Current Honors Students

Course Descriptions Fall 2018



HNRS 1100
Honors Philosophical Inquiry
Prof. Daniel Speak

Seen in one way, this course will be a topical introduction to philosophy by way of emphasis on a few core philosophical questions— for example, about the existence of God, about the freedom of our wills, and about the possibilities of life after our physical deaths. In this sense, it might be tempting to think of this course (merely) as a kind of general survey of what philosophers think about. If you are somewhat more attentive, however, you will be able to see (though maybe only looking back) that the questions on which I have chosen to focus can help you hone in on one of the most fundamental questions of your life; namely, just what kind of thing are YOU? In particular, I am hoping to give you some philosophical background and tools for careful reflection on the fact that you are mortal and finite.

HNRS 2100
Historical Analysis & Perspectives
Prof. Margarita R. Ochoa

From the very beginning, not only the magnitude, but also the meaning of the conquest of the Americas has been a point of controversy and acclaim. The history of early Latin America, however, does not begin in October 1492. Empires, nations, and bands inhabited North and South America for more than 10,000 years prior to the arrival of Europeans on the shores of the Caribbean islands. This class will thus concentrate on three major eras: Pre-Colombian, Conquest, and the ensuing 300 years of Spanish and Portuguese rule. The key geographic focuses of the course will be Mexico and the Caribbean (land of the Maya and Mexica empires, multiple indigenous nations and bands, and home of the Kingdom of New Spain), Andean Region (land of the Inca Empire and its subject polities and home of the Kingdom of Peru), and Brazil (rich land of multiple native bands and home to Portuguese colonial rule). From the pre-Colombian era to the early nineteenth century, early Latin America was a space of racial, economic, religious, and political convergences. These meetings, often times violent, and their legacies will be the center of thematic lectures, discussions, and assignments. The course will ultimately challenge students to think beyond popular stereotypes and perceptions of Latin America and, instead, view and engage Spanish Americans, Portuguese Americans, Africans, Asians, Natives, and mixed-race populations as active agents in the creation of the first America.

HNRS 2200
On the Nature of Mathematics
Prof. Alissa S. Crans

The majority of non-science/engineering/mathematics students typically have at least a vague idea of what it means to perform scientific research or to be an engineer, but most tend not to understand what it means “to do” mathematics or be a mathematician. Many think that all mathematics is known and that is what they are taught in their mathematics courses. But, perhaps surprisingly, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Mathematics is an incredibly creative and exciting field, filled with active researchers working in numerous areas. This course serves as an introduction to the ‘mathematician’s mathematics,’ as opposed to the preconceived notion of mathematics as formula and memorization and exercises, by posing and addressing questions such as:

  • What is mathematics?
  • What does it mean to do mathematics? To perform research in mathematics?
  • What does it mean to be a mathematician? What do mathematicians do?
  • Who can be a mathematician? Is there a math gene?
  • Is mathematics algorithmic or creative?
  • Is mathematics created or discovered?
  • Where, and by whom, is mathematics used and practiced?
  • How is mathematics similar to, and different from, the sciences? From engineering? From the humanities?

Most importantly, this course aims to improve students’ ability to think logically, critically, analytically, and abstractly, as well as improve their abilities to read, communicate (both orally and in writing), and understand the language of mathematics as it appears in a variety of areas.

HNRS 2210
On Motion and Mechanics
Prof. Philip Dorin

The plan is to discuss some great ideas involving numbers and arithmetic, algorithms and computation, puzzles and games, information and technology, and finance. Broadly speaking, at the conclusion of the course students will have a better understanding of the kinds of problems that make computer scientists and mathematicians excited about going to work in the morning, and the methods that they use to attack those problems.

HNRS 2300
Literary Analysis
Prof. Robin Miskolcze

This course introduces students to different ways of interpreting fiction. We’ll explore the formal and technical aspects of different forms of literature: we’ll discuss point of view, setting, character, plot, tone, and talk about how these aspects of literature affect the meaning and power of particular narratives. In other words, you will learn how to read literature closely and will acquire the technical and critical vocabulary necessary to say what is happening in various genres. Here are some questions we will return to over the course of the semester: How do authors use the resources of literature to engage with the social and political issues of their times? What kind of perspective does literature offer?

HNRS 2300
Literary Analysis
Prof. Alexandra Neel

This course introduces students to different ways of interpreting fiction. We’ll explore the formal and technical aspects of different forms of literature: we’ll discuss point of view, setting, character, plot, tone, and talk about how these aspects of literature affect the meaning and power of particular narratives. In other words, you will learn how to read literature closely and will acquire the technical and critical vocabulary necessary to say what is happening in various genres. Here are some questions we will return to over the course of the semester: How do authors use the resources of literature to engage with the social and political issues of their times? What kind of perspective does literature offer?

HNRS 3110
Beyond Good and Evil
Prof. Sue Scheibler

Beyond Good and Evil is a course that uses critical, moral, and ethical theory as a lens through which to investigate the ways that media texts (movies, TV, and video games) stage the struggle between good and evil, power and privilege, justice and injustice, oppressor and oppressed. In this reading and writing intensive seminar, we will watch movies and TV series and play video games that raise questions such as: why, even as we yearn for a world in which good triumphs and justice is done, we, like Milton, are seduced and fascinated by the evil characters? Are some acts of evil to be regarded as unfortunate means to an end, often motivated by some higher purpose? What does it mean to be human or retain one's humanity, especially when one is struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic landscape in which all distinctions of good and evil seem to have vanished? Why do so many of our movies, TV series and video games stage the struggle between good and evil through the spectacle of violence? What roles do empathy and affect play in our responses to the images we consume? In what ways does technology such as VR intensify our relationships to the questions we're exploring? We will organize the class around media screenings and play, studying these texts through the work of theorists such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, Emmanuel Levinas, Miguel Sicart, and Gonzalo Frasca.

HNRS 3110
Beyond Good and Evil
Prof. Andrew Dilts

What does it mean for “morality” to have a history? What about freedom? Equality? The Self? The Psyche? The Soul? How are we to orient ourselves toward the task of living if we take seriously Nietzsche’s assertion that it is precisely “we knowers” who are “unknown to ourselves?” Beyond Good and Evil is a course in critical ethical and moral theory. In this small and reading-intensive seminar, we will focus on the fraught relationships between three definitive modern terms: self, society, and freedom, asking hard questions which are meant to disorient ourselves from the certainty we have, so that we may be able to think more ethically, more freely, and more honestly about our actions in and reactions to the world in which we find ourselves. We will organize this discussion through the work of three quintessentially “modern” social theorists—Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud—and reinterpretations of their thought in twentieth century social theory. By tracing their theories of the self and society we will ask: how can we be free as individuals and collectively as a society in these first decades of the twenty-first century.

HNRS 4000
Portfolio and Assessment
Prof. John D. Dionisio

Only Honors students who are on their last semester before graduation should register for this zero-unit course.
This course tracks fulfillment of the following:

  • Completion of Senior Exit Survey
  • Submission of Honors Thesis to Digital Commons (with accompanying permission letter)
  • Dissemination attempt of Honors Thesis (e.g., Undergraduate Research Symposium, other appropriate venues)
  • Fulfillment of Honors grant obligations (if you have received an Honors grant)

Honors Core Requirements


General Core Curriculum
CSE Core Curriculum

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