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Fall 2019 Honors Seminars

HONS 1810W-01
“Concepts of God”
TR 9:35 – 10:50 am
Professor Michael Hodges
Department of Philosophy
AXLE: Humanities & Creative Arts (HCA)

This course will involve a careful examination of alternative conceptions of God and the religious life. We will be concerned to ask whether the Judeo/Christian tradition is essentially tied to the view of God as a transcendent supernatural being and if so what grounds can be offered for and against such a view. As well as supernaturalism we will examine naturalistic and existential alternatives. We will deal with such questions as the nature, content, and ground of religious belief, the limitations of religious knowledge over and against science, and the relation between religion and values.


HONS 1810W-54
“Ancient Landscapes”
T 1:10 – 3:40 pm
Professor Betsey Robinson
Department of History of Art
AXLE: Humanities & the Creative Arts (HCA)

An investigation of human knowledge of and interactions with the natural world in the classical Mediterranean world, as understood through art and literature, archaeology, and cultural geography. Topics will include the Greek and Roman exploitation of natural resources, agriculture and garden design, sanctuaries and sacred space, pictorial and poetic landscapes, and intersections between real and imagined places, geography, and tourism.


HONS 1820W-35
“Climate Change and the Global Response: A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective”
W 2:10 – 4:40 pm
Professor Leah Dundon
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences
AXLE: Perspectives (P)

Enrollment to this course is by application and instructor approval. Information on how to apply will be sent via email to all College Scholars in the summer of 2019.

This course is an interdisciplinary immersion course in climate change. It is now clear that both mitigation of human activities that contribute to climate change and adaptation to a world with a changing climate are needed. Addressing the many challenges posed by climate change requires informed responses and innovative thinking from every discipline. Accordingly, this class draws from the natural and social sciences, humanities, law, engineering, and medicine to provide students with a deeper understanding of global connectedness and the need for diverse knowledge to inform solutions and identify opportunities. Students will be challenged to apply their own skills and experience to aspects of this global societal problem, while studying the institutions humans have established to address the problem, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and why finding solutions within and outside of those institutions remains complex. Students will leave the course more prepared to address what many believe is the most critical and challenging problem ever to face humanity.


HONS 1830W-57
“Coffee, Economy, and Values”
M 1:10 – 3:40 pm
Professor Ted Fischer
Department of Anthropology, Latin American Studies
AXLE: Social & Behavioral Sciences (SBS)

This course examines coffee in order to explore principles of political economy, theories of value, and the construction of consumer identities. In this class, we will look at coffee from all angles. Coffee is the world’s most widely used psychoactive drug, and its biological properties are closely linked to its expansion around the world. We look to coffee’s role in early global trade, and the role of coffee shops in the emergence of economic liberalism and civil society (including discussions of Adam Smith and Karl Marx). Finally, we will look at the way coffee intersects with moral and cultural values through fair trade and the marketing of artisanal products.


HONS 1830W-58
“Growing up in America”
TR 1:10 – 2:25 pm
Professor Catherine Gavin Loss
Peabody College, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
AXLE: Social & Behavioral Sciences (SBS)

What is childhood? When does it begin and end? And what makes childhood a unique phase of life that has been largely defined and dictated by adults?  In this seminar, we will explore the history and contemporary state of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood in the modern United States. The seminar will introduce students to changing conceptions of childhood drawn from a wide range of fields, including history, education, psychology, medicine, law, and social policy. We will explore the lived experiences of young people, both past and present, while placing those experiences against the broader backdrop of social, political, economic, and cultural change. We will consider children growing up at different points in time and in a range of contexts—at home and in school, at work and at play—with attention to race, class, gender identity, ethnicity, and disability. And we will examine the inequalities children face in our own time and identify potential strategies for improving children’s lives.


HONS 1840W-33
“Contemporary American Drama: Art, Culture, Society”
TR 1:10 – 2:25 pm
Professor of the Humanities Ed Friedman
Department of Spanish & Portuguese and Comparative Literature
AXLE: US History & Culture (US)

This course will deal with the representation of U.S. society through the medium of drama, from the second half of the twentieth century to the present. The focus will be on ties between artistic creation and social contexts. The topics that will be discussed include intersections among history, politics, social issues, and the arts. We will examine how playwrights bring the family, race, gender, sexual identification, class, ethnicity, economic status, and the practice of political correctness, among other subjects, into their works. As we look at ways in which plays and films reflect and refract reality, we will pay special attention to the structure and artistic qualities of the works under scrutiny and to methods of analyzing dramatic texts and performance.


HONS 1850W-27
“Nanoscience and nanotechnology”
TR 11 am – 12:15 pm
Professor Sokrates Pantelides
Department of Physics
AXLE: Math and Natural Sciences (MNS)

The words nanoscience and nanotechnology have become commonplace, but for the average layperson they are rather mysterious. We will take a journey with brief general lectures to demystify the connection between materials and technology; what semiconductors are and how they became the backbone of the modern technology juggernaut; how “nano” entered the picture about 20 years ago; and what is the new miracle of graphene. The journey will include virtual excursions to the Washington world of politics and research funding agencies, to social and economic issues, to medicine, space exploration, and future frontiers. A list of topics, culled from the above, will be provided for students to choose from and research, and finally present to the class for discussion. Examples of topics: Moore’s law and the relentless miniaturization of electronics in the last 60 years, replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs (the science, economics, the explosion of lighting options), nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery in humans, nanoparticles for catalysis (e.g., catalytic converters in cars), two-dimensional materials and their potential for new applications, brain-computer interfaces (BCIFs), etc.


HONS 1850W-28
MW 2:10 – 3:25 pm
Professor Sohee Park
Department of Psychology
AXLE: Math and Natural Sciences (MNS)

This course will explore the nature of hallucinations and what it informs the human brain by delving into narratives, theories and empirical research gathered from cognitive neuroscience, clinical psychology, psychiatry, history, anthropology, and literature. We will explore a ‘simple’ question: Are you real? To tackle this problem, we will study hallucinations from multiple perspectives. What is hallucination? It is defined as experiencing things and events that are currently not happening in the external world. Some people hear voices and sounds. Some have visual, tactile or olfactory hallucinations. Some sense a ‘presence.’ Hallucinations can occur as the result of drug use, neuropsychiatric disorders, sensory deprivation, trauma or other conditions, but a significant number of healthy people in the community hear ‘voices’ on a daily basis. In fact, we all have access to hallucinatory experiences via multiple routes, and when it happens, we are forced to think about the meaning of the ‘real’ world.


HONS 1860W-21
“Travel, Space, & Identity”
TR 11 am – 12:15 pm
Professor Letizia Modena
Department of French and Italian
AXLE: International Cultures (INT)

This course centers on global literary and cinematographic representations of travel and identity, specifically, on how travel writing and film (e.g., the road trip) portray the complex questions of self-knowledge and self-borders, being in-space or in-transit, and belonging and dislocation. Travel heightens our senses, drops us into the unpredictable, and shapes who we are. Journey can be self-discovery, redemption, healing, a challenge—for example, travelling and dwelling in a foreign space—or ecstatic freedom, as in the Great American Road Trip. Travel may be seen as a process that turns space into place that gives meaning to undifferentiated vastness. A sense of place may be conceived as here and there or in-between, even as interconnecting flows, of routes rather than roots. Does the journey require an other—a person or culture different from who we consider ourselves to be? We will engage with the elation, the fear and even the complexities of crossing space, and discuss how class, gender, ethnicity, race, and sexuality shape our experiences of travel. We will explore walking as an urban investigation, as a tool to rethink the city and the values of urban living. How do we chart affective geographies in an unfamiliar built environment and how does physical movement operate in tandem with our imagination as we walk past streets, buildings, and other people in-transit? An international bevy of celebrated written and visual narratives will make us think about travel in conjunction with rootedness, attachment, place-making, and what Yi-Fu Tuan has called “the production of a certain kind of homeliness.”