Schemel Forum Courses Explore Powerful Global Influences in Religion, Philosophy and Government

Jan 25, 2017

During the spring semester, the Schemel Forum at The University of Scranton will provide local residents with perspectives on a variety of historical topics that continue to shape modern civilization. The University’s chaplain and two professors will teach evening courses, each in six weekly sessions from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. in room 305 of the Weinberg Memorial Library on campus. Beverages and light snacks will be offered.

University Chaplain Richard Malloy, S.J., will present “Contemporary Catholicism: Controversies, Complexities and Consolations” to lead off the spring offering of courses. Fr. Malloy asserts that there has been more rapid and deep change in the practice of the Catholic faith in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years. His course will explore the permutations and possibilities of contemporary Catholicism both in the U.S. and globally. His books, “A Faith that Frees” and “Being on Fire,” along with Bishop Robert Barron’s “Catholicism,” will serve as springboards for discussion about the role of religion in society. The course will meet on the following Mondays: Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27; and March 6 and 13.

In the course “The Romanov Dynasty 1613-1917,” Sean Brennan, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the University, will focus on one of the world’s most powerful dynasties, which had an enormous impact on global history that is still felt today. One hundred years ago the Russian Revolution began, toppling the dynasty that had ruled over the vast Russian Empire for over three centuries. The course will examine six pivotal tsarist rulers: The first Romanov, Tsar Mikhail, the man who brought Russia to the West; Peter the Great; Catherine the Great, the “enlightened despot”; Alexander I, the victor over Napoleon; Alexander II, the “tsar liberator”; and the tragic life of Nicholas II, the last tsar.

“The Romanovs were a unique phenomenon among European dynasties,” said Dr. Brennan. “Extraordinarily aggressive, they expanded the Russian Empire by 20,000 square miles a year – from the deserts of central Asia to the Arctic Circle and from what is now Poland to the Pacific Ocean – virtually doubling Russia’s size. Unlike British, French, German and Spanish imperialism, which acquired distant territories and gradually lost power to elected assemblies, the Romanovs ruled with complete authority over contiguous lands. We will examine lessons learned from the autocratic rule of the Russian tsars that are still relevant, a century after the Russian Revolution.” The course will meet on the following Wednesdays: March 22 and 29; and April 5, 12, 19 and 26.

“What Spoke Zarathustra? Deciphering Friedrich Nietzsche’s Magnum Opus” will be presented by Matthew Meyer, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy at the University. Nietzsche once claimed that “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” was the “greatest gift to mankind.” Although many might dispute this claim, its ideas and style profoundly influenced 20th century philosophy, art, politics and culture and remains a source of interest today. This literary masterpiece, regarded as a forerunner of existentialist thought, is a critique of modern civilization, morality and Christianity. The drama of the text revolves around two of Nietzsche’s most famous teachings: the “overman” and the eternal recurrence of all things.

Dr. Meyer considers “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” to be a central text in the cannon of Western philosophy. “It’s enigmatic, poetic and mysterious, truly a wild ride,” said Dr. Meyer. “A student of ancient Greek tragedies, Nietzsche celebrated a culture that helped individuals deal with fate and their own mortality.” Dr. Meyer, who has been contracted to write a reader’s guide to “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” for Routledge, said, “Nietzsche forces his readers to make an effort to figure him out. We will work through his enigmatic text while exploring its connections to Greek tragedy, Wagnerian opera and his overall philosophy.” The course will meet on the following Thursdays: March 23 and 30; and April 6, 13, 20 and 27.

Local residents can attend 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 at 570-941-4089 or

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