The political theory program is organized around the close study of classic texts in the history of political philosophy from Plato to the present. Students see how the history of political philosophy illuminates the enduring questions that are fundamental to all political debate.
In recent years, there have been graduate seminars on political theorists such as Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Friedrich Hayek. There have also been seminars on topics such as "religion and politics" and "evolution and political theory." There are regular seminars on American political thought, concentrating on authors such as James Madison, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Abraham Lincoln.
Ph.D. students in political theory can expect to gain teaching experience by teaching their own independent courses in political theory for undergraduate students. This teaching experience often helps them in competing for academic teaching positions. Graduates of the political theory program have found tenure-track positions at schools such as Kansas State University, Radford University, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Wheeling Jesuit University, and Concordia University (Montreal).
The success of the Ph.D. program in political theory is indicated by the many dissertations in political theory that have been published as books, which include the following: Stephen McCarthy, The Political Theory of Tyranny in Singapore and Burma: Aristotle and the Rhetoric of Benevolent Despotism(Routledge, 2006); Marlene Sokolon, Political Emotions: Aristotle and the Symphony of Reason and Emotion (Northern Illinois University Press, 2006); Clifford Bates, Aristotle’s Best Regime: Kingship, Democracy, and the Rule of Law (Louisiana State University Press, 2003); Matthew Franck, Against the Imperial Judiciary: The Supreme Court vs. The Sovereignty of the People(University Press of Kansas, 2000); Carson Holloway, All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics (Spence Publishing, 2000); Kim Shankman, Compromise and the Constitution: The Political Thought of Henry Clay (Lexington Books, 1999); and Laurie Johnson, Thucydides, Hobbes, and the Interpretation of Realism(Northern Illinois University Press, 1993).
All qualified graduate students can receive assistantship funding from the Department. As an alternative source of funding, the faculty in political theory have been able in recent years to secure Earhart Fellowships from the Earhart Foundation for as many as four students a year.