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DWC Spring 2018 Colloquia

​​​​​​​DWC 202-C01:"Unveiling Nature: Philosophy, Myth, Art, and Science"

Ryan Shea/Maia Bailey 

Lecture: CRN 2508  Seminars: CRN 2509 or 2510

​​​Heraclitus famously, and cryptically, said that “Nature loves to hide.”  The goal of the course is to help students cultivate a deeper relationship with nature by reading about, practicing, and reflecting on many different ways of unveiling hidden nature. We will read and reflect on cosmological myths, natural history, artistic approaches, scientific approaches, and everything in between. Like the teaching team (a philosopher and a biologist), the approach is interdisciplinary with a mix of assignments including keeping a field journal, nature drawing, writing poetry, and conducting scientific experiments as well as standard reading analyses and a term paper. Our course is grounded on the conviction that coming to know nature is an integral part of any liberal education because nature is something worth knowing for its own sake.  We hope to show that although the arts and sciences are often opposed, there are still many possible avenues for bringing together the whole person—analytical, synthetic, intuitive, creative, careful, and passionate—as an instrument for the study of nature.

DWC 202-C02 and DWC 202-C03: “Me, Myself, and I: The Reading and Writing of Autobiography”

Cristina Rodriguez/Alison Espach

C02 Lecture: CRN 1288 C02 Seminars: CRN 1292 or 1295
C03 Lecture: CRN 1299  C03 Seminars: CRN 1300 or 1301

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

DWC 202-C04:"Religious Freedom and its Limits: Historical Roots and Contemporary Questions"

Holly Coolman/Peter Walker

Lecture: CRN 2607  Seminars: CRN 2608 or 2609

​How does religious freedom function in the context of secular political order?  We will look first at medieval and early modern frameworks for understanding the relationship between church and state. Then we will study the religious and political contexts of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the various meanings of secularization, as well as the status of religious claims in modern political systems. This knowledge will help us to form a vocabulary for thinking about multiple sides of contemporary issues such as: Immigration, conscience rights for health workers, and religious objections to war.

DWC 202-C06:“Race, Marginality and Theologies of Liberation”​

Jennifer Illuzzi/Dana Dillon

Lecture: CRN 1302  Seminar: CRN 1303 or 1304

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: “The Character of Business: The Ethical Nature of Business and Business Leadership in Their Contemporary Settings”

Timothy Mahoney/Sylvia Maxfield

Lecture: CRN 2423  Seminar: CRN 2424 or 2425

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-C08: “Greek Tragedy and Modern Controversies”​

Robin Greene/John Lawless

Lecture: CRN 1305  Seminar: CRN 1306 or 1307

This colloquium explores social, political and moral controversies raised in fifth-century B.C. Athenian plays which bear resemblances to controversies in contemporary American society. We accept the premise, common to the humanities, that human nature often displays continuity through the ages and that many challenges facing humanity are persistent. The intellectual ferment, crises in beliefs, social struggles, and political conflicts evident during this period in Athenian history re-emerge in areas of our own public experience. Also, these controversies reside powerfully in Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Such controversies produce major categories of conflict which provide an organizing principle for the course. Using these topic categories, students will discuss the ancient plays, along with selected readings in modern authors, and consider how the perspectives of ancient drama echo modern concerns. It is our conviction that Greek drama provides a lens through which we may view many contemporary issues and thereby increase our understanding.

DWC 202-C09: “Globalization and Authentic Human Development”

Terrance McGoldrick/David Zalewski

Lecture: CRN 2426  Seminar: CRN 2427 or 2428

This colloquium explores the relationship between globalization and authentic or integral human development – as defined in the Catholic social tradition in light of the modern expansion of a free market economic system. It will survey the revolutionary changes of modern economic history, look at cases in the developing world, environmental difficulties and the positive and negative role of business and finance in human development today. It will consider alternative models inspired by Catholic Social Thought, such as cooperatives, social capital and social entrepreneurs. It will also include a service-learning component.

DWC 202-C10: “Understanding East and West”​

Colin Jaundrill/Chun Ye

Lecture: CRN 2429  Seminar: CRN 2430 or 2431

​“Understanding East and West” is an interdisciplinary exploration of the oft-posed dichotomy between “East” and “West” in the modern era, primarily—but not exclusively—viewed from the perspective of Asian sources. We will begin by exploring the first contacts between Asia and the West (in which Catholic missionaries played a leading role), before considering how the East-West dichotomy was framed in the era of imperialism, as well as the ways it persisted in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, when diasporic communities began to participate in the discourse. Our readings will include works of history, literature, philosophy, and theology. 


Robert Stretter/Vance Morgan

Lecture: CRN 1308  Seminar: CRN 1309 or 1310

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 moment 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. 

DWC 202-C13: "Our Monsters, Ourselves"

Elizabeth Bridgham/Fred Drogula

Lecture: CRN 2432  Seminar: CRN 2433 or 2434

​“Our Monsters, Ourselves” will study the development of western thinking about monsters from ancient Greece to the modern day. The course will use monsters as a lens though which to study how different cultures imagined ‘the other’, using it to define and distinguish their own cultural norms and boundaries, and how the development of western thinking about monsters reflects changes in western culture itself. Students will read an array of interdisciplinary texts that focus on some kind of monstrosity, including texts drawn from history, literature, philosophy, theology, art and archaeology, anthropology, and folklore. In so doing, they will encounter a wide variety of monsters and will consider the cultural importance of vampires, werewolves, zombies, and even such human “monsters” as Jack the Ripper. By the end of the course, students will have developed an understanding of what these monsters say about the cultures that created them. 

DWC 202-C16 and DWC 202-C26: “The History of Sports”​

Fr. John Vidmar, O.P./Sean Holley

Lecture: CRN 2511  Seminar: CRN 2512, 2513 or 2514

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 golf) and current issues in sports, but also philosophical, theological, social, medical, and economic issues throughout the history of the West. Guest speakers drawn from the various athletic disciplines both on and off-campus will augment the lecture material.​

DWC 202-C20: “Genealogies of a Secular Age: Catholic Intellectual Tradition”​

Robert Barry/Fr. Dominic Verner, O.P.

Lecture: CRN 2518  Seminar: CRN 2519 or 2520

​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. Works such as Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self will be evaluated by revisiting the primary works and events they seek to locate in a genetic development of the world in which we find ourselves. 

DWC 202-C21: “Modernity and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition”​

Fr. John Sica, O.P./Fr. Patrick Briscoe, O.P.

Lecture: CRN 2521  Seminar: CRN 2522 or 2523
How do Catholic thinkers struggle with the existential questions of meaning, purpose, and suffering in the modern world? How do their themes--such as the question of faith and the challenge of doubt, redemption, or the power of grace--place them within the Catholic tradition? By drawing on the best of modern Catholic thought, students will see the Catholic tradition in conversation with their own age.


Tuire Valkeakari/Alex Orquiza

Lecture: CRN 1361  Seminar: CRN 1366 or 1368

Multiple changes in American society redefined American culture in the twentieth century. Immigration brought people from Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Africa who brought new experiences and perspectives for describing the challenges of acceptance in national life. Eras such as the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and the post-World War II Baby Boom forced the country to consider the role of economics across class lines. The development of women’s rights and LGBTQ rights changed many Americans’ views on gender politics. Finally, the movement of people revitalized the country’s regional character. These new voices all substantially and permanently reshaped the narrative of the American experience.

This course examines how the ways in which Americans understood and experienced race, gender, class, and mobility changed during what Henry R. Luce called “the American Century.” The nation became increasingly internationalist and heterogeneous, but this process brought contradictions as well in the treatment of new peoples, backlash against women, debates about the role of the state in helping the poor, and race-based resistance in demographic shifts. The course will use primary and secondary historical sources, novels, memoirs, and film to survey these different viewpoints.

DWC 202-C29 and DWC 202-C30: “Philanthropy, Gift, and Hospitality”​

Peter Costello/Milena Radeva-Costello

C29 Lecture: CRN 2435  C29 Seminar: CRN 2436 or 2437
C30 Lecture: CRN 2438  C30 Seminar: CRN 2439 or 2441

The colloquium will consider the concept and practice of gifts and gift-giving in literature, philosophy, history, theology, and public service in order to examine how we can develop more rigorous perspectives on what it means to give to one another. We will begin by considering the ancient Greek theme of xenia in Plato and Homer and move through a discussion of divine grace in the Bible and Aquinas toward the way in which philanthropy as a public practice is inaugurated in the 19th and 20th centuries and is reflected in 19th century and modernist literature. We will conclude with the problematic of hospitality and with the problems in institutional giving within sociology (Mauss) postmodernism (Derrida) and within the disciplines connected to the Public Service Program here at Providence College—namely the developments within political science, Black Studies, gender studies, and religious studies.

DWC 202-C31 and DWC 202-C34: “Western Civilization Goes to the Movies”

​Raymond Hain/Raphael Shargel

C31 Lecture: CRN 2442  Seminar: CRN 2443 or 2444
C34 Lecture: CRN 2528  Seminar: CRN 2529 or 2530

In this colloquium, we will analyze the development of Western Civilization in relation to the movies.  We will watch nine substantive, entertaining, and influential films beginning with Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (a rousing Roman epic) and ending with Terence Malick’s Tree of Life (a meditative reflection upon the origins and ends of human existence with deep connections to the Book of Job).  Over the course of the semester, students will develop an appreciation of film as an art form, analyze cinematic interpretations of important moments in the development of Western Civilization, and deepen their understanding of the films depicting these moments by the close reading of primary texts.

DWC 202-C32: “How the Right Became Right: The Origins and Development of Modern American Conservative Thought”

James Keating/Patrick Macfarlane

Lecture: CRN 2525  Seminar: CRN 2526 or 2527

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-C33: "Money, Markets and Morality"

Joshua Harris/Jiyoon Im

Lecture: CRN 2610  Seminar: CRN 2611 or 2612

This interdisciplinary course examines the effects of market economies and commercial activity on our moral, social, and religious lives.  Questions we will consider include, but are not limited to the following: How has our understanding of the market economy changed over time?  How does commercial activity cultivate or constrain the natural flourishing of human societies?  How do commercial societies shape our conceptions of what is good or desirable?  Giving special attention to primary sources, we will investigate these questions as they arise in their pre-modern, modern, and contemporary forms. ​

DWC 202-C35: “Music, Beauty, Eros & God”​

Robert Barry/Catherine Gordon

Lecture: CRN 2531  Seminar: 2532 or 2533

Can music and art express and communicate something eternal and divine? This seminar will explore how philosophy, theology and literature in the Western world have reflected upon “The Beautiful” in music and art, from the ancient world through the modern era, with a special focus on the flowering of the theory and practice of music and art in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This class will culminate in the question today of whether the art and music of our contemporary world can be strive to be anything more than individual self-expression, and what cultural resources the world has available for recapturing and communicating the transcendent and sublime.

DWC 202-C36 and DWC 202-C37: “Sustainability: Balancing Profits, People, and the Planet”

Michael Kraten/Michael Moricas

C36 Lecture: CRN 2534  Seminar: CRN 2535 or 2536
C37 Lecture: CRN 2613  Seminar: CRN 2614 or 2615

Human society and the natural environment possess innate value that should be protected ... but at what economic and financial cost for all of us? We will explore how accountants, environmentalists, investors, politicians, social leaders, and theologians balance the goals and practices of capitalism with the need for sustainable lifestyles and ethical practices. We will review the emergence of the sustainability movement, assess its current status, and discuss its future impact from a career development perspective.

Our activities will encompass reading and writing assignments, discussions, global guest speakers, "gaming" simulations, and field trips to local environmental protection facilities. Case studies will feature domestic and international economic, social, and ecological conflicts. Through the lenses of Christian theology and financial ac- counting, we will explore the choices, the trade-offs, and the relationships between economic and financial wealth, human nature, the grace of God, the desire to enjoy creation, and a livable, protected planet.