Inquiry Seminar in the Humanities

Courses that introduce students to the subjects and methods of inquiry of the humanities by engaging in focused study of one or more particularly important historical or literature-based questions arising from a humanities discipline. These courses introduce students to key concepts, knowledge, and principles of the relevant discipline as they relate to the questions being studied in the individual section. They are not intended to be survey courses or broad introductions to the discipline, but should be content-rich, with the content revolving around and connected to the central questions being studied. Each section incorporates the interpretation of primary texts (prose fiction, poetry, drama, non-fiction essays and books, historical documents, works of art, film, digital media, speeches, etc.) in relation to their cultural and historical contexts; explores the relationships between language, narratives, thought, and culture; and examines the ways in which important texts and events relate to each other across time.

Essential goals include: Introducing students to an important question in the humanities, the relevant content necessary to study that question, and the ways in which the humanities pursue and generate knowledge; preparing students to read and evaluate primary texts in relationship to their contexts, and the use of those texts and interpretations as evidence to construct theses or arguments.

In addition, these courses teach the following skills: academic writing, argument construction/critical thinking, library research, critical reading, and oral presentations.

Sample Sections

Am I Odysseus? Am I Xena? Literature as a Personal Quest

Faculty: David J.  Leigh, S.J.

In this course, students will join a hero or heroine's journey or quest for meaning through major literary forms of the Quest Narrative from the ancient to the modern world.  On this quest, we will answer such questions as: What is my Call? How do I encounter conflicts with the Other? Who are helpers or obstacles on my journey? Where might I experience Transformation? How can I reach a Treasure or Goal in my life? We will learn how men and women's quests differ and how the culture influences these quests.  Finally, we will apply them to our own personal quest in our college journey.  We will read epics, short stories, novels, drama and poetry from The Odyssey to science fiction.

"Occupy the Parthenon! Religion and Protest in the Ancient World"

Faculty: Heath Spencer

What caused subversive movements to emerge within ancient Mediterranean religious cultures, and to what extent did these movements achieve their goals? Students will explore a series of case studies in which they seek to identify the historically specific origins and impact of 'radical' texts, ideas, and communities in Near Eastern, Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman societies.  They will also learn to situate these movements within the broader context of 'mainstream' religious and cultural traditions.

Self-Portraiture in Image and Text

Faculty: Naomi Hume

This course is about the representation of the self in image and text.  Students examine the work of artists and writers who were particularly concerned with the representation of the self.  We explore why artists and writers at particular historical junctures became interested in questions of self-representation and how their different aims manifest themselves.  Artist/writers examined include: Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Paula Modersohn-Becker.

The Reception of Great Ideas: Intellectuals on Trial

Faculty: Arun Iyer

Why did Socrates' simple idea about the virtue of caring for one's soul provoke the Athenians into putting him to death? Why did the Joan of Arc's seemingly innocuous belief of being been spoken to by St.  Michael result in her being burned on the stake? Why did Galileo's observation that the earth goes around the sun result in his being put under house arrest? Were these individuals simply victims of the viciousness of a power hungry elite who were desperate to retain the status quo? Is there something in the very nature of a great idea that provokes such a response, which cannot be accounted for simply in terms of power politics? In this course we will try to find out what makes a great idea great by studying the turbulent reception through a detailed study of these ideas, their historical background and the travails of the intellectuals who proposed these ideas.