Catholic Intellectual Life
At Notre Dame, an Arts and Letters liberal education is also a Catholic liberal education.
This Catholic dimension of our identity shapes our educational efforts in two key ways.
First, in contrast to the great secular research universities and private colleges, Notre Dame places the formal study of theology and philosophy at its educational core. The University requires each student to take two courses in each subject, with the conviction that the study of God is as reasonable, as intellectually demanding, as the study of human psychology or the contemporary economy. Precisely because we offer a Catholic liberal education, no religious or intellectual question—certainly not the most profound existential questions—is bracketed at Notre Dame or limited by a cramped understanding of critical reflection.
This insistence on the integration of reason and religious faith is a hallmark of Catholicism. The French Catholic philosopher Simone Weil once wrote that “if one turns aside from Christ to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.”
A second distinctive quality of a Catholic liberal education at Notre Dame is the opportunity—in each of our Arts and Letters departments—to cultivate some dimension of the Catholic intellectual tradition, a tradition responsible for the founding of first universities during the medieval period and an inexhaustible cultural resource from the earliest days of Christianity.
Students might study Dante in the College’s Italian studies program, the sociology of religion in the sociology department or the ethical implications of differing definitions of poverty in the economics program. They may stage a play with an explicit connection to Catholic notions of social justice, devote themselves to analyzing the cognitive development of children, or focus their attention on a rare tapestry. They may focus intensively on language acquisition, a priority for the College, precisely because Catholicism is the world’s most multicultural and multilingual intellectual tradition.
In all these endeavors, students and faculty together explore the traditional concern of liberal education in a distinctive and enriching Catholic context.
This context, finally, is not simply academic. The College, in conjunction with the University, seeks to nourish and integrate the spiritual as well as intellectual lives of students and faculty. In response to Catholic social teaching in particular, the College of Arts and Letters fosters research and study that furthers social justice and serves the common good.
Both within and beyond the classroom, students and faculty alike strive to advance social justice and to serve church, community, and the world.
Among the majors and minors offered by the College’s 20 academic departments, undergraduates can pursue a number of programs that focus in particular on understanding and addressing vital concerns within Church and society, including:
- a minor in Catholic Social Tradition
- a minor in Education, Schooling, and Society
- a minor in Liturgical Music Ministry
- a minor in Philosophy in the Catholic Tradition
- a minor in Poverty Studies
- a supplementary major or minor in Peace Studies
- the Hesburgh Program in Public Service
The College houses a number of graduate programs devoted to preparing students to serve the Church and world in meaningful ways, including:
- a master’s in Divinity
- a master’s in Early Christian Studies
- a master’s in Sacred Music
- a master’s or doctorate in Peace Studies
- a master’s or doctorate in Theology
- a doctorate with a track in science and theology
- the Alliance for Catholic Education
- the ECHO: Faith Formation Leadership Program
Centers, Institutes, and Special Programs
- Center for Ethics and Culture
- Center for Philosophy of Religion
- Center for the Study of Religion and Society
- Common Good Initiative Program
- Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism
- Devers Program in Dante and Italian Studies
- Medieval Institute
- Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values
- Tantur Ecumenical Institute for Theological Studies
Arts and Letters News
From Latvia to Chile, international experiences have become part of daily life for junior Abby Davis, a political science major in Notre Dame’s Glynn Family Honors Program. Davis has focused her studies on global migration and the politics of language—topics she hopes to explore further in a senior thesis project and eventually in graduate school. Read More >
The University of Notre Dame will host an exhibition of William Shakespeare’s First Folio next January. One of the world’s rarest and most treasured books, the First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. It will be displayed in the Hesburgh Library at Notre Dame Jan. 4-29 during a nationwide traveling exhibition titled “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare,” sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library in partnership with the Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association and hosted by Shakespeare at Notre Dame. Read More >
Sarah Edmands Martin, a third-year graduate student in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, received the Walter Beardsley Award from the Snite Museum of Art for her thesis installation The Princess & The Beast. Charles Loving, director of the Snite Museum, presented the award during the opening reception for the 2015 Thesis Exhibition on April 10. Read More >
“I’m thrilled to be a part of this project and to be in Dublin. It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Katie Brennan, a sociology major in the College of Arts and Letters. During the summer of 2014, Brennan and three other University of Notre Dame undergraduates interned on the production of 1916: The Irish Rebellion, a three-part television documentary set to air on PBS, the BBC, and Irish broadcaster RTÉ in 2016. Read More >