Required for all first-year HC students, this two-semester sequence lays the foundation for your development as an Honors Scholar. Focused on a common theme, this class will encourage you to think creatively, be curious and investigative, and ask rich and complex questions. The class will meet at the same time in the fall and spring.
HON 111 (Fall)
In HON 111, you will learn how to encounter and interact with different kinds of writing and texts; how to become a better analytical reader; how to collaborate with your fellow scholars; how to engage in academic debate and discourse; and how to improve your communication skills, both written and oral.
HON 112 (Spring)
In HON 112, we will go from a focus on asking questions to a focus on answering them. While you continue to hone the skill of asking rich and rewarding questions, you will also begin developing the tools you need to find answers. In short, in HON 112 you will learn how to undertake “research,” broadly defined, what research looks like in various disciplines, the ethics of research, and how research develops organically.
The 2018-19 Honors Colloquium will focus on the theme of The (Un)Known—a concept that has motivated thinkers, theologians, explorers, artists, and investigators for thousands of years (and that is pretty relevant to new college students, too!). In addition to texts chosen by individual faculty members, all sections of Colloquium will read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.
Note that all classes will take a required active learning trip during Fall Break; travel costs, accommodations, tickets, and some meals will be paid for by the Honors College.
Individual course descriptions follow.
Understanding the Experience of Health and Illness: Investigating the (Un)known
Kathryn Anthony • M/W 1:15-2:45
The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers. — Erich Fromm
In this course, we will discuss topics pertaining to the known and the unknown concerning cultural understandings and health and illness. In the first part of the course, we will investigate the ways in which patients navigate illnesses and major life changes. How does the uncertainty in our health affect our outlook on life? How do people make difficult medical decisions? How are physicians equipped to assist people in managing our uncertainty? We will also consider issues associated with the ethics of living and dying. During the second part of the course, we will focus on more macro-level health concerns that affect the United States’ healthcare system. Who deserves access to care? What are some of the major barriers to care we face as a nation? What are the inequalities present in our healthcare system? Throughout the duration of the class, we will focus on learning to ask insightful questions and discovering methods to answer those questions. Readings include: Being Mortal; When Breath Becomes Air; On Living; The Scalpel and the Silver Bear.
The Power of Imagination in the Pursuit of Knowledge
Alyson Brink • T/TH 11:30-1
Albert Einstein, one of the brightest scientific minds in the history of humankind, suggested that "imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." In this class, we will discuss the interaction between imagination and knowledge as well as the importance of imagination in solving problems. In the first part of the class, we will probe the link between mythological creatures and fossils left by dinosaurs. Did ancient peoples invent stories about griffins and dragons and giants as a way to explain the unfamiliar bones they saw in the rocks? We will also explore how what we think we know about fossils continuously changes based on new findings and improvements in technology. During the second part of the class we will continue exploring the connection between imagination and the nature of inquiry on a broader scale, but shift toward understanding how the unknown, conflict, and opposing ideas are all integral pieces related to the pursuit of knowledge. Readings include: The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times; The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution; In Suspect Terrain
Demystifying the Spaces Between
Matthew Casey • M/W 1:15-2:45
Foundational works in Western Philosophy—not to mention the mass media and ordinary people—tend to create their understandings of the world in terms of polar opposites and strict binaries. Even when we try not to, we interpret things in terms of black and white, either/or, Democrat and Republican, etc. Unfortunately, these psychological shortcuts limit our ability to grasp the complexity of the world and may lead to the misunderstanding and marginalization of individuals and groups. This course is designed to challenge some of the binaries that structure our thinking: primitive vs. modern, sickness vs. health, high art vs. popular culture, sanity vs. insanity, intelligence vs. stupidity, male vs. female and others. Students will read texts from the fields of anthropology, biology, history, psychology, cultural studies as well as autobiographical pieces and works of fiction. Students will gain new insights into marginalized individuals and groups; in the process, they will also build the intellectual tools to ask questions and unpack the assumptions that undergird everyday life. Readings include: The Faces of the Gods: Vodou and Roman Catholicism in Haiti; The Mismeasure of Man; The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Escaping the (Un)Known
Joshua Hill • T/Th 11:30-1
John Maynard Keynes once remarked, “The difficulty lies, not in new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of have been, into the corners of our minds.” Disruption of “old” ideas and ways of thought has become a buzzword in disciplines as varied as business and education. If disruption has become one of the defining characteristics of the 21st Century, then understanding how we can transcend our current approaches to knowledge is essential to finding our place in it. In the first part of the course (Knowing), we examine paths by which we gain knowledge – using science, philosophy, and history – while developing skills in questioning the world around us. In the second part of the course (Unknowing), we learn how to move past our normal conceptions and common understandings of society—the ideas stuck in the “corners of our minds”—and disrupt our own ways of thinking. Readings include: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; Salt; Art and Physics
Katie James • T/Th 11:30-1
Doctors smoke. Lawyers commit crimes. People who don’t have money buy iPhones. Why do people believe and behave in ways that don’t make sense to us? In this class, we will explore how sometimes we can become so emotionally attached to an ideology or behavior that we often ignore data that contradict our beliefs. In fact, when we’re presented with contradictory evidence, we often double down on our beliefs. Why? Because we feel something important to us is under attack. In this course, we will consider what role feelings play in helping us make decisions but also in preventing us from behaving in ways that may be in our best interest. Throughout the course sequence, we will learn more about people’s beliefs and decisions, trying to make what seems unknown (people’s seemingly “irrational” beliefs or decisions) much more known or understandable. We will consider these so-called irrationalities in the context of poverty, politics, and health behaviors. Along the way, we will analyze contemporary case studies, collect our own social data about these issues, and learn from experts in the field and community. Readings include Promises I Can Keep; Calling the Shots; and Strangers in Their Own Land.
Encounters / Awakenings
Emily Stanback • T/Th 11:30-1
When we see someone—on the street, on the bus, in the grocery store, or in a college classroom—how do we size them up? How might they size us up? How do our past experiences inform the ways we interpret the people we encounter—and the ways we think about ourselves? How can historical and cultural contexts help to explain our judgments and beliefs? When, how, and why do we change our minds about ourselves and others?
This is a course about the complexities of identity. In it, we will focus especially on the kinds of moments that make us question what we think we know about other people—and what we think we know about our own place in society. In exploring such moments of encounter and awakening we’ll take a historical and interdisciplinary approach, looking at everything from medical texts from the 1700s to slavery narratives to novels to contemporary advertisements and music. Readings include: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place.
The Noble and the Ignoble
Marek Steedman • M/W 1:15-2:45
In the Roman Republic the nobility were, literally, the “well known.” They were the celebrated, the famous, the renowned; they defined high status, good birth, and good taste. The common people, by contrast, were ignoble – literally the unknown, or the obscure. In the first semester, we explore different ways of thinking about status, taste, and nobility. Do these concepts have any meaning in our own society? What value might the idea of ‘nobility’ have for us? In the second semester we revel in the common, the ‘low brow.’ Should we dismiss or look down on ‘pop’ culture; simply enjoy it as fun diversion; or does it have intrinsic value we should pay attention to? Throughout the year we will examine the relation between value and status, shifting perspectives to better understand how our values are shaped by where we stand. Readings include: The Odyssey; Pride and Prejudice; Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal.
Into the Void
Donald Yee • M/W 1:15-2:45
There is a wide, yawning black infinity. In every direction, the extension is endless; the sensation of depth is overwhelming. And the darkness is immortal.
The above quote from Carl Sagan sums up not only our Universe, but our pursuit of knowledge. How do we start to bring light to that void? What do we do when we reach a dead end or don’t get the answer we were hoping for? Alternatively, what happens when we get all the answers we hoped for? Where do we go from there? Sometimes asking questions about the world feels like stepping off into that yawning black infinity. But this process can bring us light too, with new knowledge, new ideas, and new ways of seeing our world. In the first semester of this class, we will explore how the process of looking into the unknown can be haunting, challenging, and fraught with unexpected consequences. During the second semester we will shift to understanding what happens when you find answers and must decide how to move on from there. Readings include: Unraveling Piltdown; The Lost City of Z; The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.