All-American Topics Highlight Schemel Forum Spring Courses

Jan 21, 2016

During the spring semester, the Schemel Forum at The University of Scranton will give local residents a close look at topics from America’s past, present and future. University of Scranton professors will teach evening courses titled “21st Century American Literature,” “The American Civil War” and “Capitalism versus Democracy?” – each in six weekly sessions on campus.

Joseph E. Kraus, Ph.D., professor of English and theatre and director of the Honors Program at the University, will present “21st Century American Literature.” Dr. Kraus asserts that literature never stands still. “It doesn’t seem that long ago since “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960) or even “The Naked and the Dead”(1948) stood as representative texts of ‘contemporary’ American literature,” he said. “This class aims to explore recent American novels – all written since the turn of the century – both for their individual merit and to speculate about trends in American literature.”

Likely texts include excerpts from Jonathan Lethem’s “Chronic City,” Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead,” Junot Diaz’s “The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and Nicole Krauss’s “The History of Love.” The course will meet at the Weinberg Memorial Library from 6 to 7:15 p.m. on the following Wednesdays: Feb. 3, 10, 17 and 24; and March 2 and 9.

During the course “The American Civil War,” Adam Pratt, Ph.D., assistant professor of history at the University, will focus on what is arguably the most important event in U.S. history. The course will explore the trajectory of the war from its beginnings in 1860 to its conclusion in 1865 by taking a varied approach to the conflict. The course will explore items of popular culture, politics and the home front in addition to what was happening on the battlefield.

“We’ll examine topics including women, politicians, soldiers and slaves,” said Dr. Pratt. “Each class will focus on one year to reveal how the course of the war affected the ways that citizens from the north and the south experienced the conflict.” Starting with a popular song from that year, the class will use a digital archive called “The Valley of the Shadow” project, which houses primary sources (newspapers, diaries, church records, etc.) from Augusta County, Virginia., and Franklin County in Pennsylvania. The course will meet in the Weinberg Memorial Library from 6 to 7:15 p.m. on the following Tuesdays: March 1, 8, 15 and 29; and April 5, and 12.

The course “Capitalism versus Democracy?” will be presented by Matthew Meyer, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy at the University. Throughout much of the Cold War it was argued that democracy and capitalism are naturally compatible. Some, however, have recently challenged this idea: capitalism not only generates massive disparities in economic power, but recent court rulings on campaign finance in the U.S. have made it easier to translate economic inequality into political inequality. For these reasons, capitalism may pose a threat to democracy. This course will explore the relationship between democracy and capitalism by examining selections from Michael Novak’s “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism,” Timothy Kuhner’s “Capitalism vs. Democracy,” and Robert Reich’s “Saving Capitalism.”

 “The subject is important to anyone who cherishes living in a democracy and who fears that our government, which is supposed to be of, by and for the people, is being transformed into a government of, by and for the few or the rich,” Dr. Meyer said. “The question of the seminar will be whether capitalism is the cause of this transformation and if so whether it is compatible with democracy.” The first set of readings will examine the argument that capitalism and democracy are naturally compatible. The next set of readings will look at the way in which capitalism poses a threat to democracy and the final reading will look at a way in which we can make capitalism work for the people and so contribute to a healthy and flourishing democracy. The course will meet in room the Weinberg Memorial Library from 6 to 7:15 p.m. on the following Mondays: April 11, 18 and 25; and May 2, 9 and 16.

Local residents can participate in any course for $60 per person or $100 per couple; Schemel Forum members attend free. Space is limited and registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

To register, contact Emily Brees, Schemel Forum assistant, at 570-941-6206 or

For more information on Schemel Forum programs and memberships, contact Sondra Myers, director of the Schemel Forum. at 570-941-4089 or   

The Schemel Forum is a program of participatory learning experiences aimed at cultivating the intellect and the imagination through study and discussion of classical texts and current policies, from the arts, history and philosophy to technology and theology. Founded in 2006 through generous gifts to the Rev. George Schemel, S.J., Fund, created by friends of the late Father Schemel in his loving memory, and spearheaded by Harmar Brereton, M.D, the forum has grown from a handful of informal lectures to a comprehensive enrichment program of study, dialogue, performances and special events. Through the forum the University offers to the community its most valuable assets – its faculty members and the wealth of knowledge that they possess.

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