TR 2:00-3:15pm • Morrison 100

By the end of the 19th century, close observers of elite culture were confident that Christianity was soon to be dead among the intellectuals of the Western world. Those observers couldn’t have been more wrong. The twentieth century witnessed a great intellectual and artistic flourishing among Christians, a flourishing that altered the entire cultural landscape. In this class we will explore this signal development.

Readings, Viewings, Listenings

  • G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday (Modern Library: 9780375757914)
  • Simone Weil, Waiting for God (Harper: 9780061718960)
  • The Tolkien Reader (Del Rey: 9780345345066)
  • C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (Scribner: 9780743234924)
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (Fortress: 9781506402741)
  • W. H. Auden, Selected Poems (Vintage: 9780307278081)
  • Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (Picador: 9781250784018)

In addition to these books, there will be the occasional handout, and in class we will sometimes listen to brief passages of music and look at paintings and photographs. In addition, you will watch two films. Some of the aural and visual material we’ll discuss may be viewed on this page.


  • Pop reading quizzes on most of your assigned readings, worth a total of 34% of your final grade. Quizzes will ordinarily be given on the day that a work or passage is assigned, though I reserve the right to issue a quiz at any time. Note that there is a reading-heavy course, and for that reason it is not a writing-heavy course.
  • Three take-home essay exams, each of which will require you to explicate a passage (chosen by me) from our readings, and each of which will be worth 22% of your final grade. Typically you will receive three passages and will choose one of of them to explicate, which you will do in somewhere around 1200 words. You will receive your passages around 48–72 hours before the exam due date.
  • Borderline grades will be determined by class participation.
  • Those who wish to take this course for Honors credit will need to write about one additional passage on one of your three take-home exams (your choice) and will need to achieve a grade of 80% or above on the reading quizzes.

Policies and Procedures



1/18 • G K Chesterton, “The Ethics of Elfland” (handout)

1/23 & 1/25 • NO CLASS (I will be traveling this week)

1/30 • Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday (all)

2/1 • further discussion of Thursday

2/6 • Jacques Maritain on Christian art (handout)

2/8 • Karl Barth, from The Word of God and the Word of Man (handout)

2/13 • Simone Weil, Waiting for God, all letters

2/15 • Weil, Waiting for God, all essays

2/20 • W. H. Auden, poems 20, 33, 36, 43, 46:XII

2/22 • Auden, poems 54, 55, 65, 66; first exam due 2/23

2/27 • C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Chapters 1–9

2/29 • Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Chapters 10–17




3/12 • Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories” 

3/14 • Tolkien, “Leaf By Niggle” 

3/19 • Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers, Prologue and all letters to Bethge in Part 2

3/21 • Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers, all letters to Bethge in Part 3

3/26 • Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers, all letters to Bethge in Part 4

3/28 • Concluding discussion of Bonhoeffer

4/2 • Discussion: The Man Escaped (available on Kanopy) 🎞

4/4 • Auden, poems 78, 83, 88; second exam due 4/5

4/9 • I think we do not have class this day, but if we do, it will be further discussion of Auden

4/11 • Walker Percy, “The Delta Factor” (handout)

4/16 • Discussion: Benjamin Britten ♫

4/18 • Discussion: Arvo Pärt ♫

4/23 Robinson, Gilead (all)

4/25 Further discussion of Gilead

4/30 Discusion: A Hidden Life (rent or buy) 🎞

5/2 Conclusion to course

5.7: Final exam due