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The Macaulay Honors College (MHC) is not affiliated with the Thomas Hunter Honors Program. For more information about the MHC, please visit the Macaulay Honors College website.


Honors Colloquia - Spring 2018

Click on a course name to read a description.

Course Name
Course Number/Section
Reading List
Sanskrit Epic and Hindu Thought: The Ramayana & Modernity
HONS 2011P/01
    ISBN: 9780393316131
    ISBN: 9780872204928
    ISBN:  9780887068638
HONS 20162/01
  • Medea Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philoso, Author: James J. Clauss, Publisher: Princeton Univ Pr, Year Published: 1997;  9780691043760
  • Medea, Author: Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Publisher: Cornell Univ Pr, Year Published: 1986;    9780801494321
  • Jason & the Golden Fleece, Author: Rhodius Apollonius, Publisher: Oxford Univ Pr, Year Published: 2009;  9780199538720
  • Cawdor/Medea A Long Poem After Euripides a New Dir, Author: Robinson Jeffers, Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc, Year Published: 1970;  9780811200738
  • Medea: Methuen Student Edition With Commentary & N, Author: Euripides, Publisher: Hackett, Year Published: 2008;  9780872209237
The IslamicCity
All material will be made available electronically.
Topics in the History of the Book HONS 3011M/01
No textbooks assigned.
Energy and the Environment
HONS 30131/01 Energy and the Environment, Author: Robert A. Ristinen; Jack J. Kr, Publisher: Wiley (Wiley Global Education, Edition: 3, Year Published: 2016;  9781119239581
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


Sanskrit Epic and Hindu Thought: The Ramayana & Modernity

Professor Vishwa Adluri (Philosophy)


HONS 2011P
Tuesdays and Fridays; 2:10-3:25 p.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits


This course explores the Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana, from the perspective of psychoanalytic theory and theories of modernity. The Ramayana tells the story of the hero and heir apparent Rama-his pedagogy, initiation, maturity, conquest, exile, and battle to recover his wife, before he can be installed as the rightful king of the ideal, just polity. We will contrast Rama's experiences with Oedipus's. How does Rama's journey differ from Oedipus's? What is the role of initiation in maturity? How do Rama and Oedipus, each in their own way, offer alternatives to and parables for modernity, understood as an anti-heroic age (Nietzsche)? And how do psychoanalytic insights permit us to simultaneously recover the heroic perspective and offer a diagnosis of modernity?

Required texts:

Swami Venkatesananda, The Concise Ramayana of Valmiki
Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, vol. 7
Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus (Meineck and Woodruff trans.)

Course Requirements:

  1. All students are responsible for a mid-term paper (10 pages min.) which counts toward 50% of their grade.
  2. The mid-term paper will be on one of two questions pertaining to general aspects of Hinduism. I will distribute the questions in class one week before the paper is due. You are required to edit your papers for correct spelling and grammar. I reserve the right to reject any paper that does not meet these standards.
  3. You will have the option of rewriting your mid-term paper for a better grade if you wish. I do not accept late assignments.
  4. There will also be a final exam with two short questions. The final exam is 30% of your grade.
  5. Regular reading counts toward 10% of your grade.
  6. Class participation counts toward a further 10% of your grade.
  7. Regular attendance is required; any student who misses more than three classes without notice will have to see me before he/she can continue attending. I take attendance for every session.


Every student is required to meet with me at least once a semester during office hours to discuss his/her progress.

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Professor Ronnie Ancona (Classical and Oriental Studies)


HONS 20162
Mondays and Thursdays; 1:10-2:25 p.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits


The purpose of this course is to explore the contradictory and compelling figure of Medea in literary and artistic sources from ancient Greece and Rome and the contemporary world. This will be accomplished through close examination of a wide range of literary and artistic works as well as through selected secondary readings. Students will come to know "Medea" in all of her complexity through the sources themselves, class discussion, and written response.

The figure of Medea is hard to define and that is part of her attraction. Variously seen as the lovely foreign Colchian princess who aids the Greek hero Jason in his quest for the Golden Fleece, a magical witch, a murderous, vengeful woman, a wife left and betrayed in Corinth, a rational, careful, planner and an irrational, emotional force, she resists pinning down. Local princess who helps visiting hero, is later betrayed by him, and then kills their mutual children is only one version, although a very popular one.  While there are earlier appearances of Medea, Euripides' 5th century BCE Greek play provides her best known depiction. She is then reinterpreted in Hellenistic Greek epic as well as in Roman poetry and drama. Contemporary artists working in different media have been powerfully drawn to Medea. The fact that "the Medea story" resonates with issues of women, the other, family, power, emotion, and reason explains its continuing appeal. The varied "Medeas" that have emerged over time are testimony to the fact that her story invites multiple, diverse, and passionate responses.

Part One: The early context of Medea in art, myth and literature.   Euripides' Medea: the play itself and its literary, historical, and social context. The Greco-Roman Medea Tradition after Euripides. Part Two:  Modern Receptions of Medea in Literature, Art, Music, and Dance.

Ancient literary sources include Euripides, Apollonius, Seneca, and Ovid. Contemporary artistic sources include film by Jules Dassin, dance by Martha Graham, sculpture by Noguchi, and music by Theodorakis. The edited volume, Medea: Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art, will provide useful commentary.

Attendance and class participation; study sheets- written responses to questions from assigned reading, viewing, and listening; two papers, each about 7-8 pages- drafts receive comment, final versions graded; final exam- factual and interpretive response; class visit to the Noguchi Museum, Long Island City.

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The Islamic City

Professor Anna Akasoy (Classical & Oriental Studies)
Professor Nebahat Avcioglu (Art and Art History)


HONS 3011H
Mondays and Thursdays; 
9:45-11:00 a.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits


This colloquium proposes a critical thematic and historical overview of architectural, social, political and cultural aspects of cities in the Middle East from the seventh century to the present. Often described as "Islamic" since the 19th century by Orientalists seeking religious authenticity these cities were either inherited or founded at various times and under different circumstances by Muslims and became powerful cosmopolitan centers. Pointing to the rhetoric surrounding the "Islamic city" in the West, which describes it as a physically haphazard, socially segregated and culturally exotic space (or stagnant, traditional and despotic), we will engage with the challenges of understanding the city in its own terms. While we will focus on some of the traditional centers in the Islamic world (such as Istanbul, Cairo, Isfahan, Damascus, and Baghdad), we will also discuss the remaking of Beirut, Abu Dhabi, and Mecca as well as engaging in comparative exercises with European and North American cities.

Proceeding in a chronological order and identifying the most important topics in the study of the "Islamic city", we will

  • discuss early urban developments under Muslim rule, whether in pre-existing cities or newly established settlements, exploring which cultural, political, social and religious elements shaped them (e.g., preexisting architectural models, building regulations in medieval Islamic law)
  • discuss the relationship between architecture, urban structures, and social and political realities (e.g., the location of power in the city or segregation based on gender, ethnicity, or religion)
  • explore the unique urban constellations of material wealth, cosmopolitanism, and critical intellectual mass for political, social, material, and cultural dynamics in Islamic history
  • consider representations of cities in visual images, such as maps and panoramas, and in literature produced in the West and in the Islamic world and explore the reputations of different cities
  • as we move into the modern and post-modern periods, explore the impact of colonialism, post-colonialism, literary representations such as Orhan Pamuk's writings about Istanbul and Alaa al-Aswany's novel about Cairo

Requirements: In addition to three short reaction papers and a final research essay, students will be asked to work regularly in groups in order to apply general questions to specific cities of the Islamic world and in order to collect, evaluate and display visual and textual material in form of posters and oral presentations.

Select bibliography:
Urban Theory Beyond the West: A World of Cities, eds. Tim Edensor and Mark Jayne, Routledge: 2011.

The City in the Islamic World, eds. Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Renata Holod, Attilio Petruccioli, Andre Raymond, Brill: 2008.

Cities in the Pre-Modern Islamic World: The urban impact of religion state and society, eds.  Amira K. Benison and Alison Gascoigne, Routledge, 2007.  
Stefano Bianca, Urban Form in the Arab World: Past and Present. New York :2000.

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Topics in the History of the Book

Professor Hal Grossman (Library)
Professor Marlene Hennessy (English)

HONS 3011M
Wednesdays; 10:10-1:00 p.m.
Room 412HW
3 hours, 3 credits


Books have been a symbolic and mythic force central to the history of human culture and society.  This THHP colloquium will be an introduction to the history of the book and will consider the role and function of the book as material object, artifact, and social force.  Major themes include the techniques of book production, with a special focus on the evolution of the medieval book and the transition to print culture.  Beginning with books and libraries in Antiquity and early writing materials including wax tablets and papyrus, we will examine how scrolls and copying functioned in the ancient world and how the shift from orality to literacy influenced human consciousness.  We will then delve into the rise of the codex and its role in the triumph and dissemination of Christianity in the West.  To that end, we will look at how the parchment of medieval books was prepared, folded, pricked, ruled and bound, and also what scripts were employed in different codices.  The course then explores various topics in the book arts, from the book of hours (a medieval best-seller) to the invention of printing and woodcuts as well as the wondrous, enigmatic emblem books of the 17th century.

More modern social questions we will engage with include how the spread of printing was connected to the Protestant Reformation; the role of publishing in the rise of American national consciousness in the 18th century and in setting the stage for the French Revolution; and the birth of corporate publishing in the 19th century.  To that end, we will broadly consider related topics such as authorship, popular and learned readership, libraries and censorship. Of special interest will be the history of book illustration and intersections of words and pictures across literary genres. The scope of the course will also encompass other global histories of the book through topics such as Incan cord writing and Mayan codices; the central role of the book in the spread of Islam; the invention of paper in China; and books in sub-Saharan Africa.  We will also briefly explore later, more recent iterations of the book, including 20th-century artists' books, ephemera, graphic novels, comics, fanzines, "blooks" (objects that look like books but aren't books), e-books, and hyper-text.  Students will be encouraged to find literary and historical topics for their final research paper and to relate the social role of books to their physical characteristics.

Site visits to special collections in the New York City area will be an essential part of the work of the course, as we will take a hands-on approach to book history that allows students to work with original materials. We will hold class meetings in situ at New York Academy of Medicine Library Rare Book Room; Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library; Fales Library and Special Collections at NYU; Pierpont Morgan Library; and the Grolier Club Research Library. Students will be expected to develop individual research projects on some aspect of book history related to the course and, in some instances, may choose to write about books and other archival materials encountered on our site visits.

Requirements: short essay and presentation (3 pp; 5-7 mins); take-home Midterm (3-5 pp); research paper (14-16 pp).

Selected Readings: The Book History Reader, ed. David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery (Routledge, 2006); Roderick Cave and Sara Ayad, The History of the Book in 100 Books. The Complete Story from Egypt to e-book (Firefly, 2014); A Book of the Book: Some Works and Projections about the Book and Writing, ed. Jerome Rothenberg and Steven Clay (Granary, 2000); The Book: A Global History, ed. Michael F. Suarez and H. R. Wooudhuysen (Oxford, 2013); Raymond Clemens and Tim Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Cornell, 2007), among others.

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Energy and the Environment

Professor Allan Frei (Geography)
Professor Steven Greenbaum (Physics and Astronomy)


HONS 30131
Mondays and Wednesdays; 5:35-6:50 p.m.
Room 412 West 
3 hours, 3 credits



Climate change and national and international energy security issues are as important as ever, transcending politics and the recent change in U.S. Administration. This course combines the efforts of two faculty members from different departments with expertise in energy technology and in environmental and ecological consequences of our energy choices. The energy portion of the class will begin with the fundamental concept of energy as the capacity to do mechanical work, which forms the basis of transportation, electricity for industrial and home use and residential heating and cooling. We will cover energy generation schemes, from fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable (wind and solar) sources as well as infrastructure issues such as electrical transmission, storage, and the opportunities and challenges of widespread adoption of electric cars and buses.

The environmental portion of this course will address the environmental impacts of energy production in the context of coupled human and natural systems. Such interactions, which have long been a key area of interdisciplinary study for geographers, include processes related to the earth sciences (e.g. atmospheric science, hydrology, geology, ecology) as well as social sciences (e.g. history, economics, political science) and even humanities (e.g., environmental philosophy). The earth sciences will be covered in lectures that address specific categories of energy-related environmental problems and their ecological impacts. The social sciences will be covered in the context of a case study of a 1960s proposal by Con Edison to build a pumped storage hydroelectric plant for New York City at Storm King Mountain in the Hudson Valley. Topics to be covered include: Systems thinking; Air pollution; Water pollution; Acid precipitation; The global carbon cycle and climate; Case study: Storm King Mountain proposed pumped storage plant.

There will be one field trip with a second one optional:
1. "Big Allis" - Ravenswood Generating Station natural gas-fired electric power plant in Queens
2. Storm King Mountain, NY   (optional)

Profs. Greenbaum and Frei will give lectures on alternate weeks of a two class per week schedule (and attend each other's lectures). Course grades will be based on an in-class midterm, in-class final, and a team (3-4 students/team) presentation on topics to be determined.  Some examples are: cost analysis of a nuclear power plant (of course including regulatory issues); deepwater carbon sequestration strategies; computer modeling and simulation of atmospheric carbon-driven climate change; case studies in geographic and political issues in the siting of nuclear, hydroelectric, and/or solar energy facilities. The minimum prerequisite for this class is one year of high school physics or high school chemistry (some review may be required!)

Required Text: Energy and the Environment, 3rd Edition, Ristinen, Kraushaar, Brack, Wiley; ISBN: 978-1-119-17923-8

Required Reading:  (will be provided to students) selected chapters from Power on the Hudson: Storm King Mountain and the Emergence of Modern American Environmentalism, Robert Lifset, U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2014,
ISBN-13:978-8229-7955-5 (electronic)

Other readings to complement the text will be provided.

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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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