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.


Intro to LGBT Studies

Professor Robert McRuer
HONR 2053:13 - 3 Credits
CRN: 85975
TR 9:35-10:50 AM
Fulfills: CCAS: GPAC Humanities, Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies "Sexualities" requirement or elective, Women's Gender & Sexuality Studies minor elective, LGBT & Sexualities Studies minor elective; ESIA: Humanities; SEAS: Humanities

Course Description: This course overviews the multiple ways in which the interdisciplinary field of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies attends to questions of representation and/in culture. We will consider how lgbt people have been portrayed in a range of contemporary cultural locations, but we will also examine key texts in the emergence of what has come to be called queer theory, a critical project that analyzes the slipperiness of identity, gender, sexuality, and embodiment and that considers the complex power dynamics in circulation around identities and representations.

The Idea of Beauty

Professor Margaret Soltan
HONR 2053:14 - 3 Credits
CRN: 86031
MW 12:45-2:00 PM
Fulfills: CCAS: GPAC Humanities; ESIA: Humanities; SEAS: Humanities
Equivalent Courses: ENGL 3830 Aesthetics, counts as Category E 

Course Description: What is beauty?  How does it express itself in art?  Does it express itself differently in different genres of art (music, architecture, poetry, etc.)?  In nature?  Why do experiences of the beautiful seem so important to us? 

What happens to us when we feel we are having an aesthetic experience?  Are these experiences in any way generalizable, or does each person, each culture, experience the beautiful in different ways?

Questions about beauty take in all sorts of corollary questions having to do with morality (does the capacity to find nature beautiful make us better stewards of it?), politics, social life, spirituality. Such questions also involve the act of judgment - the ability to discern better and worse examples of, say, artistic beauty, and to defend those judgments.

Since Plato, philosophers have grappled with the definition and the implications of beauty.  In this class, we’ll enter this still intensely contested intellectual and personal terrain.

The Life of Things

Professor Jenna Weissman Joselit
HONR 2053:81 - 3 Credits
CRN: 85431
W 12:45-2:35 PM
Fulfills: CCAS: GPAC Humanities; ESIA: Humanities; SEAS: Humanities
Equivalent Courses: HIST 2001, JSTD 2001

Course Description: This interdisciplinary humanities seminar takes a hard and searching look at stuff - furniture, clothing, shoes, religious artifacts, building materials, toys, tools and home décor - all with an eye toward understanding our relationship to the material world.  Focused largely, though not exclusively on the United States, it explores the ways in which objects contain a wealth of ideas about authenticity, convenience, craft, faith, heritage, taste and value.  This seminar should appeal to those especially interested in museums and public history as well as design and social engineering.

Classical Mythology in Art

Professor Rachel Pollack
HONR 2053W:10 - 3 Credits
CRN: 86612
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 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 and 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 their reimagining of classical mythology extends beyond 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 from the sensuality of Venus to the heroic anguish of Laocoön.  Starting mid-semester, students will select a particular artist who interpreted and adapted mythology in an innovative manner, and will then write an essay proposal (~4 pages) and will present their topic to the class. This essay (~12-15 pages) will be submitted at the end of the term.

Class will meet every other Thursday at the National Gallery of Art. These field trips are intended to enhance the students’ understanding of the visual arts related to the course. Please make sure your schedule permits you to get to and from the gallery.

Consent, Capital, and Democracy

Professor Peter Caws

HONR 2053W:MV - 3 Credits

CRN: 84792

W 1:00-3:30 PM

Fulfills: WID; CCAS: GPAC Humanities; ESIA: Humanities; SEAS: Humanities

Course Description: This course will be conducted as a seminar.  Each student’s work will contribute to a joint re-thinking of the relations between individuals and the various collectives to which they belong, from the local to the global.
Collectives are social decision-making contexts (as opposed to the myriad and private contexts of strictly individual decision-making) .  We will distinguish between contexts in which decisions are reached by (a) informal mutual agreement (family, community, society), (b) formal, mainly financial, contracts (employment, the market), and (c) constraint under a system of laws (the state, political arrangements).
We will ask what it means for individuals to act freely, and how free individuals can enter into relations with one another in these different domains.
We will examine the principles that govern the domains and their interrelations, and the situation of individuals who decline to participate in the agreements that anchor the domains - who are not willing to compromise, who violate the rules of the market, and who reject the authority of the state.
(All these topics are provisional and may be modified by a decision of the seminar members.)
We will use some recognized texts but will not assume their authority.

A Literary Icon: Jane Austen

Professor Maria Frawley
HONR 2054:11 - 3 Credits
CRN: 87426
R 1:00-3:30 PM
Fulfills: CCAS: English Department 19th Century Literature elective; ESIA: Humanities; SEAS: Humanities

Course Description: This course focuses on the literary achievements of Jane Austen and on her continuing relevance to our own culture. Our reading will include all of her novels, some unpublished early writing, and work unfinished at her death. Understanding the social and historical contexts that shape Austen’s work will be a major preoccupation, and to this end we will explore the ways her fiction responds to the revolutionary tenor of the Romantic age in which she wrote. Among our topics for consideration will be the ways Austen both reflects and responds to social hierarchy and class relations in Regency England; the relationship between gender ideology, “conduct book culture,” and Austen’s representations of women’s lives; Austen’s views of national identity in the era of the French Revolution; and Austen’s innovative narrative and linguistic techniques. Students can expect to come away from this course with a solid grasp of the social, historical, and literary contexts of Austen’s fiction; with greater appreciation of the stylistic achievements of her fiction writing; and with the ability to critically assess how and why Austen’s works have been received and adapted over time. In addition, the writing assignments for this course will enable students to cultivate their analytic abilities and writing skills.

Heaven & Hell in Art

Professor Barbara 

van Barghahn-Calvetti
HONR 2054:80 - 3 Credits
CRN: 87421
R 1:00-3:30 PM
Fulfills: ESIA: Humanities; SEAS: Humanities
Equivalent Course: AH 4139

Course Description: This course will embrace a variety of topics relating to the representation of afterlife in diverse cultures. My lectures will concern the Northern Renaissance, specifically the titans Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

Honors research would address such diverse subjects as: the Egyptian Book of the Dead; the Greek Underworld; the Roman Empire and Classical Hades and Olympian Gods; Judaic Traditions; Early Christian-Celtic; Romanesque-Late Gothic European concepts of Satan and the Son of Man; Renaissance Perceptions of Heaven and Hell; Germanic and Scandinavian Europe; East Asian Paradise and Punishment; Pre-Columbian-Colonial Parallels; African Afterlife; Angels; Fairie Queen (Pre-Raphaelites); Visions (Book of Tundial/Mysticism); Ars Moriendi and Memorial; Vices and Virtues; Apocalyptic Beasts; The Soul (Bartholomaeus Anglicus-Faust); Descents to the Underworld (Orpheus, Aeneas, Dante); Cosmic Conflicts (Avalon and the Grail Quest/William Blake, etc. 

Requirements: Two oral presentations with follow up research papers and class discussion.