Spring 2021 Colloquia

DWC 202 C01: T 2:30:4:20, R 2:30-4:20
The Write Way to See: Natural History, Nature, and the Self
Alison Espach, Ryan Shea

Pre-registration: English: Creative Writing

This colloquium is primarily a creative writing workshop that will help you improve the quality and depth of your observations about the natural world. As Henry David Thoreau once wrote in his voluminous nature journals, when you observe the natural world, “The question is not what you look at, but how you look and whether you see.”  These questions of how you look and whether you see will be at the center of this creative writing colloquium as we read and write about the natural world. Much of the course will be spent analyzing the work of nature writers and poets (e.g., Annie Dillard, Mary Oliver, Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau, and more) to better understand the many ways writers have already looked at the world and reported what they have seen. In our discussions, we will ask the following questions of each text: how does this writer capture the world’s qualitative diversity, its interlocking complexity, and its interpenetrating depth?; what does looking at the natural world in this way show us about our ourselves, our relationship to nature and each other?; and how can we use this piece of writing as a model for sharpening our own understanding and writing about the natural world? Toward this final end, we will assign many creative writing exercises and outdoor field trips/excursions that will become the basis of the nature essays, poetry and fiction that you will be asked to write, share, and workshop this semester. As the artist and critic John Ruskin said, “Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.” 

DWC 202 C02: T 10:30-12:20, R 10:30-12:20
The Western Way of War and Peace
John Lawless, Melissa Huber

Few topics are as important in the study of Western Civilization as consideration of our recurring pursuit of warfare and our dogged attempts to achieve and to preserve peace. This colloquium looks at both theoretical reflections (Is war inevitable? in our genes? Are we psychologically uneasy with lasting peace? Is there an identifiable “western” way of war and peace?) and practical matters of waging war (such as sieges, tactics, weapons, etc.) and of maintaining lasting peace in the ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern periods. We will have opportunities to look at how history, literature, art, film and music reflect the glory and horror of war or poignantly express the deep human longing for peace.

DWC 202 C03: T 8:30-10:20, R 8:30-10:20
DWC Through Food
Anthony Jensen, Alex Orquiza

The story of Western civilization can be told through its great ideas, its battles, its progressive steps or its social tragedies. But what touches on all aspects of the development of Western civilization — from its poorest to its richest populations, from its greatest empires to its humblest villages — is food. Food is the undeniable glue of civilization, that without which no other story in history, philosophy, literature, or theology could have been told. It is the necessary condition for survival regardless of race, class, and culture. And it is the product of larger social and economic forces. Accordingly, this class will examine the history of food as it has impacted Western Civilization. Through both studying the primary texts of culinary theorists and by means of hands-on practical examples, it will address questions such as: What did the Greeks and Romans eat? — and why did they eat that from an agricultural, a sociological, and a culinary perspective? What did the French Renaissance table look like? — and who was serving it, eating at it, cooking for it? How did the TV dinner transform American culture? How did empires transform cuisines in their colonial peripheries? Are pizza and pasta Italian? What role has wine played in the monastic era, the Western expansion, and in the development of the contemporary global south? What does Western cuisine owe to other cultures? — and how did those cultures transmit their cuisine to the West? What are and what have been the ethical implications of food?

DWC 202 C04: F 10:30-12:20, W 10:30-12:20
Between the Wars
Alexander Moffett, Darra Mulderry
Pre-registration: English, History, Black Studies, Global Studies, Political Science

In this colloquium, we will be studying the two decade period between 1918 and 1939, a period of vast cultural and societal upheaval. We will consider the historical events that shape this period: the traumatic aftermath of the First World War, the Great Migration of African-Americans to the industrial north, the period of economic depression that gripped the world in the early 1930s, and the political reforms and movements that burgeoned in the wake of these events. As we do so, we’ll be analyzing the effects those events had on the cultural landscape. This period saw an outpouring of stylistic innovation in a variety of different fields: popular music, literature, fashion, dance, and the visual arts. We’ll be studying each of these disciplines, and considering how those cultural innovations resonated not only in the West, but also in the rest of the world. We’ll also be discussing the new media–cinema and radio– that transformed the culture of the twenties and thirties and created a template for the pop culture of today.

DWC 202 C05: R 10:30-12:20, T 10:30-12:20
Dialogue, Inclusion, and Democracy
Nicholas Longo, Quincy Bevely

Pre-registration: Global Studies, Public Service and Policy

“All social change begins with a conversation.” – Meg Wheatley

We live in divisive and polarizing times, often remaining in comfortable bubbles and experiencing few genuine interactions with people who are different or with whom we disagree. Stepping out and turning to one another is difficult but necessary. We need to learn to listen, think, and act with others to solve public problems. The learning necessary for deliberative democracy is also part of a history and philosophy of not only Western civilization, but also traditions across our interconnected world.

This colloquium will examine the theory and practice of deliberative pedagogy in an inclusive democracy, specifically geared to equip student leaders for using dialogue and deliberation in diverse settings. As a course about participatory processes—in teaching and learning, along with in reflective decision-making—we will strive to have the course be co-created among members of our learning community. While using a collaborative process of deliberative pedagogy, our seminar will learn about various approaches to deliberative democracy in Western civilization and globally, and then examine how deliberative practices might be useful in creating democratic learning environments elsewhere, including on campus. The seminar will collaborate with the Center at Moore Hall, an innovative site for dialogue, inclusion, and equity, while offering the opportunity to participate in and lead conversations on inclusion and civic action on campus and in the community.

DWC 202 C06: M 12:30-2:20, W 12:30-2:20
Racism and Theologies of Liberation
Dana Dillon, Jennifer Illuzzi
Pre-registration: Black Studies, History, Public Service and Policy, Theology

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: M 12:30-2:20, W 12:30-2:20
“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 C08: T 12:30-2:20, R 12:30-2:20
The World that Exchange Created in the Americas: Contact, Collision and Convergence
Maia Bailey, Fr. David Orique O.P.
Pre-registration: Latin American Studies, History, Biology, Global Studies, Spanish

This historically and environmentally-oriented course combines in-class examination with in-field exploration of themes and topics related to conflictual and complex interactions of commodities with cultures of Western Civilization—considering philosophical, theological, economic and political questions—as seen through the lens of the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. Domestically, students will evaluate the historical trajectory, environmental and ecological impact, political realities and economic influence of the major commodities of the region as evaluated in pivotal events, texts, and ideas that students considered during the first three semesters of DWC. Internationally, via web-based interactions, students will work with and listen to commodity producers and other stakeholders to hear and understand different points of view and the various forces acting on labor and the environment, as well as those pertaining to social justice; this will give students  new voices to assess crucial events in the history of the Americas and their connections to broader global narratives. For both course components—in Providence and international, the seminar format will especially aid students to engage as thoughtful citizen practitioners, nurturing cross-cultural understanding, and participating in ongoing reflection activities with primary texts and first-hand experiences.

DWC 202 C09: W 12:30-2:20, M 12:30-2:20 & C33: W 12:20, M 2:30-4:20
Genealogies of a Secular Age
Robert Barry, Michael Wahl

This course will examine and compare various “genealogies” that seek to explain how secularism emerged in the Modern West, with an eye to understanding its current standing and its trajectory for the future. These genealogies will be evaluated by revisiting primary intellectual works and events studied in the first three semesters of the Development of Western Civilization Program. We will then begin to evaluate proposed alternatives, repairs, renovations, and revolutions of our Secular present and discuss the possibility of a post-Secular future. 

DWC 202 C10: R 12:30-2:20, M 12:30-2:20
The Book of Job and its Literary and Artistic Heirs
Fr. Thomas McCreesh O.P., Robert Reeder
Pre-registration: English, Philosophy, Theology

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: M 8:30-10:20, R 8:30-10:20
Democracy in America
Patrick Breen, Raymond Hain
Pre-registration: Political Science, Philosophy, History, Classics, American Studies

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is at once the best book ever written about the United States and the best book ever written about democracy. The purpose of this colloquium, centered around a close reading of Democracy in America, is consequently three-fold: first, to understand Tocqueville’s achievement on its own terms and in its proper historical context, allowing us insight into the birth of modern democracy; second, to recognize a wide variety of serious and significant political questions that confront us today and, often enough (though in different clothes), likewise confronted Tocqueville in the 1800’s; and finally, to bring Tocqueville’s claims to bear on our own contemporary situation in order to help us come to a deeper understanding of the nature and demands of genuine democratic life.

DWC 202 C12: T 12:30-2:20, R 12:30-2:20
Vance Morgan, Robert Stretter

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 momnt 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.

Requirements include:

  • 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 quizess
  • A final exam

DWC 202 C13: T 2:30-4:20, R 2:30-4:20
Representations of the Environment in American Literature and Media
Matthew Guardino, William Hogan
Pre-registration: English, Political Science, Environmental Biology

This colloquium applies humanistic and social scientific perspectives to explore literary and media depictions of the environment from early America to contemporary times. We will explore how these texts reflect and produce cultural meaning, how meaning-making processes have persisted and changed over time, and the social/political implications of literary and media constructions of nature, the environment and ecology.

DWC 202 C14: F 12:30-2:20, W 12:30-2:20
The Preternatural in Philosophy, Magic and Mysticism
Jonathan Wales, Christopher Albrecht

Throughout Western History, philosophy and religion have attempted to know, define, valorize, harness or neutralize what has been called the “Numinous,” the otherworldly or spiritual. Although this class will treat the spiritual in its highest sense: God and the supernatural; the focus will be primarily on the preternatural, that is, created spirits: angels, “divinities,” separated souls and their interaction with this world.

Beginning with Plato, Aristotle, and Neo-Platonism (Pagan and Christian), the class will then examine the writings of Thomas Aquinas on the preternatural (as well as official Church doctrine on the subject). Medieval heresies will also be studied along with ecclesiastical efforts to combat them. Subsequently, the class will advance into a treatment of Renaissance Hermeticism and the witch hysteria of early modern Europe. Literature and film will also be incorporated into the class. The class will continue chronologically into Modern European history and discuss claims of experiences with the numinous involving such figures as Carl Jung and others. Above all, the class will serve as an introduction into academic studies of the otherworldly, alongside theological and ecclesiological analyses.

DWC 202 C15: R 8:30-10:20, T 8:30-10:20
Visions of Freedom in African American Thought
Iain Bernhoft, Jiyoon Im

Pre-registration: Black Studies, English, Humanities, Political Science

In recent years the Black Lives Matter movement has turned a spotlight on the question of America’s history of slavery and racial inequality within a nation ostensibly founded on liberty and equality. Does 1776 mark a new birth of liberty or the cynical instantiation of a “slaveocracy”—and what bearing do the question of race and the legacy of slavery have on the proper understanding of the American founding? This colloquium will investigate the competing visions of freedom in African American thought. How have African American thinkers conceived of freedom in light of the legacy of slavery and segregation? How do they articulate the tension between liberty and equality intrinsic to our liberal democracy? We will examine these questions through readings that include works by W.E.B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, Nella Larsen, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Colson Whitehead; as well as contemporary political writers such as Danielle Allen, Thomas Sowell, Ta-Nahesi Coates, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Cornell West.

DWC 202 C16: M 10:30-12:20, W 10:30-12:20
Traditionalism and the Philosophia Perennis 
Patrick Macfarlane, Jonathan Wales

Since the Renaissance, there has existed a school of thought which believed in primordial transcendent realities before contemporary religions. This perennial philosophy argues that current religious faiths contain shards or refracted prisms of this original link between the divine and the mortal. In the twentieth century, the Traditionalist School led by such metaphysicians as Rene Guenon and Fritjof Schuon sought to connect mankind with these archaic truths. Additionally, the Traditionalist School influenced both the comparative religious studies of the historian Mircea Eliade and the analytical psychologist Carl Jung.
This class will intensively study the work of Traditionalist mystics and religious scholars. It will utilise both academic studies on the subject along with original texts on the nature of archaic religion. Additionally, literature and films on the Traditionalist world-view will be incorporated into the class. Above all, the class will introduce students into a unique school of comparative religion and philosophy that greatly affected Western intellectual history.

DWC 202 C17: R 12:30-2:20, T 12:30-2:20
Persuasion, Judgement, and Rhetoric in Liberal Democracies
Iain Bernhoft, Jiyoon Im

Pre-registration: English, Political Science, Classcis, Humanities

We live in times of increasingly extreme political polarization, sharing “filter bubbles” with our ideological allies and treating our political adversaries as if they are beyond the pale. Intellectual freedom, some observers claim, risks extinction as the art of persuasion gives way to cancel culture instead. This colloquium investigates the proper place of persuasion and judgment in liberal democracies. Why is persuasion necessary in a liberal democracy, and what are the necessary conditions for persuasion? How is persuasion linked to a fundamental belief in the people’s capacity to make good judgments? We will compare the place of persuasion and judgment in democracies, ancient and modern, in order to understand more clearly the proper role and effective practice of persuasion in democracies. Readings will include selections from Aristotle, Cicero, Shakespeare, Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King. Students will also analyze modern and contemporary political speeches to see the art of persuasion in practice. The course will culminate in a performance of individual speeches and group debates.  

DWC 202 C18: T 12:30-2:20, R 12:30-2:20 & C26: T 10:30-12:20, R 10:30-12:20
Battlefields and Home Fronts: The Making of War and Peace in Western Civilization

Stephanie Boeninger, Margaret Manchester
Pre-registration: English, History

It is common to read the history of Western Civilization as a series of military conflicts in which young men prove their mettle on the field of battle, the technologically or tactically superior force emerges victorious, and history is written by the winners. War stories are exciting; they can be violent, tragic, and personal while also having far-reaching political consequences. But war impacts more than just soldiers and political alliances. For those on the home front, war can impact the food they eat, the toys their children play with, and the way they think about justice, gender, race, and class.

Using history, literature, art, and film, we will consider three major conflicts that have shaped the Western world, thinking about not just casualties and battles but also their daily effects on the lives of people on the “home front.” We’ll begin with World War One, the first modern war, considering how that massive conflagration shaped both the continent of Europe and the daily lives of Europeans.

We’ll move from the world war to consider anti-colonial wars, first the Kenyan War for Independence, in which an army of Kenyan tribes rose up to demand their independence from the British empire. Next we will consider the Irish Civil War and finally the Northern Irish Troubles. Along the way we’ll discuss colonialism and its effects, as well as comparing violent and non-violent strategies in the project of decolonization.

Finally, in any war there are also peacemakers. We will study and learn from those who tried to make peace, including both Catholic and feminist perspectives on just war and on peacemaking.

DWC 202 C19: T 8:30-10:20, R 8:30-10:20
The Life and Writings of C. S. Lewis
Fr. Issac Morales O.P., Fr. Jordan Zajac O.P.
Pre-registration: English, Theology

World War I vet. Oxford don. Poet. Literary critic. Christian apologist. Writer of children’s fiction. Perennial bachelor turned married man and, not long after, widower. In his sixty-five years on this earth, C. S. Lewis wore many hats. His writings, both voluminous and insightful, would have been impossible were it not for his unparalleled command of the literature and thought of Western civilization, and they touch on some of life’s most pressing existential questions: What is the nature of love? Is there a God, and if so, what implications does his existence have for my life? What are we to make of pain and suffering? Is there an objective basis for morality that transcends cultures? In this course we will explore these and other questions through a critical engagement with a sampling of Lewis’s writings, including his fiction, his poetry, his letters, and his essays, both long and short. Thinking with (and, at times, in disagreement with) Lewis will hone students’ critical thinking skills and serve as a fitting capstone to the four-semester study of Western culture.

DWC 202 C20: F 12:30-2:20, M 12:30-2:20
La Belle Epoque: Society and Culture Before World War I
Richard Grace, Matthew Dowling
Pre-registration: History, Global Studies, Art History, English, Spanish, French, Italian, German

This course will investigate the society and culture of Europe and America in the quarter century before the First World War. Some attention will be given to the international political background, but greater attention will be focused on the dramatic innovations in Western culture and to the circumstances of a highly stratified society. This quarter century was rich in new developments and fragile in its political stability. Hence, the term “belle époque” has about it a combination of exhilaration and foreboding, as we look at it from the distance of over a century.

What we hope to achieve is an understanding that a civilization is as fragile as a human life, and a recognition of how decisions which are sometimes impulsive and short-sighted have consequences that stretch far into the future at great expense. We also hope to arrive at an appreciation of how widely the material circumstances of life in the West changed. Paralleling the new machines and strikingly different perspectives on society, there were radically new approaches to fine art and the performing arts – in painting, music, architecture, and dance. This was the great age of Art Nouveau, and it also introduced shocking innovations in music. For many people above the level of the working classes, life was very comfortable and enjoyable. However, there were also traditional social prejudices as well as aggressive competition in business and reckless risks in international politics. We shall take into account the great promise of life in this age, as well as the limitations of that promise, both in economics and in social opportunity.

DWC 202 C21: M 12:30-2:20, W 12:30-2:20
The Character of Business: The Ethical Nature of Business and Business Leadership in Their Contemporary Settings
Timothy Mahoney, Sylvia Maxfield

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 C22: R 10:30-12:20, T 10:30-12:20
American Socialism
William Hudson, Jeffrey Johnson

This colloquium will focus on the history of socialism in America, but we know to accomplish this analysis we will need to begin with a review of socialism as a political ideology, its intellectual origins, its variety, and its impact on politics around the world.  To set the stage, we will review the emergence of socialist ideas and critiques of capitalism in the work of Marx and other nineteenth century thinkers.  We will examine how these ideas evolved in theory and practice as socialist movements developed in Europe and around the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  This analysis will include a discussion of terminology and the varieties of socialist practice such as democratic socialism, social democracy, and different authoritarian socialist forms.  Most of the semester course, however, will discuss how socialist ideas did and did not take root in American soil.  This will begin with studying the variety of attempts to establish socialist utopian communities in the 19th century.  We then will look at the variety of ways that socialist ideas influenced American political and labor organizations, such as the Populist Movement, the Knights of Labor, and the International Workers of the World.  We will analyze the successes and failures of forming a Socialist Party in the early decades of the twentieth century, including the role of influential figures like Eugene Debs, John Reed, Mother Jones, etc.  Special attention will be given to the considerable success of socialist politicians at the state and local level around the country and their lasting impact.   Our analysis will show how the prospects of socialism foundered by mid-century after World War I repression, the emergence of splits in the socialist movement after the Russian revolution, the struggles over the Great Depression and New Deal, and, of course, the Cold War. This historical analysis will lay the groundwork, by the end of the semester, for critical analysis of the new socialist revival and what the long history of American socialism can tell us about its future.

DWC 202 C23: F 10:30-12:20, W 10:30-12:20
Chuka Okoye, E.C. Osondu

Hic Sunt Dracones – meaning – Here are the dragons – was to be found in the ancient map describing the African continent. Some ancient historians referred to Africa as the ‘dark continent’. In the course, we will slay quite a few dragons and shed some light on the continent of Africa. We will be looking at the history of some Africa’s ancient empires – Songhai, Mali (home of arguably the first recorded billionaire). We will also cover religion in Africa (St. Augustine and some African theologians) and themes from African traditional Religion; what constitutes African theology and nature-related worship system, and African cultural philosophy. We will also be studying some African Literature and further look at African Cinema-particularly Nollywood.

DWC 202 C24: T 4:30-6:20, R 4:30-6:20
Me, Myself, and I: The Reading and Writing of Autobiography
Alison Espach, Cristina Rodriquez
Pre-registration: English: Creative Writing

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-Nehisi Coates, Walt Whitman, Richard Rodriguez, Beyoncé, and others.

DWC 202 C25: F 8:30-10:20, T 8:30-10:20 & C27: F 8:30-10:20, W 8:30-10:20
The History of Sports
Fr. John Vidmar O.P., 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 the 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 C28: F 2:30-4:20, W 2:30-4:20
The Works and Legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien
Kathleen Troost-Cramer, Jonathan Wales

This colloquium will be an in-depth study of selected works by 20th-century author J.R.R. Tolkien, examining the works themselves as well as the influences of past mythologies on Tolkien’s writing, his Catholic faith, his development of the high fantasy genre, his historical context during the era of both World Wars, the presence or absence of women in Tolkien’s works, and the author’s lasting legacy and influence in more recent works of literature, art, film, music, and popular culture.

We will also touch upon Tolkien’s involvement in his literary circle, the Inklings, which included C.S. Lewis, and the impact of these authors on subsequent literature.

DWC 202 C29: W 12:30-2:20, F 12:30-2:20 & C30: W 8:30-10:20, F 8:30-10:20
The Problem of Evil from the Fall of Rome to Covid-19
Christopher Sauder, Katherine Wrisley Shelby
Pre-registration: Theology, Philosophy, History, Biology, Classics, Psychology

As our world has ground to a halt under the sway of a global pandemic, an ancient question troubles us anew: where do evil and suffering come from ? Do deadly diseases, natural disasters, war, conquest, slavery and genocide come about by accident or by the arbitrary actions of a few malign individuals? Or do all these forms of evil, in the ancient sense of the term, have some sort of common root? And, of course, why does God allow suffering to exist? This course will begin by attending to particular atrocities in the modern world that demand these questions be continuously re-raised, such as the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Holocaust, and racial injustice.

From there, we will examine these questions by returning to the ancient world, beginning with the book of Job and Greek Tragedy before considering the philosophical treatments of the problem in the Stoic and Platonic schools. Patristic and medieval theological responses to the question, most especially those proffered by St. Augustine, will be presented alongside opposing viewpoints within Gnostic and Manichean mythological systems. Finally, we will read a selection of 20th-century theological and philosophical texts that respond to the problem of evil in the modern world. These often critique the ancient responses to the problem, and students will be asked to read these texts with an eye towards evaluating the contemporary arguments against the antique sources discussed earlier in the course. Through this exercise, students will gain a “vocabulary” for talking about evil and suffering for this, our contentious age.

DWC 202 C31: M 4:30-6:20, R 4:30-6:20
How the Right Became Right: The Origins and Development of Modern American Conservative Thought
James Keating, Patrick Macfarlane
Pre-registration: Political Science

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 C32: T 4:30-6:30, R 4:30-6:30
“Through the Senses: Ritual and Practice in Judaism and Islam”
Jackie Satlow, Ann Shafer

Pre-registration: Art History, Theology

This course will explore key intersections between Western civilization and the global religious traditions of Judaism and Islam. Through first-hand sensory experience, students will learn the role of sight, sound, taste, smell, touch and movement in a variety of Jewish and Muslim practices. We will study rituals and celebrations, music and text recitation, culinary events, dress and fashion, architectural design, artistic expression and more. In this unique experiential approach, students will expand their usual field of academic inquiry to include the performative and intangible aspects of religious culture and heritage. Whether through listening to traditional songs or sharing a communal meal, we will come to better understand the role of religion in creating and maintaining essential societal structures, such as written languages and other forms of expression, legal systems, social justice, environmental and economic sustainability, communal ceremonies and rites of passage, gender roles, and familial relationships.