Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

The Concentration In American Catholic Studies

AMERICAN CATHOLIC STUDIES is a six-course interdisciplinary concentration focused on the study of Roman Catholic belief and culture in the United States, leading to a certificate at graduation. The program is designed to give students a deeper appreciation of the historical, theological and cultural manifestations of Catholicism, sharpen critical thinking and encourage students to contribute actively to their communities.


The concentration begins with a one-credit seminar for new concentrators in the spring of the sophomore year. An intensive two-semester American Catholic Studies seminar in the junior year follows. Each student crafts an individualized course of study comprising four additional courses in consultation with the directors of the undergraduate program. These courses are selected from offerings in a range of disciplines, including history, theology, philosophy, social science, art and literature.

Students participate in a program of community service and attend various communal and academic events designed to foster a community of scholars who seek to combine cultivation of their academic talents with a life of thoughtful and creative engagement within the University community, and in broader church and civic arenas.

Through the generosity of donors such as Shirley and Jonathan O’Herron, Jean and Albert Salvatico, Olga M. Ficarra, Edward I. O’Brien III, Mary and Ray Bonnabeau, and a scholarship endowment in memory of Martin Feeney, S.J., students in the concentration receive some financial aid toward tuition.



The concentration fosters rigorous academic study of Catholicism and provides a forum for engaged exploration of essential questions of faith and practice.

Program directors provide careful attention to each student. They help students craft curricula and shape post-baccalaureate plans. A number of courses credited toward the concentration may fulfill requirements necessary for graduation.

The American Catholic Studies program is targeted to academically talented undergraduates at Fordham with a minimum 3.5 grade point average. Program directors and professors work closely with the Office of Prestigious Fellowships to prepare students for post-baccalaureate fellowships and scholarship programs.
Additional Programming
The American Catholic Studies program offers its students a range of additional opportunities. Among these are the following:

Lectures & Symposia
The Center hosts lectures, symposia, and readings each semester. These often feature speakers, scholars and artists of national and international reputation.

Communitas Discussion Dinners
Three times each semester, the Curran Center convenes a discussion dinner hosted by an invited speaker who brings to the table expertise in a topic of interest to CACS students and faculty.

Receptions, Networking, and Conviviality
To aid its students in their educational and career goals, the Center offers receptions to bring students into contact with scholarship donors as well as alumni currently working in the academic, legal, business, and not-for-profit fields.


Many concentration courses are cross-listed in other academic areas such as American Studies, Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies and/or Irish Studies, and fulfill requirements for those disciplines.

AMCS 3100 Discernment Seminar
AMCS 3333 American Catholic Fictions
AMCS 3340 Catholicism & Democracy
AMCS 3981 Catholic Studies Seminar I
AMCS 3982 Catholic Studies Seminar II
AMCS 3320 The Writing Irish
AMCS 3359 American Catholic Women Writers
ARHI 2255 Latin American Art
COMM 3425 History of Film 1950-Present
ECON 3105 Foundations of Catholic Social Teaching
ENGL 4129 Four Modern Catholic Writers
HIST 1400 Introduction to Latin American History
HIST 3355 History of the Jesuits
HIST 3755 Ethnic America
PHIL 3301 Problem of God
PHIL 3557 Confessions of Augustine
PHIL 4418 Issues of Life and Death
POSC 3440 Gender Politics and the Christian Tradition
RSRV 4025 Marriage in the 21st Century
THEO 3340 Christian Mystical Texts
THEO 3375 American Religious Texts
THEO 3390 Church in Controversy
THEO 3455 Theologies of Liberation
THEO 3996 Religion and the City
THEO 4005 Women and Theology
THEO 4600 Religion and Public Life

Course Descriptions

AMCS 3100

This seminar serves as a point of entry to the American Catholic Studies certificate and an opportunity to reflect on pressing global challenges. Taken in the spring of the sophomore year, the seminar invites students to explore how to deploy their talents in the service of a more just and humane society. In this process, students learn to communicate effectively and memorably about the multifaceted global issues of our time.

AMCS 3130
FAITH IN U.S. POLITICS (4 credits)

This course will examine the effects of religion on contemporary American politics. How does religion shape the political system? In what ways should religious considerations influence public policy? How does religion affect voting decisions? Does faith have an impact on the political behavior of elected officials? Special attention will be paid to the role of religion in recent presidential elections and to the influence exerted by the American Catholic Church.

AMCS 3200

This course examines the contributions of various Catholic figures and movements from the end of the 19th Century to the start of the 21st. How did the various Catholic generations of the past 110 years understand themselves as Americans and Catholics? And how did subsequent generations change that understanding? This course will give particular emphasis to how younger generations initiated or prompted change, with an eye to discovering how youth culture today might be shaping the future of American Catholic identity.

AMCS 3250

This course will examine several major Catholic writers of the 20th century (Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor, Mary Gordon, J.F. Powers and others). This course will examine Catholic themes and issues in their writings.

AMCS 3251

One of the many things we have lost in becoming what scholar Eugene McCarraher describes as "prisoners of the free market" is a sense of the sacredness of labor and of leisure. Through examination of a variety of philosophical, theological, and aesthetic concepts and representations of work and play, including those expressed by such writers as Max Weber, Josef Piper, Dorothy Day, Theodore Dreiser, Andre Dubus, Pope Leo XIII, and John Paul II, we will examine the ways in which these ideas have shaped the culture and practice of labor in America. American Catholics have been active participants in the on-going attempt to define the meaning and value of labor and leisure as workers, as theorists, and as activists. These texts will enable us to reflect on this history and will help us to formulate a working definition of what might be termed an American Catholic Work Ethic.

AMCS 3300
(4 credits/Senior Values Seminar)
This course is divided into personal issues and social concerns grounded in Christian personal and social ethics as the starting point for discussion. Students will be expected to build upon their background in academia and apply it to the practical issues of daily life in the technological world. In addition to the readings both in the text and otherwhere, including online articles, etc., students are encouraged to question and develop their own values as experienced in their studies and culture, share them with the seminar participants, and hence become better able to express an informed conscience. The hope is that having encountered the ideals of Jesuit education of learning, questioning and developing an informed conscience, the students may make a real contribution to contemporary society on the particular moral questions involved in modern technology.

AMCS 3320

This course will explore the influence of Catholicism on the development of Irish and Irish-American Literature from the early 20th century to the present. Featuring Irish- and American-born writers of Irish ancestry, the course will focus on the work of writes such as James Joyce, Patrick Kavanaugh, Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Mebh McGuckian, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Kennedy, Elizabeth Cullinan, Frank O’Hara, Alice McDermott and Michael Donaghy. Through selected historical and critical readings, we will attempt to create a descriptive narrative of what happens when Irish writers wrestle with Catholic identity in the context of 20th-century political and economic struggle, both in Ireland and in America, and a growing culture of unbelief.

AMCS 3333 

This course explores the narratives created by American Catholic artists and the variety of forms their stories take. Emphasis will be on 20th-Century and contemporary American Catholic novelists and short story writers, such as William Kennedy, John O’Hara, Flannery O’Connor, Ron Hansen, Mary Gordon, David Plante, and Andre Dubus. In addition, students will engage the work of American Catholic filmmakers (such as Coppola and Scorsese), visual artists (including Andy Warhol), and the music & lyrics of Catholic composers/songwriters (such as Bruce Springsteen). We will consider the content of these visual,musical, and literary narratives—and the relationships among them--in light of their grounding in the specific American and Catholic cultures they portray, and we will explore the particular capability of each genre to convey the artist’s vision of the possibilities and limitations of the world he or she inhabits and (re)creates.

AMCS 3777

From colonial times, rumors of Jesuit conspiracies abound in American religious and political rhetoric. Jesuits, it was thought, were plotting to win America for the Pope. This course explores the history of the Jesuits in America and the related topics of anti-Catholicism, separation of church and state, Vatican II, Catholic education, divisions within the U.S. Catholic community, past and present, and how Jesuits real and imagined inhabit these stories.

AMCS 3981

This course is the first half of a year-long interdisciplinary seminar,introducing students to the Catholic Studies concentration, using literary, theological and historical texts.

AMCS 3982

This course is the second half of a year-long interdisciplinary seminar,introducing students to the Catholic Studies concentration, using literary, theological and historical texts.

AMCS 3340

This course will examine the relationship between Catholicism and democracy, placing particular stress on their relevance to contemporary American public life. In this context, Catholicism will be understood not only as a religious institution, but as the source of a tradition of communitarian social and political thought, while democracy will be understood not only as a form of government, but also as an ethos shaping American society. Authors and texts will include Alexis de Tocqueville, Orestes Brownson, Dorothy Day, John Courtney Murray, and relevant documents from Vatican II and the American hierarchy. The historic tension between Catholicism and democracy will be the subject of our conversation as will the possibilities for greater harmony between them. In particular, we will explore the possibility that Catholicism’s communitarian orientation might serve as a corrective to American individualism and consumerism, while democratic institutions and practices might have something to offer Catholicism.

AMCS 3350

In this course, students will read a variety of poets whose work is grounded in the faith and culture of the Catholic Church in America. Our focus will be on Catholic poets writing in the U.S. during the 20th and 21st centuries and will include the work of Czeslaw Milosz, Adam Zagajewski, Denise Levertov, Thomas Merton, William Everson/Brother Antoninus, Franz Wright and Mary Karr. We will also read some poems by forerunners of these writers who exerted considerable influence on their work, such as John of the Cross and Gerard Manley Hopkins. As we engage the distinctive voice and subject matter of each poet, we will also try to determine what common qualities pervade the work. We will consider whether and how the work of the Catholic artist is marked by the sign of faith and will attempt to identify and characterize an essentially American Catholic vision that informs the art of these very different writers.

AMCS 3355

The appearance and importance of faith in the work of American Catholic novelists, including J.F. Powers, Alice McDermott, Mary Gordon, Walter Miller, Ron Hansen and John Kennedy Toole.

AMCS 3359

This course will explore American Catholic Women's imaginative writing and the ways in which it reflects the broad range of attitudes and the complexity of feelings towards the Church American women have given voice to in the 20th and 21st centuries. Students will read poetry, fiction, and memoir written by writers such as Dorothy Day, Mary McCarthy, Denise Levertov, Flannery O’Connor, Mary Karr, Alice McDermott and Mary Gordon. In addition, we will discuss the ways in which these writers have shaped the public discourse regarding the imaginative, religious and practical life of American Catholics.

AMCS 3360

This course engages the question of what it means to be both “ethnic” and “Catholic” in America and explores the ways in which these primary aspects of identity influence the work of writers affiliated with three of the most visible European Catholic ethnic groups that immigrated to the United States in the early 20th Century: the Irish, the Italians, and the Polish. Students will read memoir, fiction, and poetry by representative writers from each group, including the work of J.T. Farrell, Elizabeth Cullinan, Don Delillo, Helen Barolini, Czeslaw Milosz and Adam Zagajewski. Through selected historical and critical readings, we will attempt to create a descriptive narrative of what happens when writers wrestle with ethnic and Catholic identity in the context of 20th-century political and economic struggle in America, a predominantly White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant society, and a growing culture of unbelief.

AMCS 3450

A history of Catholicism in the New York metropolitan area, focusing on sites of historic significance that inscribed a permanent Catholic presence and shaped an evolving urban culture. Students will explore and research architectural sites, locations of popular devotions, and streetscapes that reveal identities of parishes as urban village.

AMCS 3451

Focusing on the influential work of liberal Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the course will trace the development of major strands of modern American social and political thought and action including the Social Gospel, Catholic Worker and Settlement House movements—as reactions to nativism, consumerism, industrialism, individualism and greed. Niebuhr helped shape both contemporary Liberalism and Neo-Conservatism and was the architect of a “Christian realism,” which influenced American Catholic and Jewish thought. Niebuhr is widely known as the author of the “Serenity Prayer” [“God give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed….”]

AMCS 3975

A seminar exploring, comparing, and contrasting the Catholic fiction of disparate cultures, including Britain, Ireland, France, Brazil and Japan. Authors read will include Waugh, Greene, Percy, Bernanos, Endo and more. American authors will also be considered.

Cross-Listed Courses From Other Departments
AFAM 3150-Peoples and Cultures of the Caribbean
AFAM 3130-Racial and Ethnic Conflict
AFAM 3151-Caribbean Immigrants in the US
ARHI 2255-Latin American Art
COMM 3425-History of Film 1950-Present
ECON 3105-Foundations of Catholic Social Teaching
ENGL 4089-Seminar Merton and O’Connor
ENGL 4129-Four Modern Catholic Writers
HIST 5945-Race, Ethnicity and Americanism
HIST 3260-Medieval Ireland to 1691
HIST 1400-Introduction to Latin American History
HIST 3755-Ethnic America
HIST 3965-Colonial Latin America
HIST 4800-New York People and Communities
LALS 3314-Literature of the Encounter
MLAL 3015-Latin American/Latino Cultures
PHIL 3118-Issues of Life and Death
PHIL 3301-Problem of God
PHIL 3557-Confessions of Augustine
PHIL 3730-American Philosophy
PHIL 3870-Critical Social Theory
POSC 3221-Law on Religion and Morals
POSC 3440-Gender Politics and the Christian Tradition
POSC 4200-Seminar: American Public Policy
POSC 4250-Seminar Urban Public Policy
THEO 3995-Religion and American Self
THEO 3455-Theologies of Liberation
THEO 3412-Theology of Liberation
THEO 3281-Religion in America
THEO 3865 – Ethics of Relationships
THEO 3991-Catholics in American
THEO 3995-Religion and the American Self
THEO 3983-Faith and Economic Systems
THEO 4008-Religion and Ecology
SOCI 3427-Hispanics in USA
SOCI 3140-Old and New Minorities in the US
SOCI 3102-Contemporary Social Issues and Policies
SOCI 3103-Questions of Conscience
THEA 3300-Theater, Creativity and Values

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