Freshman Honors Colloquium
2013-2014 Schedule of Freshman Honors Colloquium Courses
What happens when a government dictates its subjects to make sacrifices in terms of their freedom, justice, and individual rights for the good of the “Country?” On the contrary, what happens when the subjects feel that the sacrifices expected by the government are not justified and view it as a form of oppression? Then, how do they protest the injustice? And if they cannot, how do they advocate it? Why is it important for individuals to maintain their personal freedom and liberty? Why does democracy advocate “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?”
Students will find answers to many of these questions during the discussions and debates we will have in class. The text we will be studying, A World of Ideas by Lee Jacobs, is a compilation of essays combining traditional and contemporary essays that allow students an opportunity to participate and debate the thoughts of the original thinkers such as Machiavelli, Thomas Jefferson, Thoreau, Karl Marx, Durkheim, Freud and the list goes on. Further, this book will enable you to think about ideologies-the way they are constructed, developed and propagated.
In addition, we will be reading George Orwell's 1984 as it fits the theme and forces us to define our own individuality in many ways. The other text Defining a Nation will be used in the second semester. The first and second semester will involve discussion, responding to short posts on the Vista/Black Board, writing four to six papers, collaborative and individual, each semester (the last one being the writing project). In addition, you will be required to do a multimodal presentation representing the main or the sub-theme at the end of each semester. All the texts have games in which students will be assigned roles, informed by classic texts, set in a particular moment of intellectual and social ferment. Students will participate in the games and come to a decision on what constitutes an “Ideal Democracy,” if at all it is possible to have one!
Possible texts may include but are not limited to:
- Lee A. Jacobs, A World of Ideas (Eighth edition)
- George Orwell (Signet Edition), 1984
- Ainslie Embree, and Mark A Carnes, Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence 1945: Reacting to the Past
- Lee Brandon, At a Glance, Essays
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 in this colloquium will be exploring how the awareness that memory is neither fixed nor entirely reliable can be applied to understanding cultural and social patterns in the present day. We will compose coherent and thoughtful prose, audio and video. Students will create and maintain blogs that combine personal reflection with independent research and investigation.
In the fall semester, we will consider the neurological processes that underlie memory and identity and apply what we learn within the world of literature, music and cinema. In the spring, we will shift our focus slightly. Memories emerge from billions of connections between neurons in our brains. The study of emergence examines how complex systems and patterns arise from the application of relatively simple interactions. We will use this approach to understanding the world in examining a variety of texts and other works.
Texts for Fall
- Kandel, Eric R. In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.
- 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.
During spring semester, we will shift our focus to examine the role of the individual in social change. How much influence does just 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 fall texts:
- Émile Zola, Germinal
- Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
- Michael Gold, Jews Without Money
- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
- Richard LeMieux, Breakfast at Sally’s
Likely spring texts:
- Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
- Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
- Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
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
- Dante: Inferno
- The Ramayana
- Bolaño: The Savage Detectives
- Foer: Everything is Illuminated
- Gaiman: American Gods
- Kerouac: Dharma Bums
- Murakami: Kafka on the Shore
- Newby: A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
- Silko: Ceremony
Texts will include:
- Iliad, Homer.
- Odyssey, Homer.
- The Oresteia, Aeschylus (Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides)
- A Short Introduction to Ancient Greek Drama, Graham Ley.
- The Oldest Dead White European Males, and Other Reflections on the Classic, Bernard Knox.
Texts will include:
- A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
- The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
- The Wizard of Oz (film)
- Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salmon Rushdie
Texts will include:
- D. M. Hassler and Clyde Wilcox, eds., Political Science Fiction
- L Grossman, ed. Sense of Wonder [this book is available as an e-book]
and non-humans (animals, plants, “wilderness”). We will study a wide range of genres including poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.
- The Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume D: The Romantic Period (not the complete Anthology I; however, if you already own a copy of the 8th or 9th edition of the complete anthology, Volume I, you may use it).
- Patrick Murrphy, Farther Afield: The Study of Nature-Oriented Literature
- Temple Grandin, Animals Make Us Human
- Francis Ponge, The Nature of Things
- Walter Pater, Imaginary Portraits
- George Orwell, Shooting an Elephant (Orwell’s short story will be made available on Blackboard)
on one of the issues discussed over the two semesters.
- Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
- Herman Melville, Israel Potter: His Years of Exile
- Edmond Jabès, The Little Book of Unsuspected Subversion
- John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera
- Mark Twain, The War Prayer
This course will consider a variety of expert opinions on social and regional language variations. After consideration of some of the ideas and concepts related to language varieties and use via research articles and selected literary texts, the course will foster the writing of critical essays and the successful completion of a research project designed to encourage close reading of texts, an analytical understanding of their cultural implications and an inter-textual synthesis of the major concerns reflected therein. Specifically, in class, we will focus on a body of work that revolves around some of the following questions and concerns related to language use:
- Gender and language use: Is there a difference?
- 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?
- This colloquium answers these questions and others as it examines how language reflects and is influenced by the societies in which it is used.
- Clark, Virginia; Paul Eschholz et al (2007) Language: Readings in Language and Culture. 7th Ed. Bedford/ St. Martins
- Zora Neale Hurston. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial.
- Charles Waddell Chesnutt. The Conjure Woman and Other Tales. Ed. Richard H. Brodhead. Durham: Duke UP.
- Joyce Carol Oates. High Lonesome: New and Selected Stories 1966-2006. New York: Harper Perennial.
- Flannery O’Connor. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.
This course will be run as a seminar, which means that most class sessions will be devoted to discussion and other student-led activities. We will collectively determine the topics for reading and discussion based on our interests and goals for the course. Additionally, we will engage in many technological experiments during the year. For example, we will likely spend one class session discussing via instant messaging rather than speaking with our voices. We may spend another class composing parody Twitter accounts.
During the first semester, students will write five papers of varying lengths that will set the foundation for a more substantial research project in the second semester. During the second semester students will write a research paper and supplement it with varying multimodal projects (such as videos, audio essays, art collages, etc.) determined by student interest. No advance expertise with such projects is necessary to be successful in the course.
- Super Sad True Love Story: Gary Shteyngart: Random House
- Snow Crash: Neal Stephenson: Spectra
- Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other: Sherry Turkle: Basic Books
- 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
- Several other readings are available free online and not listed here (e.g., novels by Cory Doctorow, philosophy from Plato)
Students will explore influential fiction, mythologies, and ideas as we investigate issues of justice, human rights, duty, loyalty, education, social standing, and literacy. Students will consider social issues in today’s society through popular Medias such as V for Vendetta, 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 a “Reacting to the Past” game. For example:
Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791 plunges students into the intellectual, political, and ideological currents that surged through revolutionary Paris in the summer of 1791. Students are leaders of major factions within the National Assembly (and in the streets outside) as it struggles to create a constitution amidst internal chaos and threats of foreign invasion. Will the king retain power? Will the priests of the Catholic Church obey the “general will” of the National Assembly or the dictates of the pope in Rome? Do traditional institutions and values constitute restraints on freedom and individual dignity or are they its essential bulwarks? Are slaves, women, and Jews entitled to the “rights of man”? Is violence a legitimate means of changing society or of purging it of dangerous enemies? In wrestling with these issues, students consult Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, among other texts. (http://reacting.barnard.edu/curriculum/published-games/rousseau)
Subjects, Texts, & Authors may include but are not limited to:
- Popular culture
- The World of Ideas
- Dystopian Fiction
- The Lord of the Rings
- Harry Potter
Students in this section will explore the 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. Students will be required to read and research extensively. We will examine several literary texts and some historical information. Some classes will be dedicated to writing instruction, but most will be based on discussion of the texts, themes, and cultural examination that make up the basis for the course. 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).
Through examination of these texts and through class discussion and writing assignments, including response journals, peer review, writing and revision of papers of varying lengths, research projects, and multi-modal projects, we will work on critical reading, thinking, and writing skills.
Texts may include, but are not limited to:
- The Handmaid’s Tale
- Reading Lolita in Tehran
- The Yellow Wallpaper
- Fight Club
- The Left Hand of Darkness
Most of us think we understand violence, and the majority hope that 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 novels (chosen by you in the second semester) that will be 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. You will develop critical skills as readers, writers and thinkers through class discussions and presentations, and, in the second semester, students will complete a year-ending research project. 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.
Since some of these works have been translated into film, and many of these topics have been a mainstay of modern films, we may also include comparative film analysis as a part of the course. The goals of this colloquium are to develop skills as critical readers and as writers. Students will write several five-page essays each semester, as well as a final, longer project in the spring. There will be no exams, but several quizzes and shorter writing assignments will be given regularly. Class discussion will be a crucial part of the course, both individually and in group work, and students also will be required to give in-class presentations of certain assigned topics and outside readings throughout both semesters. Students also will be encouraged to try creative approaches to the assignments, including video productions or other various artistic media.
Possible year-ending projects: individual creative writing projects, a published "magazine" including the best works of each student, or a video or theatrical production of a work relevant to the course.
- Heller, Catch-22
- Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
- Nabokov, Lolita
- Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
- Kafka, The Metamorphosis and other stories
- Collins, The Hunger Games
- Williams, The Glass Menagerie
- Shakespeare, Othello
- 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
- Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
- McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
- Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
- Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
- Wiesel, Night
- Films: Dr. Strangelove, Lost in Translation, Adaptation, Crash, Little Miss Sunshine, The Big Lebowski, Across the Universe, The Help, Juno, Easy A, (500)Days of Summer, etc.
- Essays: Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus” Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”, “Enlightened Sexism” (Packet)
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.
- Increase students' understanding of Shakespeare’s world.
- Teach the principals of dramaturgie
- Analyze the art of the play / playwright
- Compare and contrast historical periods
- Identify the constructions 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
- Reading Packet
- As You Like it
- Much Ado About Nothing
- Shakespeare Revisited—Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew
- Shakespeare Uncovered, PBS
- Plays (second semester)
- The Merchant of Venice
- King Lear
- Titus Andronicus
- A personal narrative (2-3 pages)
- Two Questions and two Answers (1 page)
- Two essays (from 5 to 6 double-spaced pages each)
- Research Project (from 8 to 10 pages (Explore the topic first semester-- Complete the research project the second semester).
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 semester focus on transformation of self and include the following:
- Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning
- Williams The Glass Menagerie
- Chopin The Awakening
- Maugham The Razor’s Edge
- Related poetry
- Texts for spring semester on transformation of society
- Mission (movie)
- Michael Sandel Justice
- Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
- Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
- Platoon (movie)
These five 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 Odyssey
- The Wife of Bath
- The Taming of the Shrew
- Students will write two research papers for the course, and quizzes will be given on a weekly basis. There is no midterm or final exam.
Required Texts (Including but not limited to):
- 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
- Selected Short Stories: (Including but not limited to):
- 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
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 we teach patriotism, and we will look at what Mark Twain had to say on the topic (for example, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it”).
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
- The Ethics of Living Jim Crow by Richard Wright
- Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao (Penguin)
- The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy
- Galileo by Bertolt Brecht (Grove Press)
- 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