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Honors Colloquia - Spring 2016

Click on a course name to read a description.

Course Name
Course Number/Section
Reading List
Empire and Print Culture HONS 2011R/01
  1. Bronte, Charlotte.  Jane Eyre;  Penguin Classics

  2. Kipling, Rudyard.  Kim; Broadview Press

  3. Said, Edward.  Orientalism - Introduction and first two chapters

Bodies Using Bodies
HONS 20149/01
  • Sanders, Michael. What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2013 - BACKGROUND READING OVER JANUARY
Introduction to Cognitive Science
HONS20151 /01
To be posted
Representations of War
HONS 20160/01
  1. Chedid, Andrée. The Return to Beirut  (trans. Ross Schwartz). Serpent's Tail, 1989.
  2. El Sheikh, Hanan. Hekayat Zahra  (The Story of Zahra)(trans. Peter Ford) Doubleday, 1996.
  3. Kristof, Agota, The Notebook (trans. A. Sheridan 1986)
  4. Maalouf, Amin.  In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong. Arcade Publishing, 2001
  5. Mahfouz, Naguib. The Journeys of Ibn Fattouma. (trans. Denys Johnson-Davies). Doubleday, 1992.
  6. Nemirovsky, Irene, Suite Française.(Vintage) (trans. Sandra Smith, 2006).
  7. Yacine, Kateb, Nedjma.  (trans. Richard Howard 1991) University of Virginia Press. 

Map Reading, Reading Maps
HONS 30151/01
  1. Paul Auster, City of Glass (New York Trilogy). Penguin
  2. Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose. Mariner Books
  3. Brian Friel, Translations: A Play. Faber & Faber
  4. Thomas Harriot, A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. Dover Thrift
  5. Kei Miller, The Cartographer Tries to Map A Way to Zion. Carcanet Press
  6. William Shakespeare, King Lear. The Pelican Shakespeare
  7. Norman Thrower, Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society. University of Chicago Press, 3rd edition -BACKGROUND READING OVER JANUARY
  8. Denis Wood, with John Fels, The Power of Maps. Guilford Press
  9. Selected poetry, theoretical and historical writing, and short stories available on Blackboard

    Optional Text:
    Adele J. Haft, Jane G. White, Robert J. White, The Key to the Name of the Rose: Including Translations of all Non-English Passages. University of Michigan Press

Sources of Contemporary Thought
HONS 30179/01 To be posted
Interdisciplinary Independent Study
HONS 30199/01
Advanced Interdisciplinary Study
HONS 49151/01

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

Course Descriptions

Empire and Print Culture

Professor Tanya Agathocleous (English)


HONS 2011R
Mondays and Thursdays; 11:10-12:25 p.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits

Course Description:

This course looks at the relationship between empire and the transnational circulations of texts in the nineteenth century, with a particular focus on the British Empire between 1857 and 1945. The British Empire relied on military power to maintain control of its territories, but also on the power of print. Bibles, textbooks, literature, maps, periodicals, photographs, and political pamphlets were all important to the way imperial power was justified and administered, as well as to the way it was contested by colonial subjects. While Thomas Macaulay argued that "a single shelf of a good European library [is] worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia" in his attempt to influence educational policy in India, Mohandas Gandhi ran a printing press in South Africa from which he published a protest newspaper Indian Opinion and eventually the pamphlet Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), one of the key texts of Indian nationalism. The course will examine ideas about empire within texts (such as Jane Eyre) as well as the role that various kinds of texts and archives played in the governance of empire. It will draw on the disciplines of literature, history, art history and anthropology. Readings will include novels such as Jane Eyre and Kim; poetry and periodicals by both British and Indian authors; and secondary texts drawn from postcolonial and empire studies, as well as nineteenth-century studies (including writing by Gayatri Spivak, Edward Said, Isabel Hofmeyr, Antoinette Burton, and Gauri Viswanathan among others). Alongside literary texts, we will look at sociological and political writings, maps, photographs, and paintings that helped both to shape and contest empire.


One short paper in the first part of the semester (5-7 pages) and a long research paper (12-15 pages, submitted in draft and then final form), as well as an annotated bibliography and an abstract of the paper, submitted beforehand, and weekly contributions to the class website.


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Bodies Using Bodies

Professor Philip Alcabes (Visiting Professor)


HONS 20149
Tuesdays and Fridays; 9:45-11:00 a.m.
Room 1042 East
3 hours, 3 credits


Part of modern thriving, for us in the affluent part of the world, is our capacity to make use of human tissue. We can survive surgeries because of blood transfusion. We can transplant kidneys, hearts, livers, lungs, and corneas into people whose own organs no longer work properly. People who can't conceive and deliver a baby on their own can become parents. All sorts of new medical interventions are possible because of research carried out on human tissue - from donated organs that can't be transplanted, from biopsies, from blood samples, and from fetuses that were never born.  All of this would have seemed like a fantasy just a few generations ago. Now it's routine.

In this interdisciplinary colloquium, we will pose two main questions:  What concerns arise when people make use of the bodies, organs, or tissues of other people for physical benefit?  How should those concerns be dealt with?  We will learn the basics of the technological changes that allow these new procedures to take place, examine different moral perspectives that might help us take a stand on the ethics of different procedures, and consider policy options that would limit the ways these procedures are used, oversee them, or even ban them outright.

You are expected to read extensively, write, and discuss - with the aim of helping the class's effort to identify problems that arise when we make use of others' bodies to further our own welfare, and to understand how contemporary society deals with these problems.  We will try to reach some conclusions about fair and just policies for accommodating the use of other people's bodies (organs, tissues, etc.). 


Derrida, On Hospitality
Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Sandel, Justice:  What's the Right Thing to Do?

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Introduction to Cognitive Science

Professor Martin Chodorow (Psychology)


HONS 20151
Mondays and Wednesdays;
7:00-8:15 p.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits


About sixty years ago, researchers in several disciplines realized that they were asking similar questions about the human mind but were using quite different approaches in their attempts to find answers. They began to discuss the ways in which their efforts might complement one another.  From these discussions emerged Cognitive Science, the interdisciplinary study of the human mind from the perspectives of psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, and philosophy.

In this course, we will examine four areas of current debate in Cognitive Science:

(1)   Mental Architecture: What is the structure of the mind?  Is it a unitary cognitive system, or does it consist of separate, independent modules?

(2)   Language Acquisition: How much of human language is innate, and how much is acquired through experience?

(3)   Philosophy of Mind: What is a mental state? Must it be identical to a physiological state?  Could a machine ever have a mind?

(4)   Reasoning and Decision Making: How rational are human beings?

(5)   Mental Representation: To what degree are mental representations symbolic and rule-based?  To what extent are they non-symbolic, probabilistic, and associative?


Course requirements:

The format of the course will be lecture and discussion. Grades will be based on three short written assignments (4-6 pages each) and a term paper (15 pages).  Readings will be drawn from primary and secondary sources.


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Representations of War

Professor Marlène Barsoum (Romance Languages, French)


HONS 20160
Mondays and Thursdays; 1:10-2:25 p.m.

Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits


In recent times, we have seen a heightened preoccupation with the question of war which consequently has become a prevalent topic in multiple domains.  The discourse on war, which can be both historical and figurative, will reevaluate relationships between the individual and the collective and their confrontation with the other. Such a discourse raises questions on perception of "otherness," ­ the operative metaphor in discussions surrounding war.  By considering this question, it is possible to begin an inquiry on analogous notions of "identity," "fanaticism," and "imperialism," and examine the tropes of "violence," "madness," "women's activism," and the "child's perception of war."

The primary objective of this course is to address many issues pertaining to war through a combination of theoretical, fictional, and visual works (films). We will analyze the representation of a multiplicity of wars (WWII, the Algerian War of independence, the civil war in Lebanon, etc.), as "a structure of feeling" and as an objective reality by writers who have either lived through or who have been affected by these conflicts. The reading of novels by Chedid (Lebanon/Egypt/France), El-Sheikh (Lebanon), Kristof (Hungary/ Switzerland), Mahfouz (Egypt), Nemirovsky (France), Yacine (Algeria), will open up discussions on the origin, nature, and results of war with reference to both cultural particularity and worldwide scope.

Grading will be based on two 10-page papers, a midterm, oral presentations, and participation in class discussions.


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Map Reading, Reading Maps

Professor Adele J. Haft (Classical and Oriental Studies)
Professor Gavin Hollis (English) 


HONS 30151
Tuesdays and Fridays; 12:45-2:00 p.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits

Concoctions of science and art, maps are tangible images of a society's knowledge and view of the world. This illustrated, interdisciplinary seminar analyzes the roles that maps have played in selected works from the late sixteenth century to the early twenty-first century: paintings, engravings, films, anatomical treatises, works of anthropology and geography, travel writing, memoirs, poetry, drama, and novels. We will explore the intersections of visual art and literature, history and anthropology, psychology and science (cognitive mapping, cartography, geography, and anatomy). Combining historical, thematic, and theoretical approaches to cartography, we will ask: What is cartography? How do we read and encounter maps? What cultural work do they perform? What power do they (and their users) hold? How do cultures determine what maps mean and how they signify, what they depict and what they omit, and what their relationship is to the world they claim to represent?

In Part I of the seminar, map historian Norman Thrower's Maps and Civilization provides an introduction to the history of cartography ("Western" and otherwise) to underpin the historical and political contexts of the works we'll encounter. Geographer Denis Wood's The Power of Maps analyzes ways in which the map is and is not the territory that it depicts; while selected poems, combined with the memoirs of map historian/theorist J.B. Harley, explore the intersections among "real world" maps, cognitive mapping, and autobiography. Part II examines the historical, political, and religious contexts of pre-modern cartography through the lens of Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose. Part III asks how both landscapes and bodies are conceptualized through Shakespeare's King Lear and John Donne's poetry; and then through the protagonist's peregrinations in The City of Glass by Paul Auster. In Part IV, scientist Thomas Harriot's account A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia and Edmund Spenser's A View of the Present State of Ireland, Brian Friel's play Translations, Kei Miller's The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, and selected works of feminist poets emphasize how maps are employed to demarcate and lay claim to territories-and to their inhabitants. Finally, anthropologist Hugh Brody's account of the mapping of the Pacific Northwest, Maps and Dreams, and Vincent Ward's film A Map of the Human Heart help us investigate the relationship between Western and non-Western mapping traditions.

Course Requirements:

Participation (includes presenting discussion questions & summarizing two of your papers: 20%), final exam (20%), and three papers of 5-7 typed pages (approximately 20% each). The final paper has two due dates; if submitted by the first date, it may be revised based on comments from the instructors for final submission on the second.


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Sources of Contemporary Thought

Professor Gerald Press (Philosophy)
Guest Lecturers

HONS 30179
Mondays & Thursdays; 4:10-5:25 p.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: Darwinianism and Evolutionary theory, Marxism and Revolutionary theory, Freud and Psychoanalysis, 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, and COH), Diana Conchado (Spanish, Romance Languages, and COH), Nico Israel (English and COH), Daniel Addison, Carol Gould, and Laura Keating (Philosophy), Philip Alcabes (Public Health and Provost's Office), 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)
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 and does not count towards the three Honors Colloquia required of every member of the Program.

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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