Honors students complete the university’s core requirements as a cohort through a pathway designed to familiarize you with touchstones of historical knowledge and their contemporary iterations.
Honors 195: The Scientific and Romantic Revolutions (Seminar in Scholarly Inquiry 1)
This course fulfills the first half of the university’s first-year experience, developing students’ ability to assess, utilize, and produce effective academic argument. Course conversations focus on the shifting understandings of knowledge, truth, and person-hood as they emerge in the Enlightenment and are challenged and re-conceptualized through the advent of Romanticism. The course also asks students how those values and ideas continue to shape our understanding of key questions in contemporary times. In practical terms, this course and Honors 196 help students refine their critical reading skills and academic writing, introducing them as well to the essentials of college-level research and information literacy.
Honors 196: Postmodernism and the Challenge of Belief (Seminar in Scholarly Inquiry 2)
This course fulfills the second half of the university’s first-year experience, developing students’ ability to assess, utilize, and produce effective academic argument. In it, we examine the philosophical, historical, and aesthetic underpinnings of the late twentieth-century zeitgeist known as postmodernism, the assumptions of which continue to govern much of how we think today. While many of the ideas central to postmodernism are many centuries old, their significance with respect to matters of belief (whether ethical, epistemological, or religious) has never before been so fully realized. The nature of subjectivity, truth, reality, morality, and knowledge itself have all been radically 'problematized'. Without recourse to claims of truth, or moral systems, how do we distinguish right from wrong? How do we adjudicate conflicts in a world in which all values are equally contingent? How do we convince others of the validity of our positions, and is it even ethical to do so? The course explores the origins of postmodernism; the social, moral, and philosophical consequences of its core assumptions; its benefits and limitations in addressing real world concerns; and how it is itself a system of belief with a worldview no less totalizing and morally rigorous than the religious and Enlightenment precursors it sought to displace.
Honors 206: The Arts of the Classical World and the Middle Ages (Artistic Approaches)
From well-equipped Egyptian mummies to the reverberant spaces of Islamic mosques, this course explores artworks of five ancient and medieval civilizations from around the Mediterranean: pagan Egypt, Greece, and Rome; Christian Byzantium; and Islamic states. The course explores the history, beliefs, and customs of these cultures through the analysis of works of art. The course examines material ranging from colossal monuments built for the powerful to humble objects used by commoners, from works of awesome religious significance to lighthearted artifacts of the secular realm in order to understand the role art played in these various societies of the ancient and medieval worlds. Course readings include a survey textbook and specialized articles that foster understanding of a range of topics, such as: religious, racial, and ethnic diversity; attitudes toward death and the deceased; issues of gender and sexuality; visual manifestations of political ideologies and propaganda; the importance of the sensory experiences in seeking the divine; and understanding copies, fakes, and originals –topics also relevant in our own society. The course sharpens your skills in visual and contextual analysis of artworks, and introduces you to various methods and types of evidence art historians use in their work.
Honors 211: Metamorphosis and Identity (Humanistic Approaches)
Focuses on questions of identity through art that represents bodies and selves in transformation over the centuries. The idea of what a "normative" body is according to racial, religious, gendered, and social theories is always a construction that reflects but also legitimizes cultural values. We're interested in what--and why--that human body crosses boundaries in the stories we experience through literature, the visual arts, and film. In turn, we consider what important social, moral, and psychological function art serves in Western culture. We journey from classical stories of metamorphoses and identity to anxieties about biomedical ethics and race in our course. We focus on Western culture so as to provide a historical overview of the theme while we achieve depth in our textual analysis. Imagine a course then, that begins with Ovid's stories about shape-shifting and ends with "Get Out" or "The Danish Girl."
Honors 212 Origin of the modern world view (Natural Scientific Approaches)
Honors 212 is intended to serve as a bridge between the sciences and humanities. On the humanistic side, you will explore the historical development of scientific thought during the period when the scientific worldview was formed (roughly 1500-1930). You will focus on the interplay between science and other aspects of intellectual culture. On the scientific side, you will investigate thoroughly a science that was central to this development–optics, with emphasis on the nature of light. Optics is a science with seventeenth-century roots, but the real nature of light was not elucidated until the early part of the twentieth century. The scientific lab work will be, to a large degree, self-directed and exploratory, allowing you to discover, through experiment, the laws of optics. By the time that you are a third of the way through the semester, you will begin to see important links between the scientific work and the historical readings, even reproducing some of Newton’s classic optical experiments. Your laboratory work will inform your understanding of one of the great scientific debates of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: the controversy over whether light consists of waves or particles. In the final part of the course, you will see the same argument repeated in the twentieth-century investigation of the nature of matter itself and the development of relativity and quantum mechanics.
Honors 213: The Mathematics of Symmetry (Mathematical Approaches)
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).
HON 214: Interrogating Inequalities (Social Scientific Approaches/KNOW)
What kinds of inequalities exist in the United States? In a society that has professed a commitment to liberty, equality, and democracy, do we have a responsibility to question why and how inequalities are tolerated? This course allows students to probe such questions through an exploration of classic texts in political, economic, and social theory—thinkers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Michel Foucault—in order to interrogate both sources and effects of inequality. In addition to these “canonical” texts, the course engages students in pressing contemporary issues around race, class, sexuality, gender, and power by employing cross-disciplinary lenses from economics, sociology, anthropology, criminology, law, and political science. At the end of the term, students will compose a “manifesto” of their own, focused on a form of inequality that they believe must be addressed with some urgency.
Honors 401: What is America? (Connections Core)
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. We consider the writings of canonical American figures like Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson as well as contemporary responses by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Claudia Rankine, and others.