Honors Spring 2020 Courses

Honors: Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology: ANTH 130-02 with Professor Mohamad Junaid, MWF 10:00—10:50 am.

Sociocultural anthropology is the study of the social lives of human communities. The field takes as its primary concern the nature of societies, variations among them, and the transformations they undergo. Understanding systems of belief, modes of social organization, and cultural practices animates sociocultural anthropologists. They formulate their questions in unique ways: How do humans inhabit and sense the world? How do they narrate their experiences? How do their experiences relate to interpersonal and social relations, cultural imaginaries and practices, historical forces and contingencies, and natural and material ‘things’ surrounding them?

Based on engagement with everyday life in different contexts, sociocultural anthropology challenges our commonsense ideas about people’s beliefs and practices, and the life-worlds they build. The discipline provides us with a conceptual vocabulary to understand key challenges with which individuals and societies grapple. It takes us beyond the familiar and the visible, and towards the imaginative and the creative. Sociocultural anthropology compels us to question the common-sense notion of the ‘human’ itself.

Throughout this course, we will use anthropological essays, ethnographic accounts, and documentary films to trace the range of topics with which sociocultural anthropology deals. We will see how sociocultural anthropologists, instead of imposing their own understanding, produce knowledge in dialogue with the subjects of their study. This approach has required a persistent refinement of methods. You will become familiar with the rich repertoire of methods that sociocultural anthropologists have developed. Our assigned textual and visual materials will allow us to reflect on ethnography as a key mode of producing anthropological knowledge as well as a unique genre of writing and filmmaking.  Fulfills the Self & Society requirement of MCLA’s Core curriculum.  

Nature of Human Nature: HONR 100 with Professor David Langston, TR at 10:30—11:45 am.

This course explores the problematic notion of human nature employing the kind of the open-ended inquiry and interdisciplinary discussion that characterizes the Honors Program.  The course ranges widely over philosophical, psychological, literary and anthropological texts, as well as works of art, which propose competing definitions for human nature.  Students are asked first to understand and then to criticize each perspective in turn and finally to formulate their own understanding of human nature.  Fulfills the Human Heritage requirement of MCLA’s Core curriculum.

Honors Art and Philosophy: PHIL 120H.01 with Professor David Braden-Johnson,  MWF 2:00-2:50 pm.

In the context of a philosophical approach to the products and processes of human artistic efforts, this course surveys and employs a variety of traditional and contemporary theories for describing accurately our experience, understanding, and appreciation of all forms of art. Our inquiries will center on answering two central questions of aesthetics: “What is art/?” and “What is the source of art’s unique value to humans?”  In the process, we will examine the relations between art and society, the nature of artistic innovation, creativity, interpretation, and knowledge, and art's impact on the emotions, subjective taste, morality, and our sense of beauty. Fulfills the Creative Arts requirements of MCLA’s Core curriculum.

Honors Introduction to Cross-Cultural & Social Justice Studies with Professor  Susan Edgerton, TR 1:00—2:15 pm

This course engages important issues that affect people in our culturally and socially diverse world--in past and present, local and global contexts. It is an inquiry into the multiple means by which power is socially and culturally mediated and channeled to create structures of inequality and oppression that privilege some populations while marginalizing others.  We begin each new section of the course by exploring the theoretical underpinnings of major socio-cultural categories such as race, socio-economic class, gender, and sexuality. Our theoretical understandings are then applied to actual cases that range from experiences of marginalized groups and individuals to historical and contemporary events that mark turning points and ongoing challenges to justice. Discussing culture and its multiple connections to power will take us to an exploration of different faces of oppression. Intersectional analysis will be our analytic tool to investigate how culturally/socially defined categories of identity are intertwined to create structures of privilege and oppression. Fulfills the Human Heritage requirement of MCLA’s Core curriculum.  

Honors Introduction to Literature:  ENGL 250-03 with Professor Victoria Papa, TR 2:30-3:45 pm.

It is often assumed that reading literature makes a difference—for the better—in our lives: it allows us to acquire knowledge, exposes us to worlds outside our own, engages us in the delights of creative language and the pleasures of quiet, solitary time. In this course, I will advocate that the study of literature offers these things, but also something else, something more. Together, we will work on naming that difference in our individual and collective terms. We will study a diverse canon of authors who represent multiple subject positions and write in a variety of genres across several time periods (e.g. Homer, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Anne Carson, and more). Students will learn to close-read with attention to literary conventions, engage in the critical language of the discipline, incorporate research into literary analysis, and deem noteworthy the surface or meta-textual experience of literature.  Fulfills the Creative Arts requirements of MCLA’s Core curriculum. 

Honors—Introduction to Urban Studies: IDST 299-03 with Professor Guangzhi Huang, MWF 11:00-11:50 am

In this course, we will travel across the world and explore cities, many cities, from various perspectives, both macro and micro. Cities are ambiguous existences. On the one hand they make us proud and showcase astonishing architectures, but at the same time, they are known for problems like inequalities, crime, and lack of sanitation; they put an enormous amount of pressure on the planet, polluting its air and water, but at the same time hold the potential for efficient living. This course traces cities back to when it all began and ends with the world we live in today where urbanization is happening faster than ever. We will examine what drives urban developments in the world and how they are interconnected. We will also look at how small communities such as North Adams were impacted by global forces. The course will introduce students to various basic concepts such as cities, urbanization, gentrification, and urban renewal. To gain a comprehensive understanding of cities, the course draws from various disciplines including sociology, history, anthropology, literature, and cultural studies.  Fulfills the Self and Society requirement of MCLA’s Core curriculum.

Honors: Social Problems: SOCI 201-01  with Professor Jenn Zoltanski, TR 1:00-2:15 pm

Why would anyone want to study social problems? After all, problems like violence, crime, poverty, inequality, corruption, environmental destruction, and more, are found in virtually all societies, past and present. It seems like nothing can be done to fix the things that plague human civilization everywhere, so why bother studying that which seems inevitable? A Sisyphean Task, indeed. And yet, the study of most social problems reveals that people share a common desire for what the Swedes call Lagom—translated imperfectly into “having enough for each person to lead a happy and balanced life” or “having enough is as good as a feast.” Social problems deprive lots of people from achieving Lagom through mechanisms that deny adequate resources to meet basic needs, much less, nurture contentment. Examination of social problems teaches us that we humans are generally not satisfied by this arrangement—people have united to correct problems around the globe and across history. As noted by authors Kornblum and Julian, a social problem is “a condition that threatens the quality of life for people in a society and their most cherished values. It is a condition that a significant number of people believe should be remedied through collective action (Social Problems, 1998). Thus, analyses of social problems spill over into studies of how people organize social change movements that can lead to both progressive and regressive reform outcomes. Guided study of social problems also fosters development of the sociological imagination (a term coined by American sociologist, C. Wright Mills) which is considered a hallmark of advanced critical thinking. The sociological imagination allows us to discover the systemic/cultural roots for problems that we often attribute to individuals, revealing pathways for social change. Acquiring this critical lens is a game changer in terms of how you come to view the world! I am hoping that by the end of the semester you will develop this skill (along with others) and develop a deep appreciation for the field of sociology and social problems as one of its major sub-specialization areas. Prereq:  SOCI 100 or a 100-level Self & Society course.

Fulfills the Self & Society requirement of MCLA’s Core curriculum.  

Courses Cross-Listed with Honors

Honors—Applied  Developmental Psychology: PSYC 208-03 with Professor Ruby  Vega, MWF 10:00-10:50 am.

This course examines the study of human development from an applied psychological perspective. The focus is child and adolescent physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development within an educational context. The general learning goal is for students to leave the course with a deeper understanding of the ways in which psychological research can inform teaching practices to benefit student learning and development. Students will also have opportunities to explore how theories of development describe and explain their own learning and professional development.  Prereq:  PSYC 100 or any Self and Society course.

Honors—Religion and Ritual: HONR 301-01 with Professor Mohamad Junaid, MW 3:30-4:45  pm

This course introduces students to concepts, theories, and methods that the field of cultural anthropology employs in understanding the phenomenon of ‘religion’. As a complex social, cultural, and experiential phenomenon—present in almost all societies—religion is deeply enmeshed within the broader socio-cultural systems. Though there are other approaches to the study of religion,  the anthropological approach is unique in offering a holistic, ethnographic, and comparative understanding of the phenomenon. Among the strengths of the anthropological approach is that it not only allows the study of religion as part of other social processes and changes but is also eclectic in borrowing insights from other fields and employing them in specific ethnographic contexts. Anthropological studies of religion are grounded in specific cultures and communities, which then allows drawing thorough conclusions about the question of religion in general. Religious phenomena involve beliefs, experiences, practices, affects, and discourses, with one or the other emphasized in different cultural contexts. Some of the practices that are associated with religion are prayer, rituals, taboos, sacrifice, pilgrimage, but also moral action, devotion, possession, atonement etc. Anthropologists have studied each of these in great detail and produced a lively tradition of intellectual inquiry in this field. The course will bring these theoretical approaches and ethnographic insights on religion into conversation with each other. We will explore the phenomenon of religion as a cultural- experiential ground which produces conceptions of the self, disciplined bodies, notions of temporality, structures of power and hierarchy, society, community, and the State.

Honors Environmental  Sustainability: ENVI 152H-01 with Professor Dan Shustack, MWF 10:00-10:50 am + Lab during either Tuesdays or Thursdays, 1:00-3:45 pm

This course provides a foundation in the nature and properties of natural resources in the context of sustainable environmental management. Students will consider and apply the paradigm of social, environmental and economic sustainability to a variety of natural resource issues such as fossil fuels, renewable energy, wastewater, forestry and wildlife, land protection, food production, urbanization and solid waste and recycling. Laboratory required.

Honors—Advanced Leadership: BADM 440H-01 with Professor Thomas Whalen, TR 1:00-2:15 pm

Advanced Leadership examines a range of topics in leadership studies, both current and historical. Emphasis will be placed on exploring and developing the student’s personal leadership philosophy, style, and approach. Possible topics could include operational, strategic, and ethical considerations within today’s dynamic social, corporate, and non-profit environment. Additional research component will be required of students taking this course for honors credit. Prerequisite: Junior/senior status

Philosophy of Music: HONR 301-02 with Professor David Braden-Johnson, MWF 10:00-10:50 am.

This seminar addresses a wide array of philosophical (metaphysical, epistemological, axiological) and interdisciplinary (sociological, psychological, pedagogical, political, musicological) questions about music, such as What is music?  What is the meaning/value/significance of a musical work? How does music relate to politics, gender, culture, or teaching? How ought we to understand the relations between improvisation and composition? How is music related to the emotions? Is music a kind of language? Does music represent or refer to some part of the world?

Philosophy and Literature: HONR 301-03 with Professor David Braden-Johnson, MWF 11:00-11:50 am

This course hybridizes two distinguishable yet overlapping approaches to the intersection of philosophy and literature: 1. The philosophy of literature and 2. Philosophy in literature.  The former approach considers ways in which philosophical analysis augments our appreciation of literature, while the latter approach focuses on the contributions of literature to philosophical understanding. The first approach centers on questions such as: How ought we to define literature and fiction? Do fictional characters exist? Can we make true or false claims about fictional characters and events? What is the nature and source of our emotional responses to literature? Must we accept any particular constraints on our interpretations of a work of literature?  The second approach centers on questions such as: Should a writer whose aims are essentially philosophical incorporate elements of literary form? Should a writer whose aims are essentially literary make use of philosophical analysis or ideas? Can (should) literature improve our philosophical understanding or knowledge? Can (should) literature improve its readers morally?

Kant: HONR 401-01 with Professor Paul Nnodim, MW 3:30-4:45 pm

The works of the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant are deeply profound, fascinating, but challenging to grasp. Kant is arguably the most influential philosopher of the modern era. This course introduces undergraduate honors students to the general philosophical ideas of Kant. We will begin our reading with What is Enlightenment (Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?), a brief rejoinder that Kant wrote in 1784, which inadvertently became the foundational text for the contemporary discourse on public reason. Thereafter, we shall read abridged versions of The Critique of Pure Reason, The Critique of Practical Reason, and The Critique of Judgment. However, the main thrust of our study will be the first Critique, which investigates the nature, scope, and limits of reason. Kant’s distinctive account of space and time, categories of thoughts,  phenomena and noumena in the first Critique will guide our interpretation of his epistemological, aesthetical, and moral claims in the subsequent texts.

Honors—Community Arts & Education: AMGT 345-02 with  Professor Lisa Donovan, TR 10:30-11:45 am

In this course, students will explore the diverse opportunities that fall within community arts and education. As part of the exploration students will research the work of artist educators and arts education programs in a variety of community contexts, develop skills to plan, implement and evaluate arts education programming, and document creative processes and arts education program outcomes in a variety of ways.  Prerequisites:  AMGT 130 or AMG 235.

Women in American  Art: HONR 301-04 with Professor  Katherine Carroll, TR 1:00-2:15 pm

Although often overlooked by the art world, women in the United States have long functioned as artists, patrons, and critics. This course uses primary and secondary sources to understand the ways in which women from a diversity of backgrounds have shaped American art and society. More than uncovering women of the past, we will investigate the challenges faced by women in the arts, the networks of support they created, art and criticism as forms of activism, and female artists’ explorations of “womanhood,” race, and sexuality. In spring 2020, in honor of the hundredth anniversary of the nineteenth amendment, particular emphasis will be placed on women's use of the arts for political purposes, including the right to vote.  The course examines a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, architecture, newspaper imagery, flags, needlework, photography, and performance art. Students will conduct original research and share their ideas in oral and written formats.

Honors—Fundamentals of Arts & Culture Organizations: AMGT  235-02  with Professor Jerome Socolof,  MWF  12:00-12:50 pm

This course explores and examines the functional elements of arts organizations with an emphasis on strategic planning and organizations’ fit in the arts and cultural ecosystem. Designed as the in depth introduction for arts management majors, topics include arts management issues including planning, organizational identity, environmental analysis, strategy development, integrated marketing, human resources, financial planning, fundraising and control systems with a focus on the strategic management process in the context of the contemporary arts and culture environment. Course attributes: LDRS

Sociology of the Body: HONR 301-06 with  Professor Travis Beaver, MWF  12:00-12:50 pm

In this course we begin with the assumption that “physical bodies are always social bodies.”[1] In other words, the assigned readings challenge the idea that there is a “natural” body that is best explained through biological discourses. As opposed to biological determinist theories of the body, we will explore the ways in which social practices shape the physical body both corporeally and symbolically. As the Barbara Kruger image (right) highlights, these body-shaping practices and the cultural meanings imposed on the body are inherently political. Throughout the course we will pay close attention to issues of power, particularly the ways that social practices and cultural meanings related to the body both produce difference and justify inequalities by constructing some bodies as “deviant” or “inferior.” Yet, we will also consider the ways that social actors exercise agency to resist social norms regulating the use of the body and dominant cultural meanings about the body that reproduce systems of stratification.

Honors—Travel to Munich: TRVL 300-04 with Professor Jerome Socolof, Wednesdays 9:00-9:50 am + Travel March 12-March 18

During spring break 2020 students will have the opportunity to explore the outcomes of Western European cultural policy on the ground in Bavaria’s capital, Munich.  Students will gain a deep understanding of American cultural policy and the comparative policy of an EU member state.  Students will put that knowledge in context through a seven-day exploration of the major arts and historical sites of the city including the Alte Pinakothek, Deutches Museum, Marienplatz, Nymphenburg Palace, and Neuschwanstein Castle.  There will also be free time for pre-planned self-exploration.This 3-credit course has three components.  The first component will be classroom meetings and online research, writing and presentation assignments prior to the trip.  The second component is the trip itself where students experience the differences identified in the first component.  After the trip there will be another meeting and report to put the experiences on the ground in context. The third component is participation in the Undergraduate Research Conference. Honors students will be required to present their research as part of the event.

Honors—Advanced Biochemistry: BIOL 361-02 with Professor Carolyn Dehner, MW 3:30-4:45 pm. 

The goal of this course is not to simply have students memorize various metabolic pathways. Instead, students will develop an appreciation of the link between chemical structure and biological function, as well as the intricate regulation of all biological molecules. Students will build on what they learned in BIOL 360 to delve deeper into the molecular basis of disease, which is the theme for this course. They will also enhance their skills at interpreting data, and communicating in a scientific fashion.   Prerequisite: BIOL 360.

Honors—From Semiotics to Signification: HONR 401-02 with Professor Michael Birch, MW 2:00-3:15 pm

This course examines the development of semiotics (the study of the science of signs) from its early foundation through to its development into the contemporary cultural practice of reading significations. Reading signs/meanings is a part of everyday life whether it’s interpreting the sequence of traffic lights or understanding meanings in a film or social media. Thus, our work examines the theoretical evolution of how we read signs by checking different key paradigms

across a hundred years in a multitude of different media forms. Among the many things we will look at is the #MeToo movement. We will question our learning of how meanings/signs can be interpreted in many different ways and explore how different modes of interpretation can inform different understandings across our world. Therefore, the fundamental question posed across the semester will be: How are we seeing/hearing what we are knowing? How do we know what we know?  Prerequisites: Junior/Senior status or instruction from instructor.

Honors—Health Promotion and Planning: HLTH 200-02 with Professor Nicole Porther, MWF 1:00-1:50 pm

Focuses on community health concepts, including the public health approach, social determinants of health, health promotion theoretical models, policy, advocacy, health communication, health literacy, cultural humility and competency, and health equity. Students will develop skills in community organizing and building, conduct community needs and strengths assessments, and asset maps and planning. Students will also implement and evaluate a community health program/intervention in collaboration with a community partner.

Bryology and Lichenology: BIOL 332-02 with Professor Eric Doucette, Mondays 2:00-4:50 pm and labs on Wednesdays 2:00-4:45 pm (BIOL  332L).

This is a hands-on, immersive course in the style of a language immersion course. Our “language” will be the terminology used to describe and identify bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts) and lichens. These organisms are common in a wide variety of habitats, including those around MCLA, but are often overlooked in ecological surveys. The teaching style will not be lecture format but will be engaged, active learning that covers the identification, morphology, and ecology of these groups, using entirely live specimens. We will study families, genera, and species of northeastern North America to learn common taxa of the region. Participants will gain experience identifying these groups using hand-lenses and microscopes, as well as learn techniques for assembling a personal reference collection and preparing specimens for museum-vouchered collections.  Prerequisites:  BIOL 160 or BIOL 235.  Corequisite: BIOL 332L.

Lord of the Rings Cycle: HONR  301-05 with Professor Michael Dilthey, MW 2:00-3:15 pm

This course examines The Ring of the Nibelung, a series of four operas by Richard Wagner, while considering the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and the impact of the works of these two men on the 20th Century and beyond.  In the course we will consider The Ring historically and musically; consider the lives and legacies of Wagner and Nietzsche; consider how Wagner and Nietzsche were influenced by each other; identify and examine cultural traits of the 20th and 21st Centuries which were affected by the works of these 19th Century giants.

Director’s Book Course: HONR 210 with Professor Guangzhi Huang, Fridays 2:00-3:30 pm (1st seven weeks of the semester).  1 credit hour course.

Technologies like Uber and AirBnB seemingly make travel easier and more affordable. In the near future, self driving cars promise to make road trips even more carefree. Driven by our insatiable appetite and the resultant limitless consumer market, new inventions are put into application at a pace faster than we could completely understand their social implications. 

Cities, which throughout history have been the main recipients of technological advancements, are in many ways tableaux drawn by such developments. In this course, we will explore the interconnections between tech and urban development. Not only will we investigate urban designs, but we will also study lived experience for urban dwellers. The readings will take us across time. From industrial revolution to the contemporary cities, we will try to examine technologies and their social impacts critically. The course questions the basic assumption that technological advancement improves urban living. The goal of this course is to move us beyond blind consumers of technology and make us critical thinkers and responsible actors.