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Sampler of Honors Courses

Below are descriptions of several Honors courses that have been offered in the past few years. Students and faculty are always welcome to submit ideas and proposals for future Honors courses. See Appendix E for an Honors Course Proposal form.

First Year Honors Core: HNRS 102 (Honors History of Civilization) & HNRS 205 (Honors Literature and Culture) – This Honors Learning Community introduces first year Honors students to a survey of world literature in conjunction with the study of world civilizations of the same period, including both Western and non-Western works. Topics focus on intellectual and cultural history with emphasis on changes in government, economics, arts, science, and literature. Field trips may include visits to Washington and Baltimore museums and theaters. Trips focus on the literary and historical connections of political thought and literary development.

Tech Mythologies – We are immersed in ever-changing, computer-mediated communication.  Interconnecting the technologies of cell phones, apps, and the web are rituals and stories – mythologies.  Some are false perpetuated ideas.  However, true mythologies attempt to explain the Real – stories we live by.  The technological lifeworld creates new ways of expression and new forms of perception, which allows for new insight, hindsight and foresight. This class will study the expression of mythology and the perception of technology.

Tales of Horror: TV vs. Film – This course will consider how the same theme – horror – is treated in the audio-visual media of television and film.  In particular, we will examine how a specific premise (insanity, serial killing, freaks, etc.) translates to both the small and silver screen, tracing the process from idea development through financing, filming, marketing, distribution, fandom, and critical reception.  We will begin with early horror shows produced by major television networks in a closed 30- or 60-minute format, such as The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Dark Side, then focus on several longer, movie-like series from the last 20 years, including Twin Peaks and Dexter.  Each of these contemporary series will be paired with a feature film dealing with the same theme. This will expose students to a range of cinematic styles including those of Tod Browning (1930s), Michael Powell (1960s), and Jeunet and Caro (1990s). Science in Fiction and Popular Culture – This advanced seminar for Honors students will focus on how science has been represented in fiction and popular culture from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein up to today’s YouTube channels such as “Vsauce” and “SciShow.” We will use literary and cultural texts to investigate how works of fiction and other popular media have interpreted the role of science in our lives, often through their presentation of imaginary worlds that explore implications of influential scientific paradigms or new scientific developments of the authors’ times.

Deviance and Authority in Tudor-Stuart England – In this course we will examine a number of “deviant behaviors” that were widely reported to have occurred in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century in England.  Political, religious, and social instability of the period challenged the conventional desire for a well ordered society and lead to the perception of widespread deviance. This course will examine the reality of those perceptions. The course will be reading and discussion based and topics will include, political upheaval caused by the rule of women; riot, rebellion, and social class; sexual deviance in society; religious tolerance and intolerance; and causes and consequences of the witch craze.

Modern East Asia through Literature – This course introduces students to the histories of East and South Asia from approximately 1870 to the present, focusing on the challenges that Asian nations have faced in adapting to the modern world while pursuing their own objectives within it. Using novels and novellas as its subject matter, the course explores the human dimension of the massive changes that Asian nations have undergone in modern times. Works studied in the course illustrate both the substantial differences among nations and regions and our shared humanity.

Consumerism and Identity – This course will use literary and cultural texts – focusing especially on the novels White Noise, Fight Club, and Oryx and Crake; the films Fight Club and Food, Inc.; and other short texts –  to investigate how one’s situation within a consumer society shapes one’s sense of personal identity. Topics treated at length will include the symbolic nature of commodities; our use of such commodities to fashion provisional and ever-changing representations of one’s self; the influence on consumption and personal identity of factors such as gender, race, and environment; and the impact of our consumer behavior on our social and natural environments.

Costa Rica – This course explores Costa Rican culture through intensive study on campus and field experience in Costa Rica for ten days over spring recess.  Classroom topics include an overview of linguistic, historical, geographical, sociopolitical, economic, and/or artistic concerns of the areas visited.  During the semester we will meet as a seminar class where students will develop a topic based on their area of interest within the context of Costa Rica. Topics may include, political and economic development issues, eco-tourism, sustainable development, biodiversity, language studies, cultural transmission.

Modern Civil Rights Movement – This class examines the modern American civil rights movement from 1930 – 1975. While historians traditionally focus on southern activism our course also emphasizes the northern struggle for black rights. We will look at a variety of approaches and campaigns employed by black activists around the country, the role of government and the legal system, and the impact of major events such as the Great Depression, World War II, McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, and international anti-colonial struggles. We will read major primary sources and historical monographs in order to develop new theories about this important social movement in American history.

Science and Religion – This course is a survey of the philosophical and historical aspects of the relationship between science and the primary world religions. It is an interdisciplinary course designed to foster dialog between people of scientific and religious backgrounds. After discussion of the methods of rational inference and preliminary considerations in the philosophy of science, a survey of major world religions (including Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam) and the naturalistic perspective will be presented, along with various philosophical models of the relationship between science and religion. Key episodes in the historic interactions between science and religion (Babylonian Astronomy, Copernicus and Galileo, the Scopes Trial, etc.) will be examined and correlated with these models.