The following is a representative list of courses which have been taught in the MALS program over the past few years. New classes are frequently added.
- MLS 601 Understanding the World (3)
This seminar will explore some of the many ways humans approach meaning for themselves and understand the world in which they live. Seminar participants will explore meaning within intuitive, rational and empirical perspectives.
- MLS 608 Visual Arts in the 20th Century (3)
This course will examine the historical, social and intellectual contexts of the many 20th century art movements including Modernism from abstraction to Pop Art, Post-Modernism, and recent trends. P: Gr. stdg.
- MLS 610 Is the Christian Life Heroic? (3)
From Gibbon through Nietzsche, an influential modern tradition of thought has interpreted Christian morality as an unfortunate devolution from the excellencies of the singular hero of antiquity to the mediocrity and complacency of the many faithful. The goal of this course is to understand the force of this criticism and to formulate a response by asking in what sense the Christian life might be heroic. Readings include exposure to accounts of heroic virtue in antiquity, articulations of Christian heroism in early Christianity, medieval and early modern literary attempts to Christian expression to classical themes of martial virtue, and modern treatments of the heroism of discipleship.
- MLS 613 Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Age of Discovery (3)
1492 signaled a clash not only of the New World and the Old, but also of Christendom and Islam, of Europe and the rest of the world. In the same year that Columbus set sail across the Atlantic, the Spanish monarchy captured Granada, the last Muslim stronghold on the peninsula, and also expelled the Jews. This course will draw upon these events to explore the nature of the relations between Christians and Muslims, and between both and the Jews, during the Age of Discovery.
- MLS 615 Imagining the World: The Human Imagination in Theory and Practice (3)
This course will explore the human imagination from both the theoretical and practical perspectives. On the one hand, it will consider theories of the imagination from a variety of disciplines (theology, philosophy, the arts, psychology). On the other hand, it will include the study and introductory practice of disciplines designed to hone imaginative capability (prayer, meditation, artistic disciplines, reading, physical disciplines). Students and instructor will reflect together upon questions that emerge from this study, e.g. the role of imagination in personal and public life, the honing of the imagination as an essential discipline of peacemaking, the imaginary life and pedagogical practice, learning to imagine “correctly” as a dimension of socialization.
- MLS 616 Evolution and Creation: Darwism and its Opponents (3)
An examination of the basic features of modern evolutionary biology, along with recent challenges to Darwinism from outside the mainstream community. Current understanding of the mechanisms and evidence for evolution is presented and the history of the anti-evolution social movement and the motivations underlying it are surveyed.
- MLS 618 Apocalypse and the End of the World (3)
Apocalypses and visions of the end of the world arise from a clash between cultural values and social realities. They are an attempt to construct a meaningful world in the midst of chaos. This course will explore the social environment of apocalypses and apocalyptic movements, both ancient and modern; the cultural values embedded in these visions will be highlighted; and the value of apocalypses for world–construction will be examined.
- MLS 620 The West of the Imagination (3)
A multi–disciplinary investigation of the American West and its impact on the American consciousness studied through geography, politics, history, art, architecture, music, film, literature and theater. The course will consider such topics as the idea of the frontier, Native Americans, economics and politics, and the persistence of the myth of the west in modern America.
- MLS 622 Issues in Public Policy (3)
This course examines issues associated with the creation and implementation of public policy. Students will research a public policy in their own work area (e.g. environment, education, law, medicine, social welfare). They will examine assumptions of the knowledge base used in the creation of the policy and the justice concerns the policy attempts to resolve.
- MLS 624 Contemporary Ireland (3)
Literary, historical and artistic perspectives on contemporary Ireland.
- MLS 625 The Changing American Family (3)
Families and households are rapidly changing in America in relation to changes in other institutions (the economy, the state, educational systems). Evidence is accumulating that many changes are dysfunctional. This course will consider the question: Can families be adapted, reconsidered, or reconstituted to make them better structure for habitation, support, social accounting, and the positive socialization of children?
- MLS 627 Love and Sexuality (3)
What is love? What is the relationship between love and beauty? Is love only the sublimation of sexuality? And how is romantic love related to friendship or the mystic’s love of God? This course will examine love and sex from a variety of different perspectives, using philosophy, literature, psychology and films to make sense of these basic human experiences.
- MLS 628 The Two Sexes (3)
On gender construction in contemporary culture.
- MLS 630 The Moral Animal (3)
Since Charles Darwin, evolutionary biologists have pondered the extent to which human behavior reflects our evolutionary ancestry. This topic has currently been actively revived under the titles of ‘human sociobiology’ and ‘evolutionary psychology.’ This course would examine the writings of the human sociobiologists, evolutionary psychologists, and their critics, to evaluate whether such a thing as an evolved ‘human nature’ exists, and if so whether it provides only a very general framework for understanding broad patterns in the behavior of modern people or whether it can go beyond that to provide a more detailed understanding of humans’ everyday actions.
- MLS 633 The Civil War and American Culture (3)
Using the works of authors including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Dreiser, William Dean Howells, Charles Chesnutt, Henry Adams, Henry James and others in the context of American literary conventions of writing and reading, this course traces pre– and post–war tensions in the United States which are represented and re–presented through the implicit and explicit literary dialogue contained in the course texts.
- MLS 635 Feminist Ideals and Revisioning Justice (3)
Justice is usually identified with distribution: are rights, resources, and opportunities distributed fairly throughout society? This course considers how feminist writings pursue a broader understanding of justice, oppression, and human interdependence. We will attend to both feminist theories, the social movements that seek to embody these ideals, and social questions, such as affirmative action, as reformulated within this border notion of justice. One feature of feminist thinking is the effort to integrate personal reflection and transformation with political analysis. How the personal is (and is not) political will be one topic raised in the course. The course will draw from classic texts from the history of feminism, contemporary readings on how gender interacts with race and class, as well as literature and film.
- MLS 636 Modern Times (3)
This course will examine the ideas which have been most central in shaping the modern western world, including liberalism, capitalism and individuality, positivism, secularism and the discourse of human rights.
- MLS 637 Fable Literature (3)
An intense, comparative and imaginative experience of one of the Western world’s most stimulating literary forms, the fable.
- MLS 638 Philosophy and Literature (3)
This course will examine select writings in literature and philosophy in the Western tradition, primarily from the 19th and 20th centuries. The goal is to illustrate the possibilities for interrelating values, modes of perception and learning which are represented in these traditions.
- MLS 642 Nature and Morality (3)
Reflections on nature as significant for morality began in ancient times and has continued to the present day—especially in the moral teaching of the Catholic Church. This course will study both classical sources (especially St. Thomas Aquinas, and current issues and applications, as these are discussed Pope John Paul II and a range of philosophers and theologians.
- MLS 645 Twentieth–Century American Identity and the Nineteenth–Century American Novel (3)
This course investigates the cultural and literary bases of American literary Realism and the ways in which it contains and represents aspects of the way many Americans understand themselves today. In addition to literary study, the course will investigate links between traditional historical study and literature, and between literature and contemporary historicism and cultural materialism as ways of understanding the relation of literature to its contemporary time and place.
- MLS 647 Reflections on Commercial Life (3)
We live in a society so deeply commercial that we take commercial forms for granted, much as we do grammatical forms: we live through them rather than reflecting on them. This course will consider how markets, money, private property, capital, and wage labor all shape our world. A variety of acute commentators on commercial societies (e.g., Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Smith, Hegel, Marx, Veblen, and Weber) will be studied with an eye toward their relevance for contemporary commercial life.
- MLS 650 The 1960's in American Theatre (3)
Why do the 1960’s continue to conjure up such vivid images and emotions for us? How is this decade portrayed on stage and film? This course will look at the theatre of the 1960’s, and the impact of the cultural revolution of that period on the theatre today. We will look at the work of such playwrights as Albee, Crowley, Patrick, Rabe, and Wilson and their interpretation of this turbulent time period.
- MLS 651 On Being Native Americans (3)
This course examines indigenous nations and peoples from historical, social, cultural, philosophical, economic and political perspectives.
- MLS 653 Expressionism and the American Theatre (3)
This course will study the influences of European ideas and techniques on American theatre in the 1930’s and 40’s. With a special look at German Expressionism, we will see influences on American playwrights such as O’Neill, Rice, Williams, and on scenic designers such as Bel Geddes, Jones, and Mielziner.
- MLS 655 Political Classics and Contemporary Controversies (3)
The classics of political thought—Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Hobbes, for example—raise issues that reverberate with our most contemporary controversies about democracy, leadership, the family and the relations between the sexes, the economy, and individual freedom and the bonds of community. This course offers a glimpse of some of the ‘classics,’ and pairs each with contemporary public issues in order to demonstrate the perpetual recurrence of our deepest public concerns.
- MLS 658 Church and State in American Public Life (3)
The separation of church and state is one of America’s greatest ‘inventions,’ but some critics complain that we have separated not only church and state, but religion and public life—leaving us with ‘a naked public square.’ Beginning with the ways which courts have understood the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, this course examines the multiple relationship between religious faiths and institutions and American politics and culture, assessing contemporary arguments concerning the proper role of religion in public life.
- MLS 659 Culture, Literacy and Technology (3)
The impact of new technologies on orality and literacy.
- MLS 660 Cities and America (3)
This seminar will study the development of American cities and their political, social, economic and cultural institutions. The city of Omaha
will be used as our “laboratory.”
- MLS 662 Omaha: History by Design (3)
A study of the architectural history of Omaha and what it can tell us about the peoples and institutions of the metropolitan area, their past, present and probable future.
- MLS 664 Can Virtue Be Taught? (3)
Can virtue be taught? is one of the oldest questions in Western philosophy and still one of the most urgent for citizens of a democracy. This course will examine the classic texts in the philosophy and psychology of moral education from the ancients (Plato and Aristotle) through the moderns (Durkheim, Piaget, and Dewey) to our contemporaries (Freire, Kohlberg, Noddings, and Lickona).
- MLS 666 Multiculturalism: Theory and Practice (3)
In this course we will use literature, philosophical works and films to consider the challenge of multiculturalism in contemporary life.
- MLS 668 Foundational Texts in Christian Mysticism (3) Introduction to a wide variety of primary texts in medieval mysticism including works of Teresa of Avila, early Franciscan sources, and Ignatius of Loyola. Students are guided through texts and challenged to apply these texts to practical ministerial experiences.
- MLS 669 Thinking About Sport (3)
An examination of the nature of sport, play, and game, aesthetics and sport, and selected ethical and social issues; sportsmanship, cheating, the value of competition, performance-enhancing drugs, gender issues, heroism, nationalism, and value of sport in society.
- MLS 670 The Civil Rights Movement: Perspectives from History, Law, and Politics (3)
The civil rights movement has faded into history, and a whole generation of Americans can no longer remember what was one of the defining periods of American Public life. This course attempts to recapture and preserve the story of the ‘civil rights period,’ using biographies, narratives, law cases, and documentary films to help recall where we have been so that we can understand where we are.
- MLS 671 Race in America: The Idea and the Reality (3)
This course examines the idea and reality of “race” during key phases of U.S. history, with an emphasis on the comtemporary situation. While most discussions of race in the United States focus on black and white, this course also considers how Native people and immigrants have been “racialized” throughout history. It beings by asking: what sort of concept is “race”? Is it a fiction, best abandoned? One response is to treat “race” as a social construction that has assumed different meanings thoughout U.S. history. We critically discuss this proposal throughout the course. The course then moves from the conceptual level to the historical to see how race has been thematized in science, law, politics, and popular consciousness in American history up recent times.
- MLS 672 Text and Context: A Study of the Bible in Transmission and in Translation (3)
The Bible, both Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) and New Testament, has been transmitted (that is, copied in original languages) and translated (into other languages) more than any other document from antiquity. This course will focus on the social, political, historical, religious, even technological circumstances in which this activity has been conducted for more than two millennia, exploring how the texts reflect both the contexts of the copyists and translators own society and their understanding of the sacred texts with which they worked.
- MLS 674 The Virtues (3)
An examination of the traditional virtues -- including courage, compassion, wisdom and justice -- from a variety of historical, literary and philosophical perspectives. We shall ask, What are virtues? How have they developed or changed over time? And, What if anything do they have to do with living in the modern world?
- MLS 675 Economics in Literature (3)
This course features the study of the relations between literature and economics in the context of the representation of economic phenomena in selected literary works. It will seek to establish the idea that literary texts often offer important normative and prescriptive judgments connected to economic theory and practice. By reading writers from diverse cultures and historical periods, this course will explore the concern with the nature and results of unbridled greed, exploitative practices, and selfish materialism, focusing specifically on issues of poverty, inequalities of income distribution, overconsumption and depletion of natural resources, competition and conflict, and the long–run stability of given forms of socioeconomic organization. The course will also consider questions such as the necessary role of values and ethical concerns in economic theory and policy–making; the role of education and incentives in the functioning of economic systems; and the possibilities of conflict between technical and
human, public and private, as well as environmental and human interests.
- MLS 676 Literature, Art and the Natural Environment (3)
This course will provide a historical and critical overview of the variety of ways in which humans have both represented and responded to the natural environment, whether it be through poetry, painting, music or film. The course will also examine the way in which scientific knowledge and different ethical and theological positions toward the environment inform both the artist’s expression and the audience’s reception. We will begin by examining several ancient creation myths, survey the shifts in attitude (particularly in the West) through the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and spend a large portion of the semester on modern art and the current environmental crisis. We will also examine to what extent race, gender and class affect the interaction between persons and nature as it is depicted in different artistic media. Students will be asked to prepare weekly informal written responses to readings, to do three short class presentations, and to conduct a major research project.
- MLS 677 The Hero and Fate in Epic Tradition (3)
This course features the thematic study of the heroic figure and the concept of fate in works ranging from ancient and classical epics to modern novels and films. Exploring the literary, philosophical, religious, and ethical underpinnings of epic narratives, the course will examine works such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Beowulf, Dante’s Commedia, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, and Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha. Important concerns of this course are the assessment and characterization, in epic narratives, of the representation of free will and determinism; outcomes and consequences of human actions; personal responsibility; moral issues and ethical dimensions of heroic activity and decision–making; and the presence and activity of larger forces limiting, shaping, and responding to human choices.
- MLS 679 Asian Thought (3)
This interdisciplinary course focuses on the interaction between modernity and tradition in Asia. Its aim is to familiarize students with the cross-fertilization of the humanities, social sciences and religion, as well as patterns of conflict resolution in this important region
- MLS 680 Development and Change in the Third World (3)
In the post–colonial era, some one hundred states became independent and struggled with problems of state building, nation building, and economic development. What strategies have they pursued, and with what results? What are the major themes which purport to explain their relative performance? What are the obstacles facing “nation–building”? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these states in their developmental, administrative, and nation–building roles? What has been the role played by the international organizations such as the multi–national corporation, the World Bank, U.S. Foreign Aid, etc.? This course will consider these issues along with selected state case studies.
- MLS 683 Ethnic Conflict, Nationalism, and Democracy (3)
Throughout the world, ethnicity and nationalism seem to have become perhaps the paramount political forces. In Africa, in Central Europe, in India, in the former Soviet Union, these forces have brought many people to (or near to) civil war or inter–state war. Simultaneously, the past 20 years have witnessed a vast expansion of democracy. What accounts for these parallel and explosive forces? Are they related? How can they be managed? What might lie ahead? This course will explore recent history and major authors on these issues.
- MLS 795 Directed Independent Research (3)
Research in preparation for the final program project.
- MLS 797 Directed Independent Study (1-3)
Intensive research in an area approved by the department and under the direction of a faculty member.
- MLS 799 Final Program Project (3)
The presentation of academic or applied research to conclude the MALS program.
The following is a representative list of courses which have been taught in the MALS program over the past few years. New classes are frequently added.