Loyola University Maryland

Graduate Program in Liberal Studies

Summer 2018 Course Offerings

Summer I (May 30–July 12, 2018)

No classes, 7/4, 7/5
Last Day to Withdraw: 6/19/2018


LS610.401: The Existential Imagination

In his classic text Irrational Man, William Barrett defines ‘existentialism’ as that manner of philosophizing that “has attempted…to gather all the elements of human reality into a total picture of man.” Rather than dealing with one isolated aspect of human existence, existentialism seeks to decipher the conditions and implications of human existence as a total, and totalizing, project.

This course explores the work of thinkers and artists who may be classified as ‘existential’ by virtue of the subject matter of their work and the manner in which they address their subjects. We will discuss the explicitly philosophical foundations of existentialism, found in the writings of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre, and we will examine the varying portrayals of existentialist concerns to be found in literature, film, and art. Along the way, we will seek to answer some of the following questions: How is it that modern humanity responds to the sorts of radical ruptures in meaning that accompany human life? What are the sources of such crises at both the individual and cultural level? How are they reflected and articulated in our literature? In our art? Our films? Our “sense of things”? And with what resources, imaginative and otherwise, have we responded in a search for meaning amidst the appearance of the meaningless?

Foundational existentialist writings will all be read from the anthology Basic Writings of Existentialism (Gordon Marino, Ed.), supplemented by William Barrett’s Irrational Man (additional readings in existentialist fiction are TBD). In addition to careful reading of assigned texts and thoughtful participation in class discussions (the bulk of this course will be constituted in shared dialogue), students will be expected to complete one in-class presentation and approximately 2500 words of graded written work (spread out over two or three separate papers).

Dr. Steven Burr, Monday and Wednesday, 6:00–9:00 p.m. [5/30–7/11, no class, 7/4]. (Historical)

LS742.401: Shades of Black: Film Noir and Post-War America

This course will survey the darkest genre in American cinema, film noir, with its tales of crime, corruption and anti-heroism. We’ll trace its origins in German expressionist films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and then analyze the way it reflected and shaped post-World War II cultural anxieties about gender, race, power, and violence. We will also read important critical writings about the genre, and view eighteen examples of film noir, beginning from early manifestations, moving to its flowering in the ‘40s and early ‘50s, to its baroque ending in the later ‘50s. We will also briefly examine more recent ‘neo-noir’ films to assess how this revival has not only remodeled the genre’s characters and themes, but also altered our understanding of the post-war American culture.

“Film Noir,” is a fascinating yet somewhat mysterious category. The films referred to are almost exclusively American, the categorization comes from the French, the films themselves are numerous, and their cultural influence debatable. We will spend the semester reading about and viewing eighteen examples with the goal of defining the genre and understanding it better.

Students are expected to buy and read (as per the parts documented in the syllabus) the following: Hirsch, Foster. The Dark Side of the Screen. Cambridge, MA: De Capo Press, 1981 (ISBN: 978-0-306-81772-4); Silver, Alain & James Ursini. Film Noir Reader (Vol. 1). Pompton Plains, NJ: Limelight Editions, 2006 (ISBN: 0-87901-197-0); Silver, Alain & James Ursini. Film Noir Reader 4: The Crucial Films and Themes. Pompton Plains, NJ: Limelight Editions, 2004 (ISBN: 0-87910-305-1).

The number of noir films is vast. This is a very restricted list, but it is the one we will be working with. All assignments will be drawn from these eighteen films. The first nine will be subject to very close scrutiny in class. The remaining nine will the subject of reports, presentations, etc. You will need to view all eighteen. Netflix is likely a good vehicle for obtaining the films, but some may prove a bit difficult to obtain.


The Maltese Falcon(1941)

Double Indemnity(1944)

The Big Sleep(1946)

The Third Man(1949)

Sunset Boulevard(1950)

Strangers on a Train(1951)

Touch of Evil(1958)



Murder, My Sweet(1944)


Mildred Pierce(1945)

Scarlet Street(1945)

Gun Crazy(1950)

The Asphalt Jungle(1950)

Night and the City(1950)


There will be four graded assignments during the semester: three short papers (3–5 pages) and a final project. Each assignment will constitute 45% (15% each), and 30% of the final grade respectively, with the remaining 25% determined by class work.

Dr. Randall Donaldson, Tuesday and Thursday, 6:00–9:00 p.m. [5/31–7/12, no class, 7/4]. (Thematic)


Summer II (July 16–August 23, 2018)

Last Day to Withdraw: 8/2/2018


LS 709.401: The Moral and Political Ideas of Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings

The course explores a masterpiece of English literature in terms of moral and political theory. We will try to tease out an answer to something rather odd: Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as ‘a myth for England’ yet the books and films are an astonishing global phenomenon. Why? Maybe the world over there is an appetite for elves, hobbits, wargs, nazgul, and nasty little fellows like Gollum. Maybe its success speaks to the voyeur in us: The appeal of wandering inside one man’s densely constructed fantasy. Or maybe it is because we sense that the fantasy world that is Middle Earth is jammed full of moral, political, philosophical and religious ideas. In every community the great themes of friendship, war, mercy, treachery, possession, land and totalitarianism, are the stuff of fascination. How did Tolkien refine his own sense of these themes? Like all great artists, he was gifted with, and burdened by, remarkable intuitions about human beings and their longings but he was also a great man for ideas and there were many original ideas floating in the air. We will read and discuss some of the great contemporary philosophers Tolkien surely knew about, including the classic work of the notorious Carl Schmitt. We will also read some selections from thinkers of the Middle Ages, a period of history which Tolkien loved. In reading these authors, the objective of the class is to understand Tolkien’s moral and political vision, and to wonder aloud how his fantasy might shape our reality for the better.

Students are expected to be familiar with the trilogy both in book and film form. The instructor will make reference to Tolkien’s magnum opus, The Silmarillion, but students are expected to buy and read (as per the parts documented in the syllabus) the following:

  • Carl Schmitt, Concept of the Political (Chicago UP, 2007) ISBN 978-0-226-73892-5
  • Aurel Kolnai, Disgust (Open Court, 2004) ISBN 0-8126-9566-6
  • Aurel Kolnai, Privilege and Liberty and Other Essays (Lexington, 1999) ISBN 0-7391-0077-7
  • Max Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy (Transaction, 2008) ISBN 978-1-4128-0687-9
  • There are other essays and selections online (Loyola library homepage ‘Course Reserves’) which are also required reading.

There are four graded essays during the semester, each essay being 5–7 pages long. Each assignment is 20% of the final grade, with the remaining 20% determined by contributions to class discussion.

Dr. Graham McAleer, Monday and Wednesday, 6:00–9:00 p.m., 7/16–8/22. (Historical)



LS657.501: Challenges to Democracy

We take for granted that countries are—or ought to be—democratizing, and that this is a good thing. But this is a new and remarkable assumption, and increasingly inaccurate.

From a global perspective, scholars argue that democracy is good inherently, and the best tool for producing a just and prosperous society. Others purport that ‘democracies don’t go to war with each other’ and even ‘democracies don’t have famines’! But as we have seen in the last few years, democratization can be a volatile process. Challenges to democracy have risen in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe – and the United States.

How is the tenor of American political debate in the last two, ten, and twenty years different from the previous 200? What does ‘democracy’ mean to different parts of the American electorate today, and how do these differences matter? What roles do economic, cultural, and technological forces (including social media) play in American democracy? To what extent is ‘Trumpism’ a cause or an effect of these forces, and how does it matter?

We’ll consider these and other questions through book-length treatments, scholarly journal articles, first-person accounts, Congressional testimony, ‘live’ and documentary videos, and shorter articles and documents from leading scholars, practitioners, and journalists.

We will rely on a series of short written assignments based on students’ interests, and a consideration of one topic at greater length. You may choose a topic from the course or an approved non-course topic. You will develop an interesting question, and address it using a wide range of resources, and present your findings to the class in our last meeting. Finally, throughout the semester you will spend some time on one particular facet of Ignatian pedagogy—reflection.

Dr. James Quirk, Tuesday and Thursday hybrid, 6:00–9:00 p.m. [7/17–8/23], face-to-face meetings, 7/17, 7/31, 8/7, 8/21. (Thematic)