Rover Faculty Advisors recommend books and films every undergraduate student should read and watch
Rick Garnett, Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School: Klara and the Sun (Kazuo Ishiguro)
I recommend Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a profound and gripping reflection on a question that should, for Notre Dame students, always be squarely in view: What does it mean to be human? Like his 2005 Never Let Me Go (I know, it’s cheating to sneak in two books—but read both!), the book has deceptively gradual pacing, is full of surprises, is both warm and chilling, inspiring, and horrifying. And—why not?—don’t stop there: Read (or watch) his Remains of the Day, a powerful challenge to our easy acceptance of role morality.
Walter Nicgorski, Professor Emeritus in Program of Liberal Studies: The Abolition of Man (C. S. Lewis)
My selection is The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis, a book based on three lectures Lewis gave in the last years of World War II. Happy the moment when a professor recommends a short book that is weighty in its significance and insights. Lewis sees what we now recognize as all around us: the coming loss of societal standards and objectivity regarding the beautiful, the good, and the true. He foresees a time when humans will turn science upon themselves, denying along with such social sciences the reality of a universal human nature and of human freedom. Toward renewal, he points back to the ground of nature and the tradition of natural law. Because it is such a manageable reading and so laden with significance, this is an ideal book to be discussed chapter by chapter in a small group over several meals together.
Daniel Philpott, Professor of Political Science: A Hidden Life (2019, dir. Terrence Malick)
Every undergraduate should watch A Hidden Life. I concur with columnist Rod Dreher that it is “the best evocation of the Gospel ever committed to film.” Set in the transcendently beautiful Austrian village, Saint Radegund, the film depicts the ordinary “hidden life” of the young villager Franz Jägerstätter, his long meditations in conscience as he responds to being drafted by the Nazis, and his suffering and death for his refusal. It’s about martyrdom but also about a faithful Christian everyday life.
Father Bill Miscamble, C.S.C., Professor of History: The Diary of a Country Priest (Georges Bernanos)
Georges Bernanos’s The Diary of a Country Priest is good reading for Lent, or for any season for that matter. Bernanos shows in this novel that men and women are not defined by progress or achievement or whatever. Rather, we are defined by our relationship with God and in our struggle with evil. We are all called to share in the one priesthood of Christ. The novel has a character say: “Faith is not a thing one ‘loses,’ we merely cease to shape our lives by it.” Surely words to meditate upon in the weeks ahead.
John Cavadini, Professor of Theology: The Song of Bernadette (Franz Werfel)
The Song of Bernadette is a historical novel written in fulfillment of a vow taken by the author, the eminent German literary artist Franz Werfel. He was a Jew, actively hunted by the Nazis, and he was harbored at Lourdes. He vowed that if he made it to the United States, he would sing the song of Bernadette to make her story more widely known and loved. He did make it, and we are the beneficiaries of this now classic text of spiritual biography. It is structured into five groups of ten chapters each … sound familiar?
Laura Hollis, Associate Professor of Business:
I recommend three films: Doctor Zhivago (1965) directed by David Lean, The Killing Fields (1984) directed by Roland Joffe, and Mr. Jones (2019) directed by Agnieszka Holland. Viewing all three makes clear the evils of communism (and collectivism generally) across cultures, countries, ethnicities and eras, as well as exposing the consistent support of the American media for communism as an ideology, notwithstanding the staggering human toll it has taken over the past century. It is also worth pointing out as well that most (if not all) communist regimes are expressly atheistic, which provides a cautionary lesson for those who maintain that a godless culture is a more peaceful or prosperous one.