Honors - Course Description

Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

HNRS 135: Ancient and Medieval History

Where did the bulk of our culture come from? This survey of Western Civilization to the Baroque period around 1600 can help answer that question. This course is a survey of the main stages of Western Civilization, with an emphasis on concepts, forces, ideas, events and people that have shaped our western society up to the 17th century. In coordination with other classes on art, Literature, Philosophy, and Theology, this class will emphasize the political, social, and economic constraints and opportunities faced by the founders of Western culture. I like bananas!

HNRS 136: Modern and Contemporary History

This course surveys the meanings of Western Civilization since the three great modern revolutionsthe Scientific, Industrial, and Frenchwith an emphasis on the social and cultural forces and ideas that have shaped Western societies. In coordination with other honors classes on Literature, Philosophy, and Theology, this class will emphasize the political, social, cultural, and economic perils and possibilities encountered by the Western World since the 17th century. Subjects discussed in the class will include: the invention, defense, and transformation of the "West" and "Western Civilization" and its perils and possibilities; the revolutionary transformation of daily life by new science and technologies; visions of a global economic interdependence arising out of rapid industrialization and urbanization; new understandings of the world created and mirrored by revolutions in art and literature; the rise of a mass consumer culture; socialism and socialist humanism; feminism; colonialism; decolonization and the collapse of European Empires; evolutions in understandings of sex and leisure; the creation and disintegration of the Soviet Union and socialist regimes in Eastern Europe; conflicts among evolving, ascendant, and declining social classes and interest groups; contestation over cultural forms; liberal democracy and its discontents.
 
HNRS 203: Literature from Ancient to Early Modern

This is the first of the two-part, chronologically arranged, literature component of the Honors Program requirements. While the primary focus is on the literary works of Europe during the centuries in which the Western tradition in letters was established and developed, these literary works will be contextualized by reference to the other arts (Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music) and the general history of the periods under inspection. Literary works and authors that may be considered include: Gilgamesh, the Homeric epics, the Greek tragedians, The Aeneid, Ovid, The Song of Roland, The Poem of my Cid, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, Petrarch, Dante Alighieri, Shakespeare, and Milton.
 
HNRS 204: Modern and Contemporary Literature

This is the second half of the Literature component of the Honors Program. Although the Renaissance and Baroque ages are still devoted to the traditions developed in the preceding ages, the monolithic structures of European culture begin to crack under the forces of the Reformation in theology, the neo-pagan and syncretic philosophy of the Humanists, and the rise of national states which begin to replace the pan-European idea of Christendom with ethnic-centered ideas of citizenship. As we progress through time, we will note the traditional pillars of European culture, such as the Judeo-Christian world-view, and the supremacy of naturalism and mimesis in art, being challenged by the rationalism of the 18th century, the cult of the individual (ushered in by Romanticism), and new, abstract and non-representational approaches to art in general. Our discussion will end with a look at our contemporary "rudderless" culture, the post-modern world, in which few, if any, shared ideals and referents may be taken for granted.
 
Honors 250: The Christian Theological Tradition

This course introduces students to Christian theology, from its sources in ancient Judaism to today. It explores in particular the Christian idea of salvation history by examining what major Christian thinkers have said about God; creation; sin; Gods election of Israel; the redemption of the human race through Jesus Christ; and Christian life, love, and worship in the time before the end of the world. The course will also give attention to how theology draws from and responds to the cultures in which Christianity finds itself. The course aims as well to help students understand the tremendous theological diversity of the Christian tradition; in addition to the bible, we will read authors from the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions, and from all periods of Christian history.
 
Honors 260: Introduction to the Christian Moral Tradition

Moral enquiry is a matter of learning critically to think with ones particular historical tradition. Such traditions, suggests Alasdair MacIntyre, are essentially arguments in a common language extended over time. In this class students will read selected landmark documents from the history of Christian tradition and will be asked to think critically with and as a member of that tradition.
 
HNRS 270: Honors Natural Science Perspectives

This course will study the scientific approach, its limits, and what distinguishes it from other approaches to understanding the world. While contemporary issues will be discussed, students will also explore the philosophical and historical origins of the scientific method. Particular attention will be paid to the changes in worldviews that accompany new knowledge in the natural sciences and how these changes affect their contemporary cultures. The writing of great thinkers debating these struggles will be featured prominently.
 
HNRS 280: Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

This course is an historical survey of philosophy in the West. We shall begin with the birth of philosophy and trace its development through the Middle Ages. The major figures we shall discuss include: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. In exploring the work of major philosophers we shall address the basic questions of philosophy: What can I know? What should I do? What is real? Do human beings have free will? Can the existence of God be proven? What is evil? How can we deal with pain and difficulty in life? Students will learn to argue for their positions on these issues by criticizing and responding to the philosophers. We shall develop critical thinking skills and apply them in reading, discussing, and writing about philosophy.
 
HNRS 281: Modern and Contemporary Philosophy

This course is an historical survey of philosophy in the West from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first century. The major figures we shall treat include: Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Marx, Mill, Sartre, and Russell. In exploring the work of these important philosophers we shall address some basic questions of philosophy: What is knowledge? What is the mind? Do human beings have free will? What is the nature of human existence? On what basis can we form ethical systems and make ethical decisions? What is the nature of property and labor? Students will learn to argue for their positions on these issues by criticizing and responding to canonical philosophers.
 *Prerequisite HNRS 280

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