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Honors Program

2011-12 Honors Courses

Fall 2011 Courses

GST 110  The Global Experience
Professor Steve Braye
Green Day's words, "Don't want to be an American Idiot," reflected contemporary America in important ways.  Yet how do we avoid this fate, being an American Idiot?  In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will think beyond the media, for ourselves, examining and re-examining our beliefs and assumptions in significant ways.  We will use our time together to get outside the lines, to question our views of the world in new and challenging ways.  What are your views on contemporary slavery?  Are we implicated in the death of Sudanese in the Sudan?  What do we think about such global issues, and, more importantly, how do we decide what to think about these issues?
So often, we concentrate on what we know, the accumulation of material, rather than the perspectives we bring to this material.  No matter how old we are, we tend to see things the same over and over, forgetting to recognize how different people, or just different perspectives, can lead us to enact different realities.  This course will challenge us to achieve something better.  We can gain new perspectives that enable us to change both the world around us and ourselves.  We can examine new ways of thinking and see what these ways can offer us.  Finally, we can decide what we want to accomplish in our world and use these ways of seeing to help us develop innovative ways of acting in the world.

Team-taught interdisciplinary seminars – Fall 2011

Brooke Barnett and Tom Mould
HNR 272-A, Literary Journalism (SOC or EXP)

Literary journalism involves employing fiction techniques when writing non-fiction stories. The effect is extremely compelling and has resulted in some of literary history's most memorable accounts, including a look at the sharecropper experience after the depression, a ride on a bus with a writer and his acid-dropping friends and the discovery of government-funded weapons used to massacre an entire village. In this class you will study the masters who started the movement as well as current writers, and in the end produce your own piece of literary journalism.
Michael Pregill and Pam Winfield – HNR 236-A, The Silk Road and Beyond:  Religion, Art, and Exchange in the Age of Global Empires – (Civ and Exp)

The Silk Road and Beyond: Religion, Art, and Exchange in the Age of Global Empires

The Silk Road, an ancient network of trade routes stretching from China to the Mediterranean, was instrumental in linking the cultures of Europe, the Near East, Central Asia, and the Far East for centuries. This course will investigate numerous aspects of life on the Silk Road, contextualizing it as a premodern forerunner of globalization. We will examine the maritime and overland pathways through which cultures and civilizations exchanged goods and ideas, as well as their means and motivations for doing so (commerce, conquest, and missionizing). In doing so, we will consider broader theoretical issues: we will analyze the concept of “culture” in all its complexity from multiple disciplinary perspectives (focusing on historical, art historical, religious studies, and cultural studies approaches), and explore how communities and individuals develop ideas about ethnicity, class, and gender in complex multicultural and cosmopolitan environments.

Spring 2012 Courses

Team-taught interdisciplinary seminars – Spring 2012
Anthony Crider and Anthony Weston
HNR 237-A, Life in the Universe – Sci (nonlab) and Exp
Life in the Universe

This course is a wide-angled exploration of contemporary thinking about life and intelligence beyond Earth. We explore astrobiology and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, both in scientific terms and against their cultural and philosophical background. What are the main arguments for and against extraterrestrial life and intelligence? What might extraterrestrial life or intelligence be like? What is the probability that we could discover either within our galaxy? How might such a discovery change our understanding of ourselves and the universe?

Nancy Midgette and Janet Warman
HNR 238-A, The Southern Renaissance:  Bounty Out of Red Clay – Exp and Civ
The Southern Renaissance: Bounty out of Red Clay 

By studying the literature of the South that emerged during the Southern Renaissance (between the end of the First World War and the early Civil Rights Movement) and connecting that literature to its historical context, students will be introduced to the rich theoretical and critical debates within the disciplines of literature and history.  Students will gain an appreciation of the incredibly diverse layers that make up cultural identity. 
By the end of the semester students will have combined their strengthened interpretive skills with knowledge gained about the Southern Renaissance to craft a significant research project on a topic they have chosen with some relevance to their own discipline

First-year seminars – Spring 2012

Charles Irons
HNR 132, History of Religion in the US, (Civ)

This course will offer a selective survey of American religious history, from pre-Columbian times to the present. Using the disciplinary tools of an historian, we will address together three related questions: (1) What is religion? (2) What is the relationship between American religious belief and American culture? (3) How do we evaluate some Americans’ persistent determination to identify their country as a “Christian” nation, despite the presence of overwhelming religious diversity? Examples of course content that engage these questions include: European Americans’ religious motivations for colonization; the religious character of settlers’ interactions with Indians and Africans; the durability of African religious systems; secular causes and counterparts to the First and Second Great Awakenings; America’s legacy of anti-Catholicism; religion, ethnicity, and local identities in the urban north; the distinctive American iteration of the contest between religion and science; the rise of “seeker” churches; and the recent [re]politicization of religious belief.


Megan Isaac
HNR 134, Forging culture:  Books, politics and children (Exp)

This course will examine children's and young adult literature as a pivot point for cultural, political, and historical identity in the United States.  Children and the issues related to them are often the focus of cultural conflicts in the U.S.  Members of the class will explore these overt and covert conflicts as they appear in children's literature.  We will investigate how books for children and young readers help shape the values that provide us with a cultural identity and a sense of community. Simultaneously, we will examine the complicated or contentious ideas embedded in books for children and young adults.  Beginning with authors from the late 19th century and working our way forward, we will explore ideas of intellectual freedom and censorship, nostalgia and innovation, didacticism and entertainment, and the constant tension between conservative and subversive trends in books for young readers.  Our study will center on books (both textual and visual elements) but include a consideration of production, distribution, and merchandizing methods as well. Ultimately, we will work to understand the ways ideas about childhood, story, books, and U.S. cultural identity are produced and contested.