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Freshman Honors Colloquium Course Descriptions

Section sort ascending 2013-2014 Freshman Honors Colloquium Course Descriptions Instructor
Violence in Literature

Most of us think we understand violence, and the majority hope that we never experience it and that there is the possibility of existing in non-violent spaces. What if this isn’t true? What if violence is, as Marco Abel claims in his book Violent Affect, an “ontological necessity”? How do we define violence? How do we explain the fears that many have of our society as extremely violent? William Rothman asserts that while America itself has become less violent in the last ten or twenty years, “Americans believe that violence is escalating out of control, that it is threatening the moral fabric of our society, and that the proliferation of violence in the mass media . . . is a cause, and not only a symptom of this threat.” Like film, literature has often received similar criticism over the past 100 years. Our colloquium will consider how violence works in contemporary literature, how readers respond to it, and how writers shape those responses.

In addition to the novels (chosen by you in the second semester) that will be the primary texts for the course, we will also examine the portrayal of violence in some modern films, and in an anthology of theories of violence, both of which will serve as topics for the intensive writing that will be expected in the course. You will develop critical skills as readers, writers and thinkers through class discussions and presentations, and, in the second semester, students will complete a year-ending research project. There are no exams for this course, but quizzes and short, in-class essays will occur frequently. In addition, during the first semester, you will write six papers of varying lengths, which are designed to prepare you for the research work in the second semester.

Kent Core - Composition
Edward Dauterich
Lies Your Teachers Told You

The main text for this colloquium is Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, which is about the untruths, half-truths, myths, omissions and downright lies that are taught to young people in our high schools. Each chapter has a specific point or theme, which we will also examine in other readings and/or films. There is, for example, a chapter on how we teach patriotism, and we will look at what Mark Twain had to say on the topic (for example, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it”).

There will be some lectures in this course, but students are expected to take part in discussions, and since this is an Honors course, to read and write a lot. There will be frequent pop quizzes, take-home essay exams, and several papers.

Readings will include

  • Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
  • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest Gaines
  • The Ethics of Living Jim Crow by Richard Wright
  • Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao (Penguin)
  • The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy
  • Galileo by Bertolt Brecht (Grove Press)
Kent Core - Composition
Christina McVay
In this course, we will be looking during fall semester at the issue of class struggle, focusing on fiction and nonfiction texts from several cultures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. What leads to inequities in wealth, and what, if anything, should be done about such inequities? What are the consequences of vast differences in economic status, and what actions do and do not prove effective in relieving human suffering and giving the lower classes a measure of power over their lives? What role does the concept of workers’ rights play in the struggle between the wealthy and the poor? How effective are group efforts to solve these problems?

During spring semester, we will shift our focus to examine the role of the individual in social change. How much influence does just one person have over a society? How does such an exceptional individual respond when faced with opposition, and what qualities make that individual exceptional? This second half of the course will include several dystopic novels.

Likely fall texts:

  • Émile Zola, Germinal
  • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
  • Michael Gold, Jews Without Money
  • John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
  • Richard LeMieux, Breakfast at Sally’s

Likely spring texts:

  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
  • Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
  • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
  • Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Susan Lord

Social Roles and Human Rights

In the first semester, students in this section will explore variations in gender roles from multiple cultures and time periods while searching for the "truth" about male and female roles in modern society and what they mean for true equality in both American and global culture.  In the second semester, we will examine global human rights issues that arise from these gender roles as well as human rights issues in general.  Students will be required to read and research extensively.  We will examine literary texts, historical information, and contemporary texts illustrating current events.  Some classes will be dedicated to writing instruction, but most will be based on discussion of the texts, themes, and cultural examination that make up the basis of the course.  Students will participate in both individual and group activities such as debates, critiques, and presentations, including an opportunity to choose a topic related to the course theme and teach for part of a class period, and a group project that allows students the opportunity to recommend a text, literary or otherwise, for the course (students' selections will be read in the spring semester).

Through examination  of these texts and through class discussion and writing assignments, including response journals, peer review, writing and revision of papers of varying lengths, research projects, and multi-modal projects, we will work on critical reading, thinking, and writing skills. 

Texts may include, but are not limited to:

  • The Handmaid's Tale
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran
  • The Yellow Wallpaper
  • Fight Club
  • Infidel
  • A Thousand Spendid Suns
Charlene Schauffler
Language and Society

Students will read and discuss contemporary research on varieties of English and studies on gender and language use as well as selected literary texts that illustrate some of these language variations. They will lead discussions on various texts, and then collaborate on a real world research and analysis project by designing human research studies to test the hypotheses advanced in the research they have read. Students will learn to set up and run a qualitative study within their peer groups, read and interpret basic statistical evidence, and present their findings on language use to their classmates.  Course material will be delivered via lecture and discussion of readings. Specifically, in class, we will focus on a body of work that revolves around some of the following questions and concerns related to language use:

  • Gender and language use: Is there a difference?
  • What are some of the regional variations in language use in Ohio? Who are the speakers of these dialects? What are some of the characteristics of these individual dialects?
  • Does text messaging impact the written discourse of its users?
This colloquium answers these questions and others as it examines how language reflects and is influenced by the societies in which it is used.

Required text:
  • Clark, Virginia; Paul Eschholz et al (2007). Language: Readings in Language and Culture. 7th Ed. Bedford/ St. Martins
Some literary texts used in the course include short stories, novel-length works and poetry:

  • Zora Neale Hurston. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial.
  • Charles Waddell Chesnutt. The Conjure Woman and Other Tales. Ed. Richard H. Brodhead. Durham: Duke UP.
  • Joyce Carol Oates. High Lonesome: New and Selected Stories 1966-2006. New York: Harper Perennial.
  • Flannery O'Connor. The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

Some suggested texts that might be used in the research project:

  • Crystal,David (2006). Language and the Internet Cambridge: CUP 2nd edition.
  • Frazier,Timothy (2005). Heartland English.   Tuscaloosa:University Alabama Press
  • Tannen,Deborah (2001). You Just Don't Understand.  New York:Harper Paperbacks
  • Gee, James. (2008). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy.  NewYork: Palgrave, MacMillan.
Kent Core - Composition
Barb Karman

What do ordinary people, victims, oppressors, colonizers, settlers, and tragic heroes have in common?  Each has had to interpret his or her own personal and social responsibility within a specific context.  The colloquium will examine how human concerns have changed-and remained the same-and how the themes raised by the texts cross oceans, years, and cultures.  The first semester students will read texts that focus on personal responsibility; in the spring semester the emphasis will be on what happens when one power asserts itself over another.

The emphasis in this class will be on developing critical reading skills as well as producing lively, precise, uncluttered, and interesting prose.  Students will lead the discussions, write essays, produce an original research paper (spring), and do a final project or presentation each semester. Texts include fiction, non-fiction, films, one documentary, and poetry.

Fall: Tentative reading list
  • Chopin, The Awakening
  • Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • Hardy, Jude the Obscure
  • Shelley, Frankenstein
  • Twain, Adventure of Huckleberry Finn
Spring: Tentative reading list
  • Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  • Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies
  • Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
  • Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • McCourt, Angela's Ashes
Sara Cutting
In this course we will explore issues raised by contemporary communication technologies such as mobile phones, the WWW, and social networking. Our primary focus will be on questions surrounding what it means to communicate, to pay attention, and to use technologies on a daily basis. For example, do communication technologies help us surpass our biological limits (of attention, of memory, of perception, etc.)? Do they diminish our humanity by turning us into automatons? Both? We might also explore issues of attention and information overload. With how many people can we meaningful communicate at once? How many sources of information can we attend to at any time? Although such questions are timely and urgent given our contemporary use of tools such as Wikipedia and Facebook, we will also explore the ways such concerns have arisen throughout the centuries. Plato, for example, critiqued the technology of writing itself.

This course will be run as a seminar, which means that most class sessions will be devoted to discussion and other student-led activities. We will collectively determine the topics for reading and discussion based on our interests and goals for the course. Additionally, we will engage in many technological experiments during the year. For example, we will likely spend one class session discussing via instant messaging rather than speaking with our voices. We may spend another class composing parody Twitter accounts.

During the first semester, students will write five papers of varying lengths that will set the foundation for a more substantial research project in the second semester. During the second semester students will write a research paper and supplement it with varying multimodal projects (such as videos, audio essays, art collages, etc.) determined by student interest. No advance expertise with such projects is necessary to be successful in the course.


  • Super Sad True Love Story: Gary Shteyngart: Random House
  • Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century: Cathy N. Davidson: Penguin Books
  • Net Smart: How to Thrive Online: Howard Rheingold: MIT Press
Several other readings are available free online and not listed here (e.g., It's Complicated by Danah Boyd)
Kent Core - Composition
Derek Van Ittersum
The major theme of the course will be literature's depiction of the various forms of disenfranchisement (political, racial, sexual, religious, economic, class, age, gender, military) within modern society, and how those who are disenfranchised attempt to find their own truth and value outside of society's norms. This analysis will lead to discussions of topics including Existentialism, the Anti-hero, The Rebel, Postmodernism, the Absurd, as well as the use of ironic, dark humor as a means of dealing with society, and the search for truth in a world of carefully constructed, well-established illusions.

Since some of these works have been translated into film, and many of these topics have been a mainstay of modern films, we may also include comparative film analysis as a part of the course. The goals of this colloquium are to develop skills as critical readers and as writers. Students will write several five-page essays each semester, as well as a final, longer project in the spring. There will be no exams, but several quizzes and shorter writing assignments will be given regularly. Class discussion will be a crucial part of the course, both individually and in group work, and students also will be required to give in-class presentations of certain assigned topics and outside readings throughout both semesters. Students also will be encouraged to try creative approaches to the assignments, including video productions or other various artistic media.

Possible year-ending projects: individual creative writing projects, a published "magazine" including the best works of each student, or a video or theatrical production of a work relevant to the course.

Possible Texts:

  • Heller, Catch-22
  • Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Nabokov, Lolita
  • Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • Kafka, The Metamorphosis and other stories
  • Collins, The Hunger Games
  • Williams, The Glass Menagerie
  • Shakespeare, Othello
  • Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Beckett, Waiting for Godot
  • Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
  • McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
  • Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
  • Wiesel, Night
Films: Dr. Strangelove, Lost in Translation, Adaptation, Crash, Little Miss Sunshine, The Big Lebowski, Across the Universe, The Help, Juno, Easy A, (500)Days of Summer, etc.

Essays: Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus” Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”, “Enlightened Sexism” (Packet)

Also: a music/poetry unit that will discuss disenfranchisement in those forms of expression, a unit on sexism as a cause of disenfranchisement, and a work of young adult literature as an example of disenfranchisement in that particular genre.

Kent Core - Composition
Matthew Shank

This class is based on interaction, participation, and collaboration among students to understand a perplexing question:

Human beings, the most brilliant of all creatures, assume that the natural bounty of this Earth belongs to them and therefore, relentlessly use and abuse the resources to suit their myriad purposes! Why and How?

To mitigate this use and abuse of our environment, many universities are advocating implementing sustainable projects:

During the next four years, we will transform our campuses with new buildings and revitalized classroom, laboratory, studio, performance, living and studying spaces. Without exception, these projects will support Kent State's top priorities: academic excellence and the success of all students. In turn, they will keep Kent State a leader in campus safety, accessibility and sustainability; and will serve as a powerful magnet for top students, employees and partners in areas from economic development to community service. -President Lefton's message

President Lefton's message comes at a time when many universities across the nation are implementing programs to foster healthy ecosystems that further the sustainability agenda.

So, Based on President Lefton's message, what did you say was the scope of this course?

As sustainability is interrelated to many aspects of the university community from classrooms to dorms to kitchens to laboratories, the Honors Colloquium Class (two semesters) will be analyzing three important factors:

  • What prevents students from taking ownership of their environment and their university? 
  • What type of sustainable programs should the university adopt, that will provide students an understanding of the interdependency of humans to their ecosystems and persuade them to take part in student initiated sustainable programs?
  • How can we implement sustainable programs that students can be involved in for the next four years of their lives?
The key focus of this course will be to demonstrate your understanding of the sustainability issues and find methods to advocate this message to your peers across campus.

AND, How do I achieve this understanding?

By reading two books and by doing primary and secondary research:

  • Colin Beavan, No Impact Man, a 2009 publication from Picador
  • In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, a 2008 Penguin publication.
Uma Krishnan

Ideas: Fiction, Mythologies and Dystopia

Students will explore influential fiction, mythologies, and ideas as we investigate issues of justice, human rights, duty, loyalty, education, social standing, and literacy. Students will consider social issues in today’s society through popular Medias such as V for Vendetta, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings. Students are expected to be self-directed and to be actively engaged in learning. Students will complete a variety of individual and group activities, including presentations, debates, essays, and creative stories. Students in previous years have also participated in service-learning experiences, as chosen by the class. In addition, students may consolidate their knowledge through participating in a “Reacting to the Past” game. For example:

Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791 plunges students into the intellectual, political, and ideological currents that surged through revolutionary Paris in the summer of 1791. Students are leaders of major factions within the National Assembly (and in the streets outside) as it struggles to create a constitution amidst internal chaos and threats of foreign invasion. Will the king retain power? Will the priests of the Catholic Church obey the “general will” of the National Assembly or the dictates of the pope in Rome? Do traditional institutions and values constitute restraints on freedom and individual dignity or are they its essential bulwarks? Are slaves, women, and Jews entitled to the “rights of man”? Is violence a legitimate means of changing society or of purging it of dangerous enemies? In wrestling with these issues, students consult Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, among other texts. (

Subjects, Texts, & Authors may include but are not limited to:
  • Popular culture
  • The World of Ideas
  • Dystopian Fiction
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Harry Potter
Kent Core - Composition
Susan Sainato

Dragon Slayers and Whistleblowers

What kinds of risks do individuals take when they decide to stand up for what they believe in? How do different people react when faced with personal and ethical dilemmas? What are the consequences of their decisions? Over the course of this colloquium, we will explore these questions through fiction, non-fiction, poetry and film. The works we will read, study, and respond to will cross oceans and time periods.

The material in this class will be examined through student-directed class discussion, writing assignments, and projects. We will engage in peer reviews, research, papers of varying lengths, and multi-modal presentations. The concentration will be on critical reading, thinking, and writing.

In addition to the texts listed below, there will be periodic outside readings including poetry

Texts for Fall:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Erin Brockovich  (Film)

Texts For Spring:

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • All the President's Men (Film)
  • Students will also read a book of their choice approved by Instructor
Molly Owens
Passion, Pain, and Transformation

Central to an understanding of self and others is this perplexing irony: that which gives our lives worth and meaning may well exact a significant toll, a painful sacrifice. What then do we do when we have risked passion and found suffering? In the final analysis, some of us are transformed and strengthened by that pain; others of us become lessened by suffering. In the face of pain, what makes the difference between a response of growth and a response of diminishment as individuals? As a society?

This then will be a literary study of human fragility and transformation. The assigned texts will examine the individual and social variables that influence how we ultimately deal with our passions and pain. Examining what gives life meaning and challenge will provide an opportunity to further our understanding of human nature and its complex responses to what is most important in our lives.

Texts for fall semester focus on transformation of self and include the following:

  • Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning 
  • Williams The Glass Menagerie
  • Chopin The Awakening
  • Maugham The Razor’s Edge
  • Related poetry
Texts for spring semester on transformation of society
  • Mission (movie)
  • Michael Sandel Justice
  • Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Platoon (movie)
Kent Core - Composition
Laura Moll

In this colloquium, we will read several great heroic epics of the ancient world. When readers think about epic literature, they usually focus on the heroism of the characters.  We will, of course, talk about the valiant exploits in these texts.  Additionally, we will examine what prompts such behavior: codes of honor, cultural expectations of "ideal" men and women, and—most unusual—love.  We will begin the semester by reading Homer's Odyssey, the best-known of the ancient Greek "homecoming" narratives. We will then move on to the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, and finally, the Indian epic, Ramayana.

Texts will include:

  • Odyssey, Homer
  • Gilgamesh, Anonymous
  • Ramayana, Valmiki

In the spring semester, we will move in a very different, but complementary, direction by focusing on the theme of coming of age. While "coming of age" most often refers to a child maturing into adulthood, this semester we may also examine "non-traditional" coming-of-age stories. Most of this semester's novels show the main character moving from childhood to young adulthood, from ignorance to knowledge, from innocence to experience.  We will explore these themes using Joseph Campbell's so-called "Hero Cycle," from his text The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell demonstrates how heroes from stories, myths, and fairy tales all over the world participate in a similar adventure structure. Additionally, we will try to understand the changing nature of how the individual constructs his or her "self," or identity, during this maturation process. We will discuss, analyze, and interpret the main character's, that is, the hero's experiences using these theoretical constructs.

Texts will include:

  • The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
  • The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
  • The Wizard of Oz (film)
  • Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salmon Rushdie
Elizabeth Howard
From birth to death, men and women are gripped by desire. One might desire something as simple, and tangible, as a drink of water, or something as complex, and intangible, as true love. Desire can be secular or religious, tangible or abstract, intellectual or emotional, or simply instinctive. Quests for objects of desire are largely subjective and contextual: something that has enormous significance for someone in one place will be worthless to someone elsewhere. Yet desire can also take the shape of a collective--members of a cult, or the crowd at any sports game—sharing the same desire. The ironic nature of human desire is the emergent component of disillusionment that often follows in the wake of securing the object desired. Disillusionment is engendered, in part, by myths and stories that necessarily shape and dictate human desire. There are thus culturally appropriate and culturally inappropriate objects of desire. Cultural factors, therefore, prompt an individual’s sense of misplaced desire and his or her subsequent sense of alienation. Whether collective or individual, desire can also be plagued by misinterpretation, a fact which clearly engenders disillusionment. Moreover, human objects of desire can unwittingly, or craftily, misrepresent themselves, thereby prompting further disillusionment. The assigned texts for the course carefully illustrate the powerful claims of our “all-too-human” appetites and instincts for desire. Throughout the course we will examine how both religious and social organizations endeavor to minister to human desire and how, as centuries pass, a prevailing pessimism begins to lace itself through many literary works. Examining something seemingly simple as the impulse to desire will prompt readers’ curiosity and imagination. The course will have an interactive format; students will read and write freely crossing the border between writer and reader, student and critic.

Required Texts (Including but not limited to):

  • Genesis
  • Medea
  • Hedda Gabler
  • “Bartleby the Scrivener”
  • The Metamorphosis
  • The Death of Ivan Illich
  • Madam Bovary
  • Tess of the d’Urbervilles
  • Sister Carrie
  • A Map of the World
Selected Short Stories: (Including but not limited to):
  • Albert Camus, The Guest
  • Ralph Ellison, King of the Bingo Game
  • Alice Munro, The Child Stay
  • Cynthia Ozick, A Drugstore in Winter
  • Katherine Ann Porter, Flowering Judas
  • Edith Wharton, Souls Belated
Kent Core - Composition
Margaret Dixon

Encountering Identity Politics: Multiple Voices, Multiple Styles

In this colloquium, we will examine our theme through contemporary literature and other types of texts, various encounters between the individual and community, and how they are shaped by aspects of their identity through race, class, religion/spirituality, gender, ethnicity, ability, ideology, nation, sexual orientation, culture, education, history, musical and/or literary genre, or any other social organizations.  We will focus on the perspectives of those feeling marginalized, how they grapple with multiple voices and narrative styles, to come to terms with and (re)shape not only themselves, but also their community.  We will enrich our examination using literary theory by Mikhail Bakhtin and other scholars.

The emphasis in this class will be on developing critical thinking and reading skills as well as generating a variety of multimodal assignments, such as weekly critical responses, leading and participating in class discussions, a proposal argument paper with a visual component (fall), a literary analysis paper (fall), an original multigenre research project on a topic of your choice concerning some aspect of what we have covered in the course (spring), and a presentation of student work each semester.     

Class time will consist of seminar-style discussion (whole group, small group, or pairs), some lecture, and reading/writing workshop sessions, which will allow students to brainstorm, prewrite, draft, and revise with the help of instructor and peer feedback.  Bb Learn will be used as our class management system, containing assignment instructions, supplemental readings, and other resources to help you be successful in the course.    

Possible Texts:

  • Up the Down Staircase, Bel Kaufman
  • The Year of Our Revolution: Love and Rebellion in the 1960s, Judith Ortiz Cofer
  • Tears of a Tiger, Sharon M. Draper
  • Nothing but the Truth, Avi
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
  • Give a Boy a Gun, Todd Strasser
  • Violet and Claire, Francesca Lia Block
  • Monster, Walter Dean Myers
  • Out of Control, Norma Fox Mazer
  • An Order of Amelie, Hold the Fries, Nina Schindler
  • Buck: A Memoir, M.K. Asante
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
  • Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann
  • Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
Shannon Christen-Syed

By looking into how poverty affected diverse cultures as they tried to create productive lives in America, students will learn how the American spirit developed and changed over the years as well as how it can involve them today. Poverty is a common topic for writers who explore the struggles of these diverse populations as it affected them in such areas as their work lives, education, dreams, lifestyles, etc.  Students will be exposed to a variety of writing styles such as fiction, nonfiction, memoir, autobiography, and photo-text to delve into issues related to poverty in America.

This course will begin by looking into different cultures whose lives in America consisted of such varied topics as hardship, crime, welfare, or determination to get out of poverty – to "make it" in America. As the current generation of students, the future of America, looks into these issues of poverty, they will explore what they can accomplish as they move into their career paths. Students will discuss, analyze, and draw conclusions concerning this American spirit, and how knowing about the poverty of the past will help them understand the realities of the less fortunate.

Possible texts may include but are not limited to:

  • Frank McCourt,  Angela's Ashes
  • George Orwell,  Down and Out in Paris and London
  • Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
  • Jonathan Kozol,  Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America
  • Zora Neale Hurston,  Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Erskine Caldwell, Tobacco Road
  • Robert Eggers,  Begging for Change
  • Richard Wright: Black Boy
  • Various shorter readings will be provided by the instructor.
Beverly Neiderman
This colloquium will explore women’s search for meaning. This will inevitably lead us to consider how meaning determines identity. We will begin the year by focusing on stories of self. We will examine the formation and fiction of selfhood as presented in a range of texts. We will consider successful accounts of self-construction and what destroys or prohibits self-constructs. We will consider how women construct, then tell, these stories of self. We will attempt to determine the implications of telling one’s autobiography, or fiction of self. Must the self be constructed before the telling begins, or is self-construction inextricably linked to the telling of life stories? During spring semester, we will expand our inquiries to include art as a part of meaning making, self-construction, and self-expression. We will also work on developing critical reading, thinking, and writing skills. Since this is a discussion course, your participation is necessary.

Possible Texts:

  • Bronte, Jane Eyre
  • Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Alcott, Behind a Mask
  • Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate
  • Allende, Eva Luna
  • Kingston, The Woman Warrior
  • Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter
  • Belenky, Women’s Ways of Knowing
  • Cather. The Song of the Lark
  • Gilman, Herland & “The Yellow Wallpaper”
  • Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves
  • Vreeland, The Passion of Artemisia
  • Dinesen, Babette’s Feast
  • Wharton, The House of Mirth
  • Plath, The Bell Jar
Kent Core - Composition
Kimberly Winebrenner
Memory, Story, Emergence

Who we understand ourselves to be—our sense of self—emerges from memories. Even at the most basic level, however, memory is not simply a straightforward retrieval of stored events and images from sensory experience. Our individual, group, and cultural identities are fictions, stories we tell ourselves. Each time we remember an event or a feeling, we recreate it in the form of a story that fits within a larger autobiographical narrative that defines who we are to ourselves and to the world. Our emphasis in this colloquium will be exploring how the awareness that memory is neither fixed nor entirely reliable can be applied to understanding cultural and social patterns in the present day. We will compose coherent and thoughtful prose, audio and video. Students will create and maintain blogs that combine personal reflection with independent research and investigation.

In the fall semester, we will consider the neurological processes that underlie memory and identity and apply what we learn within the world of literature, music and cinema. In the spring, we will shift our focus slightly. Memories emerge from billions of connections between neurons in our brains. The study of emergence examines how complex systems and patterns arise from the application of relatively simple interactions. We will use this approach to understanding the world in examining a variety of texts and other works.

Texts for Fall

  • Hood, Bruce.  The Self Illusion: Why There Is No "You" Inside Your Head.  London:  Constable & Robin, Ltd. 2011.
  • Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Vintage International. 2004.
  • Danticat, Edwige. Breath, Eyes, Memory. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.

Texts for Spring

  • Johnson, Steven. Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. New York: Touchstone, 2001.
  • Murakami, Haruki. Kafka on the Shore. New York: Vintage International, 2005.
Dale Richards

This year's Colloquium will focus on significant and epic tales that function to define the time period in which they were written.  These texts will include the 3,000 year old epic of Gilgamesh and the hero's search to understand love, life, and mortality; The Orestia of Aeschylus; Beowulf the first major literary work in English and a signal mark of the transition from the Viking to the Christian culture in early Medieval Europe; The Tao Te Ching; The Rubiyyat of Omar Khayyam; and Hamlet.  These six major works of literature help to define the Western literary tradition, emerging as milestones on the way to the modern world.  The philosophical and psycho-social world-view of the works will be discussed and explored by the colloquium.

Tests will include:

  • Gilgamesh
  • TheOrestia
  • Beowulf
  • The Rubiyyat of Omar Khayyam
  • The Tao Te Ching
  • Hamlet

Examinations, papers, and reports

Students will write three research papers for the course, and quizzes will be given on a weekly basis.  There is no midterm or final exam.

Thomas Schmitzer
Drifting and Wandering

The figure of the drifter is a fundamental element of the mythology in most cultures. The search for what lies beyond, and the subsequent journey/quest, provides the basis for the legends that help those cultures to define and appraise themselves.

The wanderer comes to delineate world culture in many ways, as a source of archetypes and iconography ranging from the strong and resilient hero whose actions and attitudes speak for themselves to the befuddled everyman in the postmodern search for identity and meaning.

This colloquium will explore how the myth of the wanderer has changed over time, even as it continues to define, confound, and inspire. We will look at this phenomenon from many perspectives: from the ancient world, where empires found their roots in the resultant myths, to the modern day, where those who, in pursuit of truth and self awareness, encounter and struggle to overcome obstacles, both physical and metaphysical, that get in their way.

Through these readings, we will explore the role of the drifters and the wanderers and the way that they have come to shape who we are and how we see ourselves today.

Possible Texts:

  • Homer: Odyssey
  • Virgil: Aeneid
  • Dante: Inferno
  • The Ramayana
  • Bolaño: The Savage Detectives
  • Foer: Everything is Illuminated
  • Gaiman: American Gods
  • Kerouac: Dharma Bums
  • Murakami: Kafka on the Shore
  • Newby: A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
  • Silko: Ceremony
Kent Core - Composition
Michael Sanders

This course examines Shakespeare’s world, the staging of major and minor plays with an emphasis on the constructions of race, gender, class and sexuality in Early Modern England. Furthermore, we will use Shakespeare’s Early Modern world to critique post-modern representations of gender, class and the multicultural citizen.

Students will come to understand what it means to be a dramaturge and review film re-presentations of Shakespeare’s plays. During the second semester of the class we will see a live production by Great Lakes Shakespeare Theater. In addition, members of the course will stage a production of a Shakespearian play, keeping in mind what they have discovered about the Early Modern and Post-Modern periods and the construction of race, class, gender and human sexuality.

Course Objectives:

  1. Increase students' understanding of Shakespeare’s world.
  2. Teach the principals of dramaturgie
  3. Analyze the art of the play / playwright
  4. Compare and contrast historical periods
  5. Identify the constructions of race, class, gender and human sexuality
  • Will’s World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, Stephan Greenblatt
  • Will Contested: Who Wrote Shakespeare, James Shapiro
  • The Genius of Shakespeare, Jonathan Bates
  • Shakespeare and Modern Culture, Marjorie Garber
  • Reading Packet
Film Re/presentations:
  • As You Like it
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Shakespeare Revisited—Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew
  • Shakespeare Uncovered, PBS
Plays (second semester)
  • Othello
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • King Lear
  • Titus Andronicus
Examinations, papers, and reports
  • A personal narrative (2-3 pages)
  • Two Questions and two Answers (1 page)
  • Two essays (from 5 to 6 double-spaced pages each)
  • Research Project (from 8 to 10 pages (Explore the topic first semester-- Complete the research project the second semester).
Kent Core - Composition
Denise Harrison
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