This course introduces selected monuments of the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artistic traditions as well as artworks of the Early Christian, Byzantine, and Islamic cultures. The course examines a wide range of material - architecture and monumental decoration, painting, sculpture, as well as works of minor arts - to understand the role art played in various societies of the ancient and medieval world. Works of art are examined with particular attention to their original function, context, and intended audience in order to explore how they expressed political, social, and religious meanings. The course introduces key terms and principal methods of art historical inquiry.
Students may choose one of the following sections:
A. This section of Honors 211 explores identity across the centuries through stories about metamorphosis. The nature of change reflects cultural, intellectual, and social differences that undergird these stories about "self" and "shape" from fifth-century Athens to twentieth-century Germany. The course examines how early cultures both anticipate modern ideas of individualism as well as radically diverge in their assumptions about human nature, personal and communal obligations, and change as a threat to or regeneration of order. All of the "stories", verbal and visual, reflect tensions and paradoxes through a highly conscious working out of the boundaries between the personal and communal, interior and exterior, private and public, animal and human, despite the fact that they do not share a view of "the individual" or "self" that corresponds to a contemporary (and thus diverse) sense of personal identity and autonomy.
B. This section of Honors 211 examines the biblical story of Adam and Eve, one of Western culture's key foundation myths, by following its preoccupation with forbidden knowledge in the works of authors ranging from the 17th-Century poet John Milton to contemporary women writers of the psychedelic movement, who like Eve, ingest forbidden wisdom-giving "fruit." In doing so, we enlist the help of philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists to explore such questions as: Should certain kinds of knowledge be forbidden or is knowledge an unqualified good? Who should decide? What does it mean to be in a state of innocence, or of experience? What aspects of the human psyche are involved in occupying these states and what kinds of knowledge are they capable of acquiring? These questions will in turn invite us to (re)assess what we understand to be the nature of reality and the deepest aspects of our human identity.
A study of the development of attempts by scientific thinkers to understand and explain the universe. The central theme is the development of astronomy and physics, but some mention is made of corollary studies in mathematics and other sciences. A major portion of the course is devoted to the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century and the work of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton. Another major portion concerns the development of twentieth-century physics, concentrating on relativity and the quantum theory as developed by Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, and others.
This course uses the idea of symmetry as an invitation to explore contemporary mathematics. The roots of the mathematics of symmetry extend back to ancient times, and the current mathematical expression of symmetry was first developed in the early 19th century. The course explores both the history and mathematics of this development and traces where the key ideas have led from there, both mathematically and culturally. Emphasis is placed on how mathematics is discovered and how it fits into broader cultural contexts (including the work of M.C. Escher, fractals, and symmetry in fields other than mathematics).
This course has as its subject matter the individual's relation to society and the relationships that arise among individuals, organizations, and institutions over questions of value. This course aims to enable the student to understand his/her relation to the social world considered as a web of complex and dynamic interrelationships among cultural, economic, psychological, political, ethical and social factors. To this end, the course examines various theories and methods used to analyze this social world, their embedded assumptions, and their application to a variety of contemporary social issues.
What is America? This course provides a comparative, interdisciplinary, and critical examination of "America" (the U.S.) and its endurance as both idea and ideal. Students consider what "America" means--as a place and as a concept, historically and in contemporary times, and to different constituents. Readings and discussion topics address broad issues that have shaped U.S. history and contemporary life, especially those areas around which national identity coheres and those about which the nation has been most conflicted: politics and governance; slavery and freedom; the natural world; capitalism and consumption; industry and technology; immigration and exclusion; civil rights and social justice; culture and the arts.