Courses & Curriculum
All students at Canisius College (whether in the All-College Honors program or not) are required to complete a series of foundational and introductory courses that are sometimes called "General Education." While the Honors Curriculum parallels the Core Curriculum and has almost the same number of courses as the regular Core, Honors courses are distinctive in the following ways:
- They are accelerated;
- address unique subjects;
- draw upon interdisciplinary insights;
- emphasize reading, writing and discussion;
- and are usually offered in an intimate academic setting called a seminar.
All Honors students must complete the following requirements of the Honors Program: English, Western Tradition (I & II), Fine Arts, History, Literature, Philosophy, Religious Studies & Theology (2), Science/Math/Technology, Social Science, and Thesis, plus two courses in the same foreign language
Except for "Western Tradition," the specific topics within each subject area may change from semester to semester. Most Honors subjects are offered every semester.
Two of the courses mentioned above must address (a) the "American Experience" and (b) "Diversity" or "Global Awareness."
Typically, first-year Honors students take at least two, if not all three, of the 100-level courses, i.e., English and Western Tradition (I & II). Some students will take more than three courses in their first year.
Because Honors courses have no prerequisites, except for the thesis (which is limited to juniors and seniors), Honors students may take any Honors course they wish.
With few exceptions, Honors students may not take Core or Major/Minor courses for Honors credit. One important exception is study-abroad, which is strongly encouraged as an invaluable intellectual and culturally enlightening experience.
The Honors Program accepts qualifying academic credit, including AP/IB/CLEP exams and study-abroad courses, for some Honors requirements. The Honors director decides what alternate credit may be accepted on a case-by-case basis.
The following list gives the required areas and some of the courses that have been offered in recent years.
HON 101 English (3 credits)
Various literary genres. Works by writers representing wide variety of places, times, nationalities, philosophies. Student's writing refined through these readings and through composition assignments.
HON 110 Western Tradition I (3 credits)
Introduces students to significant intellectual and material elements of Western Civilization from the ancient world through the middle ages. This interdisciplinary course examines influential developments in art & architecture, history, law, literature, philosophy, religion, and science in order to investigate the presumptions, motivations, and expectations of westerners and to ascertain what is peculiarly "western" about the world in which we live and think.
HON 111 Western Tradition II (3 credits)
The second of two courses examining the Western tradition that has been instrumental in shaping the core ideas and values of American society and the modern world. Presents an integrated approach drawing on the art, history, literature, music, philosophy, and religion of the Renaissance through the 20th century. HON 110 (Western Tradition I) is not required or even expected in order to register for HON 111.
HON 211 Marx, Nietzsche, Freud (3 credits)
Careful analysis of major works by these seminal thinkers and an analysis of their influence on modern thought.
HON 216 Philosophy (Zeis) (3 credits)
A consideration of philosophical problems in epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. Classical and contemporary thinkers will be discussed.
HON 216 Philosophy (Perkins) (3 credits)
What is knowledge? For well over two thousand years, philosophers in the Western tradition have been grappling with this persistently perplexing question. This course will closely and critically examine some major contributions to the debate: Plato's Theaetetus, Ren Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, David Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Immanuel Kant's Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, and William James' Pragmatism. Our aim will be to appreciate and to evaluate these classic divergent approaches to epistemological theory and so to get a secure and relatively broadbased grounding in philosophy. Class sessions will combine lecture and discussion, and grades will be based on class participation, periodic reading response papers and checkpoint quizzes, and a short term paper, as well as take-home midterm and endterm examinations.
Hon 217 Cities, Suburbs, and Spaces (3 credits)
This course offers an opportunity for reflective examination of the built environment. The built environment, distinguished from the natural environment, is the manmade space that surrounds human beings in their everyday activities. It includes buildings, parks, bedrooms, churches, sidewalks, streets, transportation systems, and so on. The principal aim of this class is to consider how we create and design spaces for good living, including aspects of aesthetics, ethics, politics, social justice, the common good, sustainability, efficiency, and holiness.
HON 218 Intellectual History of the West
This course takes a historical approach to introduce the main ideas of the principal philosophers and thinkers of Western civilization from the beginnings in ancient Greece to the 20th century. No single course can cover the vast range of human thought of over 2,000 years, and this one emphasizes the ancient Greeks, especially Plato and Aristotle, and several French philosophers, all of which helps to present an integrated and understandable narrative that follows the flow of ideas across the centuries.
HON 219 African Ethics & Christianity (3 credits)
This interdisciplinary, cross-cultural course examines African ethics and Christianity, set against the background of Augustine’s Confessions and the African encounter with Western culture. The contrast in settings enables us to develop an awareness of the presuppositions of Western and African cultures, and to subject contemporary African ethical problems, such as female circumcision, HIV/Aids, poverty, and human rights to scrutiny within the context of African categories of thought.
HON 220 War & Society in Modern European History (3 credits)
Relationship between culture and society in Europe from the end of the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century.
HON 221 Violence in America (3 credits)
This history course considers the prevalence and persistence of violence in American society. Because of the scope of violence and its multiplicity of forms, the topics selected for this course are illustrative but necessarily arbitrary. The topics range from murder (in a variety of forms), rioting, kidnapping, wartime atrocities, sexual assault, bank robbery, ethnic violence, blood sports, media coverage, labor unrest, terrorism, school shootings, and the death penalty.
HON 222 History & Literature of the Civil War (3 credits)
In Specimen Days and Collect, Walt Whitman famously penned, “The real war will not get into the books.” Whitman, serving as a Civil War nurse in Washington D.C., was horrified by the nation’s disunion and the violence, injuries, and death it brought. Broadly speaking, this course will study the various historical reasons for the Civil War, including the social, cultural, and political contexts of nineteenth-century America, and the literature it produced. Perhaps, the best-known novel from the period is Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. While we will carefully read her novel and other canonical authors, like Whitman, Herman Melville, and Ambrose Bierce, we will also look at less canonical works and how common men and women, like Confederate plantation wives, slaves, and Union soldiers, used print to record their impressions of the Civil War. We will compare the more celebrated works with these lesser-known authors and question if the “real war” is in indeed these books. You will be responsible for participation, a presentation, papers, and exams.
HON 223 Revolutions of Latin America (3 credits)
This course has two main purposes. A first goal is to explore the origins and nature of the Mexican and Cuban revolutions. A second aim is to explain why real revolutions, as distinct from mere changes in rulers, have been so rare in Latin America. By understanding the dynamics that produced and prevented revolutions, the student will discover what forces have been shaping the history of Latin America.
HON 224 Disease & Medicine in America (3 credits)
This course is about life and death issues - literally - tracing the history of American health and medicine from Columbus's sailors introducing lethal smallpox amongst the native peoples in 1492 to the 21st century when government leaders warn us that bio-terrorists might release smallpox anew. From physicians to politicians to insurance carriers and private citizens we cannot inoculate ourselves from concerns about the rising cost of health care and how our treatment dollars should be spent to the medico-ethics of stem cell research, the right to die, or experimentation on human subjects as "easily" as we might inoculate ourselves from some new or recurring disease. The theory of this course is that the way we define and treat disease reflects contemporary historical events and our social and cultural values as well as the existing science, education, and technology. Hence we will be examining both a) how health problems and treatments shaped America and Americans over time and b) how Americans shaped their health problems and treatments. While the primary focus will be on the United States we will sometimes look abroad as disease and medical treatments resist geographical boundaries. Ultimately, we will examine the stark realities of ailments and epidemics considering the impact on the afflicted, the treatments offered, and the community response.
Important factors to be assessed in examining treatments and community response will be the class, race, ethnicity, religion, or gender of the afflicted. We will also focus on the history of medical education and institutions providing health care such as hospitals and asylums. Other specific topics will include the depopulation of the Americas due to disease, the public health and vice crusades, the competition between "traditional" and alternative medicine, the rise of industrial diseases & cures, contraception controversies, the miracle of vaccines & antibiotics, and the tragedies of eugenics and the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, plus areas of particular interest to enrolled students. Students will explore these topics through perusing primary documents, secondary sources, and historical films.
HON 225 Empires & their Aftermath (3 credits)
HON 226 African-American History, Literature, and Religion
HON 227 Vices & Addictions in American Society (3 credits)
This course will explain & analyze the vast impact of vices and addictions on American's daily lives and leisure, disease and treatment, the economy, government policies, and reform crusades, such as Prohibition and the "drug war." Some of the bad habits and addictions to be considered include smoking and chewing tobacco; alcohol and the saloon culture; cocaine, marijuana & legal prescribed drugs; poker games & sports betting; coca cola, Hershey's kisses, and your daily Tim Horton's coffees. All students will learn how behaviors originally considered sins, vices, or bad habits were redefined as criminal activities or addictions to be treated. As we consider whether the term "addiction" is used too broadly today, each student will also investigate and report on a topic of their choosing related to a vice or addiction.
HON 228 Democracy in America (3 credits)
A look at Alexis de Tocqueville's famed study, Democracy in America (1835), and how Americans have responded since then to challenging social & political realities, e.g., slavery, industrial capitalism, economic depression, and our own time. To get at these important questions, the class will read seminal books and first-hand documents written by participants and liberal & conservative thinkers.
HON 229 10 Days that Changed America (3 credits)
This course will examine ten dramatic days that profoundly changed the direction of American society. We will look, for example, at the assassination of William McKinley in Buffalo and the change his murder produced, i.e., the elevation of Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency and his promotion of the far-reaching reforms collectively known as Progressivism. There will be nine other pivotal events drawn from business, law, popular culture, technology, disease, war, natural disaster, religion, and sport.
HON 230 Economics of Public Issues (3 credits)
The primary goal of this course is to develop rudimentary economic principles and to use them to analyze an array of public policy issues. Economics provides insights into public policy, the effects of policy on the behavior of consumers and producers, the costs and benefits of specific policies, and the distribution of these costs and benefits.
This course will teach you how economists think about how they examine problems and arrive at public policy conclusions. We will apply economics to understand current policy debates, such as income inequality and poverty, pollution and environmental issues, health care, international trade and education.
There are no economics prerequisites for this course. Students should be comfortable with algebra, graphical analysis, abstract reasoning, and developing arguments logically from basic postulates.
HON 231 War & Peace since 9/11 (3 credits)
Since September 11, 2001, a lot has changed in the world. These days, it is hard to argue that the United States is unaffected by what goes on in the rest of the world. The ongoing conflict in Iraq has brought to light a simmering "anti-Americanism" in various parts of the world, which runs deeper than mere opposition to the US-led war and how it has been handled by the Bush and Obama administrations. Should we care what the rest thinks of us? In this seminar, we will consider how such attitudes might matter for US foreign relations, including issues such as trade, assistance to developing countries, regional conflicts, and national security (e.g., fighting terrorism).
Given such foreign views and how they might matter, as well as how things work in the world politics and America's position as a global power, what kind of goals should the U.S. pursue and what is the best way to achieve these? Although this course may not provide you with definitive answers to these very important questions, this seminar should improve your ability to form your own views on US foreign policy and increase your sensitivity to what people from other countries think about your country - and why you, as a responsible citizen, might care about this.
HON 232 American Government: A User Guide (3 credits)
Politics matters. It will significantly impact everyone, regardless of career path. This course will provide the basic tools students will need to comprehend and effectively participate in American government. Topics will include the three branches of government, American federalism, elections, civil rights, civil liberties, taxes, and budgets.
HON 233 Education and the Media (3 credits)
This course examines the profound ways in which changing media affect the educational system, including social networking, cyber-bullying, gangs and violence, and teaching for tolerance.
HON 234 Economics of Sport (3 credits)
How do economists explain the behavior of professional and college sports teams, their players, and their fans? Tools used by the economist will be examined and then applied to topics that include player salaries, the effect teams have on a region, the value of team franchises, attaining competitive balance, and the role of sports on college campuses. The course assumes no prior economics course.
HON 235 American Schools: A Nation Still at Risk? (3 credits)
Social science seminar that engages students in a focused investigation of American school reform movements. We begin with President Reagan's commissioned report, "A Nation at Risk" (1982) and study reform initiatives that followed. The course provides students the opportunity to engage in a wide range of current research devoted to various problems in American education.
HON 237 An Introduction to Latino Culture in the US (3 credits)
This course will explore the Latino struggle of belonging, or not belonging, to the mythic U.S. melting pot. We will explore Latino literature primarily from the last half of the previous century to contemporary writers. We will problematize the term “Latino” in terms of race, ethnicity, country or origin, and cultural variables. Furthermore, the unease of belonging to neither the locus of the U.S. nor to the country/culture of origin/ancestry will be further explored in light of other marks of identity difference, including gender, sexuality, religion, and class. The difficulty of finding an identity, a locus, and the various modes of adaptation and adoption will be explored through the literary production of Latinos trying to articulate the state of (not) belonging for themselves as well as to give voice to their community. While the course will strive to give an historical perspective to the issues at hand, our focus will be more on the literary production of the 20th/21st centuries, when Latino literature blossomed in the context of Civil Rights and the social upheavals of the mid-century.
HON 238 The American Presidency (3 credits)
This class will examine various aspects of the American Presidency. While the evolution of the office will be traced, a major focus of this course will be the administration of George W. Bush. Through student research, as well as our discussions of current events, we will become experts on the Bush administration.
HON 239 Problems in American Modernism (3 credits)
This course is a multidisciplinary investigation of the problems and possibilities of American culture from the year 1900 to September 11, 2001. It will employ a rich variety of texts from literature, architecture, art, history, sociology, and film to analyze American responses to urbanism, war, economic depression, suburban development, and contemporary terrorism.
HON 240 Old Testament: Cultures, Contexts, and Criticism (3 credits)
An exploration of the texts of the Hebrew Bible and the people who wrote them in light of their cultural and historical setting. We will look at a lot of parallel materials from other cultures, the historical developments, the archaeological record, and also look at how these texts have been used and interpreted by both Jews and Christians ever since.
HON 241 History of Judaism (3 credits)
An introduction to the history, religion, and literature of Judaism from the Hellenistic period to the present.
HON 242 Cultural Constructions of Jesus (3 credits)
In this course, we will examine the various presentations of Jesus that have occurred in varying historical and cultural contexts. Descriptions of Jesus in literature (ancient and modern) and artwork, including film, provide an array of interpretations as to the meaning and importance of Jesus. We will begin with the earliest literary descriptions of Jesus, the canonical and non-canonical Gospels from the first through third century. We will also examine emerging artistic representations of Jesus from this time period and examine how these change through the middle ages. We will conclude with a survey of different modern interpretations of Jesus: the American Jesus, the Jesus of Asian and African theology, and Jesus in modern literature and film.
HON 243 Capitalism in American History (3 credits)
The capitalist system -- based on individual investments in the production of marketable goods -- slowly replaced the traditional ways of meeting the material needs of society beginning in Europe in the 1600s. Although elements of capitalism arrived with the first settlers in what became the United States, it wasn't until the early nineteenth century that it experienced a "market revolution" that transformed the nation from a loose collection of households into an integrated industrial nation in the decades during and after the Civil War.
This course examines the development of the capitalist system in the United States mainly since the mid-19th century by focusing on four themes that together will provide students with a foundation for understanding the pervasiveness of business in our daily lives: (1) the development of the business firm (small and large business), (2) business-government relations (political economy), (3) employee and labor relations (the workplace), and (4) consumerism (advertising, marketing, and shopping).
HON 244 Issues in Comparative Education Policy (3 credits)
The main goal of this course is to expose students to historical and current comparative education policy topics such as globalization and the expansion of mass education, political socialization, immigration and schooling, international educational achievement levels, and politics and governance. Over the course of the semester, students will develop understanding and appreciation for comparative analysis in an always evolving and interconnected world. Thorough the combination of theoretical and applied interdisciplinary readings and research approaches, the course explores how education policy goals unfold at the country, community, and school levels. It is also intended to develop skills that will enable students to analyze policy options to improve educational opportunities for “all” in the United States and around the globe. Classes combine short lectures with student-led discussions, participatory activities, presentations, and invited speakers. The course has no prerequisites and is open to all majors.
HON 246 American Religions (3 credits)
This course considers the history of American religions from pre-contact times to the present, focusing on the evolution of religious faiths and religious ideologies as varying groups came into contact with one another, splintered off into new faith communities, and founded completely original systems of religious belief, such as the Mormons and Pentecostals. This course will focus especially on the ways Americans have used religion to shape their communities, their cultures, and their nation. Such a focus will involve surveying the major theological ideas and beliefs of these varying groups, but also how these beliefs coincided with (and at times contradicted) religious actions or “lived” religion.
HON 247 Islam: Religion, History, Culture (3 credits)
Islam and Muslims are now in the news every day, and the reasons to know something about Islam, Muslims and their religious practices are obvious. Islam is the world's fastest growing religion; recent statistics put the current population of people professing their religion as Islam at around one billion, roughly 20% of the world's population. Yet in spite of all the news coverage (or because of it?), Muslims are among the most misunderstood of the world's religious practitioners. Contrary to popular misconception, there is no such thing as a monolithic "Muslim": Islam is practiced in a myriad of ways by the more than 300 ethnic/ linguistic groups who call themselves Muslim. In this course, we will study Islamic scriptures, Muslim cultures, social institutions, religious practices, and Muslim and Western writings about them in order to better understand Islam and Muslims in the U.S. and throughout the world.
HON 248 Religions of the East (3 credits)
In this class, we will survey some of the major religious traditions of East and South Asia, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism. Particular attention is placed on historical and contemporary beliefs, practices, texts, and cultures, as well as their changes over time.
HON 249 Magic, Science & Religion (3 credits)
Introduces students to some of the approaches that scholars of religion and others have used to understand how diverse peoples of the world conceive, make use of, and tap into the realm of the extra-human. In doing so, we will focus not only on "exotic" societies and peoples, but also explore the meanings of magic, science and religion in more familiar contemporary North America and Europe.
HON 251 The Idea of Race: The Making & Unmaking of America (3 credits)
This interdisciplinary course traces the history and development of the idea of “race” between the 16th and 20th centuries in North America—from the outset of European exploration, contact, and colonization to the coming of the American Civil War and the struggles with Reconstruction to America’s own imperial and industrial ages and beyond. Concentrating on the interactions of Americans of various ethnicities and cultures, including Native Americans, African Americans, and Americans of various European and Asian descent, this course analyzes the social, economic, religious, and cultural implications of these exchanges, the development and evolution of racial identities as a result of these interactions, and the notions and systems of racism and racial prejudice that accompanied and fostered this development and evolution. Students will read historical documents from the periods in question (including letters, songs, sermons, poems, diaries, and pictures), but also seek to understand how the modern concept of “race” developed by reading selections from philosophy, literature, science, theology, sociology, and history, as well as viewing films that treat the subject.
HON 261 Paris and the Art of Urban Life (3 credits)
Paris, the “City of Light” and capital of Western culture must be somewhere near the top of the list of every young and aspiring traveler. It has come to be the site of urbanity itself. Its literary and artistic monuments, moreover, constitute a significant component of the common cultural heritage of European peoples. Many of its architectural and cultural sites are well known even to people who have never been to Paris: the Eiffel Tower, the Cathedral of Nôtre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre. The texts and images analyzed will depict these works as well as the often non-monumental Paris. By the art of urban life is meant, for example, the conversational culture of the cafés such as the Deux Magots and the Café Flore at St.-Germaine-des-Près where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir sipped. This is “existential Paris.” The culinary life of Enlightenment Paris will be represented by the Café Procope where Diderot, Rousseau, and Voltaire dined. The course also aims to illustrate the economic life that provided the drink and foodstuffs of the cafés, thus we examine the traditional street markets such as that still in the Rue de Buci where the abundance of fresh meats, fish, foul, cheeses, pastries, fruits, and vegetables overwhelm the viewer accustomed to standardized and packaged supermarket fare. Scenes of the street life in the popular quarters of Vincennes and Belleville will convey an idea of the distinctive character of various neighborhoods of the city. Excerpts from Prévost, Balzac, Hugo, Zola, Simenon, Sartre, de Beauvoir and Hemingway—among others—will provide literary parallels for urban life in Paris.
HON 270 Psychobiography
This course is designed to provide a forum to better understand the life of an individual, a literary figure, or a historical period through the use of psychological science. At the same time, it facilitates the critical evaluation of psychological theory by examining where theory and research does and does not work in real-world contexts. We will begin the semester by studying psychobiography as an art, an intellectual pursuit, and as a scientific discipline that can inform theory and research. The rest of the semester will be student driven applying psychobiographical techniques to evaluate theories across psychology within the context of a student-chosen focal topic. By the end of the semester, students will be fluent in the theory and techniques of psychobiography, have led a lecture on the psychological theory of their choice, and have developed a substantive psychobiographical or psycholiterary work.
HON 307 New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement (3 credits)
This interdisciplinary seminar will be devoted to the latest scholarship on the Civil Rights Movement, America's most important reform. Among other topics, we will look at the forgotten movement in the North; the role of the media, including newspapers, radio, & television; blues music; the Cold War & communism, white southern supporters; competing approaches to nonviolence, esp. self-defense; black power; the Far Right, including the Ku Klux Klan and the National States' Rights Party; little known heroes, e.g., Ben Green of Florida; the FBI's campaign of harassment called COINTELPRO; rival leaders to MLK; women activists; religion; the influences of Gandhi and African revolutionaries, e.g., Kwame Nkrumah; and reinterpretations of Martin Luther King and the presidencies of Truman, Eisenhower, & Kennedy.
HON 314 European Modernism, 1880-1945 (3 credits)
European Modernism explores the rise and fall of classical modernism in the period from 1880 to 1945. It will begin with an assessment of the modernist revolt in European culture in the three decades before the outbreak of World War I with particular emphasis on the modernist impulse in philosophy, social thought, music, literature, and the visual arts that have defined the modern age. Beginning with Nietzsche’s philosophy and his liberation of art from its religious and moral function, the course traces the rise of cultural modernism in Paris and Vienna and then its spread through the rest of Europe in the period before World War I. Among those artists, composers, writers, and social thinkers who will be considered in this course of the semester are Max Weber, Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud, Igor Stavinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, August Rodin, Pablo Picasso, and Bertholt Brecht. The course will also examine the terrible shock that the destruction of World War I administered to the bourgeois-Christian culture of late 19th-century Europe and the way in which European writers, thinkers, and artists responded to what they began to perceive as the birth of a new and more vital culture to take the place of the one that had perished in 1914-18. The course will also explore the relationship between cultural modernism and po¬litical radicalism on both the Left and the Right, namely Bol¬shevism and Fascism, and in particular the argument that Fascism in both its Italian and German iterations represent the po¬litical expression of the modernist impulse. And if time al¬lows, the course will also examine the suppression of modernist culture by Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy.
HON 316 Famous Jesuits (3 credits)
This course examines the lives and works of famous Jesuits, especially Ignatius Loyola and his Spiritual Exercises and his work as Superior General. The efforts of Matteo Ricci to adapt Christianity to Chinese culture will next be studied, before investigating the life and work of Peter Canisius and several contemporary Jesuits, i.e., John Courtney Murray, Robert Drinan, Daniel Berrigan, and the first Jesuit Pope, Francis. For those Jesuits from the United States the course will highlight the impact of American culture and politics on their lives.
HON 317 Church-State Separation Issues in American History (3 credits)
This seminar analyzes: (1) the place of religion and religious denominations and institutions in the public sphere in the American past and present; and (2) the negotiations, through the conflict of ideas and through law and politics, over that place. The analytical work of the seminar will be analyzing legal-constitutional, political, and social issues. Thus, the seminar will revolve around the traditions of religious liberty, religious pluralism, and church-state separation that have arisen out of interpretations of the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Those clauses say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” A number of weeks are dedicated to simulations of significant U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have interpreted these religion, and during these weeks, students will plead these cases and meet as the justices of the court. In other weeks, we will be reading and discussing interpretive historical, philosophical, and critical literature. The philosophical validity of religion in general and the claims to truth of any one particular religion are only considered in so far as they bear on the issue of religion in the public sphere. Matters of faith or of the competing claims of various religions to revelation are not the subject of this seminar.
HON 323 The Opera (3 credits)
This course introduces students to opera; no previous musical knowledge or experience is required. Students will develop an understanding of the aesthetics of opera by studying its elements, aspects of the operatic (trained) voice, and the genre's history. Most importantly, students will listen to and view representative examples of the art form recorded on CD, on DVD (or VHS), and in live performance. Students will also learn how to listen critically to music.
HON 324 The Symphony (3 credits)
The course introduces students to the symphony and its development from the 1700s to the present. No previous musical knowledge or experience is required. Students will discuss the meaning of ¡°symphony¡± and its origins and forms. Musical vocabulary and elements will be applied to the analysis of symphonies. Students will listen to and view representative examples of the genre recorded on CD, DVD (or VHS) and in live performance. Besides the musical study of symphonies, other related topics will be discussed. The course will cover biographical information of composers from many geographic areas including Austria, Germany, France, Russia and United States. It will also investigate and examine the cultural and historical aspects of the societies in which composers wrote symphonies. Students will read first-hand accounts and letters written by the composers, peers and critics to form an understanding through literature of the circumstances around which symphonies were composed and performed. In the study of choral symphonies students will discuss the correlation between the text and the music.
HON 325 Art, Advertising, & Activism
This course explores the social function of art. An interdisciplinary seminar, it begins with readings and a survey of art that culminates in a hands-on project. It has a strong emphasis on contemporary art practices, the effect of technology on art, and first-hand art “experiences” in the form of field trips to artist studios, galleries, and events. Using art as a vehicle for social change, students develop aesthetic critiques pertinent to this age of images.
HON 345 Excursions in the Development of Mathematics (3 credits)
This seminar centers on the exploration of three famous problems in mathematics, through reading and discussion of short primary sources (in English translation) and of supplementary works. The topics -- Euclid’s parallel postulate, Fermat’s last theorem, and paradoxes of the infinite -- are chosen to illustrate the development of geometry, algebra/number theory, and set theory/logic in mathematics and human thought. One of our goals is to explore the influence of history, philosophy, and cultural surroundings on how ideas develop. The course should be accessible to students with a good education and a willingness to persevere. No previous college mathematics experience is required. All fields of expertise will be useful in exploring the cultural contexts of the course material.
HON 346 Mathematical Literature & Literary Mathematics (3 credits)
Many familiar literary forms are produced through the use of ¡°constraints¡± (e.g. sonnets, haiku). This course addresses a group of writers who operate constraints in highly self-conscious and creative ways, specifically by employing mathematics to inform literary patterns. Through this course, we will investigate The Oulipo (Ouvrior de Litterature Potentielle), a group founded to join the mathematician's delirium to the poet's logic, as well as other writers generating experimental literature and exploring some applications of mathematics to literature.
For example, this group of writers has explored constraints with historical precedent, such as anagrams, lipograms (omit one letter), and palindromes. They have also invented new forms, such as poems based on endless poems structured for Mobius strips, permutations, and eye-rhymes (e.g. Acropolis and debris, globe and adobe). Overall, the texts in this course are distinguished by playfulness, wit, and intelligence. As Raymond Queneau said of Oulipian writing: "Why shouldn't one demand a certain effort on the reader's part? Everything is always explained to him. He must eventually tire of being treated with such contempt." Students thus can expect to be playfully challenged.
We will draw course texts from the writing of Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec, Tom Stoppard, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Harry Mathews. Students will write short analyses of the patterns composing course texts, short research papers on aspects of the mathematics used in generating textual patterns, and a final reflection paper, as well as create original versions of different forms of constrained writing.
HON 347 Mathematics: Patterns, Problems, & Puzzles (3 credits)
Mathematical problems and puzzles can often be solved by investigating underlying patterns. This course is designed to analyze such patterns in the mathematical fields of number theory, geometry (2D & 3D) and logic. The history of the mathematics (and the mathematicians) involved with these patterns, problems and puzzles will also be explored.
HON 350 The Theory of Almost Everything (3 credits)
The goal of this course is to develop an understanding of the state of modern, fundamental Physics and to gain a conceptual idea about the unification of all physical laws. Our present understanding of Physics is that the physical universe is described by four fundamental interactions: gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force, and strong nuclear force. Gravity governs the motion of celestial bodies. Electromagnetism is responsible for forming atomic, molecular, and biological systems, and forms a basis of much of the technology we use on a daily basis. The weak nuclear force predicts the decay of subatomic particles, while the strong nuclear force binds proton and neutrons within the atomic nucleus. The ultimate dream of physics is to combine these four interactions into a single equation or theory of everything. This course will review the history of unification theories in physics, with emphasis of its development during the 20th century. The students will learn of the unification of electricity and magnetism into electromagnetism by James Maxwell in the mid-19th century and the combination of electromagnetism and weak nuclear into the electroweak force by Glashow, Weingberg, and Salam in the mid-20th century. We will study the Standard Model of Particle Physics, which is an ad hoc combination of electroweak and the strong nuclear force. In addition, they will learn why General Relativity and the Standard Model are incompatible. The course is set at a level of the general public, with the bulk of the readings being science popularization. Students should have a basic understanding of the structure of the universe.
HON 351 Biotechnology & Society (3 credits)
An examination of recent developments in Biotechnology and how they have shaped contemporary society.
HON 353 Age of Robotics (3 credits)
From self-parking cars to robotic pets, from modern weaponry to robot vacuum cleaners, robots are increasingly becoming a part of the human experience. Robots help us to explore outer space, perform long-distance surgery and provide other aspects of medical care, disarm explosive devises and search collapsed buildings for victims. Robots are also employed extensively in industry and in high throughput biomedical research. Softbots are virtual agents that exist only in computer programs and networks, including shopping bots and agents in games and virtual reality environments. Research in cognitive robotics includes studies that address the question of whether machines can have feelings. This course will introduce students to some of the most important and innovative robot creations to date as well as explore the future of robotics through fact and fiction. Over the course of the semester we will become acquainted with robots, androids, cyborgs, and virtual intelligent agents. We will ask questions about the nature of cognition, examining non-human intelligence through readings in psychology, computer science, and philosophy of mind. In addition to readings we will explore robots through film and video, including the movies AI and I, Robot, and video clips from Futurama and The Twilight Zone.
Students will gain hands-on experience with robots in the Canisius Robotics Laboratory where we will experiment with different programmed behaviors in Aibo and NXT robots and ask whether or not these robots demonstrate intelligence.
Throughout the course we will touch on social, ethical, and legal issues relating to robotics. Do robots have rights and responsibilities? Who is responsible if a robot causes injury or death? Is it ethical to create a highly intelligent robot slave? Could a human fall in love with an android (or vice versa)?
HON 354 Science in the 21st Century (3 credits)
The discussions surrounding the technology gap, global warming, genetically modified foods, alternative fuels, global food security and environmental stewardship. The seminar will explore the scientific underpinnings of the scientific discussions of our time, focusing on science fact, societal needs (nutrition), environmental concerns, population density and global moral responsibility. Students will read primary literature, watch and listen to media reports, and debate the scientific topics considered in our class.
HON 355 Religion's Public Role: A Catholic Perspective (3 credits)
In this course students will learn the basic principles of Catholic Social thought and study Catholic approaches to important contemporary social problems, such as poverty, work and a living wage, globalization, access to health care, and war and peace. Materials from papal encyclicals and contemporary Catholic theologians, especially from the United States, will be used.
HON 356 Jesuit Spirituality & History (3 credits)
This course will introduce students to the life of Ignatius of Loyola and his spiritual and educational goals and give a brief overview of the history of the Jesuits, e.g., their work with inculturation in Japan, China, and India, and their development of the Ratio Studiorum and the Reductions of Paraguay, before studying the activities of Jesuits in the Twentieth Century, e.g., their work in science, theology, and the pursuit of social justice.
HON 357 Global Pentecostalism (3 credits)
It is now common knowledge that Western Christianity is declining, especially within its traditional institutions of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. What is less well known is that outside of the west, especially in Africa, Latin America and South Asia, Christianity is growing at unprecedented rates primarily among exuberant, tongues speaking and faith healing traditions known as Pentecostal or Charismatic. This growth is so explosive that it is now estimated that over 25 percent of the global Christian community is now charismatic. Through the interdisciplinary lenses of history, theology, anthropology and sociology, this course will carefully examine the essential nature, history and global manifestations of this movement that some scholars refer to as the "Third Force in Christianity."
This seminar will be entirely based in discussion, led by members of the seminar on a rotating basis. The first part will analyze the movement according to its essence, history, internal issues, and cultural attitudes and practices. The second part of the course will feature individual presentations by seminar members based on their ethnographic field research projects. During the course of the seminar we will view a few pertinent films, hear from several special speakers, and travel to important Pentecostal churches in the Toronto and Buffalo areas.
HON 358 Women & Religion (3 credits)
Analyzes the social construction of gender by looking at four major religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism), as well as the modern Goddess movement.
HON 359 Spiritual Autobiography (3 credits)
What is Spiritual Autobiography? How is it distinguished from Biography and other Genres? How do the contents of Spiritual Autobiographies relate to the events and ideas of the time when they were written? How do they relate to modern life and experiences? In this course, we will try to answer these questions. Among other autobiographies, we will read those written by Augustine of Hippo, Vera Brittain, John Bunyan, Edward Gosse, and Ignatius of Loyola.
Upon completion, students in this course will be able to:
1. Describe the characteristics and patterns of Spiritual Autobiographies across history and religious traditions.
2. Analyze the relation of these texts to the historical, cultural, and religious developments of the author's time periods.
3. Evaluate modern Spiritual Autobiographies for their use of this genre and for connections to the students' own experiences and those of their family and friends.
HON 370 Life-Writing: The Art of Biography
Few kinds of literature are as appealing and as accessible as biography: we are interested in them because we are interested in people—how they think, work, love, and play. No literary form is more purely humanistic, none more focused on celebrating human achievement and exploring the depth and range and complexity of human personality. The goal of this course is to introduce students to a number of the classics in the genre from the ancient world to the present, and to explore the fundamental theoretical issues underlying the writing and reading of lives. Students will write both as critics—analyzing and evaluating—and as biographers—collecting and interpreting data, preserving pieces of lives in language. A special feature of the course will be a chance in April to meet Dame Hermione Lee, the author of a book we’ll use as a text—Biography: A Very Short Introduction—and herself the biographer of Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, and Willa Cather.
HON 372 Contemporary Poetry (3 credits)
A study of American poetry from the end of World War II to the present.
HON 373 Living Writers (3 credits)
An examination of contemporary literature through the lens of work written by authors who will be in Buffalo during the fall semester, most under the auspices of Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel series and our contemporary writers series. Students will get the chance to meet and ask questions of each of the authors of the books we study and gain invaluable insight into the creative process and how literature is made. Through close reading, large- and small-group discussion, and critical and creative written exercises, we will seek to understand each book on its own terms—the unique demands it places on readers, how it works, the implications—aesthetic, philosophical, political—of its author’s artistic choices. In addition, we will pay special attention to how these books reflect and respond to particular contemporary realities: the traumas of war and revolution, cultural upheaval and dislocation, spiritual crisis, racial and ethnic tension, and the challenge of achieving intimacy and selfhood in our increasingly technological world.
HON 374 Nineteenth Century Novel (3 credits)
Students in this seminar will study three major works to learn how Scott, Dickens, and Tolstoy salvage the private and public past. All three authors use the novel as both a record and a reenactment of individual, cultural, and psychic memory, and explicitly defend such fictional self-reflection as the means to forge a sane individual and societal future. Closely related to the concern for "the past" in these works is the authors' treatment of political fanaticism, moderation, and the survival of social institutions. We will preface our study of the novels with a look at William Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and Thomas Gray's "Elegy: Written in a Country Churchyard" as prologues for the seminar. The class work would be made up mainly of weekly student reports and papers.
HON 375 American Authors and Storytellers (3 credits)
This course will examine depictions of American storytellers, authors, and writers. Thus, we will read texts that feature an author-figure or storyteller as a protagonist or central character. This character will illustrate for us the challenges, anxieties, responsibilities, and hopes of the American author. We will look closely at how these figures view the purpose of their craft and their responsibility to readers, publishers, and the country, and how they respond to popularity and aesthetic movements. We will follow the depiction of the author in four historical periods: early national, antebellum, post-bellum, and early 20th century. It is throughout this time period when we see authorship turn into a viable profession. For example, the course will begin with poor regional writers nervously penning the first American novel in the newly independent nation and will end with international authorial celebrities typing ¡°the great American novel¡± in Pamplona. As a result, we will discuss what it means to be an author versus a writer, or what it means to be a professional author. We will read a selection of novels, poems, slave narratives, and short stories by a wide variety of authors, including Charles Brockden Brown, Harriet Wilson, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, Charles Chesnutt, and Ernest Hemingway. Race, class, and gender will be discussed regularly, since issues of identity are integral to understanding authorship and the dynamics of authority.
HON 376 Literature, Illness, and Disease (3 credits)
Psychologist Sigmund Freud once observed that human beings are the only animals who possess the knowledge that they are going to die. Our common understanding of our own illnesses and diseases shapes our lives both through our denial of them, as well as our desire to know more about them. This seminar will survey the many ways in which health and disease have been defined in Western culture, considering the different power positions occupied by patient, caretaker, and doctor. Course readings will include Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, The Plague by Albert Camus, The Doctor Stories by William Carlos Williams, poetry by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, and fiction by Katherine Anne Porter, Lorrie Moore, and Abraham Verghese. Assignments will include frequent short essays, two longer essays, and one seminar research report.
HON 377 Plantation Psychosis: The Plantation in World Literature (3 credits)
A study of 20th century novels, films, and essays which depict the experience of the plantation. We will discuss the socio-political questions of identity in a (post) colonial world in terms of social role, religious practice, labor relations, and sexuality. We will also discuss how the individual (male/female, white/black) redefines the self in the process of coming to terms with the radically new and different realities that follow the cultural upheaval of the abolition of slavery, and the transformation of the plantation.
HON 378 Magic Realism (3 credits)
The course will explore the literary genre of “magic realism” which flowered in the postcolonial Caribbean in the 1960s and 1970s and has since spread across the globe. Besides defining this literary form, which is different from science fiction, we will consider the function of magic realism as political protest. We will also explore what makes magic real by examining the issues of perspective, faith, and marginalization in relation to the texts. We will discover how magic realism engages with the world in a very unscientific way. The course will examine how faith and science intersect, speak with and against each other in these texts. How can a modern world, built on the Enlightenment and Scientific Reason, interact with a world in which the “fantastic” narratives of magic realism require a suspension of belief and a leap of faith?
HON 381 Contemporary Literary Movements (3 credits)
We will examine four major literary movements of the last half of the 20th century, i.e., the Beat Generation, the Latin American Boom, Ethnic Minority literature, and Gay & Lesbian writing, focusing on two major writers from each movement.
HON 385 Modern Myths and Fairy Tales
In this literature course, students will explore the continuing influence of fairy tales and Greek and Roman myths on contemporary literature. We will look for answers to the following questions: Why are these stories, centuries or millennia old, still being told and retold? What role have they played in the evolution of literature and on popular culture? How have they changed in their more recent retellings? How might writers use fairy tale elements in novels or poems that are not strictly retellings? We will also discuss the meaning and function of fairy tales and myths, as well as the differences between the two forms. In addition, we will consider the cultural contexts of the initial versions of the stories and their more recent retellings, and we will analyze the works from several critical standpoints, including historical and feminist.
HON 430 Tutorial
This course will be conducted as a tutorial in the Oxbridge (Oxford & Cambridge) style, i.e., one or two students will meet with the instructor once weekly to discuss readings and write & revise papers. Interested students should contact the instructor for mutually agreeable topics.
HON 451 Thesis (3 credits)
Research on topic selected by student, culminating in a substantial argumentative paper. Student works closely with a faculty advisor.
HON 499 Independent Study (3 credits)
Permitted only rarely and not at all when a comparable course is being or soon will be offered. Requires permission of the Honors director.