American Catholic Studies

The Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies (CACS) offers an honors undergraduate certificate program in American Catholic studies. The six-course certificate offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of American Catholic culture, history, and theology. This interdisciplinary study is achieved through a sequence of required and elective courses offered in the art history, English, history, Latin American and Latino studies, music, philosophy, political science, sociology and anthropology, and theology departments of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Gabelli School of Business.

The CACS certificate program offers undergraduates an opportunity to study the complex reality of American Catholic culture from a rigorously interdisciplinary standpoint, in the process helping students to hone their critical and analytical skills in analyzing often diverse ideological, racial and ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographical loyalties all claiming to be genuinely “American” and “Catholic.”

Program Activities

The Discernment Seminar

All concentrators are required to participate in the Discernment Seminar. These monthly seminars, inspired in structure by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, have two aims: to encourage students to reflect deeply and critically on the challenges that confront the contemporary world and to ask them to consider how they might deploy their intellectual abilities and other talents in the service of a more just and humane society. In this process, students learn how to communicate effectively, efficiently, and memorably their views on the multifaceted global issues of our time. The goal is that concentrators will emerge from these seminars not only more aware of the needs of the world but also more capable of contributing to their resolution. Recent topics have included the shortage and unequal distribution of economic resources, public apathy in an age of renewed nuclear proliferation, and strategies for communicating clearly about highly complex topics. In the second semester of their junior year, concentrators will have the opportunity to begin to prepare applications for such nationally and internationally prestigious fellowships as the Rhodes, Marshall, Gates, and Jack Kent Cooke scholarships. Those concentrators who elect to do so will work closely with the Curran Center’s associate director of Prestigious Fellowships and Fordham’s St. Edmund Campion Institute as they proceed through the application process.

Lectures and Symposia

The center hosts lectures, symposia, and readings each semester. These often feature speakers, scholars, and artists of national and international reputation.

Communitas Discussion Dinners

Three times each semester, the Curran Center convenes a discussion dinner hosted by an invited speaker who brings to the table expertise in a topic of interest to CACS students and faculty.

Receptions, Networking, and Conviviality

To aid its students in their educational and career goals, the center offers receptions to bring students into contact with scholarship donors as well as alumni currently working in the academic, legal, business, and not-for-profit fields.

Courses outside the program

The following courses offered outside the program have the AMCS attribute and count toward the American Catholic Studies certificate program:

CourseTitleCredits
ECON 4870ECONOMIC FOUNDATIONS OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING4
ENGL 3017DIGITAL CREATIVE WRITING4
ENGL 41294 MODERN CATHOLIC WRITERS4
ENGL 4135BIBLE IN ENGLISH POETRY4
FREN 3150MEDIEVAL SAINTS AND SINNERS4
LATN 3061CHRISTIAN LATIN4
PHIL 3354PROBLEM OF EVIL4
PHIL 4418ISSUES OF LIFE AND DEATH4
POSC 4013RELIGION AND AMERICAN POLITICS4
THEO 3200INTRODUCTION TO NEW TESTAMENT3
THEO 3212GOSPEL OF JOHN3
THEO 3375AMERICAN RELIGIOUS TEXTS3
THEO 3390CHURCH IN CONTROVERSY3
THEO 3610CHRIST IN WORLD CULTURES3
THEO 3620GREAT CHRISTIAN HYMNS3
THEO 3870RELIGION AS HUMAN EXPERIENCE4
THEO 3874RELIGION IN AMERICA4
THEO 4005WOMEN AND THEOLOGY4
THEO 4008RELIGION AND ECOLOGY4
THEO 4013RELIGION AND AMERICAN POLITICS4
THEO 4025FUTURE OF MARRIAGE 21ST CENTURY4
THEO 4411RELIGION, THEOLOGY, AND NEW MEDIA4
THEO 4600RELIGION AND PUBLIC LIFE4
THEO 4853SPIRITUALITY AND POLITICS4
THEO 4870ECONOMIC FOUNDATIONS OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING4

For more information 

Visit the American Catholic Studies Center web page.

AMCS 3100. IGNATIAN DISCERNMENT. (1 Credit)

This seminar serves as a point of entry to the American Catholic Studies certificate and an opportunity to reflect on pressing global challenges. Taken in the spring of the sophmore year, the seminar invites students to explore how to deploy their talents in the service of a more just and humane society. In this process, students learn to communicate effectively and memorably about the multifaceted global issues of our time.

AMCS 3101. THE DISCERNMENT SEMINAR. (1 Credit)

The seminar serves as a point of entry to the American Catholic Studies certificate program and an opportunity to reflect deeply and critically on the pressing global challenges. Taken in the spring of the sophomore year, the seminar invites students to explore how to deploy their talents in the service of a more just and humane society. In this process, students learn how to communicate effectively and memorably about the multifaceted global issues of our time.

Attribute: AMST.

AMCS 3130. FAITH IN U.S. POLITICS. (4 Credits)

This course will examine the effects of religion on the contemporary American political landscape. How does religion shape the American political system? In what ways and to what extent should religious considerations be allowed to influence public policy? How does religion affect citizens' voting decisions? Does faith really have an impact on the political behavior of elected officials? Special attention will be paid to the role of religion in the 2008 presidential election and to the influence of the American Catholic Church and Catholic voters. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3150. CATHOLICS AND POPULAR CULTURE. (4 Credits)

An exploration of the intersection of popular devotion and popular culture in the experience of American Catholics, examining the ways in which Catholics are portrayed and participate in popular media and consumer society and how this expresses and/or transforms what it means to be both American and Catholic. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3200. AMERICAN AND CATHOLIC. (4 Credits)

This course examines the contributions of various Catholic figures and movements from the end of the 19th Century to the start of the 21st. How did the various Catholic generations of the past 110 years understand themselves as Americans and Catholics? And how did subsequent generations change that understanding? This course will give particular emphasis to how younger generations initiated or prompted change, with an eye to discovering how youth culture today might be shaping the future of American Catholic identity. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attribute: AMST.

AMCS 3250. CONTEMPORARY CATHOLIC FICTION. (4 Credits)

This course will examine several major Catholic writers of the 20th century (Graham Greene, Flammery O'Connor, Mary Gordon, J.F. Powers, and others). This course will examine Catholic themes and issues in their writings. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3251. LABOR, LEISURE, AND GOD. (4 Credits)

An examination of a variety of philosophical, theological, and aesthetic concepts studying work and play. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3256. COMPARATIVE ECONOMIC SYSTEMS. (4 Credits)

Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3300. ETHICS OF CYBERSPACE. (4 Credits)

A Catholic Studies "basket course" focused on ethical issues of the internet and the issues of intellectual property. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attribute: SRVL.

AMCS 3320. THE WRITING IRISH. (4 Credits)

This course will explore the influence of Catholicism on the development on Irish and Irish-American Literature from the early 20th century to the present. Featuring Irish- and American- born writers of Irish ancestry, the course will focus on the work of writers such as James Joyce, Patrick Kavanaugh, Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Mebh McGuckian, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Kennedy, Elizabeth Cullinan, Frank O'Hara, Alice McDermott, and Michael Donaghy. Through selected historical and critical readings, we will attempt to create a descriptive narrative of what happens when Irish writers wrestle with Catholic identity in the context of 20th-century political and economic struggle, both in Ireland and in America, and a growing culture of unbelief. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: ALC, EP3, IRST.

AMCS 3333. AMERICAN CATHOLIC FICTIONS. (4 Credits)

This course explores the narratives created by American Catholic artists and the variety of forms their stories take. Emphasis will be on the 20th Century and contemporary American Catholic novelists and short story writers, such as William Kennedy, John O’Hara, Flannery O’Connor, Ron Hansen, Mary Gordon, David Plante, and Andre Dubus. In addition, students will engage the work of American Catholic filmmakers (such as Coppola and Scorsese), visual artists (including Mapplethorpe and Warhol), and the music & lyrics of Catholic composers/songwriters (such as Bruce Springsteen). We will consider the content of these visual, musical, and literary narratives in light of their grounding in the specific American and Catholic Culture they portray, and we will explore the particular capability of each genre to convey the artist’s vision of the possibilities and limitations of the world he or she inhabits and (re)creates. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: AMST, EP3.

AMCS 3340. CATHOLICISM AND DEMOCRACY. (4 Credits)

This course will examine the relationship between Catholicism and democracy, placing particular stress on their relevance to contemporary American public life. In this context, Catholicism will be understood not only as a religious institution, but as the source of a tradition of communitarian social and political thought, while democracy will be understood not only as a form of government, but also as an ethos shaping American society. Authors and texts will include Alexis de Toucqueville, Orestes Brownson, Dorothy Day, John Courtney Murray, and relevant documents from Vatican II and the American hierarchy. The historic tension between Catholicism and democracy will be the subject of our conversation as will the possibilities for greater harmony between them. In particular, we will explore the possibility that Catholicism's communitarian orientation might serve as a corrective to American individualism and consumerism, while democratic institutions and practices might have something to offer Catholicism. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: AMST, EP3, PJST, REST.

AMCS 3350. AMERICAN CATHOLIC POETRY. (4 Credits)

A course focused on poets whose work is grounded in the faith and culture of the Catholic Church in America. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attribute: WGSS.

AMCS 3355. AMERICAN CATHOLIC NOVEL. (4 Credits)

The appearance and importance of faith in the work of American Catholic novelists, including J.F. Powers, Alice McDermott, Mary Gordon, Walter Miller, Ron Hansen and John Kennedy Toole. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3359. AMERICAN CATHOLIC WOMEN WRITERS. (4 Credits)

An examination of American Catholic women's imaginative writing, looking at Denise Levertov, Flannery O'Connor, Valerie Sayers, Mary McCarthy, and Mary Gordon. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attribute: WGSS.

AMCS 3360. ETHNIC AND CATHOLIC LITERATURE. (4 Credits)

This course engages the question of what it means to be both "ethnic" and "Catholic" in America and explores the ways in which these primary aspects of indentity influence the work of writers affiliated with three of the most visible European Catholic ethnic groups that immigrated to the United States in the early 20th Century: the Irish, the Italians, and the Polish. Students will read memoir, fiction, and poetry by representative writers from each group, including work of J.T. Farrell, Elizabeth Cullinan, Don DeBello, Helen Barolini, Czeslaw Milosz and Adam Zagajewski. Through selected historical and critical readings, we will attempt to create a descriptive narrative of what happens when writers wrestle with ethnic and Catholic identity in the context of the 20th century political and economic struggle in America, a predominantly White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant society, and a growing culture of unbelief. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3450. THE CATHOLIC METROPOLIS. (4 Credits)

A history of Catholicism in the New York metropolitan area focusing on sites of historic significance that inscribed a permanent Catholic presence and shaped an evolving urban culture. Students will explore and research architectural sites, locations of popular devotions, and streetscapes that reveal identities fo parishes as urban villages. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3451. NIEBUHR IN AMERICA. (4 Credits)

Focusing on the inflential work of liberal Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the course will trace the development of major strands of modern American social and political thought and actions including the Social Gospel, Catholic Worker and Settlement House movements-as reactions to nativism, consumerism, industrialism, individualism, and greed. Niebuhr helped shape both contemporary liberalism and Neo-Conservatism and was the architect of a "Christian realism," which influenced American Catholic and Jewish thought. Niebuhr is widely known as the author of the "Serenity Prayer" ("God give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed...") Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3535. BUILDING THE IDEAL CITY, ETHICS AND ECONOMIC FOUNDATIONS OF REALIZABLE UTOPIAS. (4 Credits)

This course introduces students to the investigation of the role that economic concepts such as profit, work, utility, and exchange play in defining the ideal city as a realizable political project. Students will investigate ethical and economic concepts and their interrelation in the debate on the best form of State and government that developed from antiquity to modern American Utopian Communities. This course includes texts from various sources, philosophical, theological, juridical, and literary. Through these readings, students learn how theoretical and practical ideas on the best form of society developed in time and influence modern political thought. The course focuses on the impact of the socio-economic doctrines of the Church in shaping the idea of a possible, realizable, ideal city. Among the texts and authors included are Plato, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Boccaccio, Thomas Moore, Leon Battista Alberti, Tommaso Campanella, Francis Bacon. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attributes: MLL, MVST.

AMCS 3777. JESUIT CONSPIRACY IN AMERICA. (4 Credits)

From colonial times, rumors of Jesuit conspiracies abound in American religious and political rhetoric. Jesuits, it was thought, were plotting to win America for the Pope. This course explores the history of the Jesuits in America and the related topics of anti-Catholicism, separation of church and state, Vatican II, Catholic education, divisions within the U.S. Catholic community, past and present, and how Jesuits real and imagined inhabit these stories. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3975. CATHOLIC ACROSS CULTURES. (4 Credits)

A seminar exploring, comparing, and contrasting the Catholic fiction of disparate cultures including Britain, Ireland, France, Brazil and Japan. Authors read will include Waugh, Greene, Percy, Bernanos, Endo and more. American authors will also be considered. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3981. CATHOLIC STUDIES SEMINAR I. (4 Credits)

This course is the first half of a year-long interdisciplinary seminar, introducing students to the Catholic Studies concentration, using literary, theological and historical texts. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

AMCS 3982. CATHOLIC STUDIES SEMINAR II. (4 Credits)

This course is the second half of a year-long interdisciplinary seminar, introducing students to the Catholic Studies concentration, using literary, theological and historical texts. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attribute: AMST.

AMCS 4950. CHRISTIANITY AND GENDER/SEXUAL DIVERSITY: INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES. (4 Credits)

Employing perspectives from history, theological ethics, and LGBT studies, this course will investigate what it means to take queer perspectives on Christianity sexuality, and discipleship. Readings will include biblical, historical, and contemporary materials that seek to illuminate the ways in which Christians and Christian communities have responded to sexual and gender diversity. Four-credit courses that meet for 150 minutes per week require three additional hours of class preparation per week on the part of the student in lieu of an additional hour of formal instruction.

Attribute: ICC.

AMCS 4999. INDEPENDENT STUDY. (1-4 Credits)