Current & Upcoming Honors Courses

Spring 2021

First Year Seminar – How the Novel Works. Dr. Kevin Bourque. Expression (Lit). MW, 3:30-5:10.

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.

First Year Seminar – Intellectual History. Dr. Michael Carignan. Civilization. TTh 10:30-12:10.

This course is designed to provide students opportunities to critically understand the historical nature of our own important ideas by examining the ways in which ideas have evolved through the last 300 years of European history. In order to understand the major, modern intellectual movements—Enlightenment, Romanticism, Developmentalism, Fin de Siecle, Modernism, Existentialism, and Deconstruction—we will read classic works ranging from philosophy to history and literature from the major figures who have asked and/or responded to the very deepest questions that have captivated modern, Western civilization. Threading many of the movements will be the enduring themes of freedom, critique, historical consciousness, the “death” of God, and the inescapable disappearance of certainties. Writers include: Kant, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Darwin, Nietzsche, Kafka, Freud, Sartre, Camus, Derrida, and Borges.

Sophomore Seminar – Sexual Ethics. Dr. Ann Cahill. Expression. TTh, 10:30-12:10.

This course will explore several of the most persistent controversies in the field of sexual ethics. As we analyze social phenomena such as sex work, reproductive autonomy, and polyamory, we will pay particular attention to the theoretical frameworks that underlie ethical analyses of sexual practices. To that end, we will ask the following kinds of questions: how does Western mind/body dualism frame dominant approaches to sexual ethics? How do different ethical frameworks (such as deontology and virtue ethics) analyze problems regarding sexual ethics differently? How do theoretical approaches (such as feminist or queer theory) that focus on intersecting axes of oppression illuminate new challenges in sexual ethics? Class discussions will be informed by a wide scope of disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, biology, psychology, and economics.

Sophomore Seminar –  Authenticity: Is there a “True” Self? Dr. Alexis Franzese. Society. TTh 12:30-2:10

For centuries, philosophers have debated the existence of a ‘true’ self- a self that transcends context and circumstances. The main question that will be addressed in this course is: Is there a true self? The question of a true self has been considered in varying ways over time and place. In the last century, Western society has been marked by a more conscious self-awareness. However, the concept of the self has changed over time and self-awareness may be considered as a distinctly modern topic. Sub-questions that will be explored in conjunction with this larger question include (1) How has thinking about the self changed over time? (2) How does religious thought shape and intersect with thinking about the self? (3) How has technology (over time from the printing press to transportation to the computer) shaped self-presentation and notions of a true self?, and (4) Is there an ethical imperative to present a true self, and what is at stake in presenting a fraudulent self to the world or in presenting a genuine self to the world?

Sophomore Seminar – Beauty and the Brain. Drs. Eric Hall and Kristina Meinking. Civilization or Science (non-lab). MW, 1:40-3:20.

In the priamel to her 7th-century BCE Fragment 16, the poet Sappho muses: “Some say an army of horsemen, some of foot soldiers, / others of ships / is the most beautiful thing upon the earth, / but I say it is what one loves.” These few lines give expression to a widely held fascination with the driving question of this course: What is Beauty? Both preliminary and carefully nuanced ways of thinking through this inquiry raise a complex nexus of associated questions that likewise transcend cultural, historical, geographical, and disciplinary bridges. Is beauty something that exists purely in the eye of the beholder? To what degree are ideas and ideals of beauty shared across cultures, and why? How do the arts reflect, appeal to, and sometimes challenge notions of the aesthetic? Why do people have different emotional reactions to the same painting, sculpture, song, building, or play? How have renowned scholars and thinkers — some based in philosophy and religion, others in science and psychology — sought to answer and explain how and what we perceive as beautiful?

Fall 2021

Sophomore Seminar – Deep Time to the Anthropocene: Past, Present, and Future Eras. Dr. Amanda Chunco. Science (non-lab). MWF 10:50-12:00.

A look at Earth’s history from the planet’s creation to speculation about the future. The class will begin with the oldest period in the geologic time scale and make its way to now, presenting the idea of a new era relating to the extensive impact of humans on the planet. Class discussions will incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to Earth’s history, including art and language as a medium for explaining complex ideas. Throughout the semester, students will analyze patterns of extinction and dominance across several billions of years and be introduced to the hypotheses scientists developed to better understand the concept of deep time. The course will reach the present, reflecting on the time period the students currently live in and will culminate with predictions for the future, some realized in science fiction and others yet to occur.

Sophomore Seminar – Profiling Political Leaders. Dr. Baris Kesgin. Society. T/Th 12:30-2:10

This course builds upon leadership studies in political science and psychology, exploring the psychological dimensions of political leaders’ decision-making in milestone events in the Middle East. First, it surveys historical and contemporary approaches to studying political leaders, and places an emphasis on the relationship between leaders’ personalities, leadership styles, beliefs, psychological disorders on the one hand and decision making (in particular, in foreign policy) on the other. Students will analyze case studies of political leaders from around the region, including Egyptian and Iranian presidents, Israeli and Turkish prime ministers.

Sophomore Seminar – Pregnancy and Childbirth. Dr. Cynthia Fair. Society. T/Th 10:30-12:10

This course examines the topic of childbirth from biomedical, psychosocial, cultural, and historical perspectives. We will explore assumptions about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood by critically analyzing factors that influence the social construction of birth and, in turn, how these dynamics affect maternal and infant health. In particular, students will evaluate the factors that contribute to the high rates of maternal and infant mortality in the US compared to other high-resource countries and propose evidence-based strategies to ameliorate a childbirth-related problem. Partially fulfills Society requirement.