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Honors Courses

Honors Curriculum

Students selected to participate in the Honors program enroll in HNRS-prefix courses that are designated for Honors students only. These courses serve as INST substitutes. The remainder of the curriculum is selected from courses available to all students.

Honors courses provide small seminar settings focusing on intensive discussion and sustained intellectual inquiry. The Honors course sequence emphasizes the reading, research, critical thinking, and writing skills essential for the independent Honors Thesis Project.

Honors students are eligible for priority registration one day before open registration.

Honors Schedule:

  • Freshman year: HNRS 1500 (subs for INST 1500)
  • Sophomore year: HNRS 2000, 2200, 2400, or 2600 (select two as INST subs)
  • Junior year: HNRS 3500 (4-cr. course taken in fall AND spring, 2 credits each term)
  • Senior year: HNRS 4500 (4-cr. thesis writing course for independent project work)

HNRS 1500

Several sections of 1500 are offered each year.
HNRS 1500 substitutes for the INST 1500 requirement.

HNRS 2000s: Inquiry and Society

Choose two sections of HNRS 2000 (Social Sciences), 2200 (Humanities), 2400 (Natural Sciences), or 2600 (Fine Arts). Various 2000 sections are offered each year.

Two HNRS 2000s courses substitute for two INST 2000s requirements.

HNRS 3500: Junior Honors Project Seminar

4 credit, year-long course focusing on developing the independent thesis project, including choosing a topic, writing a proposal, and preliminary research. Make sure to register for 3500 in both fall and spring (2 credits each term). Ideally students will take the same section/instructor both terms unless there is a schedule conflict.

HNRS 4500: Senior Honors Project

4 credit independent project. All Honors seniors must register for HNRS 4500 and may take the 4 credits over the two semesters in accord with course load (e.g. 3 credits in fall and 1 in spring). HNRS 4500 does not meet as a regular class but students will attend several mandatory meetings with Honors Program Director covering project progress, procedures, and deadlines.

Successful completion of both HNRS 3500 and HNRS 4500 serves as the SYE requirement.

Course Descriptions

Here are some of our exciting recent 1000- and 2000-level course offerings! Please see Banner for this year’s courses and registration information.

HNRS 1500: Our Monsters, Ourselves
Patti Frick (Department of English)
Since the time of the earliest cave drawings, monsters—in one form or another—have been central to the human psyche and prevalent throughout cultural history. Wild things, aliens, ogres, and demons have dominated the human imagination, appearing in literature, art, cinema, theme parks, and even on cereal boxes (Count Chocula and Frankenberry!). While we dread and fear them, we also seem perversely fascinated by them and their darker tendencies (unchecked aggression, strong sexuality, cannibalism, superhuman strength, total disregard for laws and conventions). While we may want to place them apart from ourselves as alien or non-human, all too often they represent our deepest fears and most conflicted selves: our fear of the unknown, fear of the irrational, violent side of human nature; fear of progress and advancement; fear of authority; and fear of those whom society has considered alienated, unworthy, or somehow, “other.” Through literature, film, and critical theory, this course will explore a variety of monsters from several historic periods and cultures, including ancient beasties, dragons, vampires, zombies, cyborgs, and other post-modern hybrids. It will also identify how monster narratives are constructed, what monsters have in common, and how they benchmark what it means to be human. Students taking this course will be asked to select a monster narrative and lead a seminar on it, taking into account the historical and cultural contexts of the work, its critical heritage (then and now), and how the narrative defines the concept of the monstrous.

HNRS 1500: Tales of Dangerous Youth
Richard Gilbert
The years of childhood and young adulthood are ones of potential but also of peril. This period has a special place in literature, just as it does in life. We will read memoirs united by a focus on the challenges of youth, examining the technical methods writers use to probe the self in its historical and personal depths. And we will consider a host of questions: What compels writers to try to make public sense of the intimate events of their own lives? How does a writer use her present self to explore her past self? How does memoir transform experience to become art? We will read memoirs, from harrowing classics of family dysfunction such as Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club to recent bestsellers of individual trauma and transcendence like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and we will read a coming-of-age novel/memoir to learn how a writer explored the same material in fiction and nonfiction. Students will read and analyze the books and write two memoirs of their own. We will also watch a few films or parts of films based on memoirs.

HNRS 1500: Satire's Texts and Contexts
Margaret Koehler (Department of English)
This course will examine satire as a literary and cultural mode. Starting from Edward Rosenheim’s definition of satire – “an attack by means of a manifest fiction on discernible historical particulars” – we will ask how satire has operated across a range of places and times. We’ll begin with the two greatest classical satirists, Horace and Juvenal, and we’ll work our way through satirists from Renaissance France, eighteenth-century England, nineteenth-century American fiction, twentieth-century African American fiction, and contemporary popular culture—in each case probing the historical and political contexts that fuel satire. We’ll consider theories of satire (such as its competing purposes to persuade and punish) and of laughter (such as Hobbes’ claim that laughter arises from a “sudden glory” at the expense of another). We’ll examine the recent re-emergence of satire in the popular culture: Stephen Colbert, Dave Chapelle, Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, The Onion, and Sacha Baron Cohen (to name a few). The course will employ the perspectives of multiple disciplines: literary studies, classics, political science, and psychology. It will also ask you to produce a satire of your own.

HNRS 1500: Green Thoughts
Richard Gilbert
Are humans part of the natural world or are they freaks of nature who do nothing but destroy it? As the most “successful” species, are they both? Has nature, as humans have historically known it, ended anyway? We’ll think about these and other questions while reading, discussing, and writing about books and films which stimulate our thinking about the place and role of Homo sapiens in the natural environment and in the middle ground of farms and gardens. The books may include The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPhee, and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert. We will also watch films or film clips, such as Sean Penn’s adaptation of Into the Wild, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and the native American-inspired classic of “life out of balance” Koyaanisqatsi.

HNRS 1500: Disaster Narratives
Karen Steigman (Department of English)
Flood, war, nuclear meltdown, global warming, infertility, the space shuttle explosion, 9/11, a terrorist attack. Stories of apocalypse and trauma appear in the U.S. news on an almost daily basis, and each event seems catastrophically poised as if to threaten national security itself. In fact, the journalist Naomi Klein has recently argued that our entire security industry is built up precisely by promoting and exploiting the fearful possibility of imminent disaster. The production and dissemination of disaster narratives are paradoxically crucial to maintaining national and international security. Fear and insecurity are the driving forces of what Klein terms “disaster capitalism.” The challenge of this Honors seminar will be to examine the production and paradox of disaster narratives. We will discuss a variety of topics, including the disaster of war; witnessing disaster and the problem of representation; environmental catastrophe and the rhetoric of the “natural disaster”; the relation between globalization and disaster; Hollywood and disaster films; the possibility of “disaster relief”; and the ethical responsibility of “writing the disaster.”

HNRS 2000 Inquiry and Society (Social Sciences)
Deborah Solomon (Department of History and Political Science)

HNRS 2200 Inquiry and Society (Humanities): Ethical Theory
Stephanie Patridge (Department of Religion and Philosophy)
Consider the following questions: Are we morally permitted to eat non-human animals merely because they taste good? Is it wrong to not give to charity? Is it ever okay to use someone to get what you want? Given that there is a fair amount of disagreement about how to answer such questions, how are we to proceed? We might throw our hands up and say “To each her own! Morality is subjective anyway.” This, however, is a substantive philosophical position that requires justification. We will begin the course by critically considering two theories of morality that support such skepticism: ethical relativism and egoism. Alternatively, we might look for a theory of morality that unifies our ethical judgments so that they are neither inconsistent nor arbitrary, and that allows us to make progress in moral discourse. We will devote most of our attention to critically considering three theoretic frameworks in their most influential articulations: Mill’s Utilitarianism (consequentialism), Kant’s Grounding (deontology), and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethic (virtue ethics). In each case, we will consider the answers that these theoretic frameworks provide to the kinds of applied questions asked at the outset.

HNRS 2400 Inquiry and Society (Natural Sciences): The Chernobyl Incident
John Tansey (Department of Chemistry)
The Chernobyl Incident is a course designed to provide you with an interesting and engaging environment in which to explore a complex question (in this instance the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station). The material covers a broad range of topics from basic atomic physics and radiation, to nuclear power plant engineering and international politics. We will integrate science, math, literature, psychology, art, history, and other fields to analyze a complex question. This course is an excellent general preparation for the Honors Thesis Project by focusing on defending and substantiating a thesis, gathering and critically examining sources of information, and reflecting on what it means to create something.

HNRS 2600 Inquiry and Society (Fine Arts)
Louise Captein (Department of Art)

HNRS 2600 Inquiry and Society (Fine Arts): The Thriller in Literature and Film
Karen Steigman (Department of English)
Spies and double agents, secrets and false identities, political conspiracies and paranoia, murder and mayhem and the girl with the dragon tattoo. This Honors Program seminar examines the perpetual production and popularity of the thriller genre in literature and film. How does the thriller work to produce fear, suspense, or anxiety in readers and spectators? And why are literary and cinematic encounters with such sensations so thrilling? We will study four primary sub-genres of the thriller (the psychological thriller, the suspense thriller, the crime thriller, and the political thriller), tracing “the thriller imagination” in a variety of forms, including detective fiction, film noir, the gothic, Shakespeare, and cold war fiction and film. Texts include novels, short stories, critical articles, and films (including attendance at one required film field trip), as we seek to define and distinguish the thriller’s art and style in both narrative and cinematic contexts. Texts include Henry James, The Turn of the Screw; Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Graham Greene, The Ministry of Fear; Shakespeare, Macbeth; James M. Cain, Double Indemnity; John le Carré, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold.

/ Honors Program


Dr. Karen Steigman
p / 614.823.1087
e / ksteigman@otterbein.edu
Towers Hall, Room 227