The following courses are directly relevant to the Philosophy, Religion, and Literature minor, and can be taken for course credit in the minor. If there are courses beyond this list which you think are relevant, and for which you would like to receive PRL course credit, please contact either Professor Susannah Monta OR Professor Christopher J. Shields, co-directors of the minor.
Dante and Aristotle
Shane Duarte & Michelle Karnes
In this course, we will be reading Dante's Commedia as well as works by Aristotle and various ancient and medieval philosophers. Our aim will be to understand the way an Aristotelian worldview informs the Commedia. We will look at the cosmology of the work and how it responds to ancient and medieval theories of the cosmos. We will also investigate the ethics of Dante's famous journey to hell, purgatory, and heaven with a view to identifying its Aristotelian elements. For instance, what is the role of pleasure in the ethical life? What is the highest good of the human being? How should human beings live in such a way as to achieve their highest end? All readings will be in translation.
In the wake of the Reformation-era's massive upheavals came the greatest flowering of devotional poetry in the English language. This body of literature offers its readers the opportunity to explore questions pertaining broadly to the study of lyric and to the study of the relationships between religion and literature. Early modern devotional poetry oscillates between eros and agape, private and communal modes of expression, shame and pride, doubt and faith, evanescence and transcendence, mutability and permanence, success and failure, and agency and helpless passivity. It experiments with gender, language, form, meter, voice, song, and address. We'll follow devotional poets through their many oscillations and turns by combining careful close reading of the poetry with the study of relevant historical, aesthetic, and theological contexts. You'll learn to read lyric poetry skillfully and sensitively, to think carefully about relationships between lyric and religion, and to write incisively and persuasively about lyric. Authors we'll read may include Thomas Brampton, Richard Maidstone, Francesco Petrarca (in translation), Sir Thomas Wyatt, Anne Locke, Mary Sidney, Sir Philip Sidney, St. Robert Southwell, S.J., Henry Constable, Fulke Greville, Edmund Spenser, John Donne, George Herbert, Robert Herrick, Henry Vaughan, Richard Crashaw, John Milton, and the great hymn writer Isaac Watts.
Chesterton and Catholicism
G. K. Chesterton was a man with many sides, but this course will confine itself to only one, and that is his theological front. About his conversion to Catholicism he wrote to a friend, "As you may possibly guess, I want to consider my position about the biggest thing of all, whether I am to be inside it or outside it." We will consider his position by reading primary works in theology that led up to and followed his decision, among them "Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man," biographies of St. Thomas and St. Francis, "The Thing," and "What's Wrong with the World." In these we will follow his own advice that "To become a Catholic is not to leave off thinking, but to learn how to think. It is so in exactly the same sense in which to recover from palsy is not to leave off moving but to learn how to move."