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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 2015


Click on a course name to read a description.

Course Name
Course Number/Section
Reading List
Sex and Gender in the Middle Ages
HONS 20147/01 To be posted
HONS 20162/01
To be posted
Topics in Evolution of Human Social Behavior: Evolution of the Social Network
HONS 30136/01
To be posted
Latin American Thought
HONS 30138/01
To be posted
South Africa & Southern Africa After Apartheid
HONS 30167/01 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

Sex and Gender in the Middle Ages

Professor Marlene Hennessy (English)


HONS 2011L
Tuesdays & Fridays; 12:45-2:00 p.m.
Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits

This colloquium will examine a broad range of texts written on the topics of sex and gender in the Middle Ages.  From medical writings to mystical treatises, from the scandalous fabliaux to the orthodox lives of the saints, the texts read in this course will be used to explore some of the dominant ideas about gender and sexuality, as well as the often paradoxical discourses of misogyny, present in medieval literature, art, religion, and culture.  The material will first be contextualized by looking at classical and early Christian ideas of sex and gender, with special focus on theories of reproduction and sexual function.  Throughout the course these subjects will be approached from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing upon research in literature, history, art history, and the history of science.  Two films will be included in the syllabus, as will several musical recordings of the songs of the Women Troubadours, the chansons de toile (women's weaving songs), and the musical compositions of the polymath and composer Hildegard of Bingen.  Texts to be read include works by major authors such as Sappho, Ovid, Juvenal, Galen, Aristotle, Marie de France, Heloise and Abelard, and Richard Rolle.  In addition, we will read several anonymous texts, including "The Ballad of a Tyrannical Husband," and (in translation) the Anglo-Latin Book of Monsters.  Topics to be studied include: blood, body, and Christian materiality; chaste marriage and clerical sexuality; the erotics of courtly love; transgender persons and hermaphrodites; the sexuality of Christ; medical theories of pleasure and contraception; and masculinity in the earliest Robin Hood texts.  Special attention will be devoted to the iconography of sex and gender in medieval visual traditions such as manuscript painting.  We will also engage with recent developments in criticism (including historical, literary, feminist, queer, and art historical approaches) by authors such as Judith Bennett, Caroline Walker Bynum, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Leo Steinberg, Michael Camille, Carolyn Dinshaw, Dyan Elliott, and Ruth Mazo Karras, among others. 

Requirements: one research paper (10-12 pages, submitted in two drafts); one 20-minute oral report based on one of the optional readings for the week on the syllabus, which is handed in as a 3-page written essay, and various in-class writing assignments.

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Professor Ronnie Ancona (Classical & Oriental Studies)


HONS 20162
Mondays & 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 c. 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 and viewing
  • Two papers, each about 7-8 pages - drafts receive comments: final versions are graded
  • Final exam - factual and interpretive response
  • Class visit to the Noguchi Museum, Long Island City

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Topics in Evolution of Human Social Behavior: Evolution of the Social Network

Professor Roger Persell (Biological Sciences)
Professor Jason Young (Psychology)


HONS 30136
5:35-8:05 p.m.
Room 914 North
3 hours, 3 credits

EVOLUTION OF THE SOCIAL NETWORK is a contemporary look at highly topical (and controversial) questions of social behavior, especially interactive behavior often referred to as networking. We will analyze several themes of social networking in both humans and non-human animals that have fascinated people since the beginnings of recorded history: for example, identifying friends and kin; verifying and evaluating authentic and sincere social contacts (and their opposite, finding cheats, deceivers and betrayers); and the consequences of different communication modes (close and personal, distant, rapid, slow, symbolic.)

Building on modern evolutionary theory, important new approaches to questions about social behavior have emerged over the last few decades that link biological evolution and social psychology. Our primary focus will be how the study of social behavior now melds biology, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, genetics, anthropology, and technology. Finally, we will see the extent to which our own social behavior is significantly influenced by the way our genetics and evolution interact with our environment. In addition to the regular classroom management program of

Blackboard, we'll also utilize (and reflect upon) several contemporary social media.

The course will be divided into three large areas:

1.   An introduction to the evolution of social communication and networking in human and non-human animals.

2.   The impact of different communication modes on social behavior.

3.   Student oral reports on a topic of social networking behavior of their choice.

Readings will focus on basic principles of evolution and heredity, animal and human social behavior, and the methodologies used to study these topics. Students are divided into small groups that take responsibility for class discussions on a rotating basis.

Grades will be based on class participation, two short take-home essays, a term paper, and an oral presentation. Pre-class assignment: After reading the book Prey, write 1-2 pages on a key issue or episode from the novel that relates to social networking. Your essay should describe the details of the social behavior and evaluate the consequences of the social behavior.  Due at the beginning of the first day's class.


  • Crichton, M. (2002) PREY. New York: Avon Books. ISBN: 0-06-101572-5 (paperback), (to be read before the first class).
  • Wilson, DS. (2007). Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way WeThink About Our Lives. Delacorte Press

Several articles from current literature on social behavior assigned in class.

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Latin American Thought

Professor Linda Martína Alcoff (Philosophy)
Professor Rolando Pérez (Romance Languages, Spanish)


HONS 30138
Mondays and Thursdays; 2:45-4:00 p.m.

Room 412 West
3 hours, 3 credits

Latin America's rich tradition of essay writing, philosophical debate, and cultural criticism spanning several hundred years has received too little attention in North America. Collectively, this tradition is sometimes referred to as pensamiento, or 'thought,' to mark it as a broader domain of public discourse than that which occurs only within academic institutions. The Cuban José Martí, for example, one of the greatest thinkers of Latin America, wrote much of his writings for journals and newspapers. The Argentinian Faustino Sarmiento wrote his most influential work in a form that is part memoir, part travel writing. The founding conceptualization of human rights that emerged from the discussion between Spanish priests Las Casas and Sepúlveda was developed in the form of theological debate in church courts. The Inca Garcilaso de la Vega's critical commentary on the Conquest takes the form of a historical account. The world-renowned Chilean Pablo Neruda used the poetic form to convey the values of the Conquest, and the historical uniqueness of the peoples and cultures it helped to produce. And Peruvian theorist José Carlos Mariátegui developed his ideas through a sociological analysis of how to make radical social change in Peru.  Each one of these thinkers, whether through literature or philosophical analysis, has contributed to a body of knowledge that constitutes a philosophical outlook on the history and culture of Latin American that is crucial for an understanding of present day Latin America. The object of this course, then, is to explore the way in which questions of colonialism, politics, economics, human rights, etc., have been dealt with across disciplines and genres. And as such, many of the texts we will read operate simultaneously as philosophy, as essays, and as literature. Our team-teaching approach, based on our diverse academic specializations and teaching experience, will help students learn to read the texts through multiple frames of analysis.  Thus, the course will draw out the lessons of methodology that can be found in these diverse modes of argumentation.

Course  Requirements:
There will be two short paper assignments (2-3 pages each), one mid-term, and one final paper. The final paper will be turned in as a draft for revision based on comments from the instructors.

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South Africa and Southern Africa After Apartheid

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


HONS 30167
Tuesdays & Fridays; 12:45-2:00 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 1980's. 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 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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