T/Th 11:30 am–12:45 pm


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 2900-004

Dr. Mark Shiffman

M/W/F 9:30–10:20 am

Attributes: DIV1, PSC, P&J

This course will seek to understand the kind of concerns that animate the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement (especially as expressed in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2015 book Between the World and Me) within the larger historical tradition of African American literature of social criticism and the philosophy of democracy. The passions that animate the protest take shape against the backdrop of and in reference to notions of the kind of dignity that our understanding of American democracy seems to promise to uphold and respect. Through constructive dialogue between political philosophers seeking to understand democracy and its animating aspirations and African American authors concerned with the manifestations of these issues in American democratic culture, we will try to clarify and deepen our understanding of the puzzling and challenging interplay of race, democracy and dignity.


HUM 2900-005

Dr. James Matthew Wilson

T/Th 4:00–5:15 pm

Attributes: Creative Writing, FINE ARTS

In this course, you will be introduced to the elements of prosody, and will try your hand at composing poems in different meters, stanzaic forms, and genres.  We shall read exemplary poems in different forms from the English language tradition, from Shakespeare to Tennyson, Frost and Auden to Helen Pinkerton and Dana Gioia; consider the theoretical, cultural, and historical implications of versification; and become familiar with the conventions of verse craft.  Such readings will help you to become comfortable with the art of composition in rhyme and meter, so that the focus of the course may fall more productively on the writing of original poems, and on learning to perform poems with vitality and skill.      

LABOR OF LOVE: Women’s Work, The Economics of the Household, and Human Flourishing

HUM 2900-H01

Dr. Mary Hirschfeld

M/W 1:30–2:45 pm

Attribute: DIV2, HON, P&J

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.


HUM 4350-001

Dr. Paul Camacho

T/Th 1:00–2:15 pm

Attribute: PHI

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?


HIST 1155

Dr. Eugene McCarraher

M/W 4:30–5:45 pm

Attribute: 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.

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. Michael Tomko