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George Mason University


Choosing Courses That Interest You

Many Honors College (HNRS) classes are topical seminars, which means that the catalog descriptions are more generic than the section descriptions. With our program, you'll be able to choose seminars and classes that align with your interests and specializations.

Honors College courses are topical seminars, taught by professors at the top of their fields.

For up-to-date information, please refer to the official online schedule of classes via PatriotWeb.


Fall 2017 Courses

HNRS 122 Reading the Arts

Excusions into Chinese Art

Carma Hinton: Section 001, CRN 71218 – T 4:30p-7:10p  

This course introduces students to some basic concepts and practices of Chinese art. Through in depth studies of a variety of ancient as well as contemporary art, including painting, calligraphy, sculpture, and architecture, the course will explore the particular ways in which the relationship between convention and innovation, discipline and freedom, community and individuality, and high art and popular art evolved in China’s long cultural tradition. Considerable emphasis will be given to examining the role of art and artist in society.

Theater and Major Social Shifts

Chuck Leonard: Section 002, CRN 71219 – TR 10:30a-11:45p & Section 003, CRN 72414 – TR 1:30p-2:45p

Explores the language of the art medium and the relationship of parts to whole in art works, connections among different art forms, and links between art and its historical context. In exploring multiple art forms, including literature, students will also learn how various artistic devices contribute to meaning. Students will critically explore detail and nuance in the social, historical and personal context of the work(s). Students will also participate in or attend a visual or performance based art work(s) or event(s).

Communicating the Aesthetic Experience 

Peter Pober: Section 004, CRN 78054 – W 4:30p-7:10p

This class will explore the construction of the arts, the interplay of the various arts with each other, and the exploration of that interplay with the extra-aesthetic world. As it is an Honors class, the expectations will be higher. I will presume you come to class ready to address the myriad issues reflected in the reading and the day-to-day world. Participation is crucial to this class as is original and critical thinking.

Pompei: Window into Ancient Roman Life and Art

Christopher Gregg; Section 005, CRN 72212 – TR 1:30p-2:45p

Since its rediscovery over 200 years ago, the Roman city of Pompeii has fascinated the modern world. This minor Roman town, entombed by a volcanic eruption in AD 79, has fired the imagination of both scholars and artists. As an example of Roman civilization, Pompeii gives us a view into a past society that has had a tremendous impact on Western European and North American architecture, art, law and literature. This class will use the unparalleled physical remains of Pompeii’s art, architecture and infrastructure as well as primary Roman literary source material in translation to explore the complex urban and cultural environment of this ancient civilization. Class discussion, critical reading of sources, and visual analysis will all play significant parts in our multi-disciplinary approach to interpreting this familiar yet “foreign” culture.

Contemporary American Drama

Heather McDonald: Section 006, CRN 74492 – TR 3:00p-4:15p

Through study of contemporary American plays and musicals, students will explore theatre as a mirror of the culture. Dialogue and the importance of valuing and evaluating multiple perspectives and points-of-view are core to theatre. The central concerns of the class are listening to the myriad voices currently working in American theatre, seeking to understand why live stories urgently matter, looking at theatre’s relationship to other art forms, placing theatre in its political and cultural context, forming questions about how contemporary dramatists wrestle with and ask questions about the great American Experiment, and building a portrait of our contemporary world.

Narrative Journalism

Steven Pearlstein: Section 007, CRN 78522 – TR 10:30a-11:45a

Story-telling has always been at the heart of great journalism. In this course we’ll explore the last century of American history by reading some of the best examples of narrative—that is, story-telling—journalism published in books, newspapers and magazines. The reading (and listening) list includes works of H.L. Mencken, Truman Capote, E.B. White, John Updike, Tom Wolfe, Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, Ira Glass and Sarah Koenig. We will explore how narrative journalism is done, what is the historical and media context in which it is written and published, what makes it effective and what impact it has had on readers and society. This is not a journalism course as much as it is a literature and history course. The aim is not to learn how to write great journalism but how to recognize it and get the most out of reading it.

Visualizing Modernity

Sun Young Park: Section 008, CRN 78850 – TR 12:00p-1:15p

This course will interrogate past understandings of modernity through the visual culture practices and forms that both engaged with and helped to define this concept in the West, from 1850 to the present. We will ground this exploration in a range of primary and secondary literature that theorizes ‘modernity’ through its political, social, economic, and cultural dimensions. Alongside the fine arts, the visual culture under investigation will include photography, film, popular prints, comic art, advertising, and the mass press. For each medium, we will consider the implications of the technologies allowing its creation; the modes of its practice, from montage techniques to peripatetic photographers; its final form, whether as mass-produced prints or moving images; and its sites of diffusion, from cinema houses to World’s Fairs displays. Across this spectrum of visual culture, we will address topics such as the birth of the modern metropolis; new understandings of space and temporality with emerging technologies; consumerism and mass culture; shifting experiences of class, race, and gender.

Reading and Writing the Modern Essay

Stephen Goodwin: Section 009, CRN 79125 – MW 3:00p-4:15p

The goal of this class is to help you write powerful, persuasive essays in the humanities and other fields of human endeavor, within the university and beyond. Writing assignments, like the reading, will challenge you to engage with different forms of the essay, including personal narrative, portrayal of a person, cultural critique, formal argument, satire, and moral/ethical persuasion. The course seeks to encourage writerly reading – that is, reading that focuses not just on content but on method, style, craft, and technique so that students can assemble their own kit of writing tools. We will read closely some of the finest, most significant modern essays in the English language, including work by George Orwell, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, and Alice Walker. The reading will include both canonical and modern essays, and it has been selected to introduce you to different traditions of the essay, and to varieties of approach and technique. You will be asked to write three finished essays in this course (about 20 pages total), each submitted as draft and then as revision. A lot of our class time will be spent reviewing your work, often in small groups, so that you can hone a voice and approach to essay writing that will serve as a guide for the writing you do in future courses and in your professional career.

HNRS 130 Conceptions of Self

Autobiography/American Identities

Jennifer Ritterhouse: Section 002, CRN 81390 – MW 10:30a-11:45a

What makes people who they are and is identity innate or shaped by external forces? Can people invent themselves or reinvent themselves? If so, what might that look like? This section of Honors 130 explores questions like these through the genre of autobiography. Autobiography is a more complicated genre than the recent "memoir boom" might lead one to believe, and literary constructions of "self" and "truth" bear a particularly complex relationship to the study of history. This course begins with theoretical readings on autobiography and identity, then examines classic autobiographies that elucidate key themes in U.S. history such as the myth of the self-made man, the paradox of American slavery and American freedom, and the gender dimensions of individuals' struggles for social justice and personal liberation.

The European and American "Self"

Michael O'Malley: Section 003, CRN 81391 – TR 1:30p-2:45p

Each of us has a sense of self, and it both changes and seems to stay the same as we move through life. Throughout history, the sense of self has often been radically different. This course will examine how “self” was understood in throughout European and American history, beginning with the relation of the self to the gods or God and ending with the emergence of modern individualism. We look at texts from a wide range of disciplines and fields including history, philosophy, theology, psychology, economics, and literature.

HNRS 131 Contemporary Society in Multiple Perspectives

Culture, Education, and Communication in an Era of Globalization

Eunkyong Yook: Section 001, CRN 78085  – R 4:30p-7:10p & Section 010, CRN 71928 – T 4:30p-7:10p

Diversity in our classrooms are a result of two concurrent trends: Globalization and an increasing minority population. Globalization is a major force driving change in higher education. It is a process that involves movement towards both greater interdependence and integration, with flows of capital, trade, ideas, and people crossing borders and creating interconnectedness across the globe. Internationalization is one of the key strategies adopted by universities in response to globalization. As a result, more students are studying abroad, and international students are coming to the United States to further their education. Meanwhile, our society is diversifying domestically as well, with immigrant populations and minorities growing at a rapid pace. This diversity is affecting our classrooms, with students and instructors alike experiencing “culture shock” and “education shock”. This section of HNRS 131 looks at issues of culture, language, and communication within the educational context. We look at the symbiotic relations between these concepts, and ask such questions as “How does language affect communication in the learning process?” “What are some attributions that we make about language and competence?” “What is communication apprehension?” “How does identity affect successful integration into academia?” “What aspects of nonverbal communication are important to be aware of in the classroom setting?” Finally, examples of what we as global citizens can do to help overcome challenging issues are addressed in this course, to promote critical thinking and agency. Video and text analyses will be conducted to guide learning in this section. The focus will be on relevance in real life.

Radical Nationalist Movements

Mills Kelly: Section 004, CRN 71858 – MW 10:30a-11:45a

Radical nationalist movements, arising in the late 19th century, have been responsible for some of the worst excesses of the modern world. This course will examine why and how radical nationalist movements first appeared, then succeeded (or failed), and how they have changed in the present context of globalization and a hyper-connected world. Why do some such movements get stuck on the fringes of public life, while others manage to seize control of the mechanisms of state? What common characteristics do these movements share and how are they different across space and time? These are just some of the questions we’ll answer this semester.

Humor and Global Politics

Jennifer Ashley: Section 006, CRN 72166 – TR 1:30p-2:45p

This course explores the role of satire television in global political discourse. We begin the course with an examination of the work of Habermas on the public sphere. This discussion will be followed by a consideration of humor and satire as a form of political communication, drawing on Bakhtin’s discussion of the carnivalesque. We will consider how scholars have taken up these theoretical frameworks to analyze the use of entertainment television (such as The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live in the US, Les Guignols de l'info in France, and Heti hetes in Hungary) to promote public debate. Students will be asked to critically evaluate the concept of the public sphere in relation to media as they consider whether, why, and how television allows for (or fails to allow for) critical engagement with issues of public concern. They will also be asked to consider the potential and limits of dissident laughter in effecting political change.

Globalization and its Impact on Institutions, Society, and the Individual: Progress, Problems, and Challenges

Phillip Thomas: Section 011, CRN 81695 – MW 3:00-4:15p

Globalization is a dynamic process that has brought the world’s diverse population closer together since the beginning of civilization through the exchange of goods, products, information, jobs, knowledge and culture. Contemporary globalization in the beginning of the Twenty-First Century is the result of dramatic advancements in technology, communications, science, transport and industry. The current global population of 7 billion people has become increasingly interdependent. The economic, cultural and political implications of globalization are matters of great controversy and debate. A fundamental question remains unanswered. Will a smaller technologically enhanced interdependent world produce an environmentally sustainable, safer and more just world? As we progress toward the year 2050 with the prospect of the global population projected to reach 9 billion people, many challenges exist confronting the viability and stability of the global community. In this class we will identify and examine the many multi-dimensional and crosscutting issues and challenges affecting globalization in the Twenty-First Century including: communication/social media, governance, democracy, nationalism, conflict, humanitarian crises, food insecurity, environment, biotechnology, climate, population growth,commerce, discrimination, freedom and responsibility. Phil Thomas is the instructor for this course. He has an extensive background in globalization issues that includes a variety of academic, government service, and international research projects.


Teejay Brown: Section 013, CRN 82089 – MW 12:00-1:15p

In many communities across the world there have existed and continue to exist stigmas and misinformation surrounding mental health and mental illness. This course will explore how social practices and ideas, both historical and present, contribute to the ways in which individuals, communities, and society view and are affected by issues related to mental health and mental illness. We will explore perspectives in the following realms: psychology, sociology, religion, history, and the media, with particular attention to key identities including, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.

Religion, State and the Law

Randi Rashkover: Section 014, CRN 82108 – MW 12:00-1:15p

What makes people who they are and is identity innate or shaped by external forces? Can people invent themselves or reinvent themselves? If so, what might that look like? This section of Honors 131 explores questions like these through the genre of autobiography. Autobiography is a more complicated genre than the recent "memoir boom" might lead one to believe, and literary constructions of "self" and "truth" bear a particularly complex relationship to the study of history. This course begins with theoretical readings on autobiography and identity, then examines classic autobiographies that elucidate key themes in U.S. history such as the myth of the self-made man, the paradox of American slavery and American freedom, and the gender dimensions of individuals' struggles for social justice and personal liberation.

African Art

LaNitra Berger: Section 015, CRN 82272 – TR 3:00-4:15p

What is African art? In this course, we will use this question to explore the arts of the African continent and its diaspora from its beginnings to the present day. We will examine how knowledge of African art was created and learn how to discuss African art through a critical lens. We will use the DC region’s vast museum resources to develop visual analysis skills and to understand how scholars and curators shape our knowledge of cultural production in Africa. 

HNRS 240 Reading the Past

The History of Science

James Trefil: Section 001, CRN 71220 – M 4:30p-7:10p

This course will trace the development of science from the construction of monuments like Stonehenge to the beginning of the twentieth century. No previous scientific knowledge will be presumed, and the major ideas of science will be developed in their historical context. The course will include readings from important historical texts, and students will be asked to develop and present topics related to the course subject matter.

History of the Family

Spencer Crew: Section 002, CRN 71221 – TR 10:30a-11:45a

The definition of family and the role of each member has evolved over the years. Often the changes are related to economic circumstances and the social beliefs of the society. This course will primarily examine the way the American family has changed since colonial days. In the process we will study how the responsibilities of women, children, and men have evolved and why. In addition we will learn how oral history can aid in researching family history.

History of Emotions

Peter Stearns: Section 003, CRN 71222 – TR 12:00p-1:15p

This course focuses on the history of emotions, a rapidly growing field that seeks to contribute both to an understanding of the past and to interdisciplinary analysis of emotion itself. Key methodological and analytical issues in the field will be addressed, along with work (both existing and potential) on emotions such as love, shame, fear, and nostalgia. Coverage will focus on American patterns but with opportunities for comparison with other societies. Student participation will be emphasized, including recurrent discussion of why history seems to have undertaken an “emotional” turn and whether this is a desirable direction.

Roots of American Music

Suzanne Smith: Section 004, CRN 72408 – TR 1:30-2:45p

This course explores the roots of American popular music. American roots music encompasses a wide array of music styles including: the blues, gospel, early jazz, country, bluegrass, Western swing, as well as immigrant music such as polka and zydeco. Throughout the semester, we will study how these different styles evolved, influenced each other, and became the foundation of rock and roll. Another important dimension of the course will be learning how the history of race relations, gender relations, and class in America play a key role in understanding why certain musical styles develop and become popular. Since music is the focal point of the course, weekly assignments include readings, listening to music, and screenings of films about American roots music.

Technology and Identity

Zachary Schrag: Section 006, CRN 72817 – MW 1:30p-2:45p

We define ourselves by the tools we make, the tools we use, and the tools we reject. Individuals select consumer goods and health, communities deploy infrastructure, and whole nations seek glory through science, invention, and warfare. This course will explore the intersection of technology and identity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the United States and other countries. We will learn how people living today and previous generations made choices about three sets of technologies: vaccination; electrification of cities, homes, and farms; and aviation, with an emphasis on the role of the pilot. By learning this history, we can better understand the choices we ourselves face as individuals, communities, and nations.

From History to Performance

Chuck Leonard: Section 007, CRN 74627 – MW 1:30p-2:45p & Section 008, CRN 75832 – MW 3:00p-4:15p

This course will examine Elizabethan history, writers and the politics of the period. A major project will be construction of a performance piece, after considering multiple period and contemporary performance styles. Works by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, as well as historical narratives will be explored to further understanding of the period.

The History of Normal: Mosters, Freaks, and Crips

Teresa Michals: Section 009, CRN 81394 – MW 3:00p-4:14p

Before 1840 or so, the word "normal" commonly meant "perpendicular." This meaning derived from the carpenter's square, called a "norm." Today we rely heavily on a very different idea of "normal.” How did people make sense of themselves and each other without this sense of "normal," and how did this idea come to have the power it holds today? This course will focus on the rise of statistics, medicine, education, and the state in nineteenth-century Britain, arguing that these developments created new ways of seeing ourselves and others that now feel natural. In addition to medical and statistical models, we will consider wonder, the monstrous, cruelty, pain, laughter, sentiment, and the freak as categories that eighteenth and nineteenth-century writers use to frame the very different behaviors, minds, and bodies they try to describe. Finally, we will take a look at the field of disability studies as a place where social history and political activism intersect. Course work will include a class presentation, short papers, quizzes, and a 7-page research project (in discussion with me, you are free to research any topic of your choice, as long as it is relevant to the intellectual framework of the class). This class demands a good deal of discussion and interaction. In order to help us focus on this task, I do not allow the use of cell phones or laptops during class time.

HNRS 310 Honors College Connects I
Kevin Stoy

The first of a two-semester course in which students work in groups on long-term service projects coming from community nonprofit organizations.

HNRS 330 Research, Technology, and Online Community

Student Transitions

Richard Todd Stafford: Section 001, CRN 75926 – F 9:00a-11:20a

Are you interested in developing your research or digital communication skills? Do you want to "give back" to Mason while creating a portfolio piece for yourself? Would you like to help other students select majors that match their interests?Are you interested in a service project focused on the theme of the Summer 2017 Mason Read, which explores the challenges faced by students transitioning to college?

HNRS 330 will offer you an opportunity to develop your applied research or technology skills while working on a significant communications problem. Mason offers students numerous options for their path to their Mason degree, so it is sometimes difficult for students to match their interests with appropriate majors. HNRS 330 offers you an opportunity to help the University develop more effective ways to help students explore majors. Students enrolled in HNRS 330 will participate in a semester-long service-learning project in partnership with the Office of Advising, Retention, and Transitions. While developing solutions to the problem of academic program selection, some students will develop their online communication skills, while others may choose to focus on developing their skills conducting interviews and meetings, and/or undertake exploratory research to determine how to effectively present the many curricular options available to students. Thus, this class would be appropriate for a wide range of majors and interests, including students interested in information technology or programming, students in communications-related majors, students interested in the human and social sciences, and students with a more creative disposition.Though many students take this class as an elective in order to conduct research as a public service, HNRS 330 may be counted towards the Honors College Requirement 3. It may be taken for 0-3 credits. Students are permitted to re-take HNRS 330 for credit.

HNRS 353 Technology in the Contemporary World

Effective Responses to Crime: Politicies and Strategies

Laurie Robinson: Section 002, CRN 75833 – TR 1:30p-2:45p

While the violent crime rate in the U.S. today is some 75% lower than 20 years ago -- and is far closer to rates in the 1960s -- the nation continues to face challenges in areas such as gun violence, gang crime, domestic violence and high rates of incarceration, and there is clear concern about how fairly the criminal justice system responds to racial and ethnic minorities, as events over the past 18 months in Ferguson, Missouri and numerous other jurisdictions have highlighted. In the 1960s, a Presidential Commission appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson issued a landmark report that comprehensively looked at all facets of the criminal justice system and set out a blueprint for reform. No single document in criminal justice since that time has been so influential. In this seminar, Honors College students will act as members of a criminal justice commission to look at key aspects of the crime problem in the United States and what solutions are -- or could be -- used to address them effectively. They will examine issues around policing, prisons and sentencing, juvenile justice, substance abuse, courts and (more broadly) innovation and hold "hearings" at which they can question expert guest witnesses (for example, frontline criminal justice practitioners, such as police chiefs) and explore evidence-based approaches that are being, and should be, taken to address problems. Students will serve on subject area task forces and develop reports on their topics. The work will culminate in the students presenting their policy-oriented research reports in class at the end of the semester. This seminar is suitable for any student interested in public policy, government, technology, communications, criminology, political science, conflict resolution, or economics.

Life in the Universe

Harold Geller: Section 004, CRN 75834 – TR 3:00p-4:15p

In this course we will critically analyze emergent technologies and their impact on contemporary culture as our species seeks to understand its place in the universe. The core concepts surrounding the technologies and their legal, social, and ethical issues will be considered. Students will develop a significant research project related to the search for life in the universe which, communicated through written, oral and digital means, demonstrates a critical understanding of the technologies and their impact via multiple disciplinary perspectives. Students will communicate their findings, both verbally and non-verbally, through ethically and culturally aware critical thinking and scientific reasoning.

HNRS 410 Thesis Preparation
Richard Todd Stafford and Dean Zofia Burr, CRN 73506 – F 1:30p-2:50p

Provides guidance in research methods to students writing an honors thesis proposal as well as workshop to critique research in progress and to understand the research process in multiple disciplines.

HNRS 411 Thesis
Dean Zofia Burr, CRN 74106 - F 3:00p-4:20p

Directed research on topic agreed on by student, advisor, and the Honors College