Registration for Newman Institute course for Spring Semester 2017 now available:
See course offerings, click here
Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture
The Literature of Mercy
“Our twentieth century has proved to be more cruel than preceding centuries,” Nobel laureate Alexandr Solzhenitsyn famously remarked. But he also acknowledged the persistence of human weakness by contending that “our world is torn asunder by the same old cave-age emotions as greed, envy, lack of control” and “mutual hostility.”
Which raises some questions: How is it possible for us to inflict such terrible pain on others? How do we justify cruelty, genocide or racial cleansing? What allows us to dehumanize our fellow human beings? The answers to such questions are found in the great literature of Western Civilization, which is replete with examples of those who extend mercy to others and those who fail to do so. The practice of mercy and forgiveness seems possible only when one sees the “other” as related to oneself. Shakespeare’s Jewish moneylender, Shylock, makes this very appeal to his Christian adversaries in The Merchant of Venice when he poses the question: “Hath not a Jew eyes?” He goes on to argue a common humanity which shares the same “organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions….”
This three-credit, spring semester course will focus on deepening our understanding of mercy and forgiveness. Readings will include Genesis, the medieval play Everyman, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, along with selections from Aristotle, Aquinas, Chaucer, Hugo, T.S. Eliot and Josef Pieper. Dr. John Freeh, who directs the Newman Institute, will teach the course. There will be two sections: 1:30 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 7:30 PM Tuesdays and Thursdays. The 80-minute classes will be held at UNL’s Newman Center.
About the instructor: John Freeh received his doctorate in literature from St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, and has advanced degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He has taught literature and philosophy to undergraduates at Oxford, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Hillsdale College, where he earned tenure. He comes to Lincoln from Wyoming Catholic College, where he taught Humanities for four years. A native of Jersey City, N.J., Dr. Freeh is a former reporter and editor for The Associated Press and The Cleveland Plain Dealer. He also served as Senior Writer to the President of Seton Hall University and as Director of University Ministry for Gonzaga University. Dr. Freeh and his wife Helen have three young children: Theresa, Joseph, and John Paul, who was born in October.