Honors Courses Fall 2024

Sophomore Seminars

The Culture of Food (CIV/EXP)

M/W 2:00 – 3:40pm

Dr. Kevin Bourque and Dr. Nina Namaste

At first glance, the meaning of “food” seems self-apparent. “Food” is a monosyllable, something we’re familiar with from birth; even a baby knows what food is. Look more carefully, however, and the definition becomes more complex: what is the dividing line between a food and a medicine? Are genetically modified or highly-processed substances – say, “imitation cheese product” or Go-Gurt – still foods? How might one culture’s food be another’s taboo? This course spans human expression – including literature, the visual arts, the history of science and the history of ideas – to explore and evaluate the meaning of food. In turn, students will examine and articulate their own relationships with food, through both individual research projects and in-class tastings and activities. How might thoughtful engagement with food – and learning to taste critically – make us better eaters, thinkers and global citizens?

Growing Up Outside (SOC)

T/TH 10:30am – 12:10pm

Dr. Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler

This course will explore how the psychosocial, cognitive, and motor development of children is influenced by varying interactions with the natural world. Student will critically analyze ecological and sociocultural theoretical frameworks to facilitate their understanding of how children’s interactions in complex environmental ecologies can influence development and learning. We will use evidence from recent theory and research to evaluate claims about why spending time in nature matters for child development across multiple domains and holistic well-being. In addition, we will consider how barriers to access (e.g., disability or economic resources) can impact childhood experiences. Specific topics include: forest schools; gender and play in outdoor environments; risky play; children’s environmental stewardship; children’s acceptance and inclusion of differences.

Science of Death (non-lab SCI)

T/TH 12:30 – 2:10pm

Dr. Jessica Merricks

What is death, exactly? What is the precise moment that gives way to its terminal state? How have modern medical advances helped or hindered the transition between life and death, and challenged our definition of personhood? This course will take an interdisciplinary approach to address questions about death and dying. Beginning with a discussion of the physiological requirements for sustaining life, we will examine the mechanisms that underlie the dying process, discuss the environmental and economic factors related to methods of preservation of life, and the various issues surrounding deposition of the body. We will also search the globe for a glimpse into the diverse attitudes and beliefs towards the dead and dying. Ultimately, this class will challenge our understanding of death and provide students with the opportunity to revise their own perspectives on what it means when life is “lost”.

Vision and Difference: Art, History, and Identity (CIV)

T/TH 2:30 – 4:10

Dr. Kirstin Ringelberg

This course will explore the intersections of art objects and makers, their historical contexts, and categories of personal and group identity, particularly gender and race. Artists both work within and challenge, through subtle subversions or direct attacks, the normative identity constructs of their historical contexts. We will look at several case studies across a variety of contexts and analyze the strategies taken by both these artists and the historians who wrote about them. How can we think differently about our own contexts and identities by studying the ways that identity has been constructed, performed, and deconstructed in visual objects? Or in texts that attempt to frame and define those objects, their makers, and their periods? What relationships do seeing and being seen have to our identities, our histories, and the way we understand and learn? Much is being made of our own current context as one of heightened individual visibility in a landscape itself increasingly visually oriented; what is at stake in this supposed change, and how can art history’s focus on these very issues be deployed to understand it?

Honors Courses Spring 2024

First-Year Seminars

Art to Action: Literature, Games, and Society (CIV)
T/TH 12:30pm – 2:10pm
Dr. Brandon Essary

Students will read key segments of Dante’s Divine Comedy, one of the most famous works of world literature. The course will challenge students to compare and contrast the sacred, “literary” journey of a medieval pilgrim in Inferno with the profane, “ludic” quest of a scythe-wielding soul slayer video game avatar in Dante’s Inferno. It will also challenge students to imagine how to visualize and gamify the realms of Purgatorio and Paradiso. Students will investigate: medieval Italian literature and history; traditional literary and video game narratives; and the role of storytelling and games in society today and in their disciplines.

Disease and the Healing World (CIV)
M/W 4:00pm – 5:40pm
Dr. Waseem Kasim

Human experiences of diseases and healing vary profoundly across time and place. The course evaluates these experiences from ancient times to the present through a global lens. We will explore medical traditions and examine the ways in which humankind responded to major public health emergences including plague, smallpox, cholera, and influenza. We will study the globalization of disease and the emergence of scientific medicine after 1450, then turn to the interrelated histories of health and disease in the modern era. Turning to healing, we will analyze the ways in which Africans responded to health challenges, defied neat categories, and located healing arts in multiple and overlapping social, corporeal, and spiritual realms. Throughout, we will attend carefully to how biological aspects of health and disease have shaped human experiences, while exploring the powerful mediating role of social, cultural, economic, and political factors – from religious beliefs and dietary practices to inequality, poverty, em ire, and war – in determining the myriad ways in which health disease and healing have been responded to and understood.

Scientific Communication in a Post-truth Society (non-lab SCI)
M/W/F 9:30am – 10:40am
Dr. Jen Uno

Science as a discipline is based on fact but it can also be considered a method for analyzing and collecting data to accept or reject those very facts. Equally important, is the idea that science does not happen in isolation. It is affected by the social and cultural context of researchers and in turn has an impact on society and culture. This course will cover four major scientific topics (vaccines, climate change, evolution, and community dynamics) that are often misunderstood, over simplified and debated. We will explore the history behind each issue and the original scientific theories, ideas and primary literature involved with each topic. Following a careful examination of the science, we will then turn to how society has interpreted and influenced each topic and take a closer look at exactly how, when and why misconceptions developed. We will debate and discuss all sides of the issue and together learn how to use the scientific method as a tool make informed decisions.

How Novels Work (EXP, lit)
T/TH 2:30pm – 4:10pm
Dr. Kevin Bourque

This course approaches the novel as a technology, one intended to manufacture – and by extension make sense of – human consciousness. Our reading will center on those books generally deemed the first English novels, from Aphra Behn’s Oronooko, or the Royal Slave (1688) to Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy (1759). As we read, we’ll pay attention to how novels developed over time, and how they captured human thought and experience more fully through advances like verisimilitude, dialogue, interiority, the chapter and narrative time. Students will also read and analyze contemporary novels of their choice, continually comparing the early novel to more modern storytelling techniques.

Sophomore Seminars

Rewriting Climate Change (SOC or non-lab SCI)
M/W 2:00pm – 3:40pm
Dr. Amanda Chunco and Dr. Heather Lindeman

Despite scientific consensus on climate change and the profound damage it is expected to cause, governments and industry are taking relatively little action to effect change. Why have environmental campaigns and scientific communication about climate catastrophe failed to reduce emissions, in practice? In what ways do climate change and environmental destruction seem uniquely impervious to human action and advocacy? This class will begin with questions such as these, about how and why people have not acted collectively to address climate change. Our course aims to begin to solve these problems, by considering both the science of climate change and the means of communication surrounding it. Students will learn the basic principles from atmospheric and geological sciences upon which the scientific consensus on climate change is based. Students will conduct research on public understanding of climate change and will study and analyze ways that writing and words might be used to change its course. In what ways might writing–including academic scholarship, journalism, legal writing, fiction, and social media–done differently, change the course of planetary warming and its consequences? Students’ final projects will use writing in multiple media to propose climate change action.

International Cool (SOC)
M/W 4:00pm – 5:40pm
Dr. Doug Kass

The term “cool” appeared in the Dutch language over 600 years ago. Cool has been traced to beliefs of the African Yoruba tribe, and to concepts in ancient Chinese writings in the Tao Te Ching from 400 B.C. Today, “cool” might be the most casually spoken word in the English language. Yet few are aware that its modern-day usage is rooted in response to racism in America, where it miraculously fused two completely contradictory meanings: to remain calm in the face of tensions and hostilities, and to stand out with an expression of exceptional individuality and style. What is the root of this contradiction that still exists today? How do these two contradictory ideas co-exist and why? Globally speaking, one of America’s largest exports is its “cool,” from music to movies to clothing and sports. At the same time, cool has taken on its own dimensions in an array of nations and cultures around the world. How do cultures exchange ideas on an equal footing that does not have its basis in colonialism or a fascination with “the other?” Cool permeates every aspect of our lives, from what we wear and eat to what we hear and watch, to our own sense of self and self-confidence. Beginning with American jazz and Hollywood Film Noir movies, then branching out into a global context, students will use a variety of readings, media, group projects, and multi-modal writing to research and explore this multi-faceted concept, with an ultimate eye toward how one sees society both locally and globally, and how one sees oneself.

Science of Fighting Pandemics (SCI non-lab)
M/W/F 11:00am – 12:10pm
Dr. Todd Lee and Dr. Vickie Moore

This course will explore past, current, and emerging threats of highly infectious diseases, examined from a scientific and global impact perspective. Students will be introduced to the basic science of viruses and bacteria, infection, immunity, and population spread. They will also explore the many tools that have been developed to combat pandemics including sanitation, ethical clinical trials, vaccines, and various areas in epidemiology. Possible disease topics include the bubonic plague, smallpox, malaria, the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the emerging monkeypox threat.

Burning at the Stake: Superstition in the Western World (CIV)
T/TH 12:30pm – 2:10pm
Dr. Mina Garcia

This course asks how belief in supernatural causes shapes societies, relates to religion and idolatry and changes depending on the context. Studying what constitutes superstition from Apuleius to the Virgin of Guadalupe, from Inquisitorial Spain to the Salem Witch Trials, can expose the complexities of a particular society and how racial, gender, class and territorial conflicts can be disguised as manifestation of a spell. Students will develop a critical understanding of the malleability of the concept, focusing in its role in Early Modern Spain the newly discovered Americas and the contemporary world. Course assignments, focused reaction papers, a poster session and a semester-long project are designed to prepare students to meet the complex questions of the term in the most engaging way.