2014-2015 Freshman Honors Colloquia
The course descriptions on this page have been prepared by the faculty assigned to teach the respective sections of Freshman Honors Colloquium for the 2014-2015 academic year.
Instructor: Ed Dauterich
Violence and Literature
Most of us think we understand violence, and the majority hope we never experience it and that there is the possibility of existing in non-violent spaces. What if this isn’t true? What if violence is, as Marco Abel claims in his book Violent Affect, an “ontological necessity”? How do we define violence? How do we explain the fears that many have of our society as extremely violent?
William Rothman asserts that while America itself has become less violent in the last ten or twenty years, “Americans believe that violence is escalating out of control, that it is threatening the moral fabric of our society, and that the proliferation of violence in the mass media . . . is a cause, and not only a symptom of this threat.” Like film, literature has often received similar criticism over the past 100 years. Our colloquium will consider how violence works in contemporary literature, how readers respond to it, and how writers shape those responses.
In addition to the primary texts for the course, we will also examine the portrayal of violence in some modern films, and in an anthology of theories of violence, both of which will serve as topics for the intensive writing that will be expected in the course.
There are no exams for this course, but quizzes and short, in-class essays will occur frequently. In addition, during the first semester, you will write six papers of varying lengths, which are designed to prepare you for the research work in the second semester.
Instructor: Christina McVay
Lies Your Teacher Told You
The main text for this colloquium is Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, which is about the untruths, half-truths, myths, omissions and downright lies that are taught to young people in our high schools. Each chapter has a specific point or theme, which we will also examine in other readings and/or films. There is, for example, a chapter on how our culture practically worships progress of all sorts, and we will read Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo, in which the social implications of scientific progress are examined.
There will be some lectures in this course, but students are expected to take part in discussions, and since this is an Honors course, to read and write a lot. There will be frequent pop quizzes, take-home essay exams, and several papers.
Readings will include:
- Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
- The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest Gaines
- Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao (Penguin)
- The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy
- Galileo by Bertolt Brecht (Grove Press)
During fall semester at the issue of class struggle, focusing on fiction and nonfiction texts from several cultures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. What leads to inequities in wealth, and what, if anything, should be done about such inequities? What are the consequences of vast differences in economic status, and what actions do and do not prove effective in relieving human suffering and giving the lower classes a measure of power over their lives? What role does the concept of workers’ rights play in the struggle between the wealthy and the poor? How effective are group efforts to solve these problems?
Likely fall texts:
- Émile Zola, Germinal
- Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
- Richard LeMieux, Breakfast at Sally’s
During spring semester, we will shift our focus to examine the role of the individual in social change. How much influence does one person have over a society? How does such an exceptional individual respond when faced with opposition, and what qualities make that individual exceptional? This second half of the course will include several dystopic novels.
Likely spring texts:
- Harriette Arnow, The Dollmaker
- Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
- Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Instructor: Charlene Schauffler
Social Roles and Human Rights
In the first semester, students in this section will explore variations in gender roles from multiple cultures and time periods while searching for the “truth” about male and female roles in modern society and what they mean for true equality in both American and global culture. In the second semester, we will examine global human rights issues that arise from these gender roles as well as human rights issues in general.
Students will participate in both individual and group activities such as debates, critiques, and presentations, including an opportunity to choose a topic related to the course theme and teach for part of a class period, and a group project that allows students the opportunity to recommend a text, literary or otherwise, for the course (students’ selections will be read in the spring semester).
Texts may include, but are not limited to:
- The Handmaid’s Tale
- Reading Lolita in Tehran
- The Yellow Wallpaper
- Fight Club
- A Thousand Spendid Suns
Instructor: Barb Karman
Language and Society
Students will read and discuss research on varieties of English and studies on gender and language use as well as selected literary texts that illustrate some of these language variations. They will lead discussions on various texts, and then collaborate on a real world research and analysis project by designing human research studies to test the hypotheses advanced in the research they have read. Students will learn to set up and run a qualitative study within their peer groups, read and interpret basic statistical evidence, and present their findings on language use to their classmates.
Specifically, we will focus on a body of work that revolves around some of the following questions and concerns related to language use: Does gender make a difference in language use? What are some of the regional variations in language use in Ohio? Who are the speakers of these dialects? What are some of the characteristics of these individual dialects? Does text messaging impact the written discourse of its users? What can we learn from emerging forms of social media like Twitter? What about video games and literacy?
Required text: Clark, Virginia; Paul Eschholz et al (2007) Language: Readings in Language and Culture. 7th Ed. Bedford/ St. Martins
Some literary texts used in the course include short stories, novel-length works and poetry.
Instructor: Sara Cutting
What do ordinary people, victims, oppressors, colonizers, settlers, and tragic heroes have in common? Each has had to interpret his or her own personal and social responsibility within a specific context. The colloquium will examine how human concerns have changed-and remained the same-and how the themes raised by the texts cross oceans, years, and cultures. The first semester students will read texts that focus on personal responsibility; in the spring semester the emphasis will be on what happens when one power asserts itself over another.
Tentative Fall Texts
- Chopin, The Awakening
- Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
- Hardy, Jude the Obscure
- Shelley, Frankenstein
- Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Tentative Spring Texts
- Achebe, Things Fall Apart
- Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies
- Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
- Conrad, Heart of Darkness
- McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
Instructor: Derek Van Ittersum
This course will explore issues raised by contemporary communication technologies such as mobile phones, the WWW, and social networking. Our primary focus will be on questions surrounding what it means to communicate, to pay attention, and to use technologies on a daily basis. For example, do communication technologies help us surpass our biological limits (of attention, of memory, of perception, etc.)? Do they diminish our humanity by turning us into automatons? Both? We might also explore issues of attention and information overload. With how many people can we meaningful communicate at once? How many sources of information can we attend to at any time? Although such questions are timely and urgent given our contemporary use of tools such as Wikipedia and Facebook, we will also explore the ways such concerns have arisen throughout the centuries.
- Super Sad True Love Story: Gary Shteyngart: Random House
- Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century: Cathy N. Davidson: Penguin Books
- Net Smart: How to Thrive Online: Howard Rheingold: MIT Press
Instructor: Matthew Shank
The major theme of the course will be literature's depiction of various forms of disenfranchisement (political, racial, sexual, religious, economic, class, age, gender) within modern society, and how those who are disenfranchised attempt to find their own truth and value outside of society's norms. This analysis will lead to discussions of topics including existentialism, the anti-hero, the rebel, postmodernism, the absurd, as well as the use of ironic, dark humor as a means of dealing with society, and the search for truth in a world of carefully constructed, well-established illusions. Although the focus will be on literature, other forms of expression including film, television, music, art, and advertising will also be considered. In the last half of the second semester we will transition from fictional examples of disenfranchisement to real world examples, both from history and in today’s world.
- Heller, Catch-22
- Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
- Nabokov, Lolita
- Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
- Kafka, The Metamorphosis
- Collins, The Hunger Games
- Williams, The Glass Menagerie
- Shakespeare, Othello
- Mandela, Mandela’s Way
- Douglas, Enlightened Sexism
- Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
- Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
- Beckett, Waiting for Godot
- McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
- Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
- Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
- Wiesel, Night
- Green, The Fault in our Stars
Instructor: Uma Krishnan
Sustainability: Demonstrate and Advocate
Human beings, the most brilliant of all creatures, assume that the natural bounty of this Earth belongs to them and therefore, relentlessly use and abuse the resources to suit their myriad purposes! Why and How?
To mitigate this use and abuse of our environment, many universities are advocating implementing sustainable projects. As sustainability is interrelated to many aspects of the university community from classrooms to dorms to kitchens to laboratories, this course will be analyzing three important factors: What prevents students from taking ownership of their environment and their university? What type of sustainable programs should the university adopt, that will provide students an understanding of the interdependency of humans to their ecosystems and persuade them to take part in student initiated sustainable programs? How do we implement sustainable programs that students can be involved in for the next four years of their lives?
The key focus of this course will be to demonstrate your understanding of the sustainability issues and find methods to advocate this message to your peers across campus.
- Colin Beavan, No Impact Man, a 2009 publication from Picador
- In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, a 2008 Penguin publication
Instructor: Susan Sainato
Ideas: Fiction, Mythologies and Dystopia
Students will explore influential fiction, mythologies, and ideas as we investigate issues of justice, human rights, duty, loyalty, education, social standing, service, and literacy. Students will consider social issues in today’s society through classical literature and popular Medias such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Students are expected to be self-directed and to be actively engaged in learning. Students will complete a variety of individual and group activities, including presentations, debates, essays, and creative stories. Students in previous years have also participated in service-learning experiences, as chosen by the class. In addition, students may consolidate their knowledge through participating in creating, editing, and compiling a book or other lengthy project.
Subjects, Texts, & Authors may include but are not limited to:
- Creativity and Innovation
- Creative Fiction
- Service Learning
- The World of Ideas
- The Lord of the Rings
- Harry Potter
Instructor: Molly Owens
Dragon Slayers and Whistleblowers
What kinds of risks do individuals take when they decide to stand up for what they believe in? How do different people react when faced with personal and ethical dilemmas? What are the consequences of their decisions? Over the course of this colloquium, we will explore these questions through fiction, non-fiction, poetry and film. The works we will read, study, and respond to will cross oceans and time periods.
In addition to the texts listed below, there will be periodic outside readings including poetry.
Texts for Fall
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- Erin Brockovich (Film)
Texts for Spring
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- All the President’s Men (Film)
- Students will also read a book of their choice approved by Instructor
Instructor: Laura Moll
Passion, Pain and Transformation
Central to an understanding of self and others is this perplexing irony: that which gives our lives worth and meaning may well exact a significant toll, a painful sacrifice. What then do we do when we have risked passion and found suffering? In the final analysis, some of us are transformed and strengthened by that pain; others of us become lessened by suffering. In the face of pain, what makes the difference between a response of growth and a response of diminishment as individuals? As a society?
This then will be a literary study of human fragility and transformation. The assigned texts will examine the individual and social variables that influence how we ultimately deal with our passions and pain. Examining what gives life meaning and challenge will provide an opportunity to further our understanding of human nature and its complex responses to what is most important in our lives.
Texts for Fall
- Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
- Williams, The Glass Menagerie
- Chopin, The Awakening
- Maugham, The Razor’s Edge
- Related poetry
Texts for Spring
- Mission (movie)
- Michael Sandel, Justice
- Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
- Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
- Platoon (movie)
Instructor: Elizabeth Howard
We will read several great heroic epics of the ancient world. When readers think about epic literature, they usually focus on the heroism of the characters. We will, of course, talk about the valiant exploits in these texts. Additionally, we will examine what prompts such behavior: codes of honor, cultural expectations of “ideal” men and women, and—most unusual—love. We will begin the semester by reading Homer’s Odyssey, the best known of the ancient Greek “homecoming” narratives. We will then move on to the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, and finally, the Indian epic, Ramayana.
Texts will include:
- Odyssey, Homer
- Gilgamesh, Anonymous
- Ramayana, Valmiki
In the spring semester, we will focus on coming of age. Most of this semester’s novels show the main character moving from childhood to young adulthood, from ignorance to knowledge, from innocence to experience. We will explore these themes using Joseph Campbell’s so-called “Hero Cycle,” from his text The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Additionally, we will try to understand the changing nature of how the individual constructs his or her “self,” or identity, during this maturation process. We will discuss, analyze, and interpret the hero’s experiences using these theoretical constructs.
Texts will include:
- The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
- The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
- The Wizard of Oz (film)
- Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salmon Rushdie
Instructor: Margaret Dixon
From birth to death, men and women are gripped by desire. One might desire something as simple, and tangible, as a drink of water, or something as complex, and intangible, as true love. Desire can be secular or religious, tangible or abstract, intellectual or emotional, or simply instinctive. Quests for objects of desire are largely subjective and contextual: something that has enormous significance for someone in one place will be worthless to someone elsewhere. Yet desire can also take the shape of a collective--members of a cult, or the crowd at any sports game—sharing the same desire. The ironic nature of human desire is the emergent component of disillusionment that often follows in the wake of securing the object desired.
Throughout the course we will examine how both religious and social organizations endeavor to minister to human desire and how, as centuries pass, a prevailing pessimism begins to lace itself through many literary works.
- Hedda Gabler
- “Bartleby the Scrivener”
- The Metamorphosis
- The Death of Ivan Illich
- Madam Bovary
- Tess of the d’Urbervilles
- Sister Carrie
- A Map of the World
- Albert Camus, The Guest
- Ralph Ellison, King of the Bingo Game
- Alice Munro, The Child Stay
- Cynthia Ozick, A Drugstore in Winter
- Katherine Ann Porter, Flowering Judas
- Edith Wharton, Souls Belated
Instructor: Shannon Christen-Syed
Encountering Identity Politics: Multiple Voices, Multiple Styles
In this colloquium, we will examine our theme through contemporary literature and other types of texts, various encounters between the individual and community, and how they are shaped by aspects of their identity through race, class, religion/spirituality, gender, ethnicity, ability, ideology, nation, sexual orientation, culture, education, history, musical and/or literary genre, or any other social organizations. We will focus on the perspectives of those feeling marginalized, how they grapple with multiple voices and narrative styles, to come to terms with and (re)shape not only themselves, but also their community. We will enrich our examination using literary theory by Mikhail Bakhtin and other scholars.
- Up the Down Staircase, Bel Kaufman
- The Year of Our Revolution: Love and Rebellion in the 1960s, Judith Ortiz Cofer
- Tears of a Tiger, Sharon M. Draper
- Nothing but the Truth, Avi
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
- Give a Boy a Gun, Todd Strasser
- Violet and Claire, Francesca Lia Block
- Monster, Walter Dean Myers
- Out of Control, Norma Fox Mazer
- An Order of Amelie, Hold the Fries, Nina Schindler
- Buck: A Memoir, M.K. Asante
- A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
- Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann
- Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
Instructor: Beverly Neiderman
By looking into how poverty affected diverse cultures as they tried to create productive lives in America, students will learn how the American spirit developed and changed over the years as well as how it can involve them today. Poverty is a common topic for writers who explore the struggles of these diverse populations as it affected them in such areas as their work lives, education, dreams, lifestyles, etc. Students will be exposed to a variety of writing styles such as fiction, nonfiction, memoir, autobiography, and photo-text to delve into issues related to poverty in America.
This course will begin by looking into different cultures whose lives in America consisted of such varied topics as hardship, crime, welfare, or determination to get out of poverty – to “make it” in America. As the current generation of students, the future of America, looks into these issues of poverty, they will explore what they can accomplish as they move into their career paths. Students will discuss, analyze, and draw conclusions concerning this American spirit, and how knowing about the poverty of the past will help them understand the realities of the less fortunate.
- Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
- George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
- Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
- Jonathan Kozol, Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America
- Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
- Erskine Caldwell, Tobacco Road
- Robert Eggers, Begging for Change
- Richard Wright: Black Boy
Instructor: Kimberly Winebrenner
This colloquium will explore women’s search for meaning. This will inevitably lead us to consider how meaning determines identity. We will begin the year by focusing on stories of self. We will examine the formation and fiction of selfhood as presented in a range of texts. We will consider successful accounts of self-construction and what destroys or prohibits self-constructs. We will consider how women construct, then tell, these stories of self. We will attempt to determine the implications of telling one’s autobiography, or fiction of self. Must the self be constructed before the telling begins, or is self-construction inextricably linked to the telling of life stories? During spring semester, we will expand our inquiries to include art as a part of meaning making, self-construction, and self-expression. We will also work on developing critical reading, thinking, and writing skills. Since this is a discussion course, your participation is necessary.
- Bronte, Jane Eyre
- Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
- Alcott, Behind a Mask
- Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate
- Allende, Eva Luna
- Kingston, The Woman Warrior
- Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter
- Belenky, Women’s Ways of Knowing
- Cather, The Song of the Lark
- Gilman, Herland & “The Yellow Wallpaper”
- Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves
- Vreeland, The Passion of Artemisia
- Dinesen, Babette’s Feast
- Wharton, The House of Mirth
- Plath, The Bell Jar
Instructor: Dale Richards
Memory, Story, Emergency
Who we understand ourselves to be—our sense of self—emerges from memories. Even at the most basic level, however, memory is not simply a straightforward retrieval of stored events and images from sensory experience. Our individual, group, and cultural identities are fictions, stories we tell ourselves. Each time we remember an event or a feeling, we recreate it in the form of a story that fits within a larger autobiographical narrative that defines who we are to ourselves and to the world. Our emphasis will be exploring the awareness that memory is neither fixed nor entirely reliable and can be applied to understanding cultural and social patterns in the present day.
In the fall, we will consider the neurological processes that underlie memory and identity and apply what we learn within the world of literature, music and cinema. Memories emerge from billions of connections between neurons in our brains. In the spring, we will shift our focus to the study of emergence, which examines how complex systems and patterns arise from the application of relatively simple interactions.
- Hood, Bruce. The Self Illusion: Why There Is No “You” Inside Your Head. London: Constable & Robin, Ltd. 2011.
- Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Vintage International. 2004.
- Danticat, Edwige. Breath, Eyes, Memory. New York: Vintage Books, 1994. Johnson, Steven. Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. New York: Touchstone, 2001.
- Murakami, Haruki. Kafka on the Shore. New York: Vintage International, 2005.
Instructor: Thomas Schmitzer
This colloquium will focus on significant and epic tales that function to define the time period in which they were written. These texts will include the 3,000 year old epic of Gilgamesh and the hero's search to understand love, life, and mortality; The Orestia of Aeschylus; Beowulf the first major literary work in English and a signal mark of the transition from the Viking to the Christian culture in early Medieval Europe; The Tao Te Ching; The Rubiyyat of Omar Khayyam; and Hamlet. These six major works of literature help to define the Western literary tradition, emerging as milestones on the way to the modern world. The philosophical and psycho-social world-view of the works will be discussed and explored by the colloquium.
Texts will include:
- The Orestia
- The Rubiyyat of Omar Khayyam
- The Tao Te Ching
Instructor: Michael Sanders
Drifting and Wandering
The figure of the drifter is a fundamental element of the mythology in most cultures. The search for what lies beyond, and the subsequent journey/quest, provides the basis for the legends that help those cultures to define and appraise themselves.
The wanderer comes to delineate world culture in many ways, as a source of archetypes and iconography ranging from the strong and resilient hero whose actions and attitudes speak for themselves to the befuddled everyman in the postmodern search for identity and meaning.
This colloquium will explore how the myth of the wanderer has changed over time, even as it continues to define, confound, and inspire. We will look at this phenomenon from many perspectives: from the ancient world, where empires found their roots in the resultant myths, to the modern day, where those who, in pursuit of truth and self awareness, encounter and struggle to overcome obstacles, both physical and metaphysical, that get in their way.
Through these readings, we will explore the role of the drifters and the wanderers and the way that they have come to shape who we are and how we see ourselves today.
- Homer: Odyssey
- Virgil: Aeneid
- Appolonius: The Argonautika
- Dante: Inferno
- The Ramayana
- Bolaño: The Savage Detectives
- Gaiman: American Gods
- Kerouac: Dharma Bums
- Murakami: Kafka on the Shore
- Silko: Ceremony
Instructor: Denise Harrison
Shakespeare Revisited: Early Modern Mirroring the Postmodern World
This course examines Shakespeare’s world, the staging of major and minor plays with an emphasis on the constructions of race, gender, class and sexuality in Early Modern England. Furthermore, we will use Shakespeare’s Early Modern world to critique post-modern representations of gender, class and the multicultural citizen.
Students will come to understand what it means to be a dramaturge and review film re-presentations of Shakespeare’s plays. During the second semester of the class we will see a live production by Great Lakes Shakespeare Theater. In addition, members of the course will stage a production of a Shakespearian play, keeping in mind what they have discovered about the Early Modern and Post-Modern periods and the construction of race, class, gender and human sexuality.
- Will’s World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, Stephan Greenblatt
- Will Contested: Who Wrote Shakespeare, James Shapiro
- The Genius of Shakespeare, Jonathan Bates
- Shakespeare and Modern Culture, Marjorie Garber
Film, Re/presentations, Plays:
- As You Like It
- Much Ado About Nothing
- Shakespeare Revisited—Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew
- Shakespeare Uncovered, PBS
- The Merchant of Venice
- King Lear