Arts and Humanities

Students complete any two sections of HONR 2053 and/or HONR 2054 between their second and fourth years. HONR 2053 courses offer a thematic, multidisciplinary, and cross-cultural analysis of the arts and artistic expression. HONR 2054 courses provide an in-depth exploration of important topics in the humanities and are grounded in specific disciplines.

Who Should Take These

Upperclassmen take any two Arts and Humanities courses over the course of the sophomore, junior, or senior years. They do not need to be taken in any particular order.


Theatre in DC

Professor Keegan
HONR 2053:10 - 3 credits
CRN: 26893
M 3:30-6:00 PM

Fulfills: CCAS: Humanities, Theatre department elective; ESIA: Humanities; GWSB: Non-Business Elective/Unrestricted Elective; SEAS: Humanities

Course description: Students will read and attend performances of several plays in the 2018 Washington DC theatre season. We will explore the plays' themes, choices made in production, and the process of bringing a play from the page to the stage.

Shakespeare on Screen

Professor Alexa Joubin
HONR 2053:11 - 3 Credits
CRN: 27327
TR 12:45-2:00 PM

Fulfills: CCAS: Humanities, pre-1700 century English requirement or upper-division English course; ESIA: Humanities; GWSB: Non-Business Elective/Unrestricted Elective; SEAS: Humanities

Course Description: Introduction to Shakespeare’s romance play, histories, tragedies, and comedies and their adaptations on screen. Explore themes such as travel, race, gender, sexuality, colonialism. 

Politics, Culture, Climate

Professor Elisabeth Anker
HONR 2053:12
CRN: 26894
W 12:45-3:15 PM

Fulfills: CCAS: Humanities, Upper-level Political Science elective; ESIA: Humanities; GWSB: Non-Business Elective/Unrestricted Elective; SEAS: Humanities

Course Description: This class will examine the politics and culture of climate change, with a focus on new ways of interpreting the environment, global politics, humanity, the natural world, collective action, and the ways in which our planet is being upended by climate disturbances — always with a focus on possibilities for mitigating climate change. Our material will be interdisciplinary, drawing from political theory, environmental humanities, anthropology, globalization scholarship, and science studies.

Classical Mythology in Art

Professor Rachel Pollack
HONR 2053W:10 - 3 Credits
CRN: 26894
TR 11:10-12:25 PM

Fulfills: WID; CCAS: GPAC Humanities, Classic Studies majors should consult their departmental advisor; ESIA: Humanities; SEAS: Humanities

Course Description: This course examines the relevance and mutability of classical mythology in western art. The iconic stories of gods and heroes, passed down to us through ancient poets such as the Homer, Virgil, and Ovid, have left an indelible impression on the visual arts from antiquity to modern day. Artists ranging from Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt, Poussin to Picasso and Jeff Koons, have adapted and reinterpreted these myths through the direct appropriation of ancient myth and sculpture. Each time these giants of the visual arts reveal to us that the significance of classical mythology extends beyond the limits of these ancient literary and visual sources.

Throughout the semester, we will discuss a variety of art history scholarship related to the appropriation of classical mythology, spanning the sensuality of Venus to the heroic anguish of Laocoön. Early in the semester, each student will write a museum catalogue entry (~2-3 pages) on a selected mythological work and undergo a Peer Review of the draft a week before the due date. At midterm, each student will select either a particular artist who interpreted and adapted mythology in an innovative manner or a particular mythological subject that was appropriated by a select group of artists, and will then write an exhibition proposal (~5 pages) and will present it to the class (15-20 minute powerpoint presentation). At the end of the semester, each student will write a focused final essay (~12-15 pages) on a related topic derived from his or her exhibition theme. This final essay will be submitted at the end of term.


Professor Stephen Knapp
HONR 2054:10 - 3 Credits
CRN: 27328
R 12:45-3:15 PM

Fulfills: CCAS: upper-division English course; ESIA: Humanities; GWSB: Non-Business Elective/Unrestricted Elective; SEAS: Humanities

Course description: Metaphors are generally ignored and often dismissed as decorative or amusing, a mere “play on words.” In fact, however, they are an indispensable aspect of human language and thought, playing a key role in our interactions with others and in how we perceive, organize, and experience the world. They are powerful instruments of reason and persuasion; rich sources of insight, surprise, and humor; dangerous causes of bias and confusion. In this seminar, we will examine theories of metaphor, ancient and modern, but also the practice of metaphor in a range of contexts, from lyric poetry to science, media, and public policy.

**CANCELLED** The U.S. Latinx Novel

Professor Antonio López
HONR 2054:11 - 3 Credits
CRN: 26024
M 12:45-3:15 PM

Fulfills: CCAS: Minority/postcolonial literature English requirement; ESIA: Humanities; GWSB: Non-Business Elective/Unrestricted Elective; SEAS: Humanities

Course Description: This course explores novels in the contested tradition that is U.S. Latinx literature. It takes a historical view that opens with key works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries before moving to novels written after 1970. We’ll thus debate, propose, and range across the possible and very much messy periods of U.S. Latinx literature that characterize this historical stretch. In so doing, we will explore just how it is that the conjunction of Latinx and novel makes sense: how this organism, the Latinx novel, can manage to stage identities, turn the shape and force of words, and twist the plots of time and space, even as it bears and enjoys the burdens of being an “American” literary tradition.

Public Poetries

Professor Jennifer Chang 
HONR 2054:12 - 3 Credits
CRN: 27329
M 12:45-3:15 PM

Fulfills: CCAS: post-19th century English requirement or upper-division English course; ESIA: Humanities; GWSB: Non-Business Elective/Unrestricted Elective; SEAS: Humanities

Course Description: Combining the literature seminar with the creative writing workshop, Public Poetries hinges on the understanding that studying the histories of poetics, society, and culture enhances how we read and write poems. We examine poets from the early twentieth century to our contemporary moment (Yeats, Auden, Sexton, and Trethewey), investigating how various contexts inform a poet’s poetics. In particular, we consider the role of public life, conceptions of the public sphere, and the boundaries between public and private in shaping a poet’s career and oeuvre. We'll read the collected work of each poet as well as selections from studies in poetics and aesthetics, critical theory, legal studies, and philosophy. Assignments would include a literary critical essay on each poet, creative writing exercises, and a culminating project that draws on creative practices and critical methodologies explored during the semester. 

The American Jewish Experience

Professor Jenna Weissman Joselit
HONR 2053:81 - 3 Credits
CRN 27787
R 11:10-1:00 PM


Fulfill: ESIA: Humanities; GWSB: Non-Business Elective/Unrestricted Elective; SEAS: Humanities
Equivalent Courses: HIST 3367, JSTD 2002

Course Description: Crisis! Scandal! Controversy! This course explores a series of turning points in American Jewish history that prompted American Jewry to take stock of its place in the United States. Some of those moments had to do with anti-Jewish prejudice, others with economics and still others with matters of faith. Taken together, they challenged the Jewish community to define itself and its relationship with America.

Drawing on firsthand, eyewitness accounts, the course looks at what happened when Jewish merchants during the Civil War were expelled from areas under Union control, Jewish vacationers were denied admission to hotels in upstate New York and aspiring undergraduates were denied access to the Ivy League.  It also explores how one set of Jews upset another by seceding from their local synagogue, serving non-kosher food at a banquet, and behaving badly, blackening the community’s reputation in the process.