Sampler of Honors Course Topics
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.
Honors First Year 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.
Recent Honors Seminar (HNRS 389) Topics:
Disney’s Lands: The Visual Culture of Disney Theme Parks – Disney theme parks have been a key part of the American consciousness since the 1950s. While some view them as merely spaces for wholesome family entertainment, others see them as detested sites where commercialism and fakery serve as substitutes for reality. Our class will seek to wrestle with why these parks are so popular, what types of messages are conveyed within them, and how those messages impact the American psyche. Disney parks proclaim ideas on a wide range of themes, including the framing of the American past, the possibilities of its utopian future, the role of technology in relation to the idea of “progress,” and the picturing of the Orientalist “Other.” In short, the class seeks to understand what we are being told when we (almost inevitably) walk through the gates of these parks and how to think critically about those messages.
Disability and Society – This course is a discussion/group work and writing/reflection based course. In the course, students study the history of Disability Civil Rights Struggle; acquire new ways of thinking about disability; explore socio-medical aspects of disability and the social and physical barriers to full inclusion and integration; learn about disability law and policy; read first-hand experiences of people with disabilities; and explore what it means to live with a disability through articles, videos, and guest speakers.
Normative Ethics and Disputed Moral Issues – This seminar provides students with an overview of major normative theories of ethics, which seek to define the right and the good and offer guidance about how persons can act rightly and become good moral agents, after which we examine in depth several disputed moral issues that allow students to put normative theories to the test and see how ethics pertains to lived experience.
Culture, Society, and Education – The overall focus of this course is on the cultural and societal influences on education in the United States, supplemented and enriched by the introduction and exploration of these influences upon education in other nations. To accomplish this aim, materials from other cultures and societies are incorporated into the content of the course to provide a more global outlook on education. Also, the course examines cultures and societies not as a monolithic and unchanging structures, but recognizes the dynamic quality regarding diverse and ever-changing modules within society in the United States and elsewhere.
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 studies the expression of mythology and the perception of technology.
Tales of Horror: TV vs. Film – This course considers how the same theme – horror – is treated in the audio-visual media of television and film. In particular, we 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 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 are paired with a feature film dealing with the same theme. This exposes 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 focuses 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 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 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 examines the reality of those perceptions. The course is reading and discussion based and topics 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 uses 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 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.