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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 2021


Click on a course name to read a description.

Course Name
Course Number/Section
Reading List
Sanskrit Epic & Hindu Thought
HONS 2011P/01 To be posted
Reframing Opera: Gender, Race, and Class
HONS 2012D/01
To be posted
The Imagined Epidemic and Modern Responses to Contagion
HONS 20138/01
To be posted
The Momemt of Modernism: Literature, Philosophy, Painting, Music, 1880-1940 HONS 20163/01 To be posted
Narrating Violence in Latin America
HONS 3011A/01
  1. Rosero, Evelio. The Armies. NY: New Directions 2009. ISBN-10 : 0811218643 ISBN-13 : 978-0811218641 $14.89 new (used from $2.49)
  2. Abad Fanciolince, Héctor. Oblivium: A Memoir. London: Old Street Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-1906964221. $12.79 new (used from $4.00)
  3. Dorfman, Ariel. Death and the Maiden. NY: Penguin, 1991. ISBN 978-0140246841. $12.71 new (used from $1.21)
  4. Nona Fernández, Space Invaders ISBN : 1644450070 ISBN : 9781644450079 $12.59 new (used from $3.99)

Additional pdfs of other readings will be posted on the course Blackboard site.

Topics in the History of the Book
HONS 3011M/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


Sanskrit and Epic Thought

Professor Vishwa Adluri (Philosophy)


HONS 2011P
Tuesdays and Fridays; 12:45-2:00 p.m.
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.)


  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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Reframing Opera: Gender, Race, and Class

Professor Catherine Coppola (Music)


HONS 2012D
Mondays and Thursdays; 11:10-12:25 p.m.
3 hours, 3 credits


Opera is a nexus for cultural and artistic studies. Viewed from that stance, the course will examine the literary sources of opera librettos in plays, stories, and folk tales; the social and political context from which the works grow and in which they continue to exist; and their reception, including the role of censorship in their time and ours. Students will confront societal and political issues, understand and apply musical aesthetics to the relationship between music and text, and evaluate offensive aspects in historical and contemporary context. We will sort through reactions to the beautiful music as a kind of guilty pleasure, or as some have described it, a siren song that can lull us away from difficult aspects of the plot. We will debate what would be lost if these works were to be banned, and what we as a society can learn by keeping them in repertoire and, equally important, in discussion. Confronting political correctness from an unexpected standpoint, rather than defend tradition for its own sake, we'll challenge the notion that we are in any position to 'clutch our pearls' about -isms in 19th- and 20th-operas.

Misogyny and racism cannot be relegated to an uncomfortable past. To participate in how society moves forward from the tipping point of 2020, we must welcome difficult conversations around canonic works. Students will see firsthand how these urgent questions stimulate scholarship in the book project suggested by Dr. Coppola's editor, examining core operatic repertoire that has come under fire for offending modern sensibilities. Within a historical, analytical, and sociological frame, we'll work together in a nuanced way that takes into account the fallacies of context (that no one was addressing inequity in their time) and change (that we have moral high ground today, the counterweight for which one has to look no further than the current week's news).

Weekly readings, responses to operatic scenes (the Met is closed for the season, but we are fortunate to have full access to the Hunter Database-MetOpera on Demand) both in class and in written and discussion board assignments, and one presentation with feedback from the class to workshop

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The Imagined Epidemic and Modern Responses to Contagion

Professor Phil Alcabes (School of Urban Public Health)


HONS 20138
Mondays and Thursdays; 4:10-5:25
3 hours, 3 credits

What will Americans make of the coronavirus outbreak, once it's over? How do we explain it to ourselves now? In this course we will critically examine this claim: An epidemic, a pandemic, an outbreak-whatever it's called, it is a story. It's a human way of imagining ourselves coherently in a universe that defies coherent explanation.

What makes each epidemic unique isn't the causative agent. Some epidemics involve a virus, like SARS-CoV2, HIV, or Ebola virus; others, other germs (Vibrio cholerae, MRSA); and many involve no germ at all: epidemics of obesity, teen suicide, opioid overdose, and so forth. What distinguishes each epidemic is how the story is told.

We will read and view accounts of earlier pandemics, including the Plague of Athens, the Black Death and later plague outbreaks, cholera, polio, and HIV/AIDS. Then, we'll look at accounts of coronavirus, and see if we can understand what story we are telling ourselves about ourselves when we talk about the coronavirus pandemic.

Readings and viewings:

Selections from Samuel Pepys' diary
Albert Camus, The Plague
Thomas Mann, "Death in Venice"
Tony Kushner, Angels in America, parts 1 and 2
Philip Roth, Nemesis
John M. Barry, The Great Influenza
Susan Sontag, "Illness as Metaphor" and "AIDS and Its Metaphors"
F.W. Murnau, Nosferatu (film)
Elia Kazan, Panic in the Streets (film)

Pre-requisite: A 3-credit lab course.

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The Moment of Modernism: Literature, Philosophy, Painting, Music, 1880-1940


Professor Richard Kaye (English)


HONS 20163
Mondays and Thursdays; 2:45-4:00
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. We will consider T. S. Eliot's radical break with nineteenth-century poetics in such works as "The Waste Land," D. H. Lawrence's scandal-generating erotic fiction such as "Women in Love," and Virginia Woolf's experiments in highly subjective consciousness in fiction such as "To the Lighthouse."  We will consider Claude Debussy's 1911 "The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian" (performed in Paris and banned by the Catholic Church for its bold depiction of a Christian saint performed by a woman, the renowned Russian dancer Ida Rubinstein) and Igor Stravinsky's 1913 "The Rites of Spring"  (which generated riots at its Paris premiere) we will focus on modernist spectacle. Picasso" scandal-generating 1907 painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," which, like Debussy and Strindberg's works, harbored sensational erotic elements.  (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 strength from--their creative precursors. Some critics argue, for example, that "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" was a response to Henri Matisse's paintings "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 modernist impulse towards abstraction in the visual arts.  How modernists reacted to one another's work is another issue we will explore, whether in Gertrude Stein's exuberant endorsement of Picasso's art or Eliot's characterization of Lawrence as a dangerous "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 1934 painting "Guernica," a response to the Spanish Civil War. Meanwhile, Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Lawrence frequently embraced a strident reactionary politics. In "Heart of Darkness," the Polish-born novelist Joseph Conrad examined, with elegant pessimism and bitter irony, the legacy of European colonialism. The class will explore such manifestos of modernism as Eliot's defense of "impersonality" and "tradition" over "convention" in poetry and Woolf's insistence that works of art be "semi-transparent." Important, as well, are the new systems of twentieth-century 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). We will view Bernardo Bertolucci's 1971 film "The Conformist." which recaptures the modernist moment as it intersected with psychoanalytic ideas about sexual repression and the rise of fascist politics. Finally, the class will consider the critique of modernism offered by post-modernist critics, who question the modernist movement's posture of "difficulty," deliberate difficulty, universalism, elitism, and claims of revolutionary break-through in the arts. In addition to the 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, Pauline Kael, Linda Nochlin, Rosalind Krauss, Susan Sontag, John Richardson, and Mary Ann Caws.

Requirements: A mid-term paper and a final paper that may be expanded from the mid-term paper.

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Narrating Violence in Latin America

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


HONS 3011A
Mondays and Thursdays; 1:10-2:25 p.m.
3 hours, 3 credits

State-sponsored violence has 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, visual arts, and film in countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Colombia.

 Course Requirements:

75 pp+ of reading per week. There will be 2-3 short paper assignments (2-3 pages each), one mid-term exam, an oral presentation, and a final paper. A final paper proposal is to be approved by the instructors by mid-April, and an 8-10 page final essay will be due during the examination period in mid-May.


Topics in the History of the Book

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


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

Topics in the History of the Book

Books have been a symbolic and mythic force central to the history of human culture and society.  This THHP colloquium will be an intensive 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 cuneiform, papyrus, and wax tablets, we will examine how scrolls and copying texts functioned in the ancient world and how the shift from orality to literacy influenced human society.  We will then delve into the rise of the codex and its role in the dissemination of Christianity in the West.  The course 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 (works of art that re-imagine the form of the book as one-of-a-kind objects), early newsprint, the Victorian dime store novel, graphic novels, comics, fanzines, and "blooks" (objects that look like books but aren't books).  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; in some instances, students may choose to write about books and other archival materials discussed in class. Site visits to special collections in NYC (either in-person or virtual, conditions permitting) and visits with curators and librarians will be provided during some class sessions.

Requirements: short essay and presentation (3 pp; 5-7 mins); Take-home Midterm (3-5 pp); Research Paper (12-16 pp).

Selected Readings:  All readings will be on Blackboard. 

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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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