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 2020 Courses

GOD

HUM 2001–001

Dr. Mary Hirschfeld

M/W 3:00–4:15 pm

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.  

WORLD

HUM 2003–001

Dr. Kevin Hughes

M/W 1:30–2:45 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.

SOCIETY

HUM 2004–001

Dr. Eugene McCarraher

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. 

HUMAN PERSON

HUM 2002–001

Dr. Helena Tomko

T/Th 10:00–11:15 am

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. 

EPIPHANIES OF BEAUTY

HUM 1975–001

Dr. James Matthew Wilson

M/W/F 11:30 am–12:20 pm

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.

CLASSICAL STATESMANSHIP

HUM 2900–001

Dr. Mark Shiffman

T/Th 2:30–3:45 pm

Attribute: CLA, PSC

A central question of classical Greek and Roman political theory is: “What makes a good statesman?” We will begin to explore the dimensions of this question and the answers offered in the classical tradition by considering philosophical characterizations of the ends, motives and excellences of statesmanship in the works of Plato and Aristotle. We will then turn to Plutarch’s biographical studies of Greek and Roman statesmen, which bring the categories of analysis elaborated by Plato and Aristotle to bear on the practices of lawgiving, military leadership and the pursuit and exercise of political office. 

ARCHITECTURE & RELIGION IN AMERICA    

HUM 2900–002

Dr. Margaret Grubiak

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.

CATHOLIC NOVEL

HUM 2900–H01

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.

LEWIS, TOLKIEN, & INKLINGS

HUM 3001–001

Dr. Michael Tomko

M/W 8:30–9:45 am

Attributes: 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.

FORGIVENESS & PUNISHMENT

HUM 4020–001

Dr. Jesse Couenhoven

T/Th 1:00–2:15 pm

Attributes: CTHL, ETH, DIV3, P&J

Despite its importance for our own everyday lives there is still much disagreement about both the nature of forgiveness and the circumstances under which it is appropriate to forgive. Our discussion in this seminar will center on a handful of basic but difficult questions: On what basis can we forgive? Does forgiveness abrogate justice? Does forgiveness mean we should always resist anger? Can a person who has not repented be forgiven? What is the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation? Do differing religions think about forgiveness differently? And finally, can forgiveness be a duty? Answers to these questions are significant in part for personal reasons; we need to know how to relate to other persons who have wronged us. It is no surprise, then, that forgiveness has become a topic of increasing importance for psychologists, theologians, and philosophers. Questions about forgiveness are also significant because of their implications for political choices in troubled times, as we will see in discussing the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa, and in comparing the ways different religions approach forgiveness. 

SENIOR SYMPOSIUM

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
Email: humanities@villanova.edu 

ChairpersonDr. Michael Tomko

Administrative AssistantLuisa Ruggieri