DWC Spring 2019 Colloquia
The Following Colloquia have been approved for Spring 2019.
More colloquia are forthcoming:
DWC 202 C01: “Greek Tragedy and Modern Controversies”
John Lawless/Robin Greene
This colloquium explores social, political and moral controversies raised in fifth-century B.C. Athenian plays which bear resemblances to controversies in contemporary American society. We accept the premise, common to the humanities, that human nature often displays continuity through the ages and that many challenges facing humanity are persistent. The intellectual ferment, crises in beliefs, social struggles, and political conflicts evident during this period in Athenian history re-emerge in areas of our own public experience. Also, these controversies reside powerfully in Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Such controversies produce major categories of conflict which provide an organizing principle for the course. Using these topic categories, students will discuss the ancient plays, along with selected readings in modern authors, and consider how the perspectives of ancient drama echo modern concerns. It is our conviction that Greek drama provides a lens through which we may view many contemporary issues and thereby increase our understanding.
DWC 202 C02: “Religious Freedom and its Limits”
Adrian Weimer/ Holly Coolman
This course explores the legal, constitutional, and theological dimensions of religious freedom. What is the purpose of government, what is the purpose of religious organizations, and how do their goals either reinforce or conflict with each other? We will look first at early modern frameworks for understanding the relationship between church and state. Then we will study the religious and political contexts of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the various meanings of secularization, as well as the status of religious claims in liberal political systems. This knowledge will help us to form a vocabulary for thinking about multiple sides of contemporary issues such as: immigration; conscience rights for health workers; and religious objections to war. The course will culminate with research projects based on modern Supreme Court cases involving religious freedom.
DWC 202 C03: “Consciousness, God and Other People”
Peter Costello/John Allard
The colloquium will focus on human consciousness in order to consider how we experience both the presence and the absence of others, including God. Human curiosity concerning the awareness that we have of both presence and absence appears in the cultural traditions of the West and in our global society as a whole. The course will examine contributions from the humanities and the social sciences, especially philosophy, literature, religious studies and psychology. The philosophical tradition of phenomenology will prove to be an important foundation for the course as a whole.
DWC 202 C04: “American Slavery in Film and Fiction since 1865”
Patrick Breen/Eric Bennett
Since 1865, how have Americans told the story of slavery? Who are the heroes, who are the villains, what were the historical causes, and what have been the long-lingering consequences? How has the story of slavery changed over time? Which aspects have been omitted, and which have hardened into cultural mythology despite the facts of history? This colloquium explores representations in film, literature, and history from the end of the Civil War to 2018. The films range from D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) to Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017); the literature from Zora Neale Hurston’s posthumously published Barracoon (1931/2018) to Edward Jones’s The Known World (2003). The course ultimately considers the contemporary significance of the role slavery has played in American history.
DWC 202 C06: “Racism and Theologies of Liberation”
Jen Illuzi/Dana Dillon
This course seeks to understand the historical and theological underpinnings of western definitions of humanity and community, and to offer a new image of community, the beloved community, that can create the basis for a new kind of civilization rooted in justice. We will study two key groups, Jews and African Americans that have been marginalized throughout history, in order to address these issues.
DWC 202 C07: “Islam and the West: A History of Conflict and Coexistence from Muhammad to War on Terror”
Vefa Erginbas/Sandra Keating
Islam’s relation with the Western Civilization had been at the center of heated debates for centuries. Most recently, Edward Said in his seminal work Orientalism displayed how flawed the western view of Islam and Muslim societies had become. In this class, a history of the uneasy relationship between the Muslim societies and cultures and the Western world will be examined beginning with early Islamic expansion, continuing through the period of the Crusades, the age of the Ottoman Empire, and finally through the periods of imperialism, colonialism, and the American century in the world. During the final weeks, Islam in America, growth of Nation of Islam and figures like Malcolm X, war on terror, and anti-Americanism in the Muslim world will be also studied. Utilizing primary sources, artifacts from arts and architecture, movies, and documentaries, this class offers students an eye-opening journey to the relationship of two great civilizations and cultures through the lenses of literature, art, and cinema.
DWC 202 C08: “Envisioning Nature”
Bruce Graver/Lynn Curtis
“Envisioning Nature” will look at the important role that writers and artists have played in shaping our understanding of nature and the environment. We will begin with Virgil’s great nature poem, the Georgics and its representation in Renaissance art. From there we will consider several groups of 19th and 20th century writers and painters: Wordsworth, Constable and Turner; Thoreau and the Hudson River School; and John Muir and Yosemite, including the role of photographers like Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams in preserving and imparting value to places of scenic beauty. We will then look briefly at the National Parks movement in the early 20th century and consider the founding of the Appalachian Trail, the work largely of Earl Shaffer in the late 1940s. The colloquium will conclude with Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, Rachel Carson’s landmark work, Silent Spring, and a variety of contemporary artists working directly with and on the land.
DWC 202 C09: “The Character of Business: The Ethical Nature of Business and Business Leadership in Their Contemporary Settings”
Sylvia Maxfield/Tim Mahoney
We aim to help students to understand ethical business leadership within the context of global society. This naturally lends itself to an interdisciplinary approach. The first step is to understand basic frameworks of ethics, which provide the foundation for notions of responsibility. We emphasize the virtue approach to ethics; without virtue, ethics is a mere theoretical exercise, without practical effect. Then we turn to the specific notion of Corporate Social Responsibility. We explore the challenges of extending individual-level understanding of moral reasoning and virtue to an organizational level. What are the dimensions of this responsibility, and how can there be an objective assessment of how well a business meets these responsibilities? The identification of these responsibilities usually begins with stakeholder analysis. Stakeholders are not viewed simply from the narrow perspective of how they can contribute to the achievement of a firm’s financial goals, such as how to maximize long-term profits. Instead, the stakeholders are recognized as having inherent dignity and value that must be respected by a business in the course of its operations. In this connection, we will examine Catholic Social Thought, which makes a noteworthy contribution here as it has a long and distinguished history of dealing with such questions.
DWC 202 C10: “The Book of Job and its Literary and Artistic Heirs”
Rob Reeder/Thomas McCreesh
The Book of Job, a story of a righteous man’s suffering, is among the most provocative and powerful books in the Bible. Widely considered a masterpiece of ancient world literature, it also raises questions with obvious ongoing relevance: does suffering always have a meaning? Why do terrible things sometimes befall good or innocent people? What does the natural world reveal about the God who (from a Jewish and Christian perspective) created it? Do God and the universe conform to human intuitions about justice? Can suffering lead to unexpected compassion, wisdom and even joy? We will explore these questions through careful reading of the Book of Job itself and through a wide-ranging survey of works inspired by Job, including novels, short fiction, plays, poetry, psychological and theological reflections, visual art, music and film.
DWC 202 C11 And DWC 202 C21: “Me, Myself, and I: The Reading and Writing of Autobiography”
Cristina Rodriguez/Alison Espach
How do we write ourselves? This interdisciplinary course will ask students to examine the autobiography as both critics and authors. In addition to studying multiple genres of autobiography, including memoir, personal essay, and autobiographical fiction, students will also write and workshop original autobiographical pieces. Authors include St. Augustine, Frederick Douglass, Ta-Nehesi Coates, Walt Whitman, Richard Rodriguez, Beyoncé, and others.
DWC 202 C12: “Colonialism and Conversion”
Ted Andrews/Stephanie Boeninger
One of the most important consequences of Western global expansion has been the cultural and religious encounters between the missionaries who sought to spread Christianity and the peoples they hoped to convert. Some view these missionaries as godly saints who toiled for the sake of the unconverted while others see them as revolting imperialists who paved the way for European colonization and oppression. Are either of these assessments correct? Were they a little bit of both? Were they something different altogether? This colloquium investigates these questions by exploring the historical development, literary representation, and cinematic depiction of Christian missionaries around the world from about 1600 to the present day. Students will examine the motivations, methods, and impacts of missionaries from a range of perspectives, delving into famous literary works like Things Fall Apart and The Poisonwood Bible as well as newer films, such as Martin Scorsese’s Silence. Along the way, we will wrestle with colonialism and globalization, race and racism, poverty and wealth, and a host of other important and timely issues.
DWC 202 C14: “Unveiling Nature: Philosophy, Myth, Art, and Science”
Ryan Shea/Maia Bailey
Heraclitus famously, and cryptically, said that “Nature loves to hide.” The goal of the course is to help students cultivate a deeper relationship with nature by reading about, practicing, and reflecting on many different ways of unveiling hidden nature. We will read and reflect on cosmological myths, natural history, artistic approaches, scientific approaches, and everything in between. Like the teaching team (a philosopher and a biologist), the approach is interdisciplinary with a mix of assignments including keeping a field journal, nature drawing, writing poetry, and conducting scientific experiments as well as standard reading analyses and a term paper. Our course is grounded on the conviction that coming to know nature is an integral part of any liberal education because nature is something worth knowing for its own sake. We hope to show that although the arts and sciences are often opposed, there are still many possible avenues for bringing together the whole person—analytical, synthetic, intuitive, creative, careful, and passionate—as an instrument for the study of nature.
DWC 202 C15: “APOCALYPSE”
Rob Stretter/Vance Morgan
This colloquium asks students who have spent three semesters considering the development of civilization to think about how civilization – and even humanity itself – might end. With a bang? A whimper? A rapture? A flu? Zombies? Visions of the destruction of civilization are experiencing a renaissance, from literature (e.g., Emily St. John Mandel’s award-winning 2014 post-pandemic novel Station 11) to television (the hit series The Walking Dead) to film (the Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road) to video games (the popular Fallout series). The “Apocalypse” colloquium is designed to connect this contemporary moment with the long tradition of apocalyptic writing and thinking. We will study Biblical apocalyptic texts such as Daniel and Revelation; the theology of “the Rapture” in evangelical Christianity; novels, films and comics about nuclear war and natural disaster; and dark fantasies about the ruin of civilization by monsters and aliens. By asking ourselves to think about the end of civilization and its aftermaths, we come to reconsider some of the fundamental questions that form the intellectual core of DWC: what is civilization? what are the limits of its “development”? what responsibilities do human beings have to each other? what role does the divine play in promoting moral behavior? what is virtue, and does it apply in all circumstances, including post-apocalyptic wastelands? what things are essential in life? At a time when a lost internet connection or missed flight or speeding ticket can seem like a minor catastrophe, it can be instructive to imagine life in a world without electricity, planes, cars, police, or laws.
- Careful study of seven novels, two books of the Bible, two plays, four documentaries, two feature films, a podcast, and a selection of scholarly articles
- Weekly writing assignments, totaling about 12,000 words
- An 8-page research paper
- Regular reading comprehension and vocabulary quizzes
- A final exam
DWC 202 C17: “Streets, Protests and Power Politics: Comparative Revolutions from the Atlantic World to the Arab Spring”
Gizem Zencirci/David Orique
Revolutions and social movements constitute exceptional and dramatic events in human history. These events bring about radical and sweeping transformations of existing political, economic, and cultural orders. This seminar comparatively surveys emblematic world revolutions from the Enlightenment to the 21st century. We will begin by raising some key theoretical questions: What causes revolutions? What does a successful revolution look like? What is the difference between a social movement, mass mobilization and a revolution? Throughout the semester, particular attention will be given to key factors as well as important actors in the following: the revolutions of England, British North America, France, Russia, China, Spanish and Portuguese America, Mexico, and Cuba as well as Algeria, Iran and Turkey. Analysis of these various revolutions will be discussed in relation to topics such as monarchy, colonization, imperialism, decolonization, women, liberation theology, violence and democratization. By the end of this course, students will (1) have a broader understanding of and deeper appreciation for the meaning of revolutions and social movements by recognizing similarities and differences of what occurred in the various global regions historically dominated by various imperial systems (e.g. Spanish, Portuguese, British, French, United States); and (2) be able to examine revolutions from a theoretical framework whilst, at the same time, learning how to pay attention to cross-cultural and trans-historical specificity.
DWC 202 C18: “The History of Sports”
John Vidmar/Sean Holley
This course is designed to familiarize the student with the cultural history and development of sports in the West. The course will attempt to integrate not only the history of actual sports (such as the beginnings of olympics and golf) and current issues in sports, but also philosophical, theological, social, medical, economic and career issues throughout the history of the West. Lectures by the professors combine their expertise with guest speakers drawn from leaders and opinion-makers in all facets of the sports industry from on and off-campus.
DWC 202 C19: “Unbelief in Modernity”
Jordan Wood/Justin Coyle
Which are the reasons for and against religious faith in the modern age? Where do these reasons come from? What are the particular pressures of modernity that have made religious belief more difficult, if not impossible? How does the rise of Enlightenment and historical consciousness challenge faith? What have been some of the best responses to these challenges, and from whom? This course seeks answers to these questions in philosophical, literary, and theological texts between the late 18th century and the late 19th.
DWC 202 C20: “Understanding East and West”
Colin Jaundrill/Chun Ye
“Understanding East and West” is an interdisciplinary exploration of the oft-posed dichotomy between “East” and “West” in the modern era, primarily—but not exclusively—viewed from the perspective of Asian sources. We will begin by exploring the first contacts between Asia and the West (in which Catholic missionaries played a leading role), before considering how the East-West dichotomy was framed in the era of imperialism, as well as the ways it persisted in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, when diasporic communities began to participate in the discourse. Our readings will include works of history, literature, philosophy, and theology.
DWC 202 C22: “Race, Gender, Class, and Mobility in the 20th-Century United States”
Tuire Valkeakari/Alex Orquiza
Multiple changes in American society redefined American culture in the twentieth century. Immigration brought people from Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Africa who brought new experiences and perspectives for describing the challenges of acceptance in national life. Eras such as the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and the post-World War II Baby Boom forced the country to consider the role of economics across class lines. The development of women’s rights and LGBTQ rights changed many Americans’ views on gender politics. Finally, the movement of people revitalized the country’s regional character. These new voices all substantially and permanently reshaped the narrative of the American experience. This course examines how the ways in which Americans understood and experienced race, gender, class, and mobility changed during what Henry R. Luce called “the American Century.” The nation became increasingly internationalist and heterogeneous, but this process brought contradictions as well in the treatment of new peoples, backlash against women, debates about the role of the state in helping the poor, and race-based resistance in demographic shifts. The course will use primary and secondary historical sources, novels, memoirs, and film to survey these different viewpoints.
DWC 202 C26: “The Meaning of America”
Iain Bernhoft/Jiyoon Im
“America” has been and remains a contested term, used to describe land, values, and dreams. But what and whom does it describe? What moral tensions and contradictions does it contain? The aim of this interdisciplinary course is not to arrive at a comprehensive answer to those questions, but rather to illuminate the formative principles that inform our moral, social, and religious lives. Among the questions we will consider are: How does our liberal democracy constrain or cultivate human flourishing? How does our political past and commercial activity shape American culture? Giving special attention to primary sources, we will aim to understand more clearly the tension between American freedom and equality, the moral and social problems that accompany a market democracy, the problems presented by slavery, and the role of religion in American political life and culture. Possible texts include selections from The Federalists, Lincoln, Tocqueville, James Baldwin, Flannery O’Connor, and Colson Whitehead.
DWC 202 C29: “Living Revolutions: Two Role-Immersion Games”
Rick Barry/Bonaventure Chapman
In this colloquium, we will play two multi-week role-immersion games. Through these games, we will plunge into a pair of revolutions that have transformed Western thought and have given birth to the modern world. In the first game, we find ourselves in Rome in the early 1600s. It is a world that has already been shattered by the Reformation and by the wars of the emerging nation-states; in this context, Galileo and others are advancing theories that will pit scientific, political, and religious parties against each other in a dispute that will literally transform the way people see and experience the cosmos. In the second game, the year is 1791, and we are in Paris, a city that has become a political and social powder-keg…and it’s about the erupt. The French Revolution was, without a doubt, one of the most influential events in history; it continues to shape us in profound ways today. Both of these games will follow the “Reacting to the Past” approach to learning, where classes consist of “elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas.” Students will be given unique “victory objectives,” depending on their assigned roles; the outcome of the game is largely determined by how well each faction plays its part as we together debate our way through some of history’s most profound disputed questions.
DWC 202 C30: “”Love Never Fails”: Grace, Truth, and Freedom in the Nazi Era”
Vance Morgan/Ray Sickinger
A Polish Franciscan priest. A Lutheran pastor and theologian. A French, Jewish social activist attracted to Marxism. A French novelist and philosopher. A group of young German college students. The citizens of an isolated rural town in France. What do the above persons have in common? In unique and profound ways, Maximillian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Simone Weil, Albert Camus, the members of the White Rose, and the people of Le Chambon were witnesses to the power of the human spirit and the dignity of the human person in the face of unimaginable horror and atrocity. This colloquium will focus on one of the most inhumane periods of Western History–the Era of the Nazi Movement (1930-1945). Yet it will look to voices that spoke to truth and valued authentic freedom in response to the evil and repression of the Nazis. In the voices of the people we will examine in this colloquium the power of love in the face of hatred will be profoundly evident. In defining what is life and the meaning of human existence they will question the easy assumptions and the ideological certainties of the Nazi movement. They will offer a vision of the human person and the meaning of life not based on the mindless collectivism of the Nazis but rather on the human capacity to love and to suffer for authentic community.
DWC 202 C31: ““Be Not Afraid!” The Life, Times, and Teaching of Pope St. John Paul II”
Matthew Cuddeback/Alan Piper
This course is a sustained study of the life and thought of Pope St. John Paul II (1920-2005), a figure of world-historical significance and one of the greatest spiritual leaders of the twentieth century. A survivor of Nazi occupation in Poland, he became one of the chief adversaries of the Soviet Union and a leading agent in its dissolution. A poet, a philosopher, and a theologian, he set forth an immense body of teaching on a broad range of topics, including fundamental anthropology, the principles of ethics and social life, and the importance of God and the Church in modern life. Addressing large crowds throughout the world in the era of mass communication (he was seen and heard by more persons than anyone else in history), he gave the papacy, and therefore Jesus Christ, a new visibility. He elaborated and advanced the “New Evangelization,” and led the Church and even the world into the third millennium.
DWC 202 C32: “How the Right Became Right: The Origins and Development of Modern American Conservative Thought”
Jim Keating/Pat Macfarlane
This colloquium investigates the political, religious, historical, and cultural background of modern American conservative thought. Because conservatism represents a significant dimension of contemporary politics, and has allied movements in philosophy, aesthetics, and religion, we believe that offering such a colloquium will be of great interest and contemporary relevance to our students, and will also serve as a fitting capstone to the first three semesters of DWC. Students will engage with a wide variety of primary texts from the history of American conservative thought. This legacy is quite rich, and encompasses themes beginning with the founding of the American republic and the debates about the ratification of the constitution, outlined in The Federalist Papers, to current issues uniting (and possibly dividing) traditional conservatives, neoconservatives, and libertarians. The colloquium begins by examining the global political background – national socialist, collectivist, and totalitarian – against which American conservative thought developed. It ends by examining current issues important to American conservative intellectuals, such as the defense of free speech.
DWC 202 C33: “Music, Beauty, Eros & God”
Cathy Gordon/Vincent Bagan
Can music and art express and communicate something eternal and divine? This seminar will explore how philosophy, theology and literature in the Western world have reflected upon “The Beautiful” in music and art, from the ancient world through the modern era, with a special focus on the flowering of the theory and practice of music and art in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This class will culminate in the question today of whether the art and music of our contemporary world can be strive to be anything more than individual self-expression, and what cultural resources the world has available for recapturing and communicating the transcendent and sublime.