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Spring 2021 Honors Seminars

HONS 1810W-60
“Human Sociality and Reality Construction”
TR 9:35 – 10:50 am
Professor Lou Outlaw
Department of Philosophy
AXLE: Humanities & the Creative Arts (HCA)

Homo sapiens is but one of many social species, but is one that has evolved through adaptations to a form and level of sociality—eusociality—that is unique, even among eusocial species. Key factors in this evolutionary success have been learning and communication by way of which humans have had to fashion—construct—and sustain, with ongoing refinements, ways of contending with the challenges and opportunities of prevailing and anticipated realities that make for survival. In this seminar we will devote immersive, critical, evaluative attention to accounts of human eusociality and reality-construction and maintenance in quests to survive by various populations of Homo sapiens.


HONS 1820W-37
“Nashville and the Civil War”
TR 3:55 – 5:10 pm
Professor Peter Lorge
Department of History
AXLE: Perspectives (P)

In many respects, the Civil War began and ended in Nashville.  Historical markers and sites are scattered all around Nashville, and Vanderbilt University itself sits between the main fortifications of the city and the outer defenses.  Once the war in the east bogged down, it was the campaigns in the western theatre that defeated the Confederacy.  Nashville was an early objective of the Union army, and it was captured and remained in Union hands for the rest of the war.  Hood’s failure to recapture the city at the Battle of Nashville in December of 1864 ended any Confederate hope of military recovery.  Just as Nashville was important to the war, the war also left a lasting impression on the city.  Many of the African-American neighborhoods developed out of the camps where former slaves had sought refuge under Union guns.

This course will cover the Civil War itself, but from the perspective of the western theatre.  It will also base the war in the city of Nashville itself, taking advantage of the historical ground in which Vanderbilt sits.  Finally, we will avail ourselves of the original documents from the Civil War available here to see Nashville’s Civil War in the eyes of ordinary people.


HONS 1830W-61
“The Criminal [In]Justice System: Law, Politics and Race”
MWF 10:20 – 11:10 am
Professor Carrie Russell
Department of Political Science
AXLE: Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS)

Legislation and Jurisprudence, from the founding era to the present, have institutionalized racism in all aspects of our life in common.  But the de-humanization and criminalization of black-bodies, particularly in the design and maintenance of criminal law and criminal procedure, provide stark and ready examples that must be investigated and overturned if America is ever to live up to the truths we hold as self-evident.   And the turn from not-for-profit, government-run prisons to private, for-profit prison industrialization has only entrenched the financial interests in maintaining a legislative status quo.  American politics is fundamentally shaped by institutionalized racism at every level. And race, politics, and law continue to be intertwined. This course explores the legal consequences of racial inequality and efforts to overcome it, using relations between blacks and whites (African-Americans and European-Americans and all of those in-between) as a focal point. Throughout the semester, we will pay particular attention to the roots of mass incarceration and its consequences.


HONS 1830W-62
“What Makes us Human?”
TR 11:10 am – 12:25 pm
Professor Megan Saylor
Department of Psychological Sciences
AXLE: Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS)



HONS 1840W-34
“Latinx Caribbean Literature in the United States”
TR 11:10 am – 12:25 pm
Professor Gretchen Selcke
Department of Latino and Latina Studies Program
AXLE: History and Culture of the United States (US)

What do Dominican American, Nuyorican, and Cuban American literatures have in common? How does place inform Latinx writing? Explore ideas of belonging in literary texts including Once I Was You, Make Your Home Among Strangers, and A Cup of Water Under My Bed. Works like these negotiate cultural, linguistic, gender, and class differences in dialogue with Tato Laviera’s groundbreaking concept of nideaquínideallá. Performance will be evaluated by three essays, two cultural event responses, one presentation, and participation in class discussions. Students will develop critical writing skills while reading and analyzing fiction by cutting-edge Latinx authors.


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