Honors Seminars Course Descriptions
The classical experience and imagination as the formative beginning and paradigm of Western civilization is traced through the study of select major literary works of Greek and Roman literature. The historical context, literary style, and intellectual influence of these works are explored and analyzed. Offered every Spring.
The intersection of the history, politics, religion, and culture of the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean World from 500 BCE to 500 CE is examined on the basis of primary literary and extra-literary sources. Particular attention is given to the origin and development of Judaism and Christianity within the course of empire building. Offered every Fall.
Ranging from the conversion of the Roman Empire to the death of Charlemagne, this course examines the role of the humanities during the last days of the classical world and the beginning of the Middle Ages. Along with an examination of some of the most important works written during this 500-year period, the fine and minor arts and architecture are considered. Offered every Spring.
This seminar discusses the phenomena of knight and court as fundamental social and civilizing processes in European culture (10th-14th Centuries) and the modern indebtedness to these phenomena. The seminar examines the concepts of kingship and its classical inheritance, and the aristocratic family as a culture of power. Special consideration is given to the characteristically medieval interrelationships between literature, art and music. Offered every Fall.
The relation of works of literature and art to the culture from which they arise is explored through the readings of Renaissance literary works and a stylistic analysis of Renaissance paintings. Students investigate the intricate ways in which the characteristic style of an age is manifested in its literature, politics, art, and other cultural phenomena. Offered every Spring.
This seminar explores the English Renaissance from social, historical, artistic, and literary perspectives and provides both an overview of Renaissance art and an examination of new conceptions of "the universe," "art" and "man". Topics include: humanism; religious skepticism; political theory; the situation of women. Offered every Spring.
Works of principal eighteenth century French and English studies on the nature of human society are read and discussed, and their influence on America considered. Styles of eighteenth-century art, literature and music, especially the opera, are examined as well. Offered every Fall.
This seminar examines whether the Enlightenment-based progressive ideal of technological and scientific modernism has led to human happiness, justice, and progress, or alienation and destruction. Readings in science, social science, and philosophy (e.g., Kant, Condorcet, Weber, Foucault); studies in modern art. Offered every Spring.
Through a reading (and viewing) of classic American works, including the autobiographies of Malcolm X and Richard Rodriguez, the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the poetry of Emily Dickinson, the novels of Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton and Saul Bellow, the films and plays of Frank Capra and Sam Shepard and the painting of Edward Hopper, this seminar explores fundamental themes, tensions and values in U.S. culture. Offered every Spring.
This seminar explores selected nineteenth century European classics that mirror the social mores and artistic revolution-texts prophetic and pre-modern. Major figures include Marx, Darwin, Freud, Ibsen and Dostoevsky. Offered every Fall.
This seminar examines the key writings of the Socialist tradition in Europe, the U.S., and around the world. Readings will include classic works of socialist non-fiction, socialist biography and autobiography, and socialist perspectives on areas such as art, music, literature, film, photography, community, work, gender, race, class and political consciousness. Socialism's historical development and impact, and its present condition, will also be examined. Offered every Fall.
This seminar attempts to clarify the characteristically "modern" ways of defining and shaping reality through an examination of significant intellectual and imaginative works of our century, especially the "classical modern" period (1890-1950). What dominant insights do we inherit from living in (or just after?) an era which has self-consciously called itself "modern"? Works of fiction are synthesized with readings selected from the physical and social sciences as well as the humanities. Offered every Spring.
The course takes as its focus the question of how to live an ethical and meaningful life in a world no longer moored to universally accepted transcendental truths. The ancient Greeks called the search for practical wisdom phrónêsis, and modern philosophy has witnessed a renewed interest in practical questions about the art of living. The main reading will be taken from texts by the so-called "proto-existentialists," Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, as well as famous twentieth century existentialists such as Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and other French feminists. Besides European philosophy, the course will also include readings, viewings and presentations from modern and postmodern art, photography, music, film and drama.
After the completion of five seminars, students have the option of engaging in an approved research project under the direction of the Honors Program faculty. Written permission of instructor and dean required. Offered every semester.