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Honors Colloquia - Spring 2019

Click on a course name to read a description.

Course Name
Course Number/Section
Reading List
The Art and Science of Anatomy
HONS 2011G/01 Kandel, E. The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind and Brain
Ships, Seafaring, and Mediterannean Civilization, 3000 BC-1000 AD: Nautical Archaeology in Context
HONS 2011S/01
  1. L. Casson, The Ancient Mariners, 2nd ed., Princeton, 1991
  2. R. Gould, Archaeology and the Social History of Ships, 2nd ed., Cambridge, 2011
Love in Early Modern European Philosophy and Literature
HONS 2011Y/01
  1. Plato, Symposium A Translation by Seth Bernadete with Commentaries by Allan Bloom and Seth Benardete (University of Chicago, 2001) ISBN: 978-0226042756
  2. Marsilio Ficino, On Love, tr. and ed. Sears Jayne (Spring Publications, 1985) ISBN: 978-0882146010 
  3. Baldassarre Castiglione, The Courtier, tr. J. Singleton, ed. D. Javitch (New York; London: Norton & Company, 2002) ISBN:-0-39397606-8 
  4. Louise Labé, Complete Poetry and Prose, ed. and tr. D. Lesko Baker (Chicago: London: The U of Chicago Press, 2006) ISBN: 978-0226467146 
  5. William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Folger Shakespeare Library (Simon & Schuster, 2004) ISBN: 978-0671722852 
  6. Jean Racine, Phèdre, tr. M. Rawling Penguin Classics Reprint edition (March 1, 1992) Language: French/English ISBN: 978-0140445916
  7. Madame de la Fayette, The Princess of Clèves, tr. Terence Cave  (Oxford UP, 1992) ISBN: 978-0199539178  
Integrating the Irrational
HONS 20152/01
To be posted
Sources of Contemporary Thought
HONS 30179/01 To be posted
Interdisciplinary Independent Study HONS 30199/01 TBD
Advanced Interdisciplinary Study HONS 49151/01 TBD


All course materials can be purchased at Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers, located at 939 Lexington Avenue.

Course Descriptions


The Art and Science of Anatomy

Professor Roger Persell (Biological Sciences)


HONS 2011G
Tuesdays; 10:00-12:30 p.m.
Room 926C HN
3 hours, 3 credits


How do we sense silently what someone else is feeling? Organisms convey meaning behind feelings and emotions by manipulating their anatomy, the intensely subtle positions and movements of our musculoskeletal systems.  In this course, we will explore how "anatomy", our interior structure, underlies the meanings of our surface perceptions. Freud famously proposed an "anatomy of the mind" to expose deeper truths about human behavior. Currently, the New York Times presents an "anatomy of a scene" to display how a filmmaker creates the emotional impact of cinema.

From the earliest illustrations of anatomy to modern technology in medicine, forensics, cinema, video games, and of course all manners of art, we will uncover, so to speak, the underlying art and science of anatomical structures. Our hands can threaten hostility or offer caring sensitivity. Facial contortions signal agony or ecstasy, skepticism or sincerity; our posture displays beauty, comedy, shame, fear or threat - understanding the science and art of anatomy will open a window into understanding our meaningful emotions.

The course has no special pre- or co-requisites except an eagerness to try your own hand at creating a visual work of anatomy and to discuss sometimes challenging readings. Timely assignments and intensive class participation determine your grade. Late work is unacceptable and will be discounted. A background in art and skill in drawing are not requirements, but effort is.

Your assignments:

  1. Three short projects involving both art and science (15% each): basic anatomical renditions to appreciate how expression emerges from anatomy along with a 2-3 page essay that analyzes anatomical function and its underlying meaning.
  2. You will choose your own (pre-approved) term-paper project (30%) and present it in class (10%) for a more in-depth exploration of how science and art come together to illuminate a subject, for example the digitization of dinosaur anatomy in Jurassic Park movies, the spiritual meaning of Dürer's hands, or the clinical message of an MRI. Term paper topics require prior approval and will be between 12-15 pages. You may include multi-media work.
  3. An honors course comes to life through open discussion. Therefore, your ongoing participation (15%) is emphasized and expected. Since the course meets only once a week, missing more than 1-2 classes is very likely to take a toll on your final grade.
  4. REQUIRED TEXT: Kandel, E. The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind and Brain. (2012) Random House.


  1. Rifkin, BA, Ackerman, MJ, Folkenberg, J. Human Anatomy: A Visual History from the Renaissance to the Digital Age. (2006). Harry N. Abrams.
  2. Damasio, Antonio The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures.(2018). Pantheon Books.
  3. DiMatteo, B. et al. Art in Science: The Stage of the Human Body. (2015). Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research.
  4. Gorman, J. (Nov 12, 2012) "Jane Doe Gets a Back Story" The New York Times
  5. Wood, B. (August 2012) "Facing up to complexity", how the anatomy of three new fossils lends support to the hypothesis that there were at least two parallel lineages of early human evolutionary history. Nature (488: page 162).

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Ships, Seafaring, & Mediterranean Civilization, 3000 BC-1000 AD: Nautical Archaeology in Context

Professor Hendrik Dey (Art & Art History)


HONS 2011S
Mondays and Wednesdays; 5:35-6:50 p.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits


Mediterranean history depends on the ships and sailors that crisscrossed the Mediterranean Sea, connecting populations and cultures from Spain to Syria and creating the political, cultural and economic networks that turned the Mediterranean basin into the cradle of Western civilization. We will begin with a brief overview of ancient seafaring, with particular emphasis on the technical advances that marked the evolution of seagoing ships from the Bronze Age to the early Middle Ages (ca. 3000 BC to 1000 AD). We will then examine theory and practice of maritime archaeology, which has only recently come into its own as a scientific discipline, and which has the potential to reshape current thinking about a broad range of topics, from commerce and trade, to communications and cultural contacts, to questions of state-formation and empire-building. In the final segment of the course, we will turn to some case-studies that illustrate some of the many ways in which the Mediterranean and its associated cultures would have been unthinkable without what we might call a flourishing 'maritime habit'. Greeks and Trojans could never have fought, nor could Homer and Virgil have written; Athens would never have been built; Rome and Constantinople would have starved...

REQUIRED TEXTS (note that this list will change between now and beginning of class!)

- L. Casson, The Ancient Mariners, 2nd ed., Princeton, 1991.

- L. Babits and H. Van Tilburg (eds.), Maritime Archaeology: A Reader of Substantive and Theoretical Contributions, New York, 1998.

- Digital "coursepack" with additional readings.


- Class participation/preparedness: 10% of final grade

- 15-minute oral report and 3-4 page written presentation on an underwater excavation of your choice: 15% (presentation can be done anytime during the semester - dates will be chosen early in the semester)

- Midterm exam: 30%

- 12-Page final research paper: 45%

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Love in Early Modern European Philosophy & Literature

Professor Monica Calabritto (Romance Languages, Italian)


HONS 2011Y
Mondays and Thursdays;
4:10-5:25 p.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits


This seminar will explore the subject of love in its dual nature: as physical, erotic passion and spiritual, ennobling emotion, starting with Plato's dialogue Symposium and the Treatise on Love by the Arab polymath Avicenna, who authored the Canon of Medicine, one of the most influential texts for the medical Islamic and European traditions up until at least the seventeenth century. These two works exemplify the tension between the body and the soul that is elaborated and developed in all the other texts that we will read. In both texts, the physiological/medical dimension is present, and interacts with the philosophical dimension. This interaction is replicated and amplified in Marsilio Ficino's commentary to Plato's Symposium, written in the fifteenth century, and read extensively by philosophers and writers alike. A selection of medical documents written between the early sixteenth and early seventeenth century will complete the exemplification of the connection of philosophy, medicine, and literature when it comes to the notion of love in the early modern period.

A selection of Italian, French, English and Spanish texts, composed between the beginning of the fourteenth and the end of the seventeenth century, will allow us to address, among others, the following questions:  how are the tensions between body and soul on the one hand and erotic passion and spiritual emotion on the other elaborated in these texts? In which way did Marsilio Ficino's Neo-Platonic fifteenth-century elaboration of the Symposium, affect the literature on love written between the sixteenth and the seventeenth century? Do genre and gender influence the way love is enacted in these works, and how?

What follows is a provisional reading list:

Plato, Symposium; Avicenna, Treatise on Love; Marsilio Ficino, On Love; Girolamo Mercuriale, Consilia Medica (selections); Michel de Montaigne, "On Affectionate Relationships", "On the Affection of Fathers for Their Children", "On Three Kinds of Social Intercourse", in Essays; Baldassarre Castiglione, The Courtier (with special focus on book IV); Leone Ebreo, Dialogues of Love (Dialogue I; available online throughout CUNY); Michelangelo, Rime (selections); Louise Labé, Elegies and Sonnets (selections); Francisco de Quevedo, Poems (selections); William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet; Jacques Ferrand, A Treatise on Lovesickness; Jean Racine, Phèdre; Madame de la Fayette, The Princess of Clèves.

Those who can read these texts in the original language are encouraged to do so. The seminar will be conducted in English. Students will be required to give an oral presentation, a written report based on the oral presentation, and a final research paper. Grading will also factor in class participation.

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Integrating the Irrational

Professor Elizabeth Beaujour (Classical & Oriental Studies, Russian)


HONS 20152
Tuesdays & Fridays; 2:10-3:25 p.m.
Room 412HW
3 hours, 3 credits


This colloquium will examine the ways in which a variety of intellectual systems attempt to integrate phenomena that challenge their basic assumptions and violate their fundamental structures. Underlying all our other readings will be a number of short but important texts by cultural anthropologists and linguists, such as Mary Douglas, Benjamin F. Lee Whorf, Claude Levi- Strauss, and Steven Lukes.

Each of the five units of the course will involve a comparison. We will begin with a peculiar masterpiece of Russian Literature: Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita and read it in conjunction with William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell".  We will then go back to ancient Greece to see how the Aeschylus trilogy and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus find ways to resolve the conflicts between absolutely contradictory obligations and rights.

From Oedipus, it is an obvious segue to a unit on psychoanalysis, where we will read excerpts from Freud and Jung and look at some of Jung's drawings from his recently published Red Book.  Continuing in an associative way, we will then consider the imagery of Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights (sometimes called the Millennium Triptych), and compare this work with the imagery in twentieth century Surrealist art, particularly works of Magritte, Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí.

We will close the semester with a comparison that has now become classic: the contrasting visions of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and Chinua Achebe's, Things Fall Apart, a comparison underlined by Achebe's acerbic article on Conrad, and nuanced by Conrad's little-known story "Amy Foster."

There will be a short paper which may be revised after the first unit, several brief written responses to some of the pictures, a longer final paper on a topic agreed upon with the instructor (to be begun during the weeks when we are looking at visual material. I will want to see at least one draft before final submission of the paper).This final paper should reflect the interests of the student, and may therefore consider kinds of "irrationality" other than those addressed in the course.

There will also be an odd, one hour, final exam.

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Sources of Contemporary Thought

Professor Gerald Press (Philosophy)


HONS 3079
Mondays and Thursdays; 9:45-11:00 a.m.
Room 412 West 
3 hours, 3 credits


This colloquium will be an introduction to many of the most influential ideas, authors, and books of the last 500 years: Darwinism and Evolutionary theory, Marxism and Revolutionary theory, Freud and Psychoanalysis, philosophic rationalism, political realism, reformation theology, the earliest European novel as well as a classic 19th century Russian novel, and modernism in English literature.

Guest speakers will include Michael Steiper (Anthropology), Elizabeth Beaujour (Russian, Comparative Literature), Diana Conchado (Spanish, Romance Languages, and COH), Richard Kaye (English and COH), Daniel Addison, Justin Garson, and Laura Keating (Philosophy), Philip Alcabes (Public Health), and Vishwa Adluri (Religion Program).

As you can imagine, reading will be heavy and there will be high expectations for class participation; on the other hand, writing requirements will be relatively light: (1) either three 1,000 word essays or two 1,000 word essays and an oral presentation on individual books and authors and (2) a 2,500 word term paper bringing together books and ideas from different disciplinary perspectives.


  • Cervantes, Don Quixote
  • Machiavelli, The Prince, Discourses on Livy (Selections)
  • Galileo, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (selections)
  • Descartes, Philosophical Writings (selections)
  • Martin Luther, Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, The Freedom of a Christian, Prefaces to the New Testament
  • Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (selections)
  • Darwin, selections from The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man
  • Marx, selections from "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844," "Theses on Feuerbach," "The German Ideology," "The Communist Manifesto," "On the Jewish Question"
  • Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground
  • Freud, selections from works such as The Interpretation of Dreams, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious, Totem and Taboo
  • T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland

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Interdisciplinary Independent Study

HONS 30199
3 hours, 3 credits
Hours to be arranged

Students wishing to take this course will need two readers, from different disciplines, one of whom generally should be a member of the Council on Honors.  In principle, the Council must approve the subject matter of such a paper before the student can register for the course.  This course may be taken only once.

HONS 30199 cannot replace any of the three required Honors Colloquia.

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Advanced Interdisciplinary Study

HONS 49151
6 hours, 6 credits
Hours to be arranged

Upon completion of 90 credits, certified Honors Program students may be admitted by the Council on Honors to Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies, with the opportunity of engaging in advanced independent study under the Council's supervision. A project for a thesis or other appropriate report of the results of the student's research is presented to the Council, which must approve it the semester previous to registration. Three sponsors, from at least two departments, one of whom must be a member of the Council on Honors, will supervise the work. The final product must be approved by all three sponsors and the Council.

HONS 49151 cannot replace any of the three required Honors Colloquia.

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