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Ducharme Lecture Series

The Ducharme Lecture series is an annual lecture series fostering integration of knowledge in the liberal arts curriculum. The series is named for Robert Ducharme, Professor Emeritus of English.

Past Lectures

Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D.


Does Partisan News Destroy Democracy: An Historical Investigation

March 16, 2022

Mount Associate Professor of History Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D., focused on seventeenth-century England to explore the partisan nature of today’s news. The birth of the newspaper during the English Revolution illustrates how intertwined news and democracy have been in the Anglo-American tradition. Extreme political conflict between those who supported and those who opposed King Charles I’s government ushered in a dynamic era, that created a widespread fear of fake news. This development failed and succeeded to serve the English people. Learning about the actions of political leaders encouraged both political involvement and uncivil behavior. Under intense scrutiny, government officials nevertheless became more accountable to a better-informed public. Reflecting on this history, Gianoutsos offered three suggestions about today’s news: sound journalism should focus on protecting the people, not simply attacking political opponents; citizens must become responsible consumers of media by using the skills and knowledge obtained by studying the liberal arts; and journalists and scholars should focus on informing the public as a means of providing the best information for political decisions.

Photo by Kim Whipps

Eric Hayot, Ph.D.

Eric Hayot

How to Think About the World (with Video Games)

September 22, 2021

Eric Hayot, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Penn State University, urged his audience to study video games as we do literature and art: to learn more about human nature. Emphasizing the importance of culture and aesthetic activity to human life, Hayot argued that video games are an integral part of our culture which reveal a great deal about the world we live in. He explained how many video games like The Last of Us and Destiny II involve an element of tragedy that causes players to confront morally difficult or impossible choices they might not otherwise consider. Hayot contrasted “resource poor” single-player games—which require the central figure to obtain and control finite resources—with multiplayer games that have “infinite resources” because actions are repeatable for all players, each of whom is treated equally. Our world doesn’t conform perfectly to either of these models, but every game has underlying assumptions that provide insight into “the shape of a society’s dream.”

Michael Turner, Ph.D.

Michael Turner

Testing the Waters: Containing COVID-19 at Mount St. Mary’s

March 10, 2021

Associate Professor of Biochemistry Michael Turner, Ph.D., recounted the story and explained the science behind the decision to test the Mount’s wastewater to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. He and Lab Manager and Safety Officer, William Wood, were members a team charged with responding effectively and safely. Their three-pronged strategy included surveillance testing that delivered building-by-building knowledge about potential outbreaks. Turner provided information about the virus that illustrated why the university implemented these measures. The testing protocol sampled different points in the Mount’s wastewater system, replicated the pathogen’s RNA strands, and thus detected infection in specific living spaces. Students living in those buildings were tested immediately. Those testing positive were quarantined or sent home to learn remotely for an appropriate period as a way of controlling the infection. Turner emphasized that collaborative teams can “make difficult things doable” and stressed the importance of developing strategies based on facts.

Stephen McGinley, MTS; Paige Hochschild, Ph.D.; Gregory Murry, Ph.D.

3 Mount Professors deliver Ducharme Lecture in Knott Auditorium

Classical Texts and the American Political System

September 23, 2020

Philosophy Professor Stephen McGinley, theologian Dr. Paige Hochschild, and historian Dr. Gregory Murry compared the U.S. political system with those proposed in Plato’s Republic, St. Augustine’s City of God, and Machiavelli’s The Prince to examine alternative ways of advancing political life. McGinley compared the Republic to the lyrics of Tupac Shakur to uncover the benefits of having “a deep and abiding love of the Good.” Hochschild explained how the City of God provides a highly rational political theory that greatly values the related goods of happiness and peace and suggests citizens should approach civil society with humility because no regime, political party or leader can solve all human problems. Murry illustrated how The Prince is skeptical about humans acting selflessly, but Machiavelli’s thinking explains how selfishness can effectively check and balance the excesses of others. Murry suggested Americans take advantage of Machiavelli’s cynicism, while trusting, like Plato and Augustine, that political life can make us better versions of ourselves.

Daniel McMahon, Ph.D.


Mapping Utopia: From Plato to Atwood to Where We Live

March 10, 2020

In a lecture entitled, “Mapping Utopia: From Plato to Atwood to Where We Live,” Daniel McMahon, Ph.D., describes utopias as imagined, perfect societies that can only exist within the world of literature. Because perfection is so difficult to sustain, utopian societies often fall apart so the literary genre maintains strong ties to the dystopian tradition. Situating utopias into the history of ideas, McMahon argues that thinkers use them to break down the boundaries between academic disciplines and directly confront some of the big questions in life about how we should live, what are the legitimate sources of power and what is the goal of society. These questions, McMahon maintains, also inform the Mount’s innovative liberal arts curriculum.

McMahon is the principal of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyatsville, Maryland. An award-winning educator, he graduated from the Mount in 1980 and serves on the boards of many nonprofit organizations including the Advisory Board of the Mount’s College of Liberal Arts. In 2019, he founded the Mount St. Mary’s University Alumni Book Award. He also frequently works as a book reviewer, blogger, and newspaper commenter.

Paige Hochschild, Ph.D.

Paige Hochschild

Sin and ‘The Gift of Mortality’ in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

September 25, 2019

Mount theologian Paige Hochschild, Ph.D., explained how J.R.R. Tolkien uses strangeness to help readers see the dignity of humanity and the goodness of creation anew. Like the character Frodo, they are called “to grow up, and enter the great story of the human experience” by participating in the struggle between good and evil.

Hochschild covered three aspects of sin in Tolkien’s literature: forgetfulness, non-acceptance, and the desire for power. Gandalf is a character who “accepts the circumstances of life as given to us” as a starting point for effective judgement and beneficial action. Hochschild identified the trilogy’s central drama as time. Possessing the gift and the curse of immortality, the elves envy the mortality of humans because human limitations “make it possible to discern the moral greatness of which we are capable, and the kind of happiness and flourishing of which we are worthy.”

Rita George-Tvrtkovic, Ph.D.


The Virgin Mary--Bridge or Barrier between Catholics and Muslims?

April 10, 2019

Rita George-Tvrtkovic, Ph.D., associate professor of theology at Benedictine University shares her study of both Christian and Islamic cultures and the connections we build in her talk titled, "The Virgin Mary—Bridge or Barrier between Catholics and Muslims?

Dr. Tvrtković is the author of A Christian Pilgrim in Medieval Iraq: Riccoldo da Montecroce’s Encounter with Islam and coedited Nicholas of Cusa and Islam: Polemic and Dialogue in the Middle Ages. She is also the former associate director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Check out her recent book Christians, Muslims, and Mary: A History (New York: Paulist Press, 2018).

Michael J. Towle, Ph.D.


Elections to the U.S. House of Representatives: Problems and Possibilities

October 3, 2018

Dr. Michael Towle, Mount Professor of Political Science, will be presenting the lecture, "Elections to the U.S. House of Representatives: Problems and Possibilities." Elections to the U.S. House of Representatives have become problematic, with highly partisan candidates and gerrymandered districts. This lecture will address some of these problems and propose some possible solutions. This will be a timely and relevant lecture as we approach election day in November.

As a political commentator, Dr. Towle has been featured in U.S. News and World Report as well as The Baltimore Sun. He is also the author of Out of Touch: The Presidency and Public Opinion.

Kurt Blaugher, Ph.D. & David McCarthy, Ph.D.


Batman's Quest: Saving Gotham and Healing the Soul

April 18, 2018

Kurt E. Blaugher has been the director of theatre at Mount St. Mary’s University for thirty years, producing plays from across the dramatic spectrum. He has also taught nearly all of the courses in the humanities sequence of the Core Curriculum. His current work with David McCarthy, Saving the World and Healing the Soul, combines his interests in both classic storytelling and popular culture. Dr. Blaugher received his B.A. from Washington and Jefferson College, his M.A. from the University of Pittsburgh, and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

David M. McCarthy is the associate provost at the Mount. He has written a variety of books, articles, and essays in the areas of moral theology and social ethics, and he was the founding editor of the Journal of Moral Theology. Along the line of Saving the World and Healing the Soul, he has published essays on Vietnam War films, The Wire, and Mad Men. Dr. McCarthy received his B.A. from High Point University, and his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Duke University.

Christopher Bellitto, Ph.D.


Luther and Church Reform: Catholic Perspectives

November 1, 2017

Dr. Christopher M. Bellitto is professor of history at Kean University in New Jersey, where he teaches courses in ancient and medieval history. A specialist in church history and reform, he is the author of ten books, including the companion volumes Renewing Christianity and The General Councils.

His articles have appeared in academic journals in the United States and Europe; he has won grants from the Fulbright Program and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Bellitto also serves as Academic Editor at Large of Paulist Press and series Editor in Chief of Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition.

A public speaker and media commentator on church history and contemporary Catholicism, he appears frequently in print, on radio, and television.

Maureen Corrigan, Ph.D.


The Greatness of Gatsby

March 15, 2017

Maureen Corrigan is the "critic in residence" and the Nicky and Jamie Grant Distinguished Professor of the Practice in Literary Criticism at Georgetown University, and the scholarly curator for the American Writers Museum in Chicago (2017 opening).

Corrigan's book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures, published in 2014 by Little, Brown, has gained her considerable national attention.

She received her doctorate and Master of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. in English from Fordham University.

Michelle Francl, Ph.D.


In the Thicket of this World: Doing Science as a Person of Faith

November 2, 2016

Michelle M. Francl, Ph.D., is a professor of chemistry and chair of the chemistry department at Bryn Mawr College.

She has been on the faculty at Bryn Mawr since 1986 and an adjunct scholar at the Vatican Observatory.

Francl is a quantum chemist who has published in areas ranging from the development of methods for computational chemistry to the structures of topologically intriguing molecules.

Martin Malone, Ph.D.


The Liberated Imagination: Toward an adequate understanding of complexity

February 22, 2016

Dr. Malone is a university professor of sociology and former chair of the Department of Sociology and has taught at Mount St. Mary's University since 1985.

He holds a bachelor's degree from New York University, a master's degree from Southern Illinois University in anthropology, and a doctoral degree in sociology from Indiana University.

Sarah Ruden, Ph.D.


Augustine as a Guide through the Perils of Modernity: TheConfessions on How to Think, Read, Write, and Live

September 23, 2015

Sarah Ruden holds a doctoral degree in classical philology from Harvard University and a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. She has taught Latin, English, and writing at Harvard, Yale, and the University of Cape Town, and has been a tutor for the South African Education and Environment Project, an education-enrichment nonprofit in Cape Town. She is a poet, translator, essayist, and popularizer of Biblical linguistics.

Jessy Jordan, Ph.D.


The Liberal Arts in an Age of Distraction: Cultivating Humanity in the Digital Ruins

April 29, 2015

Dr. Jordan earned his doctoral degree in philosophy from Baylor University in 2008. His areas of specialization are Iris Murdoch, value theory and metaethics. He was drawn to the Mount because of its distinctive Catholic liberal arts mission. A great deal of his teaching time is thus happily spent teaching courses in the core curriculum; however, he has also taught electives such as philosophy and literature, contemporary Catholic philosophy, contemporary value theory and metaethics.

Leon R. Kass, Ph.D.


The Other War on Poverty: The Search for Meaning in America

October 2, 2014

Leon R. Kass, M.D., Ph.D. is the Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus of Social Thought and in the College at the University of Chicago, and the Madden-Jewett Chair at the American Enterprise Institute. He was the chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics from 2001 to 2005.

He has been engaged for more than 40 years with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advances, and is known as an opponent of human cloning, life extension and euthanasia, and as a critic of certain areas of technological progress and embryo research. He is a proponent of liberal arts education, via the "Great Books."