University of Notre Dame

Modern European Catholicism

Course Number: 13184-3
Instructor: Sarah Shortall

This freshman seminar introduces students to the history of Catholicism in modern Europe. It examines how European Catholics confronted the challenges of modernity, from liberal democracy and industrialization, to secularization and modern science, to the rise of new political ideologies such as fascism and communism. We will explore not only how these encounters transformed the Church, but also how Catholicism itself has shaped modern European culture, politics, and thought in crucial ways. Themes to be explored include, but are not limited to: popular devotions and pilgrimages, gender and the “feminization” of religion, the role of the Church in European colonialism, modern Catholic art and literature, Catholic politics, and the way Catholic theology has changed in response to modern political, social, and intellectual developments. Finally, we will examine how the privileged position of the European Church has been contested in recent years by voices from beyond Europe, and especially from the global South. The goal of the course is to teach students to think historically and critically about a range of primary sources (novels, Church documents, works of art, memoirs, etc.) as well as works by historians, and to express these insights effectively in classroom discussion and in writing.

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November 09 Majors Night