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 2019 Courses

GOD

HUM 2001–001

Dr. Anna Moreland

T/Th 10:00–11:15 am

Attributes: CTHL

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.  

SOCIETY

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, Marx, Baldwin, Dostoyevsky, Adam Smith, Niebuhr, Aristotle, Augustine, Sayers, Nietzsche, and Mumford. 

EPIPHANIES OF BEAUTY

HUM 1975–001

Dr. James Matthew Wilson

M/W/F 10:30–11:20 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.

CATHOLIC NOVEL

HUM 2900–001

Dr. Helena Tomko

T/Th 2:30–3:45 pm

ENG, DIV II

Catholic novels flourished as some of the best-loved and most read mid-twentieth-century European fiction. This course examines how the highs and lows of human life appear when seen with the Catholic novelist’s sacramental vision of reality. Six celebrated novels, by three women and two men, explore overlapping literary and theological questions, including the depiction of the natural and supernatural in fiction; women's live, marriage, sexuality, and relationships; problems of love and identity; the intertwining of historical events and redemption history; and the workings of grace in the written word. Novels include François Mauriac’s Vipers’ Tangle, Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, and Muriel Spark’s The Girls of Slender Means.

DEVELOPMENT OF CAPITALISM

HUM 2900–002

Dr. Mary Hirschfeld

M/W 4:30–5:45 pm

Attribute: CST

Since its emergence in the early modern period, capitalism has produced a material prosperity which had hitherto never been imagined, and which now plays a dominant role in our society. Markets seem to be able to channel the self-interested actions of individuals toward the socially beneficial result of widespread prosperity. There is something of a paradox in the fact that capitalism emerged in a Christian culture that rejects materialism and excessive self-love. The result has been a discomfort with capitalism and the ethics it appears to embody. Is pursuit of self-interest natural and intrinsically good? Or is a manifestation of the vice of greed? How are we to respond to the income inequality that markets seem to generate? Should we be worried about excessive materialism? Do our economic lives serve our purpose as human beings, or are we enslaved by the imperatives of the market?

To get purchase on these questions it is useful to step out of our time period and think about how capitalism evolved. The culture which gave rise to capitalism is alien to us in terms of the values people held, the way they understood human nature and human society. Learning about that culture and especially about the way it evolved into our world can give us a richer understanding of the market ethos that is so fundamental to modern discourse. Accordingly, in this course we will begin with a look at the economic organization of the middle ages and the worldview it embodied. We will then work through a mix of developments in economic history and in the history of theology, philosophy, and the natural sciences in order to understand how the modern worldview came to be.

AMERICAN ARCHITECTURE    

HUM 2900–004

Dr. Margaret Grubiak

M/W 4:30–5:45 pm

Attributes: FINE, BE

This course is a survey of architecture and urban planning in the United States from the nineteenth century to the present. Themes of crafting of a specifically American identity, the emergence of modern design via foreign influences, and the continuity of traditional architecture shape this overview. We will pay particular attention to social and cultural interpretations of the American landscape. Architects Frank Furness, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Robert Venturi, and Frank Gehry are some of the major figures we will study this semester.  

RETURN TO THE REAL: T.S. Eliot, Jacques Maritain, and the Modern Age

HUM 2900–005

Dr. James Matthew Wilson

M/W/F 11:30 am–12:20 pm

Attributes: ENG

The modern age, including our own present moment, is characterized by a tendency of exclusion in the name of “being realistic.”  In the early Twentieth Century, however, the two greatest writers and minds of the age mounted a true resistance, arguing that the great weakness of modern “realism” was that it was not nearly realistic enough.  In excluding the traditional transcendental properties of Being—unity, truth, goodness, and beauty—the modern age has not come to a more accurate, but a radically distorted, sense of the world and our place within it.  In this course, we shall study the works of poet-critic T.S. Eliot and neo-Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain in order to explore the grounds of reality in hopes of recovering a sense of its true depths.  By way of poetry and philosophy they will guide us in a return to the Real.

JEWS, CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS IN DIALOGUE

HUM 2900–006

Dr. Anna Moreland

T/Th 1:00–2:15 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.

GREATS: BROTHERS KARAMAZOV

HUM 6000–100

Dr. Mark Shiffman

T 6:10–8:50 pm

Attribute: RAS

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.

PEACEMAKERS & PEACEMAKING

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? 

 

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
Email: humanities@villanova.edu 

ChairpersonDr. Mark Shiffman

Administrative AssistantLuisa Ruggieri