College of Arts and Sciences Core Course Descriptions
CORE 3745 (CAST 3320)
Chesterton, Lewis and the Sacramental Tradition
This course examines the works of two of the most prominent 20th century British Christian writers. Although both authors are renowned as apologists, the course focuses upon their imaginative writings and how these served as invaluable expressions of their thought and spiritual vision. Works considered include Chesterton’s novel, The Man Who Was Thursday and Lewis’ novels, Out of the Silent Planet and Till We Have Faces.
Catholic Classics and Interiority
This course flows from the new Seton Hall University core curriculum and endeavors to flesh out the meaning of “the Catholic intellectual tradition.” Its aim is to analyze the Catholic classics in the light of human interiority, particularly the human passion for meaning, for the good and for God.
CORE 3747 (CAST 2011)
Catholicism and Art
This course will study the role of art in Christian history as well as contemporary Catholic attitudes towards artistic creation and appreciation. It will consider various examples of early Christian, Byzantine, medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art. It will also consider the relationship between Catholicism and “modern” art and what recent cultural studies have called “the Catholic imagination.” Visiting speakers will address the class on various aspects of Catholicism and art through the centuries. We will also try to arrange some class trips.
CORE 3748 (CAST 3994)
Foundations of Christian Culture
Drawing from a variety of sources (historical, literary, philosophical and theological) this course examines the origins and nature of Christian culture, exploring in particular the value of culture itself as an aspect of revelation and incarnation. Looking at figures such as the historian Christopher Dawson, the poet-philosopher-playwright G.K. Chesterton, the novelist-philologist J.R.R. Tolkien, the theologian Bernard Lonergan and the novelist-Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, it offers some answers from the contemporary Christian tradition to the ancient questions: How am I meant to understand the world? How am I meant to understand myself? This course is part of the Catholic Studies foreign study tour program.
CORE 3749 (CAST 4291)
The Philosophy and Theology of Bernard Lonergan
This course will treat the life and work of the Canadian philosopher/theologian Bernard Lonergan from his early days to his later manuscripts on economic theory. It will outline the early influences on his thought – Newman, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas – as well as the influence of the modern sciences and historical scholarship. It will present the broad outlines of his theory of consciousness with an emphasis on self-appropriation. The relevance of his thought to the fields of education, philosophy, history, economics and theology will be highlighted.
CORE 3250 (CHEM 3103)
Foundations of Modern Science
This course is concerned with the development of the experimental sciences (viz., physics, chemistry and molecular biology) within the western tradition, and the influence that the church and science have exerted upon each other since the beginning days of Christianity.
CORE 3130 (ARTH 3101)
The Art of Saint Peter’s
The course explores the physical fabric and artistic embellishment of Saint Peter’s and the Vatican from early Christian times through the twentieth century as a way of assessing the development of Catholicism’s distinctive and powerful visual language. Among the topics to be considered: the transformation of the legacy of classical antiquity into one of the first Christian basilicas at Old Saint Peter’s; Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, and the Vatican within the urban context of Rome as the capital of modern Italy.
CORE 3131 (MUHI 3131
Music and Theology: Historical Debates within the Catholic Church
The change in sacred music over several centuries (c. 750-1750) prompted debates within the Catholic Church as to the identity of religious music. Traditionalists often felt that the importance of sacred music was related to its devotional characteristics – that is, that sacred music should be a form of sung prayer. Others thought it to be a religious art form that could become increasingly complex. Traditionalists objected to the latter definition by believing that this diluted the original intent of the music. Many of these disputes over changes with regard to sacred music paralleled theological and social disagreements within the church over the mission of Catholicism. The Counter-Reformation, for example, was, in part, a discussion about developments in sacred music that paralleled many social and theological practices that many within the church felt needed reform. This class will discuss these ideas and developments within the church in relationship to music as well as theology.
CORE 3320 (COST 3101)
Propaganda, Religion, & War
The course entails a political, historical, and ethical exploration of discursive and visual propaganda. As a form of mass persuasion, propaganda has long been a vital constituent of both religious discourse and the rhetoric of warfare. The course begins with an examination of the emergence of propaganda as a strategic concept in the 17th century Vatican’s response to the Protestant Reformation. It then combines analytical and ethical perspectives on propaganda with a detailed examination of propaganda-like practices throughout history. Such perspectives enable an ethical evaluation of war-related propaganda efforts, such as those enacted by governments in World War I and World War II, as well as more recent propaganda relating to the 9/11 attacks and to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ultimately, students will be able to assess propaganda as a political practice, with an emphasis on communication ethics.
Great Contemporary English and American Literary Apologists
Excerpts of readings from the works of John Henry Cardinal Newman, G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Ronald Knox, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, and C. S. Lewis will be examined in order to inform a dialogue conducted among students and professor regarding the arguments of each writer. Two measurements will be kept in mind. First, Apologetics is defined as “the affirmation that it is not irrational to believe.” Second, the criteria for evaluating the effective communication of each of the writer’s arguments will be measured against Aristotle’s theory of civic discourse, On Rhetoric.
CORE 3322 (COTH 3628)
The Religious Experience on Stage
An examination of religious traditions, values and beliefs as expressed through theatrical performance. The course centers on examining aesthetic texts and using performance as a method of inquiry.
CORE 3370 (ENGL 3370)
Illness and Literature
This course will explore representations of and responses to illness from the perspective of those suffering from it (the patients), those helping the sufferers (doctors, nurses, spouses, siblings, children, parents, and so on), and those living in a society ravaged by epidemic, such as the Black Death. We will read literature from three traditions – the Western secular literary tradition, the Catholic tradition, and the Jewish tradition – to deepen our understanding of what illness does to individuals and their society, and to strengthen our resources as future patients, caregivers (personal or professional), and individuals for dealing with the spiritual as well as practical crisis that illness generates.
CORE 3371 (ENGL 3371)
Fantasy and Faith in British Literature
This course examines questions of meaning central to the Catholic intellectual tradition in connection with the study of literature. We will focus on works of fantasy, specifically the fiction of C. S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their predecessors. The course will examine the implications for social action, morality, heroism, and sacrifice in these works.
CORE 3373 (CAST 2422, ENGL 3422)
Catholic Literature and Film
This course, which fulfills both a Catholic Studies and an English requirement, is concerned with the translation of specifically Catholic literature into film. We shall be examining seven texts in the course, all of which have been adapted for the screen. We shall be reading five novels, one play, and a collection of sermons. This collection of the sermons of the late Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero is not directly parallel to the film bearing his name, Romero, but the spirit of the sermons is deeply reflected in the filmed depiction of the man. All the other works have been intentionally adapted into their filmed counterparts.
CORE 3374 (ENGL 3315)
James Joyce’s Ulysses
Ulysses is arguably the greatest novel of the 20th century, written by the greatest Catholic fiction writer of the 20th century, James Joyce. Modeled on Homer’s Odyssey, the novel charts the modern odyssey of an Everyman through Dublin on one day, June 16, 1904. Reading Joyce’s masterpiece provides students with a transformative journey that unites past and present, as Joyce explores the familial triad of father, son and mother, and develops the richly allusive cultural intersections of Bloom (father)/Odysseus/Moses/Parnell/Jesus/Hamlet/Stephen (son). Goals of this course include providing students with a detailed study of Ulysses and all of its challenging narrative innovations, as well as helping them contextualize the novel through exploring its classical, religious, political, and psychological themes. To facilitate entering the world of Ulysses, the course will begin with Joyce’s first autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and it will include excerpts from commentaries by major Joyce scholars.
CORE 3375 (ENGL 3211)
This course will explore a literary world where religious piety includes visions of toads, lovers encountering magic ships and talking deer, madness means running around naked in the woods and eating food without salt, and not serving the good wine to guests means you might get vomited to death. We’ll meet green knights, people with giant legs they use as umbrellas, berserkers, Chaucer, Dante, knights and ladies, carrier swans, and loyal pet lions. We’ll explore manuscript making, whether they really ate nothing but mud and peas, and whether the sun actually ever shone in the Dark Ages.
CORE 3376 (ENGL 3319)
Body in Early America
This course explores representations of the body in early American literature, including the place of the body in a variety of religious traditions. More than just its physical form, the body can be read sexually, scientifically/medically, religiously/spiritually, economically, legally, aesthetically, culturally, politically, and philosophically. Readings will begin with explorer and Native American oral narratives, will include texts from a variety of New World settlements, and will go through the literature of the early Republic.
CORE 3420 (HIST 3385)
Catholic Social Engagement in U.S. History
Through a close examination of primary and secondary source material, this course explores the history of Catholic social engagement in the American context. It examines how Catholics in the United States bore public witness to their faith and brought their influence to bear upon wider society. Particular attention will be given to four areas in which Catholicism has traditionally provided a counterpoint to dominant social values: church-state relations, education, healthcare and bioethics, and the social order. This course draws attention to how a particular tradition of Catholic social engagement emerged in response to Catholics’ dynamic interaction with a distinctive American cultural, social, and political environment.
CORE 3422 (HIST 3387)
The Catholic Church in the U.S.
Role of Catholics and the Church in the United States from colonial beginnings to the recent past, focusing on internal developments and on relations with the wider society.
CORE 3423 (HIST 3230)
The High Middle Ages
Formation of medieval civilization in the so-called Dark Ages and its transformation between the 11th and 14th centuries.
CORE 3424 (HIST 3254)
Early Modern Ireland
Political, economic, and social history of Ireland from the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 to the Great Famine of the 1840s.
CORE 3425 (HIST 3264)
Examination of the forces of Ireland’s recent past that account for her present condition.
CORE 3426 (HIST 3234)
This course treats the history of Italy from the early Middle Ages to the Council of Trent. Emphasis is placed on the dramatic changes in peoples, state institutions, religion, the economy and society that occurred during these centuries. The abiding and sometimes determinant role of geography in Italian history is a subject that receives particular attention. All areas of the peninsula are discussed, with special attention to relations between peripheral or provincial areas and cultural or administrative centers. Major intellectual, religious, social and political developments are explored through primary and secondary readings, and a mixture of lecture and class discussion.
CORE 3428 (HIST 4291)
Special Topics: Medieval Heresies
CORE 3430 (HIST 3235, CAST 2235)
This course treats the history of Italy from the Baroque Age down to contemporary events. Emphasis is placed on the dramatic changes in peoples, state institutions, religion, the economy and society that occurred during these centuries. The abiding and sometimes determinant role of geography in Italian history is a subject that receives particular attention. All areas of the peninsula are discussed, with special attention to relations between peripheral or provincial areas and cultural or administrative centers. Major intellectual, religious, social and political developments are explored through primary and secondary readings, and a mixture of lecture and class discussion.
CORE 3431 (HIST 4393)
Topics in American History: 20th Century Catholic Social Activists
This course deals with activist priests who remained true to their calling and were successful advocates for social justice during the most turbulent days of the 20th century. Included are television personalities, Congressmen, community organizers, the man who led the largest march on Washington, DC before 1963, and another who fought gangsterism on the docks of New York who was immortalized in the film, On the Waterfront. During their heyday they may have challenged authority but remained faithful Catholics. Theirs is a story of high politics, violence, romance, and faith.
CORE 3432 (HIST 3229)
The Early Middle Ages
This course surveys medieval European political, legal, social, economic, cultural and religious history from circa 300 to circa 100. Through discussion of a wide range of primary sources, student in this course will analyze the processes through which early Europeans amalgamated elements of Roman, “barbarian,” and early Christian cultures to create a new civilization in western Europe.
CORE 3433 (HIST 3389)
American Catholics and the Movies
Through selected readings and films this course chronicles the changing image of the Catholic Church, its practitioners and its parishioners, during that period of the mid-20th century when movies were the mass medium.
CORE 3434 (HIST 3420)
Religion and Society in Latin America
Students will explore the ways in ways in which religious ideas and practices have shaped political, social, cultural and economic experiences in the region of Latin America from the 16th through the 18th centuries.
CORE 3435 (HIST 3240)
The Renaissance and Reformation
The beginning of modern Europe as the renewal of trade is followed by rediscovery of the ancient world, discovery of the New World, changes in art, literature and thought and the division of Christianity by the Protestant movement.
CORE 3300 (CLAS 3300)
Death and Afterlife in Antiquity
This course highlights some of the most fundamental and important concepts in the Catholic intellectual tradition, specifically death, the afterlife, and the nature of God. Classical texts will be compared with biblical texts. The heart of the course is to examine the way that the ancient texts have contributed to, or disagree with biblical ideas.
The Odysseus Theme
This course will begin with a close reading of Homer’s Odyssey, focusing on the character of Odysseus and moral questions raised by the trickster figure. We will then examine the literary tradition inspired by the Odyssey, including adaptations made by classical, Christian and modern authors, such as Sophocles, Vergil, Dante, James Joyce and Margaret Atwood.
CORE 3540 (MOLG 3321)
Journey of Emigration: Meeting the Other
How do we ethically deal with cultural and ethnic difference? Students will read excerpts from twentieth century philosophers whose theories explore how difference and identity may coexist. We will read numerous shorter literary writings describing the Immigrant and Outsider experience from different perspectives.
CORE 3490 (CSAS 3085, PSYC 3698)
Robotics and the Mind
This course explores the relationship between Catholic theological reflection and scientific evidence on the question of what it means to be human. Theoretical discussion will be accompanied by physically constructing and programming a variety of robots.
MATH 3204 (CSAS 3204 / CORE 3491)
Logic, the Limits to Knowledge, and Christianity
The course presents an overview of topics in and related to logic, including development of formal logic and an axiomatic first-order logic. It explores the history of mathematics and logic in the Catholic Intellectual and wider Western Traditions, as well as the mutual interactions of mathematics, philosophy and religion. It then considers extensions of first-order logic, and provable limits to knowledge: the three unsolvable problems of Euclidean geometry, and examples from Gödel, Turing, Arrow, quantum physics, and others. Epistemological issues will be emphasized throughout the course. As a Core curriculum course, fundamental questions such as “What is logic?” and “What are its limits?” will be considered within the framework of Christianity's broader view of the human person and human intelligence.
CORE 3590 (PHIL 3590)
Philosophy and Therapy
This course will critically investigate the ancient conception of philosophy as a way of life. According to this view, philosophy is therapeutic in the sense that it not only helps us to successfully address the daily challenges we face but ultimately tells us how to live a moral life. By taking up the conception of philosophy as a way of life, the discussion of the therapeutic function of philosophy can be based on a variety of philosophical schools (e.g. Platonic, Stoic, Epicurean, Jewish, Christian), all of which were either referred to or referred to themselves as practicing philosophy and elaborated on the metaphor of the philosopher as physician or healer of the soul. One central concern of this course will be to critically discuss whether philosophy can indeed claim to be therapeutic. The other concern will be to learn about some of the essential characteristics of ancient and modern “philosophical therapy” (e.g. asceticism) as well as exercises philosophers have used to care for soul and body (e.g. spiritual exercises).
CORE 3591 (PHIL 3591)
Ancient Greek and Early Christian Conceptions of Love
This is a text-based seminar. Through an examination of key texts, we’ll compare ancient Greek and early Christian discussions of love (esp. what the Greeks called eros) with the hope of attaining a better understanding of love and its role in life, and of the variety of approaches to these perennial issues. Topics include: the kinds of love; the (ir) rationality of eros; the role of eros in life; the relationship between eros and the other kinds of love, and their relative value.
CORE 3592 (PHIL 3592)
Humans and the Natural World: Ideas that Matter
This course will explore the various paradigms of the natural world that have been developed over the course of the Catholic intellectual tradition, broadly understood. These paradigms have had enormous influences on the ways that we in the west have thought about, organized, and acted upon and in the natural world. We will explore stories of origin (especially Genesis) and other Biblical literature (Psalms and Proverbs), current theological debates about the status of the nature world in Catholic thought, philosophical discourses about nature, as well as the Christian discussions with representatives from other traditions (i.e. Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, and Native American narratives).
CORE 3593 (PHIL 3593)
Ethics, Religion, and Postmodernity
In this course we will begin by outlining the prominent features of the “postmodern condition” as they emerge from “radical” critiques of modernity. We will then examine and critically evaluate normative responses to the postmodern condition and highlight the impact of these movements on Christian ethics and the Catholic intellectual tradition.
CORE 3594 (PHIL 3590)
Faith and Reason
To raise the question of the relationship between faith and reason is to ask about the relationship between theology and philosophy, religion and culture, revelation and natural knowledge. Do these pairings represent separate spheres that have little or nothing to do with one another? Do reason and faith complement each other, or are they opposed to each other? Is the option for faith reasonable? Can faith contradict reason? If so, which do we follow, and why? Such questions are of more than academic interest, since how we answer them can have a profound effect on how we live our lives.
CORE 3595 (PHIL 3595)
19th and 20th Century Catholic Thinkers
The course explores some of the ways in which the Catholic intellectual tradition has responded to cultural, social, economic, and political developments in the modern world, from the French Revolution to our contemporary situation. Focus will be on a few select thinkers rather than a survey.
CORE 3596 (PHIL 3010)
In this course, students will read and analyze some of the major works of Augustine in careful and rigorous ways with the goal of understanding Augustine’s ideas on their own terms and in relationship to the times in which he lived and worked, appreciating Augustine’s stature and influence in the western intellectual tradition, and developing philosophical ways of thinking about Augustine and his works. Students will opportunities for students to improve their thinking, listening, speaking and writing through a consideration of Augustine’s texts and major secondary works, and will discuss the relevance of Augustine’s ideas for our lives in the 21st century.
CORE 3597 (PHIL 3015)
Historical background; life and achievements of Aquinas, analysis of the main themes of his philosophy, development and influence of Thomistic philosophy, and its continuing relevance.
CORE 3640 (POLS 3101)
Catholics in the Political Process
This course is designed to examine the appropriate roles of the institutional Catholic Church, its citizens, and its political candidates within in the American political process today. It will explore traditional Christian political theory; the Church’s relevant major social teachings, and the challenges that confront Catholicism and its adherents in the current, American public arena. In the long term, this course will encourage students to make judgments about both the moral agenda and political policies of the Church, particularly as they impact the behavior of Catholic citizens and political actors in their quest for the common good.
CORE 3490 (CSAS 3085, PSYC 3698)
Robotics and the Mind
This course explores the relationship between Catholic theological reflection and scientific evidence on the question of what it means to be human. Theoretical discussion will be accompanied by physically constructing and programming a variety of robots.
Memory - From Plato to Present
In this Signature 3 class, our approach to the Catholic Intellectual Tradition will be to bring examine memory as it is conceptualized by cognitive psychologists like myself as well as from other traditions. We will examine the writings and research on memory from Greek Philosophers (Plato, Aristotle), Catholic Theologians (Aquinas, Augustine, Grove,), early psychologists (Wundt, Ebbinghaus), and modern cognitive psychologists and cognitive scientists (your professor and others).
Development of Thoughts and Beliefs
This course is designed to provide a deeper understanding of the origins and development of thoughts and beliefs in humans, both at individual and collective community levels. Each unit will focus on a “big question” that has played an important role in how humans think of ourselves and others. Literature from developmental psychology will be interspersed with those from the Catholic Intellectual Tradition to provide an in-depth examination of the two levels of development in parallel.
CORE 3670 (PSYC 3695)
Neuropsychology of Religious Experience
This course will explore the intersection between religious experiences and neuropsychology. We will discuss what the fields of neuroscience and theology can learn from each other based on current research on the neurobiology of religious experiences.
CORE 3470 (JCST 3480)
Judaism and Other Religions
This course will explore the major approaches to thinking about another religion. We will focus on Jewish texts as textual examples but we will also discuss in every lecture the parallel Christian material. Some of the lectures will focus on the Islamic, Hindu, or Buddhist parallels. The objective of the course is to gain a sense of how Judaism might conceive its relationship to other religious traditions beyond the poles of pluralism or rejection. This is a crucial task in our era of globalization and post-secularism.
CORE 3720 (RELS 3102)
The Bible, Film, and Popular Culture
The course examines the interaction of the Bible, film and popular culture by considering how stories, ideas, and themes from the Bible have been portrayed in Hollywood movies. Specific biblical texts will be analyzed in their historical context and in their depiction in popular films. The course will address such questions as: How has the Bible shaped the way the stories told in film? How has popular culture shaped the way the Bible is read or understood? In particular, the course will focus on ideas of how religion, faith, the God/human relationship, and gender roles are shaped in the intersection of the Bible and popular culture. The aim of the course will be to develop the students’ ability to think critically about biblical interpretation and religious experience more generally, is shaped by cultural context, both past and present.
CORE 3721 (RELS 3201)
Catholicism and Ecumenism
This course provides a great service to dialogical or ecumenical critical thinking. The course situates the Catholic modern ecumenical movement in the larger context of Christian history, allowing students to understand the contemporary dialogues in relation to the history of doctrine.
CORE 3722 (RELS 3522)
Religion, Morality, and the Problem of Suffering
This course examines the relationship between religion and morality from three, interrelated angles of inquiry. First, we will examine whether religious belief is necessary for moral knowledge and action. Second, we will turn to the question of human suffering as a test case. Specifically, we will explore how various points within the Christian tradition have grappled with human suffering. Third, we take up the question of religion and morality through an interreligious or comparative theological exercise on the question of suffering.
CORE 3723 (RELS 3503)
Race, Politics and Theology
This course explores questions of race, ethnicity, and political community. More specifically, is a multi-ethnic and multi-racial society viable? Alternatively, is a post-racial society more preferable? What might it mean to “recognize” and value one’s ethnic or racial identity? Should one’s ethnicity or race be recognized at all? If so, then how? What, then, are the political implications? Questions such as these underscore the larger question of difference and cultural pluralism: in what normative sense can difference and cultural pluralism be considered public goods — what is the limit and extent of these goods? We will pursue this question through a theological-ethical perspective that is in dialogue with contemporary issues in American politics, constitutional law, and moral philosophy.
CORE 3724 (RELS 2223)
Modern Christian Thought
This course examines the development of Christian thought from the Reformation to modern times. Topics include: Early attempts at Church reform; the Protestant reformation in Germany, Switzerland and England; the Council of Trent and the Catholic Reformation; the Orthodox Churches; the Peace of Westphalia and the religious settlement; the challenge of rationalism and the Christian response in modern times. We will explore the relation of free will and grace, clashes between religion and politics on a variety of fronts, including the Peasant Revolt and the French Revolution, the rise of nationalism, and Enlightenment and Romantic views of religion. The course will be grounded in close examination of theological texts, but will also include works of art, poetry, historical accounts, and film.
CORE 3727 (RELS 2222)
Medieval Christian Thought
Tracks the development of Christian thought from Augustine to the eve of the Reformation. Influence of Augustine in the West; widening breach between Eastern and Western Christendom; rise of Islam and the interaction of the monotheistic faiths; religious orders and the universities; scholasticism and the achievement of Thomas Aquinas; dissolution of the medieval synthesis.
CORE 3729 (RELS 2315)
Theology of Marriage
The course traces the relationship between faith and commitment in a “theology of marriage.” Past and present Christian understandings of the marital relationship in light of Scripture and sacramental theology. Insights about marriage based on knowledge from psychology and anthropology. Christian marriage as promise, symbol and vocation.
CORE 3730 (RELS 3180)
Responses to Suffering in the Ancient World
The course invites students to reflect intellectually on the problem of human suffering. To facilitate this reflection we will survey a range of ancient religious, literary and philosophical texts that respond in different ways to suffering. We will read texts from the biblical, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions. Throughout the course, these ancient texts will provide an analytic framework for the student to reflect on responses to the problem of suffering in our contemporary world.
CORE 3731 (RELS 3280/CAST 4390)
The Popes and the Modern Ecumenical Movement
The course traces the involvement of the Popes, especially after Vatican II, in the ecumenical movement. Because of this movement, which has been developing during the last century (since 1910), the relationships between the different Christian churches, long divided from one another, have changed and continue to change significantly. This course seeks to interpret the reasons why Christianity divided centuries ago, and the ways in which the churches are seeking to remedy those divisions today, seeking to restore the unity of the Church, showing especially the contributions of the Popes to that movement.
CORE 3790 (ANTH 3306, SOCI 3888)
African Diasporic Religions in Dialogue
This course will examine the products of interrelations between West African religions and Catholicism as they met via the slave trade and forced relocation of Africans to the New World. It will also view contemporary versions of those interrelations. We will discuss continuities and changes, syncretism, resistance, and divergence between and among African derived religious practice and the religious and cultural forms that people of African descent encountered in the New World. The main focus will be social-scientific. Among the topics to be considered: Mexican, Cuban, Haitian, Trinidadian, Brazilian, and U.S. traditions, including discussions of Catholic Saints, slave Baptisms, the Inquisition, folk Catholicism, sacred drumming, trance possession, and Santería.
CORE 3791 (SOCI 3888)
Thomas Merton, Religion, and Culture
Roman Catholic, Trappist Monk, civil rights and anti-war activist, cultural critic and poet, Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was among the first pioneers of a contemporary movement now referred to as “being religious interreligiously”. This course will provide a broad exposure to the writings of Thomas Merton in various genres; an appreciation for the continued relevance of his work in the first decade of the twenty-first century and beyond; an understanding of what it means to be religious interreligiously without having to abandon one’s native religious tradition; and a firsthand experiential appreciation of the value of contemplative practice (sacred silence) and its importance in the fast-paced and fragmented world of information overload in which they find themselves.
CORE 3792 (ANTH 3304)
Anthropology of Mysticism
This course explores the lives of specific Catholic mystics (and also some Eastern Orthodox mystics) and the phenomenon of mysticism and mystical phenomena drawing on a sub-specialty of cultural anthropology: the anthropology of consciousness. The professor and students will strive to make meaningful sense out of the fascinating lives of these unusual personalities and of the firsthand nature of their experiences with the Divine or Ultimate Reality in a non-reductionist way. Special attention will be paid to the relationship between ascetic, ritual and devotional practice and mystical experiences.
CORE 3793 (SOCI 3886)
Engaging the World: Catholicism and the Human Sciences
Models of integration and tension between Catholicism and the various sciences of human behavior are examined in their historical contexts. Main controversies – the relationship between facts and values, essentialism vs. anti-essentialism, voluntarism vs. determinism, and relativism vs. objectivism – are examined from a Catholic perspective that emphasizes how theology and the human sciences “implicate” each other. A Catholic theology of the human sciences is applied to modern and postmodern conditions of life, and contrasted with other Christian as well as non-Christian theologies.