Course Descriptions IHON

100 level courses

(Two courses to be taken during your first year; IHON 111 in the Fall and IHON 112 in the Spring)

In both IHON 111 and IHON 112, we explore various course themes through careful reading and open-ended discussion of a wide variety of texts: literature, sacred texts, philosophy, poetry, painting, and historical documents, along with narrative history and secondary literature

IHON 111: Origins, Ideas, and Encounters

IHON 111 explores how issues such as the order of the universe, political authority, justice and dissent, gender relations, and the human relation to nature manifested themselves in texts emerging from different peoples and regimes from the pre-modern world (ancient Egypt, Sumer, Greek city-states, the pre-Columbian Maya people, the Empire of Mali, ancient Rome, the Warring States period in China, etc.).

IHON 112: Liberty, Power, and Imagination

IHON 112 also engages in a dialogue with a wide variety of voices and texts from across the globe, but this time against the backdrop of the gradual emergence of a modern world-system which not only connects societies in Europe, Asia, and Africa with the Americas, but which also increasingly connects rural with urban areas, and creates global metropoles where new identities and distinctive cultures emerge.

200 level courses

(Choose a total of four, 200 level courses, to be taken during your 2nd and 3rd year)

IHON 253: Gender, Sexuality, and Culture

Uses multicultural, international, and feminist perspectives to examine issues such as socialization and stereotypes, relationships and sexuality, interpersonal and institutional violence, revolution and social change in the U.S. and in other selected international contexts.

IHON 257: The Experience of War

A multidisciplinary survey of modern and contemporary warfare, drawing on poetry, novels, war memoirs, art, music, and film, and stressing the experiences and decisions of people who have participated in war as combatants or civilians.

IHON 257: Disease and Injury, Praise and Blame

You probably won’t hear “At least he died doing what he loved” about someone who dies of lung cancer clutching a cigarette, but you probably will if he falls off a cliff clutching a rope or a snowboard. Illnesses and injuries have always been a part of our human experience, but why do we valorize some and demonize others? In this course we examine the human experience of suffering disease, illness, and injury – and the equally human experience of assigning praise and blame in connection with them – from Egypt to Europe, from America to Africa, and from Moses to Malaria. We will pay particular attention to a history of social, religious, and civic responses that define health, value or devalue suffering, and cure or create ill and injured people for “the common good.”

IHON 257: Friending, from the French Renaissance to Facebook

Friendship is one of the oldest subjects of humanistic inquiry and appears to be a matter of increasing interest in our global, capitalist, networked, egalitarian, and yet deeply unequal world.  This course examines a variety of enduring friendship questions through philosophical, historical, sociological, and literary lenses: (im)perfect friends; friendship is equality?; friendship as solidarity; sexuality in friendship; mourning friends; Christ as friend; the self, or the friend’s other.  Besides familiarizing students with canonical friendship texts (Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Montaigne, etc.) and classic critical studies about friendship (Granovetter, Sedgwick, Bray), this course will invite reflection on the meaning and function of friendship in contemporary society through film analysis (Les Intouchables, Blue is the Warmest Color, etc.).  Students should come out of the course not just with a rich understanding of the history and philosophy of friendship in the Western tradition, but also with a refined understanding of their own values relating to friendship, and of the possibilities and limits of friendship as a force for social justice.

IHON 257: Modern Perspectives on the Principles ‘Life’, ‘Virtue’ and ‘Justice’

With the historical Enlightenment’s doctrine of human perfectibility came new burdens: the individual human being not only bore responsibility for perfecting herself morally, but for her share of human progress in history. These burdens are still implicit in the widely shared idea that we should conduct our lives ethically. But is it possible to live a perfectly ethical life? If not, what is the proper relation between ethics and life? In this course, we will consider significant voices from the past two hundred years who speak from various sides of this argument: writers, philosophers, and revolutionaries who have insisted that we should conduct our lives in the closest possible concord with moral principle, and others who have contended, or suggested, that the goal of a perfectly consistent life is not only impossible, but destructive.

IHON 257: The Quest for Religious Wisdom in a Global Age

This course thus explores, through critical historical, descriptive, and comparative methodologies, the role religion plays in the search for wisdom on the global stage. The central question is, How does religion contribute wisdom for life? The central geographic focus will be the Near East (southwest Asia), including the eastern Mediterranean, i.e., land- and sea-bridges where human migrations first engendered internationalism. A key course goal is better to understand religious wisdom, at the intersection of Europe and Asia, from a variety of texts and academic perspectives. The cultural horizon for this understanding will extend from the very early story of Gilgamesh to the later traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Also of paramount concern will be perceiving the connections between religious wisdom and the encounter with The Other, and whether this encounter will be one of hostility or hospitality. Definitions of religion and wisdom, the situation of religious wisdom in pre-modern and modern contexts, and the examination of the relationship between religion and socio-cultural realities, will be highly significant for course investigations. The course also examines how, and in what forms, religion might contribute constructively to future global life.

IHON 257: The City as Text

A city is not just a physical collection of buildings, but a space which is experienced by its residents or visitors through their particular histories, imaginations, thoughts and dreams. In Andrade’s novel Macunaíma, an indigenous person enters São Paulo in the early twentieth century and sees not a modern city, but a strange place in which machines have asserted their authority over human beings. In this course we will examine various representations of the city in narrative, philosophy and film throughout the 20th and 21st century, from Woolf’s postwar London, to Borges’ cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, to Wender’s Berlin of the late 80s, to filmmaker Fernando Meirelles’ urban segregation in Río de Janeiro, with particular attention to how the urban space is refunctioned in times of political upheaval or oppression.

IHON 257: Self/Other-Human/Animal

Political and moral theorists have long wrestled with questions of individual responsibility: how should we balance the need for individual liberty and fulfillment with our responsibility to others? When and how, in the complex webs of human interaction, is on obligated to others? How far is one responsible for the indirect consequences of one’s actions? What forms or processes of social interaction, and what habits or traits of selfhood, encourage just and responsible relationships? Increasingly, writers in both philosophical and literary traditions have considered what happens when we extend such questions of ethical obligation to then non-human animals with whom we share our planet. To what extent do non-human animals – or even the environment itself – deserve ethical consideration? How are our individual lives directly and indirectly connected with the lives of animals on our planet, and what types of ethical challenges and obligations are implied in those connections?

IHON 257: What is Work? Labor in Culture and Society

What counts as “work” in our society?  What is its purpose?  What are the ideas, emotions, and experiences we associate with the different kinds of human activity we call work?  Why are these questions relevant today during our current economic recovery?  As we will explore in this course, the notion of work is constantly changing: it not only depends on the economy but also on cultural values and representations as well as the ways in which different members of society interact with one another.  In particular, we will examine how work has been theorized since the Industrial Revolution, from Karl Marx and German sociologist max Weber to recent philosophy, sociology, and anthropology.  Then, we will explore how different art forms have responded to these, many time oppressive, working conditions as well as imagined more just alternatives.  We will look at a variety of literary texts, painting, photography, and film from Britain, the US, and Latin America, from the early 20th century until today: from George Orwell’s literary ethnographies of service and industrial workers during the Great Depression to Diego Rivera’s murals of Detroit autoworkers to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman to Paul Schroeder’s 1978 film Blue Collar.

IHON 257: Religion and Violence

Students in this course will investigate several types of religious violence, including martyrdom, sacrifice, and holy war. They will also explore different approaches of religious people to violence, as well as the religious experiences of people in wartime. Readings will come from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including theological, historical, and literary treatments of religion and violence. Students will complete a series of essays that look at changing understandings of religious war over time as a way of thinking through the complex relationship between faith and violence.

IHON 257: Literature, Aesthetics and Human Rights

Literary works such as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, along with art works such as Picasso’s Guernica, and films such as Alejandro Iñárritu’s Biutiful, have played important roles both in catalyzing opposition to particular human rights abuses (slavery, genocide, the problem of stateless persons), as well as contributing unique insights into the nature and origins of these problems. But art and literature have not only animated human rights campaigns, but also sometimes illuminated problems, dilemmas and unintended consequences which human rights campaigners, in their understandable ardor to change the world, have sometimes overlooked or ignored. In this class we will examine the relation between art/literature and human rights, beginning with literary, philosophical, and art works which helped shape concepts of human rights, as well as human rights campaigns, in the 18th and 19th centuries, and continuing with recent issues and works. Should art and literature function as pendants to human rights, or do they best unfold their potentials for the idea of human rights when they operate independently of such ethical imperatives? How does the aesthetic differ from the conceptual, and what implications does this difference have for understanding and enacting human rights? Which specific insights might art/literature offer into the problems or contradictions in ideas of human rights, which discursive argumentation might not? We will consider these and other questions through careful reading of classics of what is beginning to be called ‘human rights literature’, as well as essays by aestheticians (Adorno, Sartre), philosophers (Nussbaum, Rorty, Marx, Hegel), political theorists (Arendt), historians (Starobinski, Hunt), and others.

IHON 258: Genealogies of Race

Much of what many U.S. Americans know, or think they know, about the idea of ‘race’ is derived from North American contexts. But the idea of race is a historical one, which was employed as a tool of domination in different ways in different historical times and contexts. There is therefore not one modern idea of race, but many. In this course, we will explore some of the different forms which the idea of ‘race’ took in the modern period, focusing in particular on North America, the Caribbean (in particular Cuba), Mexico, and Great Britain. In these different places and times, what were the criteria for being ‘raced’? How was race used as a tool in these different contexts? Examining the historical emergence of these different categories of ‘race’ will position us to explore various context-specific strategies for addressing the continuing, and very real, affects of this invented category.

IHON 258: Colonization in the Americas

This course explores the centrality of colonialism in the making of the modern world. Rather than treating contemporary geohistorical units such as Europe, Africa, and the Americas as having separate “histories” that have only recently come to converge through a process of “globalization,” this course places specific emphasis on cross-cultural and societal connections. Contextual readings and discussions consider the changing dynamics of conquest, enslavement, and colonialism and their reciprocal relationships to resistance, freedom, and revolution. While we will situation these themes historically, another continuing theme of our conversation will be the legacy of colonialism in our daily lives, our political forms, our ways of thinking. We will gain a rich, nuanced history of how imperialisms were worked out on the ground in the Americas (with particular attention to the places that would become the United States, Mexico, and Haiti) and how these developments were connected to changes in Europe and Africa. This will allow us to understand the legacies of racism and the kinds of accommodations and conflicts that have shaped the changing political, economic, and social relations in the Americas.

IHON 258: Crime and Corrections

The purpose of this course is to provide a sociological examination of crime and corrections. We will begin by exploring how crime is defined and measured, followed by a discussion of key criminological theories. We will go on to examine correctional philosophies, policies, and practices among different nations. Throughout the course students will be challenged to think critically about race, class, and gender based inequalities in the criminal justice system, as well as the social consequences of incarceration.

IHON 258: Gender and Violence

An examination of gendered violence from a sociological perspective. Includes consideration of how violence is gendered, theoretical explanations of gendered violence and the responses of the criminal justice system in the U.S. and in other selected international contexts.

IHON 258: Ethnographic Perspectives on State Formation

In this International Honors class we will discuss readings that will assist us in thinking ethnographically about state formation, state projects, and state effects. The kinds of questions examined include: How are state subjects and citizens made? How can the state itself – as a set of institutions and as an idea – be examined from a variety of perspectives? What kinds of cultural understandings underlie a range of state projects and interventions? How can we understand how local populations and/or subordinate groups experience and respond to such projects? The course has been organized around an exploration of concepts for the multidisciplinary study of the state, and readings have been selected to cover many different geographic areas in addition to different theoretical concepts.

IHON 258: Sex and the Body: Sexuality from Antiquity to the Present

This course is an introduction to the history of sexuality and a critical examination of shifting ideas about the body and gender in western history.  It explores political, religious, intellectual, social, cultural, and medical influences on the organization and regulation of ideas about the sexed body beginning with antiquity and finishing with a consideration of bodies in our contemporary context.  It asks the question: what is the relationship between gender, sexuality, and understanding of the body and how have these changed over time?  How have clams about gender and sexuality fueled religious and political debate?  How have bodies been represented, controlled, liberated, policed, and constructed through biological sex?  The focus of the curse will be chronological and theoretical in scope and include topics such as gender performance, sexual education, reproductive technologies, prostitution, homosexuality, cultural norms of heterosexuality, venereal disease, sexual conservatism, and sexual revolutions.

IHON 258: Twentieth Century Origins of the Contemporary World

This International Honors class surveys the history of the twentieth century from the viewpoint of engaged literary and activist commentators. The emphasis of the course is on the century’s intense clash of political ideas and the movements and conflicts that they produced. These movements and conflicts will also be studied in their social, economic, and cultural contexts. The principal foci of the class will be the Great War (1914-18), the Russian Revolution (1917), the Spanish Civil War (1936-9), the Third Reich and the Holocaust (1933-45), the Cold War (1945-1990), and the emerging shape of the post-Cold War world. No previous study of twentieth-century history is required or assumed.

IHON 259: Global Climate Change

This course is a multidisciplinary exploration of Global Climate Change, drawing on geosciences and other disciplines. Students will examine, interpret, and discuss scientific date and evidence, scientific literature, and “public” literature in geologic and contemporary context. Coursework will include quantitative and qualitative analysis, and oral and written presentations; and will promote awareness of the ethical dimensions of global climate change.

IHON 259: The Natural World: Crop Biodiversity and Globalization: the Columbian Exchange and Beyond.

Historian Alfred Crosby coined the term the “Columbian Exchange” to describe the two-way transfer of crops, livestock, and disease between the New and Old World, starting in the 15th Century. This dramatic example of globalization of food crops in particular has been repeated many times in human history.  In this course, we will explore the enormous ecological, cultural and human impact of this exchange in the context of climate changes and political/social unrest that directly impact food security and biodiversity.

IHON 260: The Red Violin

This section of The Arts in Society will examine the role of music in society and its relationship to the other arts, presented in the context of an historical and cultural survey of Western Music with some examinations of world music. “The Arts in Society: The Red Violin” will accomplish this by giving a special emphasis to string music in the Western tradition and string music in other-‐than-‐Western cultures. Students will be introduced to historical terminology used for music and the arts, learn to recognize the stylistic characteristics of different musical styles and musical eras, and to explore the relationship between music and the time, place, and ideological context in which it was produced. Students in this section of “The Arts in Society” will work from an historically based survey text in music (with ancillary recordings), as well as readings in aesthetic philosophy exploring the relationship between the arts, history, and society.

IHON 260: Visual Art and the Critique of the Everyday

Visual artists are sensitive interpreters of everyday life. Through their work, artists may intervene directly in their political and social reality, or they may simply record that reality as they see it. This course examines artworks of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries both as aesthetic objects and as opportunities for broader cultural dialogue and critique. We will draw on the methods of art history, critical theory, and cultural studies as we look closely at artists who have engaged significant phenomena of the past 100 years, including consumer culture, Fascism and the Holocaust, and issues of contemporary identity. In visits to local museums and galleries, we will consider how our world is being examined, recorded, and perhaps changed, through art.

300 level courses

(One course to be taken during your third or fourth year)

IHON 328: Social Justice, Personal Inquiry, and Global Investigations

Students will wrestle with complex contemporary social problems, evaluate multiple responses to those problems, and develop and articulate their own positions and commitments. Class themes vary, but every section includes cross-cultural and interdisciplinary analysis and a final culminating project.