Freshman Honors Colloquium Course Descriptions

The course descriptions on this page have been prepared by the faculty assigned to teach the respective sections of Freshman Honors Colloquium for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (Section 001)

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.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (002)

Drifting and Wandering

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.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (004)

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.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (005)

The Pursuit of Ideas: Questioning, Creating, and Learning 

Students will read extensively from multiple disciplines as they explore influential ideas in education. We will investigate methods of learning, discovery, and creation in art, science, engineering, philosophy, and literature. Students will work through situations and problems that may have multiple answers; the process will allow students to work through ambiguities and options, demonstrating the process of engagement with others (collaboration) and with materials (hands-on/problem-based learning) to be effective aspects of learning.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (006)

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.

The emphasis in this class will be on developing critical reading skills as well as producing lively, precise, uncluttered, and interesting prose.  Students will lead the discussions, write essays, produce an original research paper (spring), and do a final project or presentation each semester. Texts include fiction, non-fiction, films, one documentary, and poetry.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (007)

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 the American and local spirit and how knowing about the poverty of the past, will help them understand the realities of the less fortunate.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (008)

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. Students will write three research papers for the course, and quizzes will be given on a weekly basis. There is no midterm or final exam.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (010)

In this colloquium, we will begin the first semester by reading Homer’s Iliad, a war epic less about war and more about the effects of war on the warriors and the people they fight for. We will then read The Odyssey, the best-known so-called “homecoming” narrative. We will then move on from these epics to Aeschylus’ Oresteia, an examination of the Greek world’s most dysfunctional family. In the spring semester, we will move in a very different, but complementary, direction by focusing on the theme of coming of age. While “coming of age” most often refers to a child maturing into adulthood, this semester we may also examine “non-traditional” coming-of-age stories. 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. Campbell demonstrates how heroes from stories, myths, and fairy tales all over the world participate in a similar adventure structure. 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 main character’s, that is, the hero’s experiences using these theoretical constructs.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (011)

The term “literacy” is commonly associated with learning to read and write in school contexts. But scholar Beth Daniell argues that “literacy isn’t one thing…we have learned that it is more accurate to speak of literacies than literacy.”  In this course, we will explore Daniell’s claim and consider multiple and competing definitions of “literacy.” We will examine how varied “literacies” are enacted in different cultural and historical contexts, and we’ll engage with fictional and non-fictional narratives of literacy development. We will read scholarly research on how literacy is learned and talk with others about their literacy experiences. All the while, we will reflect on and develop our own literacy beliefs, experiences, and practices.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (012)

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.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (013)

Memory, Story, Emergence​

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.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (015)

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 that allows growth and a response that diminishes us 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.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (016)

In this course, we will be looking during fall semester at the issue of class struggle, focusing on fiction 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?

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 may include several dystopic novels.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (019)

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.  Disillusionment is engendered, in part, by myths and stories that necessarily shape and dictate human desire.  There are thus culturally appropriate and culturally inappropriate objects of desire.  Cultural factors, therefore, prompt an individual’s sense of misplaced desire and his or her subsequent sense of alienation.  Whether collective or individual, desire can also be plagued by misinterpretation, a fact which clearly engenders disillusionment.  Moreover, human objects of desire can unwittingly, or craftily, misrepresent themselves, thereby prompting further disillusionment.  The assigned texts for the course carefully illustrate the powerful claims of our “all-too-human” appetites and instincts for desire.  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.  Examining something seemingly simple as the impulse to desire will prompt readers’ curiosity and imagination.  The course will have an interactive format; students will read and write freely crossing the border between writer and reader, student and critic.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (020)

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.

Freshman Honors Colloquium (021)

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.