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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 - Fall 2017

Click on a course name to read a description.

Course Name
Course Number/Section
Reading List
Encountering Madness HONS 2011W/01 To be posted
Modernism: 1880-1930
HONS 20163/01
To be posted
Narrating Violence in Latin America
HONS3011A /01
  • Abad Fanciolince, Héctor. Oblivium: A Memoir. London: Old Street Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-1906964221
  • Leon, Juanita, Country of Bullets: Chronicles of War. New Mexico: New Mexico UP, 2009.  ISBN 978-0-8263-4767-1
  • Vasquez, Juan Gabriel, The Sound of Things Falling. NY: Riverhead Books, 2014. ISBN 978-1594632747
  • Dorfman, Ariel. Death and the Maiden. NY: Penguin, 1991. ISBN 978-0140246841
  • Zurita, Raúl. Inri. Michigan: Marick Press, 2009. ISBN  978-1934851043
  • Cerda, Carlos. An Empty House. Lincoln: Nebraska UP, 2003. 080-321524X
  • Stern, Steve J. Remembering Pinochet's Chile On the eve of London 1998. Vol. I. Durham & London: Duke UP, 2004. ISBN 978-0822338161
Other readings in digital files (pdf). 300+ pp.
Zombies and Other Monsters
HONS 3011E/01
  • Octavia Butler, Fledgling: A Novel
  • Max Brooks, World War Z
  • Richard Matheson, I Am Legend
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula
  • Anne Rice, Interview with A Vampire
South Africa and Southern Africa After Apartheid
HONS 30167/01 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


Encountering Madness

Professor Philip Alcabes (School of Urban Public Health)


HONS 2011W
Tuesdays and Fridays; 9:45-11:00 a.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits


This colloquium draws from sociology, psychology, history of medicine, and literature to examine the concept of madness. We will take especial interest in the methods used for managing what is labeled as psychic aberration in contemporary society.

The mad have been part of the human social landscape throughout recorded history. Egyptian papyri show that madness was related to the spirit world as early as 2000 BCE. In both ancient Hebrew and Greek, the word for "prophesy" is derived from the same root as the word for "raving" - prophesy was a kind of madness that came from possession by divine spirits. Melancholy, famously attributed to black bile by the ancient Greeks, was part of the spectrum of madness, or a version of it.

Today, we think of madness as an abnormality of behavior reflecting chemical or neurological dysfunction in the brain. It's a pathology. Melancholy is now "depression," a different derangement of the brain's chemistry and/or neural structure. Both comprise a number of different diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the "Bible" of abnormal psychology.

How did we go from a spiritual understanding of madness to a technical one? How did madness become political? Why did madness and melancholy become "mental illness" - and prompt the development of mental asylums, psychotherapies, and, most recently, psychotherapeutic drugs like Thorazine, Lithium, Adderall, and Prozac? What are the benefits of this change in conceptualization? What are the costs? What will we think of madness in the future?


Three short (1000- to 1500-word) essays, one of which to be revised and resubmitted.
One longer (2500-word) term paper, including draft and revision.
Some low- or no-stakes weekly writing assignments on required reading.
Short reports on in-class debates.


Short papers, 15%; Revision of one short paper, 20%; Term paper 45%; Debates 10%; Participation 10%

Partial Reading List:

  1. Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy (2007)
  2. Foucault, History of Madness, Part I (1972, English translation 2006 by Murphy & Khalfa)
  3. Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia," 1917
  4. Goffman, Asylums (1961)
  5. Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted (1994)
  6. Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)
  7. Plath, The Bell Jar (1971)
  8. Porter, Madness: A Brief History (2003)
  9. Rothman & Rothman, The Willowbrook Wars: Bringing the Mentally Disabled into the Community (1984)
  10. Taylor, The Last Asylum (2015)


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Modernism: 1880-1930

Professor Richard Kaye (English)


HONS 20163
Mondays and Thursdays; 4:10-5:25 p.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits


Modernism was a radical European and American literary and cultural phenomenon that was powerfully related to the energies-scientific, technological, philosophical, psychological, and political-that we associate with modernity. Modernist artists typically cherished intellectual difficulty, lyrical discordance, formal abstraction, and heightened subjectivity, as "realism" came under skeptical and sometimes ferocious attack. This class closely explores five representative figures who helped transform literature, music, and painting in the twentieth century: Pablo Picasso, Claude Debussy, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, and T.S. Eliot. We will consider Eliot's radical break with nineteenth-century poetics in such works as "The Waste Land," Lawrence's scandal-generating erotic fiction such as Women in Love, and Woolf's experiments in highly subjective human consciousness in fiction such as To the Lighthouse.  With a consideration of Debussy's The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, performed in Paris in 1911 and banned by the Catholic Church for its bold depiction of a Christian saint performed by a woman, the renowned Russian dancer Ida Rubinstein, we will focus on modernist spectacle. We will consider Picasso's scandal-generating 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon-like The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, a work tied to erotic scandal (the painting is set in a bordello and its female figures are prostitutes). We will explore, too, how modernist artists rebelled against, but also drew from, their creative precursors. Some critics argue, for example, that Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was a response to Matisse's Le Bonheur de Vivre and Blue Nude. Advanced photographers, meanwhile, struggled both to assimilate and to reject the conventions of painting, as photography's fetishization of the "real" militated against the growing impulse towards abstraction in the visual arts.  How modernists reacted to one another's artistic work is another issue we will explore, whether in the Paris-based Gertrude Stein's exuberant endorsement of Picasso or Eliot's characterization of Lawrence as a "heretic." From Surrealism and Dada to Futurism and Imagism, competing artistic movements flourished across Europe and America, with modernist writers ranging across the political spectrum. Woolf's A Room of One's Own staked out a claim for a feminist literary tradition and Picasso created an anti-fascist masterpiece in his 1937 Guernica. Meanwhile, Eliot and Lawrence frequently embraced reactionary politics. The class will consider such manifestos of modernism as Woolf's attack on what she called the "Georgian" novel (published during the reign of King George) and Eliot's defense of "impersonality" and "tradition" over "convention" in poetry. Important, as well, will be our class's examination of how new systems of thought (Einstein's advances in physics altered conceptions of time and space, Freud's invention of psychoanalysis as mining a hidden psychological reality, and Bergson's philosophical investigations into time and consciousness as subjectively experienced) shaped-and were shaped by--modernist works of art.  Finally the class will explore the critique of modernism offered by post-modernist critics, who question the modernist movement's posture of "difficulty," deliberate obscurity, universalism, and claims of revolutionary break-through in the arts. In addition to primary readings, the class will take up the writings of such major critics, scholars, and writers as Gertrude Stein, Walter Benjamin, R.P. Blackmur, Meyer Schapiro, Roger Shattuck, Charles Rosen, Linda Nochlin, Rosalind Krauss, Susan Sontag, John Richardson, and Mary Ann Caws.

Requirements: A mid-term paper and a final paper.


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Narrating Violence in Latin America

Professor Maria Luisa Fischer (Romance Languages, Spanish)
Professor Mary Roldan (History)


HONS 3011A
10:10-1:00 p.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits


Dirty wars, civil wars, drug wars, and widespread repression have taken place in several Latin American societies in the twentieth century.  This course examines the contexts and effects of political and social violence in Latin America during the '60s and '70s through the years of democratic transition in the '80s.  What is the legacy of violence and how has it shaped individual and collective notions of citizenship, justice, identity, politics, and history?  What are the causes of violence and how does it operate? How do individuals/nations remember violence and how do those memories shape imagination, a sense of self, interactions with others, and understandings of power? How do societies deal with the aftermath of violence and the need to achieve reconciliation or give voice to the impact of traumatic events of national scope?  A central premise of the course is that how violence is narrated matters, constituting a powerful means of resisting oblivion, recuperating memory, or even, perpetuating violence (for instance, when certain acts, memories, or responsibilities are erased.) Narrating violence can be a way of establishing voice, asserting agency, and imbuing seemingly incomprehensible experiences with meaning.  We will explore these issues from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective (literature, history, art) focused on close readings of monographs, memoirs, official documents, novels, poetry, photography, and film in countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Colombia.  Our point of departure is the era defined by the Cold War, the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, and the rise of Liberation Theology through the emergence of unarmed activism, guerrilla warfare, authoritarian repression, and national projects of reconciliation.  We will endeavor to understand young leftist political cultures, anti-subversion state doctrines, and the ulterior revalorization of human rights and the resurgence of a democratic ethos as a way of rebuilding coexistence in the national experiences studied.

If you are interested in the course, these two videos will be of interest:


Doris Salcedo: On the Importance of Memory: (2:22)

Bennedetti and Allende: memory, violence and activism: (4:37) [in Spanish]


Course Requirements:
There will be 3-4 short paper assignments (2-3 pages each), an oral presentation, and a final paper. A final paper proposal is to be approved by the instructors by mid-November, and an 8-10 page final essay will be due during the examination period in mid-December.


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Zombies and Other Monsters

Professor Derrick Brazill (Biological Sciences)
Professor Sylvia Tomasch (English)

HONS 3011E
Mondays and Thursdays; 2:45-4:00 p.m.
Room 412HW
3 hours, 3 credits


Why zombies?  Why vampires?  Why zombies and vampires now?   Audiences seem unable to resist the onslaught of the undead in fiction, film, television, video, graphic novels, etc., but zombies and vampires don't just live (or not live) in popular culture.  There are also important connections to pressing issues in contemporary science.  In this this course therefore, we'll consider vampires and zombies in terms of folklore, history, politics, gender, race, and biology (to name just a few issues that will arise during the semester).  Because of the wide range of materials and approaches, students will have opportunities to focus on the areas of greatest interest to them.   

In this course, we will try to understand the cultural aspects underlying the historical and contemporary popularity of the undead, to understand the biological cognates of the undead found in nature, to understand the connections between modern issues in science and biology, and the resurgence of popular interest in the undead.


Everyone is expected to be an active contributor, in class and on the website.  You're expected to come on time, be prepared, with the text in hand, ready to contribute to discussion in an informed and positive fashion. 

Participation (15%); Presentations (20%); Four formal writing assignments (15% each; 60% total); Weekly informal responses; Quizzes and in-class informal writing

Required Texts


  1. Max Brooks, World War Z
  2. Joseph Sheridan le Fanu, Carmilla
  3. Richard Matheson, I Am Legend
  4. Bram Stoker, Dracula
  5. Anne Rice, Interview with A Vampire


  1. Stuart Hill, Emerging Infectious Disease
  2. Kelly A. Hogan, Stem Cells and Cloning
  3. Michael A. Palladino, Understanding the Human Genome Project

 Articles (available via Blackboard)

Paige Brown, "Zombie Ants and a Cultural Obsession," Scientific American
Berdoy et al., "Fatal attraction in rats infected with Toxoplasma gondii," The Royal Society
Eric Michael Johnson, "A Natural History of Vampires," Scientific American
Nick Lane, "Born to the Purple: the Story of Porphyria," Scientific American


I Am Legend; I Walked with A Zombie; Omega Man; The Last Man on Earth; 28 Days Later; Twilight; Vampyr;  Warm Bodies; White Zombie


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South Africa & Southern Africa After Apartheid

Professor Larry Shore (Film and Media)
Professor Carolyn Somerville (Political Science)


HONS 30167
Mondays and Wednesdays; 5:35-6:50 p.m.
Room 412 West 
3 hours, 3 credits


This course will examine the events and forces that have shaped the history of South Africa and Southern Africa and America's special relationship with South Africa. 

We will compare and contrast the history of white supremacy - and the anti-racist struggles- in the United States and South Africa. Black-white relations have been central to the historical narratives of both countries. A vehicle for doing this will be the documentary film RFK in the Land of Apartheid: A Ripple of Hope which was shown on PBS.

The course will consider the history of the expansion of Dutch and British colonialism and eventual Afrikaner rule in South Africa culminating in the system of Apartheid and the opposition that it spawned. This will lead to an analysis of the dramatic transformation that took place in South Africa from February 1990 to April 1994- ­the negotiated end of Apartheid and the first democratic elections. We will also analyze the 20 years of South African democracy, the current situation, and possible future scenarios in South Africa and the region.

In general, South Africa, and its recent history, provides a useful comparative case study for other countries that have made the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy.  The course will also study developments in other countries in Southern Africa and past and present United States policy towards South Africa, the region and Africa in general.  We will also consider South Africa's post-Apartheid role as a regional and continental power. 

The course will culminate in The Southern Africa Simulation Game. This exciting simulation game has been run every time this course has been taught since the early 1980s. With faculty guidance, students select and research team and individual roles based on the important players in the South African and regional situation. The simulation game is conducted on a weekend at the end of the semester. It has very carefully constructed rules and controls and begins with an interesting scenario projected some time into the near future. More details will be provided in class.

Grading for the class is based primarily on a research paper and preparation for and the participation in the simulation game.

This course satisfies Pluralism and Diversity Requirement, Group A.


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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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