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.
Legends, Gods, and Heroes
Why did the Middle Ages produce so many legends, so many stories about gods, heroes, and fantastic events? What do the origins of these stories tell us about medieval European culture and the way it used both writing and the fantastic? What do the differences between different versions of the same story reveal about the stories' audience and composition? Why do some of these stories still resonate powerfully today? These are the kinds of questions we will ask as we survey a range of medieval works representing a variety of literary traditions, including Anglo-Saxon (Beowulf), Norse (the Poetic Edda and Hrolf Kraki's Saga), French (the Song of Roland), Italian (the Inferno), Welsh (the Mabinogion), and Finnish (Kalevala).
This class introduces John Milton's poetry in the context of his life and times and with attention to current critical issues. Much of the course will be focused on Milton's major poems: his early masque, Comus, his grand epic, Paradise Lost, his brief epic, Paradise Regained, and his late tragedy, Samson Agonistes. We will also explore Milton's influence on the Romantics and beyond, looking at William Blake's water-color illustrations of Milton's poetry, at Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and at the Miltonic influence in classic Frankenstein films and in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.
Saints & Stories
This course examines the lives of the saints and the way their stories have been told through the ages. In order to examine these stories most fully, we will spend time thinking about topics such as scriptural exegesis, martyrdom, relics, the communion of saints, medieval legends, art, and modern vitae. Please note that students will be asked to attend the Saturdays with the Saints lecture series.
Russian Religious Thought
The course highlights a series of topics, personalities, and ideas of Russian religious thought from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century. The overview is provided against the background of religious history of Muscovy and Russia, with its wide, and often neglected, variety of denominations and spiritual movements - Orthodox, Old-Believing, Sectarian, Catholic and Protestant. Special attention will be given to the role religious thinkers and theologians from Ukraine played in the intellectual history of the Russian Empire. The course is based on reading and discussion of primary texts in translation. The students will be introduced to the works of Feofan Prokopovich, Hryhory Skovoroda, Piotr Chaadaev, Aleksey Khomyakov, Vladimir Solovyov, Feodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Sergei Bulgakov, Pavel Florensky, Georges Florovsky, and Alexander Schmemann. Thematically, the course material is focused on topics of political theology, theology of history, theology of culture, theology of ritual, and issues of Christian unity.