The Study of Humanities | Thomas More College

The Study of Humanities

In Principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum.
from the Prologue of the Holy Gospel according to St. John

Our knowledge of human things is bound up in monuments, images, sounds, and, especially, words.  From its rude beginnings to its splendid heights, civilization has always been associated with the public celebration and recollection of the deeds of men and women.  From triumphal arches, equestrian statues, odes, symphonies, and tragedies, to cathedrals and palaces, sermons and orations, string quartets, essays, and epics: the learned and the talented throughout the centuries have sought to preserve their hard-won wisdom by handing it down in forms that would delight the senses, capture the attention, and inflame the admiration of succeeding generations.  All of these works of creativity—by scops and bards, architects and composers, orators and philosophers—have a role to play in a liberal education, for, as the great Aquinas once put it, “Every kind of knowledge and art is ordered to one end: the perfection of man, which is his beatitude.”  Indeed, any truly great human work draws forth from our souls those seeds of truth, beauty, and goodness with which we have been so liberally endowed by our Creator.

From the grand tours of European capitals made by the sons of the aristocracy to study-abroad programs today, from the study of the Latin and Greek classics to Great Books programs, a course of reading, hearing, and seeing human things, res humanae, has always been understood to be at the heart of liberal education. At Thomas More College we place ourselves in this rich, central tradition of humanistic formation, and with our eight-semester sequence in the Humanities, together with associated courses in the fine arts, poetry, and rhetoric, we aim to preserve and to articulate afresh for our generation an experience of human things that shapes the soul through the true, the beautiful, and the good.

In the Humanities sequence there is, most appropriately, a focus upon the word. By reading works from a wide variety of genres—lyric, tragic, and epic poetry, sermons and orations, biographies and chronicles, letters, essays, and treatises—our students encounter the full range of human experience and profit from the virtues of both historical and literary study. Through works of the imagination, they are exposed to the heights and depths of experience as portrayed by the artist. Through other genres, they enter into the real, lived human experience of their own ancestors, and consider the first-hand reactions to and reflections upon those experiences by both the wise and the simple. And just as distinctions are made among authors and genres, so some texts are read slowly and in full, while others are encountered in part or read more quickly. All of these works of creativity have a role to play in a liberal education, for, as the great Aquinas put it, “Every kind of knowledge and art is ordered to one end: the perfection of man, which is his beatitude.”

Course Descriptions

(4 Credits during first year of studies)
A study of the origins of Western Civilization with particular attention given to Greek society as it emerged in creative defiance of the surrounding regions and established the cultural, political, and philosophical foundation of the West.  Central themes will include the tension between the individual and the community; the initial conception of the hero in eastern Mediterranean society; and the contrast in the founding myths of Hellenic and Hebraic societies.  Authors and texts include Homer, Herodotus, the Tragedians, Thucydides, Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle.

(4 Credits during first year of studies)
A study of Rome’s unification of the Mediterranean and Europe, both by arms and by the spreading of Hellenistic culture, and of the rise of Christianity within the Roman Empire. In addition to reading primary texts from the period, students will consider the evaluations made by Edward Gibbon, John Henry Newman, and Christopher Dawson. Authors and texts include Caesar, Cicero, Livy, Horace, Seneca, Plutarch, Tacitus, Acts of the Apostles, St. Basil, and St. Augustine.

(4 credits during second year of studies)
This class examines the ways in which Christianity conserved and reshaped the Empire of Rome upon the Truth about the human person seen in the light of the Incarnation and in meditation upon the mystery of the Trinity.  Text and authors include: St. Augustine, Boethius, St. Gregory the Great, the Rule of St. Benedict, Anglo-Saxon Poetry, the Cantar de Mio Cid, narratives of the Crusades, Hugh of St. Victor, Joinville, Guild Statutes, and Chaucer.

(4 credits during second year of studies)
This class allows sophomores during their Rome semester to intensively study authors and works from a variety of periods that deepen their experience of Roman, Italian, and European culture.  Texts and authors include Vergil, Livy, Dante, Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hilaire Belloc, Ezra Pound, and Romano Guardini.

(4 Credits during third year of studies)
A study of Renaissance Humanism, the Protestant Reformation, and the redefinition and reconsideration of the old universals under a reinvigorated Catholic orthodoxy inspired by the Council of Trent.  Authors include: Petrarch, Pico della Mirandola, Machiavelli, Erasmus, St. Thomas More, Luther, Calvin, Montaigne, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Teresa of Avila, Shakespeare, Donne, and Calderon.

(4 credits during third year of studies)
A study of the rise of modern secular ways of thinking in the Enlightenment and of the political and social revolutions following from them. Attention is given to the deepening psychological study of man and the triumph of classicism in style. Authors include: Bacon, Descartes, Milton, Hobbes, Pascal, Molière, Racine, Locke, Voltaire, Hume, Smith, Kant, Johnson, Burke, Dickens, Austen, Newman, Marx, and the First Vatican Council.

(4 credits during fourth year of studies)
A study of the tensions present in the Americas as new societies were created from a fragmenting European culture.  Particular attention is given to the symbolic and mythic understanding of the American Founding and the emergence of a distinctive American character.  Time is spent comparing the society that formed the United States of America with the cultures surrounding it in Canada and the Spanish-speaking Americas.  Texts and authors read include the Diaries of Columbus, the Puritans, The Jesuit Relations, the Federalist Papers, The Constitution, Francis Parkman, Tocqueville, Hawthorne, Melville, Willa Cather, and Flannery O’Connor.

(4 credits during fourth year of studies)
A study of the culmination of the modern project, together with post-modern and Christian reactions to it. Authors and topics include: Conrad, Nietzsche, St. Therese of Lisieux, Freud, Chesterton, T.S. Eliot, Sartre, Solzhenitsyn, the Second Vatican Council, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.

The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts
Six Manchester Street
Merrimack, NH 03054

Phone: (603) 880-8308
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