Course Offerings

Previous Course Offerings

Fall 2017

Video Games and their Impact

Hamilton: Song, History, and Storytelling

Science of Decision Making

The Beauty of Math

Voices of the Voiceless: Literary Animal Advocacy in the US

Women in Leadership and Public Service

The Middle Ages in Popular Culture

The Flying Dutchman

Spring 2017

Diversity in American Theatre

Philosophy of Religion

Words, Knowledge, Power

The Comic

The Science of Wicked Problems

LGBTQ American History and Literature

US & Canadian Partnership

Modern China

Fall 2016

Politics and the Arts


Food Studies: The Making of a Meal

A History of Medicine, Science, and Disease

The History of Drugs in the U.S.

Italian Food Culture in Practice

Dante's Moral Philosophy

Spring 2016

Design Methodologies

Free Will and Personal Identity

Tools & Strategies for Connected Learning

Bioethics and the New Embryology

The American Revolution

From Brigadoon to Brave

Conflict, Democracy, & Nation Building in the 20th Century

Fall 2015

The Romantic Antihero in Music and Literature

A Poet's Guide to the English Language

Race and Ethnicity

Western New York Natural History: A Sense of Place

Popular Music in the 1960s

What is Post-Humanism?

Cultural Sensitivity and Global Citizenship

Spring 2015

Expressionism and the Arts


Literature and the Visual Arts

Hacking, Surveillance, and Privacy

Math and Music

Women in Italian Film

Transnational Crime

Fall 2014

The Progressive Era and the Other Side of Progress: Technology, Magic, Money and Religion in Nineteenth-Century America


Mental Health and Society

From Aspirin to Viagra: A History of Medicine, Science and Disease

Rhetoric, Memory, and Identity

1968: Radicalism, Revolt and Restoration in the West

Can Islam and Democracy Co-Exist?

Spring 2014

Modernism and Music

Food Studies: The Making of a Meal

Bioethics and the New Embryology

Video Games: Their Evolution and Impact

Vonnegut and Cold War America

Revolutions in Thought and Politcs

The Two Spains and World Cultural Production

Fall 2013

Contemporary Women Poets

Literary London

Science Communication: Infectious Diseases

Thinking Like a Scientists: The Logical Roots of the Scientific Method

Multicultural American Music

The Politics of Sport

Conflicts and Crises in African History

Spring 2013

Street and Graffiti Art, 1970 to Present

Expressionism and the Arts

Gender and Transgender Identities Across Cultures

Cooking and Science

Music and the African American Experience

Italian History and Culture

Middle East Literature

Fall 2012

Modernism in Music [aka: "Who's your Dada?"]

The Comic

Silent Spring(s) Eternal

From Aspirin to Viagra: A History of Medicine, Science and Disease

Rhetoric, Memory, and Identity

Opera and Literature


Spring 2012

Philosophical Theology

Comparative Politics and the Struggle for Democracy

Bioethics and the New Embryology

Altered States of America: Drugs in American History

The Composer's Role in Society

The Politics of Space in Literature

Fall 2011

Commedia: Style & Influence

Perspectives on Positive Psychology

From Aspirin to Viagra: A History of Medicine, Science and Disease

From Experience to Reason

The Historians Craft

Global Roots of American Literature

Spring 2011

Writing the Political

Photographic Explorations

Policing the Body

Nature and History

Community in American Political and Social Thought

Fall 2010


African-American Autobiography

The Greeks-Ancient or Modern?

World History

The Science in Environmental Issues

Environmental Communication

Science in Western Culture: The Origins of Our Concepts and Methods


Students in the Honors Program must:

  • take at least FOUR honors seminars to complete the program. (Students can choose to take more than four seminars.)
  • All seminars fulfill general education courses within specific categories.
  • To complete the general education program, courses in all categories must be met.

Spring 2018 Honors Seminars

From Brigadoon to Brave: Scottish Representation in Cinema (HONR 224: Arts)

Rosalin Smith (Communications)

Tuesday/Thursday 9:30-10:50

Far from offering realistic portrayals of Scottish identity, most films depicting Scotland dwell on clichés and stereotypes. This interdisciplinary course will explore how cinematic representations of race, class and gender shape an image of Scotland. By drawing on students' previous educational and life experiences, Scottish and American culture will be compared and contrasted. In a world increasingly shaped by moving pictures, this course is designed to develop a visual literacy and critical self-awareness about who we are, what we are about, where we are situated, and where we are coming from which can be applied not just to academia, but to life itself.


  • Discover how the construction of images relate to cultural representation of race, class and gender.
  • Determine the distinctive features of Scottish history, institutions, economy, society, culture of Scotland
  • Acquire the analytical skills needed for the rhetorical process in film. Analyze formal, historical, and social properties of the moving image. Explore the moving image as a means of storytelling and a historical record. Identify key concepts underlying theories of culture.
  • Challenge stereotypical representation and how it relates to social constructs. Participate in a rigorous discourse from multiple cultural perspectives. Create scholarly research from a historical and social perspective.

Good, Evil, Life, and Death (HONR 225: Humanities)

Dr. Neil Feit (Philosophy)

Tuesday/Thursday 11:00-12:20

This course will focus on a cluster of interrelated questions about the value of life and death – including questions about well-being, or the good life – and several related problems in applied ethics. We will begin with an examination of philosophical perspectives on well-being, and of Epicurus’ famous argument for the conclusion that death is not bad for the one who dies. After considering various responses to Epicurus, we will examine a set of questions in applied ethics such as the following. Can we harm people by bringing them into existence? Is abortion morally acceptable (permissible)? Under what conditions may one person kill another in self-defense? When is wartime killing permissible? Do we have a moral obligation to aid those who are suffering, and if so, in which situations?

Learning Objectives

Students will be expected to…

  • Gain knowledge of historical and contemporary philosophical perspectives on the good life (or, well-being) as well as the evil of death, including an understanding of arguments for and against each position;
  • Gain knowledge of some basic approaches to ethical theory and problems in applied ethics, especially those concerning beginning- and end-of-life issues;
  • Begin to form their own considered opinions on the issues described above, including views on how to respond to the arguments against their own perspectives;
  • Identify, reconstruct, and evaluate arguments related to the topic of the course, and more generally;
  • Compose well-reasoned, persuasive essays;
  • Identify significant values, issues, or questions of enduring human interest and concern;
  • demonstrate knowledge of the conventions and methods of at least one of the humanities in addition to those encompassed by other knowledge areas required by the General Education program.

The Psychology in Science Fiction (HONR 226, sec 1: Social Science)

Dr. Darrin Rogers (Psychology)

Monday/Wednesday/Friday 1-1:50

In this course we will study psychology concepts through the lens of science fiction. Many SF writers have written alternative versions of cognitive, emotional, social, behavioral, and neurological processes for many decades. We will use some of these fictional accounts to both illustrate current science in various areas of psychological research and thinking, and to assess the accuracy of understanding and prediction of such speculation.

We will do the above by reading and watching SF media (there will be a good deal of reading in this course), interspersed with lectures about relevant psychological concepts. We will discuss the speculative depictions we learn about in the light of our contemporary scientific knowledge, focusing especially on how the writers, moviemakers, etc. conceived them in fictional works.

Assignments will generally consist of brief papers (2-5 pages), potentially with a few quizzes. The final assignment will be to create a science fiction work doing what many Sci Fi authors, moviemakers, game developers, etc. have done—portray one or more psychological concepts speculatively.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will learn important concepts from contemporary psychological science.
  2. Students will be able to identify these concepts in fictional/speculative works.
  3. Students will gain confidence in critically analyzing the way in which these speculative works depicted and modified the psychological concepts.
  4. Students will strengthen habits of considering the social and political contexts in which speculation about behavior, brain, emotion, etc. have occurred.

The Comic (HONR 226, sec 2: Social Science)

Dr. Virginia Horvath (English)

Wednesday 5:30-7:50

This course—which fulfills a general education Social Science requirement—explores the ideas of laughter, comedy, and humor as a physical response, a psychological and cultural construct, and a literary and dramatic form. Why do we laugh? How does laughter affect our bodies and our relationships with others? What is it that makes something funny to an individual and to groups of people? What do we mean by a “sense of humor” and how is one’s sense of humor linked to identity? How do different fields of study approach the issue of the comic?

To answer these questions, we will read together some theories of the comic and research from the fields of physiology, psychology, philosophy, sociology, theology, and literature. We will also read and view many, many examples from literature, film, stand-up, television, visual arts, and popular culture to illustrate and challenge these theories as we encounter them. You will also have opportunities to work with your kumi on a presentation about the humor of a particular group in American society, to write a paper that examines a selected work of literature/film/television/visual art in light of the theories discussed in class, and to perform in or help produce a short comic play.

The Ecology of Waste  (HONR 227: Natural Science)

Drs. David Kinkela (History) and Sam Mason (Environmental Science)

Monday/Wednesday/Friday 9-9:50

Why do we throw things away? What does it mean to live in a disposable soceity? What are the human and environmental costs of our disposable society? How has our disposable society changed over time? How does it effect how humans think about waste today?

Through an interdisciplinary perspective, this course will explore the intersection between the past and present through the lens of waste. We will investigate the local and global ecological consequences and impacts of what people throw away. From organic food waste to petrochemicals to electronic waste, students will grapple with the complexity of history and the interconnectedness of ecology through course readings, film, classroom discussions, and outdoor adventures, but not during the winter months!        

Kurt Vonnegut and Cold War America (HONR 228: American History)

Dr. Christina Jarvis (English)

Tuesday/Thursday 2:00-3:20

There are really only five words that you need to know about this course: “Best. Vonnegut. Honors. Seminar. Ever.” However, here’s a course description anyway.

Are you fond of peculiar travel suggestions? Do you find yourself wondering what the real “Breakfast of Champions” is? Have you imagined what it would be like to live among the harmoniums on Mercury? Are you a fan of Kilgore Trout’s flash fiction? Have you ever wondered, “What are people for?” If you answered “yes” to or are intrigued by any of these questions, then this course is for you.

This seminar will explore Kurt Vonnegut’s roles as popular satirist, artist, and literary figure/public intellectual during the mid- to late-twentieth century. In addition to analyzing key works that span the first two-thirds of Vonnegut’s career, we will examine various facets of American culture during this period: life in an atomic age; threats of communism and mass death; the promises and perils of post-World War II technology; postwar prosperity and consumer culture; 1950s family and gender ideals; music, art, and other popular culture elements; emerging global economies and sensibilities; the space race; key historical events such as the Vietnam War, Cuban Missile Crisis and Watergate; 1960s activism, civil rights, and countercultures; the environmental movement; and other topics.

European Romanticism (HONR 229: Western Civilization)

Dr. David Kaplan (English)

Monday/Wednesday/Friday 2:00-2:50

““Life goes faster than Realism, but Romanticism is always in front of Life.”

-- Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying

This course compares the development of what we now call the Romantic Movement in the literature, painting, and music of four Western cultures - German, French, Russian, and English. We will investigate common and distinctive Romantic themes and images in order to evaluate how and why these different cultures pushed the aesthetic, political, and philosophical concerns of the period in different directions. We will also discuss how each art form influenced the others within the period and across cultures: What makes Brahms’s music Romantic, and how does he capture the Romantic elements in Schiller’s poem, “Nanïe”? What elements of Romantic music translate to Romantic painting? How does Bizet’s Carmen interpret Merimé’s short story? While the course will emphasize reading and textual interpretation skills, students with interests or experience in visual arts and music will also find the course rewarding.

Primary Texts: Poetry, prose, and drama by Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Friedrich Schiller, E.T.A. Hoffmann, J.W. Goethe, Prosper Merimée, Victor Hugo, Gérard de Nerval, Fyodor Tyutchev, Alexander Pushkin, and Mikhail Lermontov. Music by Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Hector Berlioz, Fréderic Chopin, Georges Bizet, Richard Wagner, Richard Straus, and Modest Musagorsky. Paintings by J.M.W. Turner, William Blake, Gustave Doré, Eugène Delacroix, Caspar David Friedrich, Phillipp Otto Runge, and Orest Kiprensky.

Muslim States, Human Rights and Political Islam (HONR 230: World Cultures)

Dr. Jacqueline Swansinger

Tuesday/Thursday 9:30-10:50

Ibn Battuta, the great Muslim traveler of the 13th century, spoke of the width and breadth of the Islamic Ecumene.  Islam was the unifying umbrella over the vast, disjointed empire that extended from Morocco to the Philippines, with its underlying diversity of cultures and traditions.  Over the last two centuries, Islam encountered the West and its imperialism, colonialism, and orientalism, but also its evolving vision of human rights and secularism.  How have these ideals affected the development of Muslim states?   This course proposes to explore, through case studies, the degree to which Muslim States have evolved and adapted to Western concepts of human rights and political expression.       

Readings will be supplied (or links will be) and not involve one specific textbook.







Honors Program

Thompson Hall, E332
State University of New York at Fredonia
Fredonia, NY 14063