Current Courses

Art in the Catholic Tradition

Dr. Marilyn Dunn (Department of Fine and Performing Arts)

Course taught in Spring 2018

Course Description

Art and the Catholic Tradition examines the integral role that the visual arts and architecture have played in the Catholic faith since its early centuries. The course will investigate the use and significance of visual imagery as a cultural force to articulate and arouse Christian belief and to propagate the ideology of the Catholic Church within various historical moments from Early Christian to contemporary culture, but with a particular emphasis on the Renaissance and Baroque eras (14th-17th centuries). We will critically examine Catholic art and architecture within its theological, social, and historical contexts through both visual and related textual sources. Take a look at the course syllabus for more information. 


God, Evolution, and Human Origins

Hans Svebakken (Department of Theology)

Course to be taught in Fall 2017

Course Description 

Does the evolutionary account of human origins make belief in God obsolete? If not, how do people of faith, and Christians in particular, combine God and evolution in an intellectually satisfying way without undermining the foundations of their theological heritage? We'll consider these questions-- and a range of others involving science, the Bible, and the meaning of human existence--in THEO 280: God, Evolution, and Human Origins. Phase one of the course introduces some of the essential ideas in science and theology needed to conduct phase two of the course: a detailed survey of major issues and positions within the contemporary discussion of God and evolution. Phase three of the course examines specific Christian doctrines (e.g., original sin) in light of some questions and challenges raised by the evolutionary account of human origins. Take a look at the course Svebakken syllabus for more information‌.


The Catholic Missions and the American Indian

Theodore Karamanski (Department of History)

Course to be taught as Ramonat Seminar Fall 2017 and Spring 2018

Course Description

Religion played a large role in the European-American conquest of the New World. Catholic mission activities often constitute a painful chapter in indigenous history. Yet Christianity and mission education programs have also played an important role in the survival and revival of Native American societies and sovereignty. Christianity was tool of conquest and perhaps even genocide yet it also was a space where natives and newcomers could explore new spiritual worlds and create a common sacred ground. This class will explore the conflicted history of Catholic evangelism in North America including the legacy of Junipero Sera and the Spanish missions, the Jesuits in New France and the creation of the Jesuit Relations, as well as the role of Catholic mission in Anglo-America’s “civilization program.” The two semester class will also explore aspects of American Indian spirituality through seminal figures such as Neolin, Handsome Lake, Tenskwatawa, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Black Elk and the influence of Christianity in its repression, evolution, and renaissance. While this class is historical in its structure and orientation throughout it will be attentive to the presence of the Catholic mission past in the present. Catholic missions are still active in American Indian communities. To what extent have these current programs learned lessons from the past? Are there legal issues that flow from abusive mission activities and how has the Church faced these? How do American Indian Catholics harmonize/reconcile Church teachings and liturgical practice with Native American spirituality? Take a look at the course syllabus for more information.


The Seven Deadly Sins/Passions Portrayed in Literature

 Dr. Elisabeth Bayley (Department of English)

Course to be taught: TBD

Course Description

For centuries, theologians within the Catholic tradition have engaged the concept of the seven deadly sins/passions in order to understand human nature in greater depth and further, look at how the study and acknowledgement of these certain sins/passions might assist in guiding one into a more spiritual or psychologically healthier perception of the self and the world. Even though now, there might be more of a limitation or hesitation in looking at the concept of the seven deadly sins/passions, the possibility of using them in order to engage how we perceive humanity and evil/bad/violence/justice in the world continues to exist. Thus, this course is designed to look at the seven deadly sins/passions that have been identified historically in the Catholic tradition, through the stories that are found in literature. In particular, the class will begin by looking at a brief introduction to the seven deadly sins, which were originally created by Gregory the Great, the concept of sin, free will or the potential for choice, and the potential for vulnerability due to these sins/passions. Then the course will go into an in-depth examination of each sin, with historical and contemporary theological readings, which will not only serve to attempt to identify what each sin/passion is but also how one might look at the sin/passion from a theologically healing or alternative perspective, and we will also look at the sin from the story within a novel or a short story (or two). From each story there will be a further look at how each sin/passion is acted out, what the repercussions of each sin/passion might be and what social constructs may have inhibited or encouraged certain behaviors. Through this engagement, there will be an encouraged discourse regarding our own responsibilities toward our sins/passions, and likewise, how these sins/affect social justice issues such as gender, sexuality, race, disability, and poverty, which in itself, is a Jesuit exploration. In the end, this course aims to provide a framework from which students will be able to combine interpretations of theological and literary texts, with current social and psychological challenges regarding evil, choices and justice, and from there, continue to work toward greater peace, healing, and have more open/educated discussions regarding issues of social justice and action.