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Fall 2024 Honor Scholar Seminars


Ruin and Re-begetting
HONR 101A: First-Year Seminar with Professor Andrea Sununu
Our study of the imagery of ruin and re-begetting will allow us to explore a triple theme––creation, destruction, and re-creation––and to consider how language conveys the human attempt to counter fragmentation, chaos, or oblivion.  Reading works by Plato, Shakespeare, Donne, Woolf, Jones, Kingsolver, and others, we will explore the longing to triumph over transience, destruction, and death. I hope that throughout this semester you will find that words matter––not only in the texts you read, but also in your own writing––and that as you hone an argument and polish your prose, you will take pleasure in your own creations.

The Archaeology of Democracy
HONR 101B: First-Year Seminar with Professor Rebecca Schindler
                                                     “Democracy is on the ballot.” (Joe Biden)
Demokratia, the idea that people have the power to rule themselves, took root in ancient Greece in the 6th century BCE. Underlying this movement were the principles of freedom, equality, and justice. Those same principles provided the conceptual foundations for modern democracies beginning with the United States in the late 18th century. Yet, now in the third decade of the 21st century, democracy as a viable political system is threatened all over the globe.
In this course we will take a deep dive into the past. Through the discipline of archaeology, which brings together evidence from excavation, works of art, and ancient texts, we will explore the origins of democratic thought and the institutions that those ideas created. From the early Greek poets and playwrights, such as Homer and Aeschylus, to historians and philosophers, such as Thucydides and Plato, we will consider what liberty, equality, and justice meant in a society that restricted citizenship, excluded women from participation in politics, and in which a significant part of the population was enslaved. Through careful study and analysis of the monuments of the Athenian Agora and Acropolis, we will look at how visual rhetoric reinforces particular political ideologies. Most importantly, we will ask, what did Demokratia mean in the ancient Mediterranean world, and to what extent is contemporary democracy dependent on that past? By examining Democracy’s past, this course will grapple with its present and consider its future.

Minds in Motion—Cognition Across Contexts
HONR 101C: First-Year Seminar with Professor Michael Roberts
Humans are amazing learners but obviously have major limitations in how effectively we acquire new knowledge and skills and how competently we apply them to new situations. In this course, we will examine knowledge and skills transfer from a broad variety of perspectives, e.g., what are the most efficient strategies for learning according to cognitive science, to what extent do qualities like curiosity, passion, and critical thinking apply across contexts in our lives, how do cognition and emotion compete and cooperate to produce our decisions and behaviors, can human learning and machine learning be effectively synthesized in a world suffused with AI, and should higher education and work cultures evolve in certain ways to better accommodate human strengths and weaknesses?

Play, Game(s), Religion(s)
HONR 101D: First-Year Seminar with Professor Justin Glessner
"All play means something," or so wrote theorist Johan Huizinga in 1938, suggesting the serious possibility that play constitutes the primary formative element in human culture? Playfully speaking, our serious work in this course considers the cultural meaning(-making)s of game(s) and religion(s) as complex and intersecting embodiments of deeply human (serious, play) forms. Transdisciplinary connections between Religious Studies and Game(r) Studies have a number of vectors, and, for the sake of convenience, this course plays with a four-part paradigm of puzzles: gaming in religion; religion in gaming; religion as gaming; and, gaming as religion. In balanced measure, we'll be making room for both the (serious) cultivation/enrichment of transferable, critical academic skills, through conventional coursework, and all manner of experiential learning contexts afforded through close-playing and reflecting on a selection of (social, tabletop, role-playing, physical, and video) games. How might we contextualize the play-ful ways folk relate to game(s) and religion(s)? More seriously, what discourses and relations of power are at work in such considerations, and how might we imagine the relationships we have with game(s) and religion(s), while growing in (self-)critical awareness of the ideological/ contextual nature of engaging broadly with homo ludens, the human at/in play? Come and play!


The Beat Generation
HONR 300Ab: Arts and Humanities Seminar with Professor Debby Geis (cross-listed with ENG393)
The “Beat Generation” marks a literary and cultural period from the early fifties to the mid-sixties in which rebellion against mainstream American postwar family values was beginning to surface.  This interdisciplinary course looks at the literature of this era in its cultural and political contexts, and examines the impact upon subsequent writers and artists.  Some of the authors we’ll cover will include “canonical” Beat writers Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti; Black Beat writers LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Ted Joans, and Bob Kaufman; rebel women Diane DiPrima, Joyce Johnson, Anne Waldman, and Hettie Jones. We will also see some Beat-era films (and representations of “beatniks” in the popular culture of the period) and hear some Beat-era music.

Since this course also fulfills DePauw’s “S” requirement, students in this class will be expected to participate actively in speaking and listening activities that will include presentations, performances of texts, and discussions in various modes, both formal and informal.

Performing Culture: Ancient Drama and Society
HONR 300Ac: Arts and Humanities Seminar with Professor David Guinee (cross-listed with CLST300)
Most of us encounter Greek tragedies in isolation, as required readings in Greek and Roman mythology or culture surveys. Many have read the _Ajax_ as an example of the 'heroic temper' and a prime example of Sophoclean tragedy. Ajax, outraged by a slight to his honor, who tries to murder his commanders and then ultimately commits suicide in shame. The play, however, was performed at a particular time and place, during a festival in which Athenians paid tribute to orphaned children whose fathers had died in battle. This is but one small example of how context matters to Greek and Roman tragedies and comedies; they are performed within specific cultural conditions and themselves perform the culture.
In this course we will read a wide range of Greek tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, Greek comedies by Aristophanes and Menander, Roman comedies by Terence and Plautus, and the horrific Neronian-era tragedies of Seneca. All of these are foundational texts for later tragedy and comedy. Our focus will be on plays less frequently encountered in introductory Classics courses. While exploring the literary and dramatic qualities of the texts we will also investigate how drama serves to express and respond to particular cultural moments.

History of Performance Art
HONR 300Ad: Arts and Humanities Seminar with Professor Sarah Cowan (cross-listed with ARTS281A)
This course explores the captivating history of performance art in the Americas. Since the early twentieth century, artists have turned to performance as an experimental mode of artistic production. They have used bodily movement, music and sound, costumes, and props to reimagine the forms, institutions, and audiences for art. What does it mean to "perform" art rather than to make an art object? We will take a hemispheric approach to this question, investigating how artists working in diverse contexts in Latin America and North America have used performance as an expressive and political form. For instance, we will analyze performance works made under dictatorial regimes in Argentina and Chile, amid the transnational feminist movement of the 1970s, and during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States. Among other topics, we will consider debates around performance documentation, the ethics of audience participation, and the critical use of the body by artists of color and queer and feminist artists. There are no prerequisites for this course.

Evolution and Human Nature
HONR 300Ba: Science and Mathematics Seminar with Professor Kevin Moore
The Philosopher Daniel Dennett once called evolution “the single best idea anyone ever had.” If this claim has any merit, then surely evolutionary perspectives can shed light on important questions about human nature in general, and issues like cooperation, aggression, sex and gender, aesthetics, emotion, cognition, moral judgments, and environmental concerns in particular. We will look at current and historical attempts to develop scientific accounts of human nature, and examine their strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.  The course offers an opportunity to explore how the “single best idea anyone ever had” can be applied to human nature and important contemporary concerns.

Feminist Inquiry
HONR 300Ca: Social Science Seminar with Professor Christy Holmes (cross-listed with WGSS350)
Feminist Inquiry prepares students to research and write senior theses in WGSS; it is also useful for juniors and seniors planning to undertake interdisciplinary capstone research (e.g., Honor Scholars, Environmental and Media Fellows, PACS and Global Health students). This course is structured to provide an in-depth overview of both feminist methodology, including theories of what constitutes an ethics of feminist research, and appropriate methods to conduct inter/disciplinary research. We explore some of the many questions that drive feminist inquiry, such as: What makes research feminist? Does gender and sexuality matter in research and do minoritized groups have specific experiences and perspectives that can improve research and/or eliminate bias? How can intersectionality theory be operationalized methodologically? What is at stake if minoritized groups are left out of research initiatives? Do feminist research questions require alternative research methods to get at new ways of seeing the world? You will practice different methods (e.g., interviews, survey development, content analysis and coding) in class and will conduct your own mini research project that is grounded in one of the feminist methodological frameworks discussed and that utilizes one or more of the methods outlined in the syllabus. You will also pick up helpful tools to make research and writing easier. Projects can be tailored to your interests. While there are no specific prerequisites, it is helpful for students to have had a course in WGSS or SOC prior to taking this course.

The Power of Pop: How Pop-Culture Matters in Politics, Economics and Society
HONR 300Cb: Social Science Seminar with Professor Deepa Prakash (cross-listed with POLS390)
Whether we actively seek it out or not, pop-culture permeates everything around us- our entertainment, our news, our consumption habits, and our politics. In this course we will examine this often-dismissed area of our collective experience seriously by examining how scholars and commentators across political science, history, economics and cultural studies, to name a few disciplines, understand the significance of pop-culture. We will consider questions such as the role of pop-culture in representing dominant and marginalized identities and why this matters, the pop-culture memorialization of key events, the role of culture industries in the economy, the pop-culture of conservative and right-wing movements, the importance of pop-culture in state’s soft-power as well as the impact of celebrities on various policy issues, in an election year where this may be particularly salient. We will ponder these questions through the lens of various cases of ‘texts’ - drawing on students' interests and the instructor’s research interests in Bollywood and KPop, and be attentive to pressing issues in pop-culture from the West as well as the Global South. Students will research a topic of their choice applying class concepts and materials.

For the Wanderer, the Questioning, and the Thoughtful