George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
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.


Spring 2018

HNRS 122 Reading the Arts

Comics as Visual Narrative (temporary title)

Jennifer Stevens, Section 001, TR 1:30pm-2:45pm

What do Neil Gaiman and Archie have in common? (see below for the answer) 
Whether you call them comics, sequential art, or graphic novels, comics are everywhere. Once highly restricted in both form and subject, there are now comics about almost everything. Although this isn’t intended to be a survey course, we’ll read all kinds of comics, including memoir, non-fiction, humor, fiction, web, superhero, and wordless. Our focus will be learning how to read comics as visual narratives – what do the images add that you can’t get from the words alone? How do images and words interact with each other? We’ll also discuss the larger context of comics and how they function within broader culture. Assignments will include short analytical papers based on the assigned readings.
(answer: comics!)

20th and 21st Century Poetry from Around the World: Syllabus

Vivek Narayanan, Section 002, MW 10:30am-11:45am

‘World Poetry’ is a mind-boggling and unfathomable thing.  In this course, we’ll imagine and puzzle our way into it by sampling moments of global convergence and mutual influence: modernism and its early love of translation; 'beat' poetry, internationalism, sound and visual art; the transnational political poetry of the 1970s and after; and, today, poetry across the internet as both possibility and limitation.  We’ll look at poetry not only on the printed page but as something that can be performed, listening to audio recordings and other multimedia.  Students in the class will have regular opportunities to write and develop their own poems—in response to the works we encounter—in addition to learning and exploring critical reading and writing. 

Theater and Major Social Shifts: Syllabus

Charles Leonard, Sections 003 & 004, TR 1:30pm-2:45pm & TR 10:30am-11:45am   

This course focuses on the literature and production of theater by studying drama as a mirror of society. The development of drama in most cultures has a distinct relationship to changing social, political, historical, technological, and psychological issues of the time. We will explore theater's role as a banner indicating change, as well as being a vehicle for change. Students will learn to identify central themes of a play as well as central images that provide compelling metaphors to support the themes. By analyzing the elements of drama for a play, students will learn critique of dramatic scripts and productions.

Manipulating Image: Syllabus

Heather Anderson, Section 007, MW 9am-10:15am

In this course we will explore the question “what is a manipulated image?” and practice the manipulation of images. Projects will include the creation of both written and visual products and class time will be devoted to discussion and studio time to practice and develop new visual communication skills. Students who take this course are not expected to have any previous knowledge of Photoshop.

HNRS 122: Visual Culture: Syllabus

Caroline West, Section 008, TR 1:30-2:45pm

This course will examine interdisciplinary scholarship and research on the role of photography and film in society, with particular focus on the documentary mode. The central concerns of this class will be to ask how images derive historical and ahistorical meaning? In what ways does imagery participate in social, cultural, political and economic discourses of power? To understand such questions, this class will look to the field of visual culture and to techniques of visual analysis to consider the evolving technologies of photography and film and the practices of making and looking.
HNRS 130 Conceptions of Self

Developing Self in Childhood

Tanya Tavassolie, Section 002, TR 10:30am-11:45am

In America today, children from across different ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds are experiencing childhood in many ways. What is the impact of different childhood experiences on a child’s sense of self? For example, what is it like to be a five-year-old who lives in South Florida, as part of a migrant farmworker family; and how is that different from being an African-American fifth grade boy living in Chicago. This course will explore these different childhoods and evaluate the ways in which developmental theory is successful and falls short in answering questions about what it is like to be a child in America. Broadly, this course will be answering the following question: in what ways do race, culture, language, and education influence a child’s sense of self? This course will integrate scholarly and popular texts, as well as videos and documentaries from psychology, education, and sociology.

The History of Our Selves

Michael O’Malley, Section 004, TR 12pm-1:15pm

Self, Other, and Identity: Syllabus

Kurt Brandhorst, Section 005, MW 1:30pm-2:45pm

This course explores the question of the ‘Self’ as a philosophical and cultural issue via an examination of modern subjectivity and its limitations through theoretical, literary and filmic texts. We establish the background for this course by identifying the modern roots of the self and identity in the works of Descartes and Locke.  Thinkers and writers such as Nietzsche, Freud, Kafka, Foucault, Nolan and Lispector will provide the framework for our investigations of the question of selfhood as it was challenged and reshaped in the 20th Century.

Social Inequality and the Self: Syllabus

Blake Silver, Sections 006 & 008, MW 10:30am-11:45am and MW 12pm-1:15pm  

How do we conceive of ourselves and how do we understand ourselves in relation to others in an unequal society? In responding to this question, we will consider how inequality impacts the social construction of the self in the contemporary United States. Inequality takes a variety of forms that manifest in disparities in lived experiences. Students will explore how culture is used to make sense of, combat, and reinforce these disparities. Throughout the semester, we will examine the ways social location – understood through the lens of race, class, and gender theory – influences our conceptions of self and our conceptions of what it means to be “other.” We will also look at perceptions of similarity, difference, identity, and status as well as processes of inclusion and exclusion. To do this, the course will employ an interdisciplinary perspective at the intersections of sociology, psychology, and philosophy.

Selves/Others, Human/Non-Human: Syllabus

Rachel Jones, Section 007, TR 3pm-4:15pm

In this section of HNRS130, we will use philosophy, literature and a variety of texts drawn from across the critical humanities to explore the formation of the modern western conception of self and its existential, social, and political implications. A key theme of the course will be the extent to which the western ideal of selfhood has been thought on an individualistic model that opposes self to other(s), in ways that connect across to questions of race, gender and colonization. We will question the limits of such models of the self for conceptions of responsibility and explore the work of recent authors who have argued that we should shift our thinking towards a more relational model of the self, for political, ethical and environmental reasons. To that end, as the course progresses we will expand our focus from human selves and others to also include our ecological relationships with non-human others.

The Ecology of Self: Syllabus

Kevin York-Simmons, Sections 009 & 011, (G01119173) MW 10:30am-11:45am and MW 12pm-1:15pm

This course explores the impact of environmental awareness on our understandings of the self. We will read works in environmental philosophy and ethics that radically challenge traditional Western assumptions about the self. We will focus on “deep ecology,” and readings may include works by Aldo Leopold, Thomas Berry, Arne Naess, and Freya Mathews.

HNRS 131 Contemporary Society in Multiple Perspectives

Wealth and Poverty: Syllabus

Steven Pearlstein, Section 001, TR 10:30am-11:45am

In this seminar, we will explore wealth and poverty through different disciplines (economics, politics, sociology, history and literature) different media (biography, non-fiction essays, journalism, novels, plays, movies) and the experience of different countries (England, Russia, India and the United States). How are the wealthy different from the rest of us? Why are the poor poor? How do we explain the persistence of poverty even in wealthy societies? How have the poor viewed the rich and the rich view the poor? What is the moral justification for great differences in wealth? How have views of social class changed? Students will be required to write an essay drawing on the course readings as well as their own research and experiences. Readings include Brideshead Revisited (Waugh), Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Boo), Andrew Carnegie (Nasaw), Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance) and Bonfire of the Vanities (Wolfe). Movies include “Remains of the Day, “The Cherry Orchard,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “Wall Street.”

Eliminating Global Hunger: Syllabus

Phillip Thomas, Section 002, MW 9am-10:15am

In this class we will identify and examine the many causes of global hunger, its effects, progress, and challenges. This course will: 1) address the nature and scope of global food insecurity from a cross-cutting multidisciplinary perspective ( human rights, gender, age, health, nutrition, land rights , water access, governance, finance, agricultural policy , and conflict) ; 2) assess hunger’s impact on people, nation states, and the entire international community; 3) analyze the interrelationship between food assistance, food security, and national security; 4) review U.S. Government anti-hunger policies and programs designed to achieve global food security; and 5) examine challenges confronting the attainment of global food security ( lack of political will, climate change, urbanization, inadequate agricultural production, and post-harvest food losses). This course is a broad based interdisciplinary review of global hunger and food insecurity. It is designed to provide a comprehensive perspective on food insecurity as a multi-dimensional challenge to the global community. We will assess why global hunger is so difficult to resolve despite the multitude of resources available to society.

Humor & Global Politics

Jennifer Ashley, Section 004, TR 1:30pm-2:45pm

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.

Rising Powers, Changing Trends

Susana Carrillo, Section 005, R 4:30pm-7:10pm

The world is going through unprecedented changes with important impacts on the global economic and financial architecture. Demographic trends, financial and trade flows are shaping the emergence of economic growth poles. China India, Indonesia and South Korea are examples of emerging economies that will play a strong role on global governance. Along these emerging economies, new global institutions are contributing to change the world balance of power. In addition, priorities of a growing middle class will define economic consumption patterns and global connections.

In this class, we will examine and analyze these changing trends and global interactions. We will discuss questions such as: In today’s interconnected world, how will our own society be impacted by these shifting dynamics? How are emerging economies contributing to a different global landscape? Are new global governance institutions defining new models of cooperation to solve emerging global challenges? Be prepared to learn about new concepts and participate in engaging group discussions.

Overseas Chinese Diaspora: Identity, Assimilation, and Globalization: Syllabus

Elisa Autry, Section 006, W 10:30-1:20pm

In this course we will explore the origins, trends, and experiences of global Chinese immigrants by utilizing comparative and sociological perspectives. We will learn how Chinese migrants spread worldwide and established global diasporas. Instead of treating each diasporic community as an independent entity, we will comprehensively survey these communities– through exploration of their similarities, differences, unique social, historical, cultural, or economic characteristics, and their transnational connections. Through the stories of the Chinese immigrants, we will investigate how the social context of a local society uniquely shapes immigrants’ lives. In the meantime, these immigrants build, sustain, and recreate their respective racial, ethnic and cultural identities in the host societies.

HNRS 211 Mentorship in Undergraduate Research

John Woolsey, Sections 001, T 10:30am-11:45am

Working in small, multi-disciplinary teams, students will help develop the Honors curriculum with the goal of expanding and improving peer mentoring practices. Students will work with faculty to revise HNRS 110 assignments, create the HNRS 110 Evidence Assignment for Fall 2018, and participate in a long-term study of inquiry-based learning at Mason. Students will also help plan and execute the Honors College Spring Research Exhibition and Awards Ceremony.

HNRS 230 Cross Cultural Perspectives

The Crusades

Samuel Collins, Section 001, MW 9am-10:15am

The guardianship of Jerusalem, a city sacred to all three of the great monotheisms, lay at the heart of a series of movements in the Middle Ages known today as the Crusades. In its strictest sense, a crusade was a holy war called by the medieval papacy with the aim of taking the Holy Land, and, in particular, the city of Jerusalem, into western and Christian hands. Thorough close reading of a series of primary sources, this class will examine the development, elaboration, and consequences of the crusading ideal between the eleventh century origins of the movement and the thirteenth-century collapse and capture of the final crusader states. Within this chronological scope we will consider evidence from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish witnesses, theorists, and participants in the Crusades and resistance to the crusaders in order to gain a fuller understanding of what drove these wars of religion, how societies and institutions were altered, destroyed, and created by the Crusades, and the legacy the Crusades have left to both Europe and the Middle East.

Human Behavior: Syllabus

Adam Winsler, Section 002, MW 9am-10:15am

Living in an increasingly diverse United States within an increasingly connected global world requires us all to have a good understanding of culture, ethnicity, multiculturalism, and human diversity in all of its forms (race, ethnicity, language, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, etc…). We will take an interdisciplinary cross-cultural approach (psychology, education, family studies, sociology, anthropology) as we explore universals and cultural variation in some of the most interesting topics in human behavior (sexuality, gender, sleep, parenting, child development, language, bilingualism, emotions, cognition, mental illness, death). Problems/issues we will try to understand and wrestle with together include, privilege, inequality, discrimination, racism, the immigrant experience, and cross-cultural research methods. Students will learn to appreciate the many ways in which their thoughts, values, behaviors, emotions, languages and social interactions are all cultural products, not necessarily universal, and hopefully apply such understandings to their own lives.

Community Engagement for Social Change

Lauren Cattaneo, Section 003, TR 9am-10:15am

This class will explore influences on social problems and approaches to addressing them by drawing from student experience and the perspectives of multiple disciplines. As a case example, we will focus on the social problem of poverty through students’ service to community organizations (a minimum of 20 hours over the course of the semester, arranged by the instructor), readings, class exercises and both written and oral projects. The class is meant to be relevant across majors, for those who have an interest in social justice and a willingness to dive into the complexity of social problems and solutions

Cross Cultural Communication

Megan Patrick, Section 007, TR 10:30am-11:45am

The course will explore how professional language, behavior, work practices, and organizations are shaped by culture and interpreted through one’s own cultural locus. By establishing mindfulness of our own cultural programming, as well as an understanding of the obstacles to cross-cultural engagement, participants will build the necessary skill set to navigate the contemporary workplace.

Adapting to Climate Change: Syllabus

Dana Dolan, Section 009, R 4:30pm-7:10pm

This course examines climate change adaptation as a long-term governance challenge for advanced democracies. Since at least 2007, the public debate has focused on mitigation – efforts to reduce the amount of heat-trapping gases emitted globally. Adaptation – efforts to prepare society for the anticipated impacts of climate change – is a necessary, if not an essential, response that has received far less attention. This course explores an Australian case where adaptation was incorporated into legislation, seemingly against the odds, and draws implications for the U.S. and other democracies around the world. Following a brief introduction to the science of climate change, its impacts, and opportunities for adaptation, we turn our attention to the dilemma of long-term governance and policymaking in advanced democracies. We investigate adaptation as a public policy problem, examine actual policies as potential solutions to the problem, and analyze the politics that surround efforts to adopt these policies. What makes policymaking for the future so difficult? How have these challenges been overcome in some cases? Students will examine questions like these through reading both scholarly studies and primary sources, and develop their own case study research projects.

Social Justice and Contemporary American Education

Maoria Kirker, Section 010, TR 3pm-4:15pm

The course will explore issues related to access in U.S. education. Some themes related to access of education likely to be discussed include race, economic inequality, and ableism. The first half of the class will focus on K-12 education while the second half will focus on post-secondary education. The class is meant to be relevant to students in any major as there will be space to explore a topic of their own interest related to social justice and U.S. education.

Ways of Eating, Ways of Being: Syllabus

Carmelita Hinton, Section 011, M 4:30pm-7:10pm

Immigration, Identity, and Difference: The Concept of Otherness in Literature

Mark Rudnicki, Section 012, TR 12:00-1:15pm

HNRS 240 Reading the Past

Commodities in Latin America: Syllabus

Joan Bristol, Section 001, MW 10:30am-11:45am

This course examines the role of commodities such as chocolate, sugar, tobacco, bananas, and cocaine in constructing the modern world system from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries. We will examine how these commodities were produced, consumed, and traded, and how ideas about these goods and their effects developed through time and over space. The desire for commodities justified colonialism, created significant trade imbalances, affected global political and economic systems, and led to the exploitation of land and labor in many parts of the world.

Women in Islam: Syllabus

Sumaiya Hamdani, Section 002, TR 1:30pm-2:45pm

This course surveys the history of women in Islamic society from the rise of Islam in the 7th century to the present-day.  The first half of the course will examine the historical processes that impacted women’s roles, and the ways in which women reacted to, negotiated and subverted them in their own interest.  The second half of the course will focus on specific topics such as work, war, the veil, etc., around which issues of gender status and identity have come into play, especially in the modern period.

Violence, Religion, and Slavery in the Atlantic World

Royce Gildersleeve, Section 004, TR 3pm-4:15pm

HNRS 312 Research in the Public Sphere

Kevin Stoy, Section 001, T 1:30pm-4:10pm

Building on projects begun in HNRS 310, students use research/scholarship skills to address community problems presented by nonprofit organizations. Designated as a research and scholarship intensive course.

HNRS 330 Research, Technology, and Online Community
Richard Stafford, Section 001, F 9am-11:20am
Some students find accessing a college education more difficult than others, often because of socioeconomic, cultural, or familial barriers. Because some studies have found that college education is correlated with subsequent job satisfaction, social mobility, civic engagement, or even happiness later in life, improving accessibility of college is a priority for several offices and initiatives at Mason. Working with one of these offices or initiatives, students will work as a multidisciplinary group to undertake a research or design project dealing with access to college education. The class will work together as a group to define a specific research or design problem, propose a research or design project to address the problem, then carry out this project.  Students taking this class will collaborate to define both group learning objectives to use appropriate digital tools or platforms to conduct, manage, and/or carry out the project. Each student will also pursue an individualized skill development plan in order to make sure we collectively have the capacity to effectively undertake the project. This is a multidisciplinary course: students from all majors are encouraged to apply. HNRS 330 counts towards Honors College Requirement 3 and is offered on a pass/fail basis for variable credit. Enrollment is by application.
HNRS 353 Technology in the Contemporary World

Cybernetics: Syllabus

Dean Taciuch, Section 001, MW 3pm-4:15pm

The course will begin with the concept of Cybernetics, popularized by Norbert Wiener's Human Use of Human Beings, a book he wrote (in 1950) specifically to explain cybernetics to the interested non-expert. Cybernetics, as Wiener and the first generation of computer engineers defined it, is the science of control and communication in machines, animals, and human beings. Cybernetics gave us the concepts of "cyberspace" and the "cybernetic organism"—the cyborg. The cybernetic concept of the transhuman (or posthuman) raises questions about what it means to be human. We will explore these concepts by studying later technological advances in computer science, biology, sociology, philosophy, and the arts.

Technology and Changing Society: Syllabus

Charles Leonard, Section 002 & 007, MW 1:30pm-2:45pm and MW 10:30am-11:45am  

Theater has pushed the envelope of technology in many directions. Students will examine new developments of tech designed for use in theater and new uses of existing tech, focusing on the cutting- edge. We will also look at bleed-over tech moving from one area into use in other areas, including theatre.

Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future

Jonathan Gifford, Section 003, W 1:30pm-4:10pm

This course will focus on innovation in infrastructure. The infrastructure we use every day has huge impact on our quality of life – where we live, shop, study, worship, and have fun. Innovations are coming on strong: Uber and Lyft, Car2Go, Zipcar, Hyperloop, high speed rail, E‑ZPass, drones for land, air and water, Apple Pay, Android Pay, location tracking, blockchain – the list goes on.

Infrastructure has physical and digital dimensions. Physical infrastructure includes roads, streets, airports, water systems, electric power plants and distribution networks. Digital infrastructure includes systems for communications, payment, identification, and location.

The class will focus on where innovation in infrastructure comes from. When is it good? Bad? How do we judge? How to we encourage it? Block it? Who decides? How do we deal with legacy systems? How do we pay for it? What are the new industries and careers being created?

The course will emphasize individual research and the development of communication skills. You will have a chance to (a) present your work as part of a group, (b) publish your work online, (c) write short essays, and (d) write a longer report. Students will meet individually and in small groups with the instructor.

The instructor is Jonathan Gifford, who returns to HNRS 353 after a break of several years. He studies and teaches transportation and i

nfrastructure policy, particularly public-private partnerships and technology innovation. He’s a professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at Mason.

Science of Cities: Syllabus

James Trefil, Section 004, M 4:30pm-7:10pm

What will the Washington area look like in 50 years? This course will focus on the technology and development of cities, using the capitol area as an example. Students will look at present-day Washington from a historical standpoint and learn what we can predict for its future in light of robotics, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering.

Scientific Revolutions: Syllabus

James Trefil, Section 005, T 4:30pm-7:10pm

Staring in the early twentieth century, our fundamental views about the universe underwent revolutionary changes, and that will be the focus of this course.  We will examine the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, modern molecular biology and Big Bang cosmology, among other topics. No mathematical or scientific background on the part of the students will be assumed, and all subjects will be approached at the conceptual level.

Clean Coal and Culture

Richard Stafford, Section 008, TR 10:30am-11:45am

Students in this research seminar will work in small groups to develop an understanding of the relationships between “clean coal” and broader cultural and sociopolitical contexts. Each research group will focus on a different aspect of “clean coal,” including but not limited to,

  • Political rhetoric concerning “clean coal” technologies

  • Industry and activist groups' representations of “clean coal” technologies

  • News media representations of “clean coal” technologies

  • Legal and regulatory context for “clean coal” technologies

  • Ethics of implementing “clean coal” technologies

  • Economics of “clean coal” technologies

  • Risk perceptions and risk communication concerning “clean coal” technologies

While this class requires group work, student group meetings occur during regularly scheduled class times. In consultation with the instructor, groups will investigate some of the most important perspectives and methods used in an ongoing scholarly conversation about “clean coal.” Building off of this secondary research, individual students will propose and/or pursue a project that calls on them to conduct some form of original analysis or primary research. The final deliverables in this class include: class presentations, in-class discussions of our research findings, and written investigations to be included on a public-facing website.

Life in the Universe: Syllabus

Harold Geller: Section 010, 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.

Legacies of George Mason: Exploring the Geographies of Northern Virginia: Syllabus

George Oberle, Section 011, W 4:30pm-7:10pm

What are the enduring consequences of slavery in Virginia, and by extension, the United States? We will examine the era of American founders and early decades of the United States. The required readings include several core texts from the age of Jefferson, Washington, and Mason.  Each student will be asked to develop an original research project that incorporates ideas from different disciplines, for example, History, Psychology, Politics, Law, Economics, Math, Engineering, and Health. Your final project will be disseminated via an online exhibit tool and institutional archive called Omeka, with the hope that your particular study of slavery in Virginia and the United States will help promote broader conversations in the university, our region and the country as a whole.

Technology of Elections: Syllabus

Isidore Dorpenyo, Section 012, M 4:30pm-7:10pm

Electoral systems, the very foundation that hold the possibility for sustaining democratic principles, are under attack, in part because the technologies that have been adopted to enhance electoral processes have become tools for fraud and discrimination. As a result, election technologies have received much scrutiny in recent years. Specific examples include hacking of election technologies in Kenya, Ghana, Venezuela and the controversy over whether or not Russia hacked into the US’s 2016 elections. These mass controversies undercut conversations about the need to maintain electoral integrity. There is, therefore, the need to discuss how election technologies either maintain or destroy free, fair and incontrovertible elections.
HNRS 410 Thesis Preparation

Richard Stafford and Dean Zofia Burr, Section 001, F 1:30pm-2:50pm

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

Zofia Burr and Richard Stafford, Section 001, F 3pm-4:20pm

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

HNRS 430: Multidisciplinary Challenges in Professional Environments

Anthony Hoefer, Section 001, W 4:30-7:10 pm

Students in this course will work in multidisciplinary teams to design a solution to a challenge or problem offered by two of Mason’s partners from the Northern Virginia business community: Northrup Grumman Corporation and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. Students will be supported in this project by a faculty instructor and a mentor from the participating partner. They will have opportunities to synthesize the knowledge and practices they have developed over the course of their undergraduate experience; to develop the skills and strategies necessary for working effectively in multidisciplinary teams; and to apply all of this as they work to solve a problem or challenge in professional environment. Work on the project will culminate with the public presentation of the team’s proposed solution, as well as a final report to be delivered to the participating business partner.

Fall 2017

HNRS 122 Reading the Arts

Excusions into Chinese Art: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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: Policies and Strategies: Syllabus

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: Syllabus

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