Honors First Year Inquiry Series

Spring 2014

HONR 1200-01 – Comparative Study of Cultures
Topic: Theology, Ethics and Practice in the World’s Religions

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Humanities; Comparative Cultures
Tues, Fri / 1:35pm – 3:15pm (Seq. F)
CRN: 36044

Prof. Jung Lee
Philosophy & Religion

Using the methodology of comparative religions, this course will examine the expression of faith and resulting ethical systems found in a variety of religions of the world. It will include an exploration of Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), Eastern religions (such as Hinduism and Buddhism) and archaic religions (such as religions of various indigenous peoples). Source materials will include readings in sacred texts, popular literature, and case studies that center on the intersection of religious beliefs.

 

HONR 1205-01 – Inquiries in Social Science
Topic: Savage Psychopaths & Predatory States: Explorations in the History of Modern Violence

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Social Science
Mon, Weds / 2:50pm – 4:30pm (Seq. B)
CRN: 36043

Prof. Jeffrey Burds
History

Using literature, film, and historical readings and documents, this seminar explores the history of modern violence since the Inquisition. Through a series of case studies, we explore the psychology of violence, the conditions and contexts for violent action, cultures of violence, and the legacies and aftermath of violence. There are a number of special topics that will illustrate the theme of the course including: the Inquisition; the history of the witch craze; the Faust Legend; Poe and the gothic imagination; the nature of war in the 20th century; genocide; and the role of truth & reconciliation in the aftermath of horrific violence. Students will take part in all aspects of the course including preparing materials for class discussion. A final research project will focus on the history of violence.

 

HONR 1206-01 – Inquiries in Science and Technology
Topic: Earth as an Active Planet

Honors Thematic: Science, Technology and Human Values
NU Core: Science and Technology
Tues, Fri / 9:50am – 11:50am (Seq. D)
CRN: 36685

Prof. Malcolm Hill
Marine & Environmental Sciences

In this course, we will conduct a systematic study of the Earth as a planet; examine geologic processes that modify the Earth’s surface and interior; and consider how people who study problems in this area of science pose questions, make observations and use data to determine “truth” in explaining past and current processes. Plate tectonics theory is used as an overarching paradigm for interpreting large-scale patterns of geologic processes. Examples from modern environments (Iceland’s interplay between volcanism and glaciation) as well as evidence that can be gleaned from ancient rocks will inform our study.

 

HONR 1208-01 – Inquiries in Arts
Topic: Making a Musical: Analysis, Craft, and Creation

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Arts
Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq. A)
CRN: 34762

Prof. Allen Feinstein
Music

How are great musicals constructed? What tools does one need to build a musical? In an historical context this course will explore these questions, focusing on how effective lyrics are built, how songs function in musicals, and how book writers, lyricists, and composers adapt works from other media to the musical theater stage. Throughout the semester students will transform analytical techniques and discoveries into creative strategies, building short musicals in collaborative teams. Students need not be musicians to participate in this class. Aspiring actors, composers, lyricists, authors of all styles, technical theater artists and designers, and all those with a curiosity about the history of musicals and how musicals are made are strongly encouraged to enroll.

 

HONR 1209-01 – Inquiries in Humanities
Topic: Engaging Haiti

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Humanities; Comparative Cultures
Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq. A)
CRN: 36569

Prof. Elizabeth Dillon
English

This class explores the history, literature, and culture of Haiti and its relation to the United States beginning with the period leading to the Haitian Revolution and the Louisiana Purchase, and following through until today, as Haiti confronts the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck in 2010. We will read a variety of literary texts and explore the politics of the Haitian Revolution, the policies of imperialism and neo-imperialism that shaped the position of Haiti in relation to the U.S. (and other nations) following the revolution, and consider economic, religious, and political issues that face Haiti and the U.S. today. In addition to studying the history of the relation between Haiti and the U.S., we will also be actively exploring the work of those in the U.S. who are engaged in projects on the ground in Haiti. We will meet with scholars and activists to consider how best to understand the role of activism in global politics today.

 

Fall 2013

HONR 1102 – Enhancing Honors

Mon, Tues, or Thurs / 4:35pm – 5:40pm
CRN: Multiple CRNs

Prof. Maureen Kelleher
Honors Program Director

Enhancing Honors is a team taught course required for all first-year Honors students. The one credit course is designed to introduce students to Boston through a City as Text™ experience, support the develop of an e-Portfolio, and create a sense of community within the first-year Honors experience. Upper-class Honors students serve as class mentors.

 

HONR 1200-01 – Comparative Study of Cultures
Topic: Disputers of the Dao: Religion and Philosophy in Ancient China

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Humanities; Comparative Cultures
Tues, Fri / 3:25pm – 5:05pm (Seq. G)
CRN: 16773

Prof. Jung Lee
Philosophy & Religion

This course examines the ethos and worldview of early Chinese intellectual traditions in their historical contexts. From the oracle bone divinations of the Shang Dynasty to the philosophical and religious traditions of Confucianism, Mohism, Yangism, Daoism, and Legalism, this course aims to introduce students to the enduring ideas and concepts that have had a lasting influence on Chinese culture, state, and family. In addition to the study of relevant primary texts, the course will also ask comparative questions on the nature of Chinese thought and its possible affinities to the West.

 

HONR 1205-01 – Inquiries in Social Science
Topic: Social Entrepreneurship and Global Development: How to Change the World for the Poorest of the Poor

Honors Thematic: Social Development
NU Core: Social Science
Mon, Wed, Thurs / 9:15am – 10:20am (Seq. 2)
CRN: 16774

Prof. Dennis Shaughnessy
Entrepreneurship and Innovation

This course focuses on the idea that extraordinary individuals who are passionate and committed can change the world for the disadvantaged and most vulnerable members of society. The focus would be on five leaders in four different sectors of development: Extreme Poverty – Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winner, founder of Grameen Bank; Health – Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health; Literacy – John Wood, founder of Room to Read and former Microsoft executive; Environment – Wangari Maathai, Nobel Prize winner, founder of Green Belt Movement; and, Education – Geoffrey Canada, founder, Harlem Children’s Zone.

We will examine the development areas of poverty, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and urban decay, from the perspective of leaders committed to making profound and sustainable change. We will use business principles along with principles from other disciplines (economics, public policy, sociology) to build analytical frameworks. The core of the class is based on readings and building discussions around the embedded topics. Each leader and related book covers a region of the world and a particular development area. Each topic contains a rich amount of learning material in the development and leadership arenas.

For assignments, students will write book reviews, and a larger essay that compares and contrasts each of these development leaders from a variety of perspectives including impact, sustainability, and personal characteristics. We will also do some self-assessment work. Each student will also be responsible for leading certain discussions, and making short presentations with a small group.

Each student will also be responsible for leading certain discussions, and making short presentations with a small group.

Students in this seminar will be given the opportunity to invest up to $10,000 in a leading social enterprise addressing global poverty through sustainable business.

 

HONR 1205-02 – Inquiries in Social Science
Topic: The North of Ireland: Conflict, Reconciliation, and the Ongoing Quest for Peace

Honors Thematic: Conflict and Peace Building
NU Core: Social Science
Mon, Wed / 2:50pm – 4:30pm (Seq. B)
CRN: 16775

Michael Patrick MacDonald
Honors Program Writer-in-Residence

“Just as the civil rights movement of 40 years ago was part of something huge happening all over the world, so the repression that came upon us was the same as is suffered by ordinary people everywhere who dare to stand up against injustice. Sharpeville. Grozny. Tiananmen Square. Darfur. Fallujah. Gaza. Let our truth stand as their truth too.”–Tony Doherty (son of slain Civil Rights marcher on Bloody Sunday)

This course will examine the ongoing quest for a “peace with justice” in the north of Ireland.

We will look at the history of violence in this particular locale — in its various forms, whether paramilitary or state violence; physical or economic violence; the violence of discrimination; or, more recently, youth “anti social” violence – with an eye on the implications this particular conflict and the ongoing peace process may have for other places of conflict (globally, or even locally, e.g. youth gang violence and quests for peace with justice on Boston’s streets). How is the conflict in the north of Ireland related to the history of struggle in South Africa? How were Civil Rights activists in The North influenced by the American Civil Rights movement? How might the ongoing peace process provide lessons for Israel/Palestine? How might the developments in American urban youth work to prevent violence and promote access and opportunity provide lessons to “post-conflict” cities like Belfast, which have seen a new type of conflict manifesting among its young people in the form of what is called “anti social behavior?”

We will discuss all of this, while reading memoir, histories, poetry, and articles, as well as watching films about the conflict in the North of Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement, and the subsequent ongoing peace process.

 

HONR 1205-03 – Inquiries in Social Science
Topic: The History of “Big Data:” Quantification in Government, Science, and Business Since 1800

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Social Science
Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq. A)
CRN: TBA

Benjamin Schmidt
History

The use of “Big Data” for scientific research, business research, and government surveillance has a history that stretches back long before the invention of the computer. This course will explore the intertwined histories of why data was collected, how it was interpreted, and what it was used for from the late 18th century to the present day. We will look at the evolution of the technologies involved, from ledger books to punch cards to computing clusters; and we’ll explore how different visions, and fears, of a data-driven society shaped the ways data was used.

Topics will include the census and other data-collection projects of the US government in the 19th century; the evolution of scientific management in American business in the early 20th century; the early history of computing in the United States; and public responses to computerized surveillance and control in the 1960s and today. We will explore these topics through a variety of primary and secondary sources, from readings (for example: Tracy Kidder’s “Soul of a New Machine”) to films and data visualizations. No prior knowledge of computing or statistics is necessary; but there will be opportunities to directly explore some of the data that been historically collected.

 

HONR 1206-01 – Inquiries in Science and Technology
Topic: Earth as an Active Planet

Honors Thematic: Science, Technology and Human Values
NU Core: Science and Technology
Mon, Wed / 2:50pm – 4:30pm (Seq. B)
CRN: 16776

Prof. Malcolm Hill
Marine & Environmental Sciences

In this course, we will conduct a systematic study of the Earth as a planet; examine geologic processes that modify the Earth’s surface and interior; and consider how people who study problems in this area of science pose questions, make observations and use data to determine “truth” in explaining past and current processes. Plate tectonics theory is used as an overarching paradigm for interpreting large-scale patterns of geologic processes. Examples from modern environments (Iceland’s interplay between volcanism and glaciation) as well as evidence that can be gleaned from ancient rocks will inform our study.

 

HONR 1206-02 – Inquiries in Science and Technology
Topic: New Strategies in the Fight Against Cancer

Honors Thematic: Science, Technology and Human Values
NU Core: Science and Technology
Tues, Fri / 9:50am – 11:30am (Seq. D)
CRN: 16777

Prof. Lee Makowski
Electrical & Computer Engineering
Chemistry & Chemical Biology

The emergence of nanotechnology, advanced biomedical imaging, and genomics has led to development of a host of new techniques with great promise for improving diagnosis and treatment of cancer. This course will review what cancer is and why it remains such a difficult clinical challenge; outline existing therapeutic strategies and their shortcomings; and explain how new technologies are being designed to deliver greatly improved treatments in the future. This is not a course on current clinical practice. It is a course on fundamental challenges and biomedical invention.

 

HONR 1208-01 – Inquiries in Arts
Topic: What Makes Music Work

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Arts
Mon, Wed, Thurs / 1:35pm – 2:40pm (Seq. 4)
CRN: 16778

Prof. Dennis Miller
Music

This course will explore the essential elements that are found in music of all styles and eras and will examine musical works from cultures around the world. Rather than approach the study of music from a historical approach, it will look at each of the six components – melody, rhythm, harmony, sonority, texture, and form – that underlie music of all types. Through intensive in-class and outside listening, students will learn how to assess the role played by each of the six musical elements and how best to describe the traits they are hearing.

The course will introduce some elements of music theory, but no prior experience in theory is required.

 

HONR 1209-01 – Inquiries in Humanities
Topic: Markets, Governments, and Economic Justice

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Humanities
Mon, Wed, Thurs / 1:35pm – 2:40pm (Seq. 4)
CRN: 16779

Prof. Stephen Nathanson
Philosophy & Religion

Many of today’s heated political debates in the United States concern the role of government in the economy. Should we have a pure market system in which people have only those economic resources they earn? Or should governments guarantee resources like jobs, income, or services like health care? Which of these systems achieves economic justice? This course introduces the philosophy of economic justice by focusing on three systems: libertarian capitalism, state socialism, and the welfare state. It examines how each of these systems addresses the requirements of economic justice: promoting human well-being, giving people what they deserve, and promoting liberty. We will explore major theorists in these areas including Marx, Nozick, and Rawls and try to understand the fundamental qualities of economic justice, the tension between freedom and equality, and the implications of the vast disparities in wealth that exist both globally and within particular societies. The course aims to achieve an understanding both what economic justice is and whether it is a utopian ideal or a practical possibility.

 

HONR 1209-02 – Inquiries in Humanities
Topic: Bedrooms and Battlefields: Sex, Gender, and Ethnicity in the Old Testament

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Humanities
Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq. A)
CRN: 16780

Prof. Lori Lefkovitz
Philosophy & Religion

We will read stories from Hebrew Scripture in English translation, beginning with the Garden of Eden through the Book of Ruth, asking how these foundational narratives establish the categories that have come to define our humanity today. We will look at how the Bible’s patterns of representation construct sexual and ethnic identities and naturalize ideas about such contemporary social institutions as “the family.” The course will analyze the Bible’s bedrooms and battlefields, repeated stories of identity masquerade, and metaphors of fluids and voices. We will read the Bible as a collection of stories that sets in motion one trajectory of the Western narrative tradition, and we will interrogate some of the basic assumptions of that tradition.

 

HONR 1209-03 – Inquiries in Humanities
Topic: The Islamic Veil: Islam, Gender, and the Politics of Dress

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Humanities
Tues, Fri / 1:35pm – 3:15pm (Seq. F)
CRN: 16781

Prof. Elizabeth Bucar
Philosophy & Religion

This course explores why the Islamic veil today is so “pregnant with meanings” and how this impacts the lives of not only Muslim women who cover, but also of those who do not. Specifically we will be concerned with explaining the various things wearing a veil “can do,” that is, its political, social, economic, and moral power. In the course we will explore how colonialism, nationalism, and Islamic movements have affected the Islamic veil. We will raise questions about whether veiling affects educational and employment opportunities for Muslim women. We will begin to understand that the veil can be both a symbol of cultural identity and a fashion statement. As a result, we will have a better understanding of the basic gendered categories central to Islamic thought and practice, major themes in the role of gender in Islam, and the distinctive gendered religious practices that are part of Islamic public practice. Our work will be framed by the comparative interpretation of Islamic religious literary texts in light of their historical contexts and distinguishing differences over time in different social and cultural contexts. Our goal will include an appraisal of Islam as a cultural system in its temporal and geographic contexts and a critical appreciative understanding of culture, religion, and people who may be different from ourselves.

 

HONR 1209-04 – Inquiries in Humanities
Topic: Me Tarzan, You Jane! The Uses of Language in Literature: Linguistic Reality or Linguistic Fiction?

Honors Thematic: Inquiry, Advocacy and the Social World
NU Core: Humanities
Tues, Fri / 9:50am – 11:30am (Seq. D)
CRN: TBA

Prof. Heather Littlefield
Linguistics

The acquisition and use of language is part of what makes us human: it helps us share information with one another, keep one another company and serves as the foundation for social relationships. Storytellers often use linguistic phenomena to develop or enhance their plots and their characters. Famous fictional characters like Burrough’s Tarzan and Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster learn language as an essential part of their growth and development, and others like Twain’s Huck Finn and Jim are famous for their dialects. But how accurately are these linguistic phenomena portrayed in literature? In this course we will draw on current linguistic theory and cognitive science to explore the veracity of authors’ portrayals of a variety of linguistic contexts, and the effects of those portrayals on plot and character development.