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Spring 2018 Honors Seminars

First-Year Seminars

Managing the Chinese Empire: The Statecraft of Confucianism
Sherry Mou
How did China keep its vast land under control before the modern era?  Through two Reacting to the Past games, we will unveil the mystery of how to make an emperor, who headed China’s bureaucracy, the statecraft of Confucianism.  The first game (“Dong Zhuo Dethrones the Emperor”) is set in the final years of the second century.  The state is in a dire situation, with more than a dozen warlords vying for the throne.  Your brilliant counsel is urgently sought after, unless, indeed, you are one of the ambitious warlords and a contender yourself!  Fourteen centuries later, in 1587, you are a Grand Secretary of the Hanlin Academy and a highly-educated advisor to Emperor Wanli (one of you will have the honor of being the Emperor himself).  Your responsibilities are heavy and serious: you need to advise the emperor on the issue of his successor.  Once again, your sage counsel is urgently needed during this crisis.

Germany and the Legacy of War
Julia Bruggemann
This course will explore the complex historical, moral, and political history of the Holocaust as well as the legacies of the war, dictatorship, and Holocaust for Germany after 1945. We will address questions of guilt and responsibility, victimhood and agency and the ways these terms have been understood over time. Some important questions we will explore are: How can we understand the physical, moral, political, and ethical destruction of the war and Holocaust and how did it influence Germany's reconstruction in the postwar context? How did contemporaries, historians, politicians, artists etc. participate in these processes? How have these discussions changed in recent years as most eyewitnesses are dying and new generations develop their own interpretations? Some of the debates that surround these questions are: Who has the right to remember and be remembered? Who can claim to be a victim, in other words: were Germans victims - or perpetrators – or both? Can a new German state be "normal" and overcome its historical baggage? What's the difference between guilt and responsibility and how does it affect future generations? How have discussions changed over the past decades?

The Art of Comedy
Istvan Csicsery-Ronay
Comedy is one of the most ancient and yet most contemporary literary genres. While its roots lie deep in myth and religious rite, it is probably the single most popular of contemporary entertainment genres. In this class we will study varieties of classical European and contemporary comedy, with special attention to formal structures, aspects of performance, theories of laughter and the comic spirit, and the relations between comedy and other genres, such as romance, tragedy, satire, and melodrama. We will pay close attention to certain themes and motifs that appear to be constants in the comic tradition, as well as to the variant roles that comedy has played in different societies. We will also explore major theoretical statements about the psychological, social and philosophical significance of comic art.

Sexual Misconduct: Laws and Culture
Renee Madison
This course will explore the systems regulating sexual misconduct and the intersectionality and tensions of campus culture, university administrative policies, process and federal responsibilities, criminal laws and civil litigation.  The course will examine and explore the following questions: How has the definition of sexual misconduct evolved?  What are the values and philosophies reflected in these policies and practices?  Who benefits from these policies and laws?  What are the factors and identities that impact investigations, findings and sentences?  How should sexual misconduct laws and regulations impact culture and society?

Get Some Culture!: Arts Patronage, History and Current Practice
Ayden Adler
In Europe, from the early church hierarchy through the royal ruling families of the 18th century, access to the so-called “high” arts was typically limited to people of means and power. In the United States, however, significant and enduring cultural institutions, such as museums and symphony orchestras, were established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in a tension between elitist emphases on refinement and good taste and democratizing impulses toward access and populism. Even today, business leaders are expected to serve on boards of museums, symphony orchestras, and dance and theater companies. However, charges of elitism, racism, and lack of relevance beleaguer many of the cultural institutions of our time. By exploring the historical roots of arts patronage and experiencing the institutions that provide access to art in our contemporary culture, this course explores what it means to be a patron of the arts in 21st-century America. We will use primary sources and historical scholarship as well as the visual and performing arts to develop critical thinking, reading, and writing skills. This course includes a number of field trips to exhibitions and live performances in the greater Indianapolis region.

Ethical Decision Making in Medicine and the Influence of Technology
Ted Bitner
Technological advances in medicine have helped humans live longer, allowed women become biological mothers who otherwise could not, made it possible for persons to receive someone else’s healthy liver, lungs or heart, and give promise of cures for debilitating diseases through gene editing. These advances are a two-edged sword, however. For, along with all the good they have accomplished, they have brought with them serious ethical problems. Who gets the healthy livers, lungs and hearts? How long should humans live? Will gene editing not only cure diseases, but will it also change what makes humans human? Will assisted reproduction allow us to mix and match qualities parents want in their children?
We will explore these issues and more, as we consider the ethical decisions healthcare personnel, researchers, and patients must make when confronted with these questions.

Interdisciplinary AREA Seminars

Biblical Literature
Beth Benedix
HONR 300Aa:  Humanities
As a piece of literature, the Bible pretty much has it all:  sex, violence, plagues, intrigue, natural disasters, romance, magic, mystery, psychedelic chariot rides, betrayal, resurrection, vengeance… oh, and the sometimes present deus ex machina, the god in the wings, swooping down to tie up loose ends or wreak havoc, depending on his mood. You can find just about any standard—and not-so-standard—plot line that you want here. And, wow, the ethical conundrums that come up. This is the stuff we’ll be busying ourselves with this semester, and this kind of exploration begs an essentially ethical set of questions that will occupy the center of the discussion: What assumptions do we need to make in order to read the Bible as a work of literature? What does it mean to read the Bible using the same techniques we’d use to analyze any other work of fiction (plot, style, voice, point of view, character development, theme, historical, political and cultural context)? We’ll also be spending a good deal of time considering the Bible in literature, looking at modern works that echo pieces of the Bible—some quite subtly, others more explicitly.  As we read these works, we will want to explore possible motivations on the part of the authors who wrote them.  In each case, these authors are involved in a process of revision, of re-evaluation, of re-thinking:  how does the borrowed Biblical text help them in this process?  When these authors “go to” the Bible to develop their own worlds and pursue their own agendas, what is it that they’re doing?

Food and Science
Jeffrey Hansen
HONR 300Ba:  Science
Have you ever fried an egg, made toast, or baked cookies?  Every time we cook we are doing chemistry.  Food is an essential part of our lives and can often be very enjoyable.  What makes food enjoyable?  What do we require from food for good health?  Should you try that new diet you heard about?  Is cooking what defines humanity and distinguishes us from animals?  We will look at these questions from a scientists perspective.  We will also learn just enough chemistry to help us have better results when we venture into the kitchen to make dinner.

“Oh behave!”
Kevin Kinney & James Benedix
HONR 300Bb:  Science
What makes animals, including humans, behave the way they do?  This is a puzzle that has been studied extensively by biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and many other “–ologists.”  With respect to human behavior, the fields of biology and psychology have begun to find common ground in their search for proximate and ultimate explanations for the things we do.  Witness, for example, the growth of the fields of evolutionary psychology and neuroscience in the last two to three decades.  The first portion of this class will focus on human behavior using as its guide the 2017 book Behave by renowned neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky.  In the second portion of the class we will expand our exploration to look at other species, making connections between ourselves and the rest of the animal kingdom.  Our goal will be to better understand how the methods of science have been used to increase our understanding of the controlling mechanisms and the evolutionary forces that shape our behavior and that of our animal relatives.

Economics of Higher Education
Manu Raghav
HONR 300Ca:  Social Science
This course will introduce students to economics and finance of higher education using quantitative reasoning. This course will also discuss topics of economic growth and its relation to education/human capital formation as well as the role of education in alleviating (or aggravating) inter and intra-generational inequalities of income and wealth.  A secondary goal of the course is to enhance and deepen the understanding of basic principles of economics through examples and the context of higher education and human capital formation. 

African Nationalism
Mac Dixon-Fyle
HONR 300Cb:  Social Science
How did Africa come to be so comprehensively subjugated by the West as a continent of "inferior peoples" in the 19th and 20th centuries? How did Europe come by such audacious might? What weaknesses in Africa's precolonial structures enabled this emasculation? What was it that allowed some African groups to resist the imperial onslaught, and with what consequences? And how did Africa transcend her domination to reclaim lost sovereignty in the 20th century?  This course reviews the dynamic of historical change in the nationalist arena as Africa succumbs to Imperialism in the 19th century, endures colonialism into the mid to late 20th century, and fashions a response to reclaim lost sovereignty in the socio-economic and political realms in the last six decades of her evolution.  Using a comparative frame that will address nationalist efforts on other continents, the course will examine the peculiarities of the European intervention on the African continent, the personnel and methodology of proto-nationalist and nationalist resistance, and the imperative of sustaining a nationalist consciousness to meet contemporary challenges of nation-building.