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.


Profs. Alison Tracy Hale & Aislinn Melchior

This course focuses on the changing forms and mechanisms of power, coercion, and control. Students consider the workings of power, from the interpersonal physical violence of the Classical world through developments in surveillance and technology that have transformed control from a question of physical strength to more subtle and pervasive systems of dominance. The course considers how dominance and ideology interact: What does a culture’s manifestation of power say about its beliefs and values? How do different forms of coercion and control reflect or affect human nature? How do systems of dominance shape individual and collective experience? How does power intersect with categories of identity such as gender, race, religion, etc.? How does power negotiate the relationships between the individual and society? Students consider these and other questions about human nature, society, and technology across multiple eras and societies.

Homer, Iliad

Foucault, Panopticism

Gregoire Chamayou, Drone Theory


Prof. Kriszta Kotsis

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.

Marilyn Stokstad and Michael Cothren, Art History, (6th ed.) vol. I

Course Reader


Prof. Denise Despres

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."

David Ebershoff, The Danish Girl    

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

R.L. Stevenson, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Ovid, Metamorphoses

Esi Edugyan, Washington Black


Prof. George Erving

This section of Honors 211 explores two thought-provoking premises. The first is that, in its celebration of the individual as a foundational concept upon which liberal democracies are built, our culture encourages us to misunderstand who we most deeply are. It does so by maintaining that the ideal self is an autonomous agent that generates its own desires rather than one whose nature is fundamentally relational and whose desires are imitative. We examine this premise by reading works that describe how the psychology of desire abets self-misunderstanding, and by tracing how this psychology plays out in the literary works of Madame de Lafayette, William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Sally Rooney.

The second premise is that we have been encouraged to believe, mistakenly, in the ontological primacy of matter—i.e., in the materialist assumption that everything in the universe, including our human consciousness, ultimately results from the interactions of inert, sub-atomic particles. We will examine recent challenges to this materialist worldview voiced by scholars in the disciplines of psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, and the emerging field of psychedelic studies, and use these challenges as interpretive keys for understanding literary and cinematic works by William Blake, Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg, Michael Pollan, Robert Wright, and Ciro Guerra.

Finally, we will assess the extent to which these supposed misunderstandings may play a key role in creating some of the world’s most pressing problems—the threat of global war, adverse climate change, and various forms of social injustice.

"Tentative Reading List"

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Madame de Lafayette, The Princess of Cleves

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception

Allen Ginsberg, Selected Poems, 1947-1995

Robert Wright, Why Buddhism Is True

Michael Pollan, How To Change Your Mind

Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others

Sally Rooney, Normal People


Prof. David Latimer

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. 

Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution

Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs & Margaret Jacob, Newton and the Culture of Newtonianism 

Thomas Hankins, Science and the Enlightenment

Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, Philosophical Letters

David Park, The Fire Within the Eye

Isaac Newton, Opticks

David Cassidy, Einstein and Our World, 2nd ed.

Rene Descartes, Dioptrics

Francis Bacon, Novum Organum

Christian Huygens, Treatise on Light

Thomas Young, "Experiments and Calculations Relative to Physical Optics,” Philosophical Transactions(1803).


Prof. Martin Jackson

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).

Mario Livio, The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved: How Mathematical Genius Discovered the Language of Symmetry

Course Reader


Profs. Alisa Kessel & Suzanne Holland

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.

Angela Y. Davis,  Are Prisons Obsolete? 

Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality

Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta  

Robert Tucker Ed. The Marx-Engels Reader

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic & The Spirit of Capitalism


Prof. Alison Tracy Hale

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.

Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer

Judith Sargent Murray, "On the Equality of the Sexes"


Layli Long Soldier, Whereas

Ling Ma, Severance

Claudia Rankine, Citizen

James Baldwin, Selected essays

William Apess, Son of the Forest

Colson Whitehead, Underground Railroad

Herman Melville, Paradise of Bachelors, Tartarus of Maids

Tangerine (2015), Dir. Sean Baker