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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.
Culture and Identity
In this course, students will explore the definition of the term culture and its impact on literacy practices and identities (individual and community group members).
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.
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.
Exploration of Heroism
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
Be it in the form of articles on social media, news from the media, or texts from classes, students live in a society where information is constantly bombarding them. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with the wealth of information and differing opinions on different topics which can lead to the questions of “what is real?” and “what is reality?” These questions can be in part answered by philosophy and rhetoric. For instance, in the “Allegory of the Cave,” Plato discusses how humans negotiate what truth is in comparison to what reality is. Students in this course will analyze several philosophers understandings of reality in order to use those constructs to deconstruct information in their personal and academic lives. Throughout the course of the class, students will be asked to discuss, analyze, and argue points concerning the nature of how texts are created in order to demonstrate a particular type of reality that persuades the reader, thus enabling the students to understand how texts shape the reality of society.
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.
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.
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 be required to read and research extensively. We will examine literary texts, historical information, and contemporary texts illustrating current events. 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 of 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).
"Getting and Spending": Education, Consumerism, and Work in the United States
“Getting and spending”: William Wordsworth worries in his poem “The World is Too Much with Us” that too many of us spend too much of our lives and our time “getting and spending,” earning a living only to consume. Related to those two activities, of course, is our education, which increasingly is understood as a form of training for work. Yet, are getting and spending the only purposes in life? This course is organized around questioning that idea. We will read a range of texts—essays, poems, short stories, newspaper articles, a novel—about these three closely related topics: education, consumption, and work. While it is certainly the case that a career is a meaningful part of a good life, and that consumption at some level is unavoidable, several thinkers suggest that we need to do more to pursue broader and more significant purposes.
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.
Shakespeare: Revisted: Early Modern Mirroring the Post-Modern 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.