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General Honors Seminars

Fall Semester 2017

Please note: before registering for any of these seminars, be sure your name is on the appropriate sign-up sheet in the honors center office.

Please sign-up for only one seminar and be certain you intend to take that seminar before placing your name on the sign-up sheet.

HON 110HA — Romance, Love, Sex and Marriage: Philosophy of

Dr. J.W. Wiley & Staff W 12:00 – 3:00 3 Credits

Nietzsche said, "There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness." In this seminar we will explore the reason in love, romance, sex and marriage, while recognizing the truth in Nietzsche’s observation that both love and romance are occasionally if not persistently irrational. This will be a philosophical exploration and an opportunity for students to develop and share their own philosophies about the important human experience of love and romance and the closely related results of these feelings: sex and marriage. We will accomplish this by examining various perspectives on romance, sex, love and marriage, recognizing that there is significant overlap among these topics. Readings for the course will be taken from the Philosophy of Erotic Love edited by R. Solomon and K. Higgins, Philosophy of Sex and Love by A. Soble, and Philosophy of Sex, edited by A. Soble. The readings from these texts will provide students with the philosophical tools and intellectual context for our examination. In class we will use film clips as a means of generating discussion. In our deconstruction of the clips, students will apply the concepts derived from assigned readings. Each week students will write a reaction paper articulating the connection between the film and the reading material. This will help students develop their own philosophical points of view on the subject matter of the course. Students will also come to realize in this process of applying philosophy to film how cultural and individual assumptions can impede a rational understanding of love, romance, sex and marriage.

Students will also be required to complete both individual and group projects related to the subject matter of the course. Each student will make a final presentation. Thirty-five per cent of the grade for the course will be based on participation. Participation includes attendance, contribution to study groups, contribution to in-class discussions, and presentations. The writing assignments will constitute the basis for 65% of the grade.

This seminar will satisfy the HUMANITIES component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program.

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM B.

HON 120HA — The Natural History of Exploration

Dr. Gary Kroll TR 9:30–10:45 3 Credits

From Columbus to Captain Kirk the spirit of exploration is deeply rooted in our imagination as it ranges from history to fantasy. An important component of American History is the exploration of a vast continent. That process of exploration was both shaped by the land being explored and in turn shaped our sense of national identity. The story of this exploration is a story of struggle, of achievement, of tragedy and of triumph. For example, John Wesley Powell’s exploration of the Colorado River is the stuff of myth, legend and heroism. The seminar will read his published reports, but will also examine the less well known ‘second’ expedition when Powell spent most of his time interacting with Mormon and Indian communities in Utah and northern Arizona. This contact provided Powell with the knowledge to write a controversial plan for the development of the Southwest. Even though this was ultimately ignored by Congress, Powell’s expedition is thus transformed into lessons about Manifest Destiny, U.S. expansion, settlement, Native American history, desert environment and geography.

Students will investigate primary sources and be expected to produce about 30 pages of polished writing over the course of the semester. These essays will make substantial linkages between historical material and contemporary events. For example, the year 2003 marked the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The year witnessed many “re-creations” and re-enactments of their original trip along the Missouri and Columbia Rivers. Students will examine these events and will analyze them as elements of culture and historical memory.

The seminar will combine the perspectives of and be of interest to students in many different disciplines from environment history and the history of science to broader social, cultural and economic studies. Students interested in the autobiographical and biographical genres of literature will also find this course especially valuable.

This seminar will satisfy the U.S. CIVILIZATION component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program.

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM B.

HON 135HA — Consumer Society

Dr. Lauren Eastwood TR 9:30 10:45 3 Credits

Recently the Wall Street Journal touted increased consumer comfort with indebtedness as a positive sign for the economy. In doing so the WSJ is articulating the idea that consumer debt is linked somehow to social and economic good. How did an idea like this develop? How is it that the connections between “consumer confidence” and economic growth are commonplace in both print and television news? How did it come to pass that consumerism is ubiquitous in our society? How have we come to identify our society and even ourselves with consumerism?

This course is designed to delve into the dynamics that have created—and serve to maintain—“consumer society.” Students will read from an interdisciplinary body of work that analyzes production and consumption processes along with their cultural and social significance. These readings will include some classic historical sources, such as Veblen’s “Conspicuous Consumption and Marx’s “Capital.” Other more recent sources will explore the cultural dynamics of materialism, the ideology of economic growth, planned obsolescence, and the role of advertising in creating needs, etc.

The seminar will introduce a sociological approach to consumer society, allowing students to investigate the social structures and ideological elements that help shape the context within which we live our daily lives. Students will come to understand how consumer society has become commonplace and taken for granted. The role of the sociologist is to understand social organization. Being imbedded in it makes it difficult to see its parameters and machinations. However, the assignments and readings for this course should lead to a deeper understanding of the components, structure, and ideological underpinnings of the “consumer society.” Ultimately, we will discuss the implications of a society within which we see ourselves primarily as consumers, rather than citizens.

Assignments are structured to develop students’ ability to interpret and analyze the elements of the “consumer society.” Students will be assessed on essay tests focusing on reading materials and on research that combine traditional library research with a sociological methodology called “botanizing.” This methodology is designed to investigate ideology—not as an abstract entity divorced from social practices, but as an organizing force shaping those very practices. Students will collect the “specimens” or social practices and everyday behaviors, and subject them to analysis. In addition students will keep a journal of their reactions and opinions.

This seminar will satisfy the SOCIAL SCIENCES component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program.

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM A

HON 141HA — Basic Math Problems Seminar

Dr. Robert Keever MWF 9:00 – 9:50 3 Credits

Unlike many other math courses, this math seminar does not focus on content but on problem solving. The main objectives of the course are for students to study how to analyze and simplify a range of problems, how to estimate and check mathematical results for reasonableness, and arrive at answers in which they have confidence. Methods of problem solving include teaching oneself by doing simpler problems, translating between English and symbolic language of mathematics, and rewriting problems in ways that extract the mathematical content, ignore nonessential detail, thereby leaving well-defined mathematical problems that are (perhaps) easier to solve.

The assignments and class time are aimed at getting students to understand specific problem solving strategies, and we hope to accomplish this through direct engagement of students in the problem solving process. Students will work together to accomplish this goal. These methods embody the expectations of the Math category of the General Education program, to “introduce students to mathematical thinking and logic and foster students’ ability ‘to interpret and draw inferences from mathematical models such as formulas, graphs, tables, and schematics,’ ‘to represent mathematical information symbolically, visually, numerically and verbally,’ ‘to employ quantitative methods such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, or statistics to solve problems,’ and ‘to recognize the limits of mathematical and statistical methods.’” We hope to accomplish this in a mutually supportive environment. Students will be graded on their ability to demonstrate this understanding as well as the ability to apply the methods to a wide variety of problems.

The assignments and class time will focus almost entirely on real world problems. The pedagogy will ask every student to actively engage in the education of their classmates as well as themselves. This is the ideal math class for students who lack confidence in their mathematical ability.

This seminar will satisfy the MATH component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program.

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM A.

HON 157A — The Art of Film

Dr. Jurgen Kleist TR 12:30-1:45 3 Credits

Art films are usually serious artistic works aimed at small but sophisticated audiences. These films are made primarily for aesthetic reasons and are quite often experimental. Art films are thus distinguished from films that appeal to a mass market audience, i.e. Hollywood blockbusters.

This seminar, therefore, will introduce students to the art of film by examining a different approach to film technique, subject matter, realism, social statement and cultural views and thus will encourage an active, creative and adventurous exploration of film as art. The seminar will analyze the visual imagery, character development, camera shots and angles, setting, mood and soundtrack music by studying the following films:

Dreams (Kurosawa), Dogville (Lars von Trier), A Clockwork Orange

(Kubrick), The White Ribbon (Haneke), Aguirre—The Wrath of God (Herzog),

Last Tango in Paris (Bertolucci), and others.

The students will consider such questions as: How are symbolism and metaphor portrayed in film? How does film exploit illusion to make its point? How does film respond to other art forms and how have other art forms been influenced by cinematic art? How is the filmmaker-as-artist influenced by the medium of film?

This seminar will satisfy the ARTS COMPONENT OF THE PLATTSBURGH GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENT.

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM B.

HON 164HA — In Search of Justice

Dr. James Armstrong MW 3:30 – 4:45 3 Credits

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians seems almost intractable. Two peoples with their own particular visions of justice claim rights to the same territory. This seminar focuses on this particularly contentious case as a way of understanding the role of ethnic nationalism in modern societies. Beginning with the Israel/Palestine case, the seminar poses the following questions:

  • What factors led to the overlapping claims to the same land?
  • How did Zionism and Palestinian Nationalism construct their own visions of justice, and how did these visions serve to negate each other?
  • How did the Israelis come to dominate the Palestinians?
  • What are the consequences, economic, political, social and cultural, of domination and subordination?

A careful analysis of the case will raise questions about ethnic nationalism and ethnic politics. The seminar will then explore other similar cases in the search for answers. Can other cases in developed and developing societies (i.e., Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Canada and even the United States) shed light on the Israel/Palestine Case? What can we learn about ethnic politics, nationalism, and conflict from comparing the experiences of different societies? What is the emotional and rational appeal of ethnic nationalism? What theories have been developed to explain the impact of nationalism on societies in which it is politically and socially significant?

Finally, returning to the Israel/Palestinian case, the seminar will consider the possible strategies for managing, containing or possibly resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Participants in this seminar can expect an atmosphere of dialogue and discussion, with perhaps a bit of contentiousness, as the issue at hand is emotionally loaded. Students will be expected to complete writing assignments focused on their readings on a weekly basis. Other assignments will include a comparison of the Israel/Palestine case to some other instance of ethnic nationalism and a biographical study of one of the important figures in Zionism or Palestinian Nationalism.

THIS SEMINAR WILL MEET THE WORLD SYSTEMS component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM B

HON 166HA — Contemporary Africa: Diversity & Development

Dr. Janet Puhalla TR 12:30 – 1:45 3 Credits

Why study Africa? Africa is usually regarded as a place of mystery and negative images, where reports of natural disasters and civil strife dominate media attention. Most Americans know very little about Africa and its rich mosaic of peoples, cultural traditions, languages, political systems, and economies. So why study Africa? Because beyond the news headlines Africa is the second largest continent by population and area, the most culturally diverse continent in the world and a region that is rich in human and natural resources. Within Africa’s diverse peoples, environments, and political systems the process of “modern” development has been uneven and highly varied. The challenge for Africans, as for people everywhere, is to devise approaches and solutions that are appropriate to the contexts in which they live. This course will introduce students to sub-Saharan Africa though an examination of its geographic regions, the characteristics that make them distinct from each other, and the regional approaches to sustainable development. Questions to be addressed include:

  • How do culture and history help create regional differences among countries in Africa and does this affect regional sustainable development today?
  • How do current political, economic, social, and environmental dynamics affect how each region functions?
  • Does the physical environment help to explain current economic development conditions in Africa?
  • What characteristics bind African people and countries together despite different histories and cultures?
  • How has globalization affected Africa’s development?

Materials for this course include diverse readings (i.e., textbook, autobiographies, and articles) supplemented by videos and films. Student evaluation will be based on homework and reflection papers, contribution to class discussion forums, and completion and presentation of a research project on a topic of their choice.

This seminar will meet the WORLD SYSTEMS component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM A

HON 174HA – Parenting: A Sine Qua Non In Human Evolution:

Its Role In Our Human Future

Dr. Magarita García-Notario MW 2:00-3:15 3 Credits

Traditionally, parenting was considered to be one of humans’ natural purposes, something imbedded in human nature that guides the species toward the goal of reproducing itself. Not too long ago most humans would see parenting as an unavoidable outcome for the majority of men and women. However, with the advent of technologies that control or enable our life-conceiving capabilities, parenting is no longer unavoidable or “natural.” Nonetheless, most of us who become parents are not well prepared for the task.

Following bio-physical anthropologists, other scientists, and social thinkers, such as Sarah Hardy, David Loye, Rianne Eisner, Alice Miller, Gabor Mate, and Daniel Siegel among others, this seminar will examine the role that parenting plays in human life. We will reflect on the methods and ideas that guide childrearing today, in contrast with what was common in the past, and we will search for beneficial and enriching parenting and education habits and behaviors. We will explore the following questions:

  • How does the brain develop from conception to adolescence?
  • What role do feelings and emotions have in a healthy life?
  • What role does bonding and attachment play in determining human behavior?
  • How does one become a good parent?
  • What is the role of parenting in human evolution?

Students will read contemporary brain research focusing on emotions, and together we will explore the reinterpretation of Darwinian lessons. We will focus on the role of compassion and cooperation in natural selection and species survival. We will explore Alice Miller’s thesis that we are not born with a clean slate, but with a history of our own: the history of nine months from conception to birth. In addition to the genetic blueprint we inherit, we will consider the thesis that character depends crucially on the nature of the social surroundings in which one is raised.

At all stages students will take responsibility for defining the terms and boundaries of the discussions. Students will be expected to question the premises and conclusions of the authors they read. Discussion questions will be required for all readings. Presentations and participation are expected, and will occur in a supportive environment. A detailed, inquisitive and critical reflection will be required for all assigned readings.

This seminar will satisfy the NATURAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY COMPONENT OF THE PLATTSBURGH GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENT.

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM A

HON 187HA — European Modernism: The Shock of the New

Dr. Jurgen Kleist TR 3:30 – 4:45 3 Credits

The emergence of modernism is marked by sudden and unexpected breaks with traditional ways of viewing and interacting with art. Ezra Pound’s slogan, “Make it New!,” led to experimentation and individualism in literature, painting, music, etc. In Modernism the individual interpretation of the object is foregrounded, rather than the “realistic” representation of it. The main preoccupation of this movement is with the inner self and consciousness—and the world is viewed as a decaying entity which causes growing alienation from it in the individual. Modern capitalist society is seen as impersonal and antagonistic to the artistic impulse. The modern artist becomes the outsider who wants to shock the Bourgeoisie and undermine their core beliefs. This seminar will examine the new approaches to art and the new understanding of art and the artist. The close reading of selected texts and their critical interpretation in the context of cultural, political, economic, and technological change will reveal the significance of this art movement and period. The time period under consideration begins in the late 19th Century and extends into the early 20th Century. The class will be divided into two main parts, Modernism in the Visual Arts and Modernism in Literature.

In addition to the study of primary literature (i.e., Joyce, Kafka, etc.) students will read Peter Gay’s comprehensive opus, Modernism. Each student will present a chapter and lead the discussion. In addition, worksheets will contain questions related to a particular work of literature to prepare students for the discussions of this literature. Visual interpretation of works of art by artists, such as Dali, and Picasso, will also be required.

THIS SEMINAR WILL SATISFY THE WESTERN CIVILIZATION component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program.

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — – HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM B

HON 304HA- History, Memory & Forgetting

Dr. Richard Schaefer MW 3:30 - 4:45 3 Credits

***THIS SEMINAR IS OPEN TO STUDENTS WITH SOPHOMORE STANDING OR ABOVE***

What is history? Generally, we use the word to refer to the record of people and events we think are important for understanding the shape of things today. This is the history we learn in school and that is memorialized in museums and other ‘official’ sites. It is something that some people find interesting; others do not. But whatever you might think, let me be clear: this seminar is not about history in this sense.

This seminar is not a history class. It is not a survey of particular events or an analysis of why certain things happened in history. Instead, it explores how history functions in the background of pretty much everything we do in our everyday lives: how we think of ourselves and forge identity, how we encounter others, and how we project ourselves into the past and future. It explores how history structures our experience, and indeed is essential for having meaningful experience at all. It is about how history lives in the very pores of each of us as a human being.

For many of you, this seminar will satisfy the ‘Global Issues’ requirement of your general education program. One of our goals therefore will be to understand history as a dimension of human existence that is shared across cultures in time and space, but also how cultural difference is rendered in time and space.

This seminar will satisfy the GLOBAL ISSUES component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program.

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM A

HON 308HA – Debt & Inequality

Dr. Richard Robbins TR 8:00 AM – 9:15 AM 3 Credits

***THIS SEMINAR IS OPEN TO STUDENTS WITH SOPHOMORE STANDING OR ABOVE***

Currently the world is awash in debt—public and private—over $200 trillion worth, or some 300 percent of global GDP. Countries, both in the developing and developed world, are under assault from creditors demanding they cut health, education, and poverty programs, and even cancel negotiated pension rights, just to pay the interest on debt. Farmers in India are committing suicide by the hundreds of thousands because they cannot pay creditors, indebted farmers in Thailand are trying to satisfy creditors by selling bodily organs or giving their daughters over to sex traffickers, while college students in the United States collectively owe over a trillion dollars as the cost of the education sold to them virtually from infancy. One focus of the course will be growing economic inequality. And these are just the readily visible problems.

This course will explore why the global economy is now best characterized as a “debtocracy.” To understand how this happened we will need to explore the history of finance, specifically how the right to issue our money supply as debt to private individuals evolved. We will also need to examine the most significant consequence of this development, the creation of the necessity for perpetual economic growth, and how this, in turn, has led to continuing environmental despoliation, massive global and domestic inequality, and the continuing centralization of political power.

The course will also explore some of the ways that the damage inflicted by granting private parties the right to issue money as debt can be reversed and some of the strategies through which this can be accomplished. Thus, students will be engaged in discovering the source of the debt crisis, understanding the implications of debt, and trying to determine ways in which the damage inflicted can be remedied.

One of the primary texts for this course is Debt as Power written by Tim Di Muzio and Dr. Robbins.

This seminar will satisfy the GLOBAL ISSUES component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program.

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM A.

HON 309HA — Genocide & Atrocity in Historical Perspective

Dr. Vincent Carey TR 2:00 – 3:15 3 Credits

***THIS SEMINAR IS OPEN TO STUDENTS WITH SOPHOMORE STANDING OR ABOVE***

The seminar topic in this particular course will be genocide and atrocity in broad historical perspective while focusing specifically on causes and implications for relations between peoples. Genocide is a gross violation of human rights. Studying genocide and other forms of mass killing can illuminate the conditions under which these events are likely to occur, and perhaps lead to means of preventing such atrocities. This course will raise the question as to how mass killing has been used and/or abused to contribute to identity and to serve political purposes. A central issue in terms of causation and of use/abuse in the aftermath of mass killing is the role of the nation and nationalism, racism, and the rise of the hegemonic state. As well as informing students as to the extent of genocide in the past, this course will help them explore the larger question of the cultural construction of hatred and its impact on modern society.

At the core of this course is a substantial research paper on a particular genocide or an issue relating to genocide. The course will guide you through the process of researching and writing a major history paper, from proposing a project to choice of method and the final preparation for submission and presentation. All of the assignments are designed to enable the student to accomplish this task.

This seminar will satisfy the GLOBAL ISSUES component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program.

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM A

HON 401HB — Gender & Sexuality in India

Dr. Susan Mody R 3:30 – 6:15 3 Credits

***THIS SEMINAR IS OPEN TO STUDENTS WITH SOPHOMORE STANDING OR ABOVE***

This course is cross-listed with the Gender and Women’s Studies course (GWS385A Women Gender & Sexuality In India).

This course will provide students with an introduction to gender and sexuality issues in India, contextualizing them regionally and historically. The main emphasis will be the intersections of gender, place, religion, caste and class in contemporary Indian society. Students will apply a critical analysis to the problems created by modernization, nationhood, and development, especially as these relate to issues of gender and sexuality in multiple contexts. The framework students develop for analysis will be applied to film, youth culture, and conflict zones. The main objectives of the course are to examine gender dynamics in multiple locations (rural, urban, and regional) in India, while analyzing issues of display, embodiment, voice, and agency in media and social practices. This will be accomplished by exploring the constructions of gender in ancient, colonial and modern Indian history. Students will also explore a range of responses to gender issues, including governmental, academic, NGO and activist efforts.

This seminar will satisfy the WORLD SYSTEMS (BY PETITION) component of the Plattsburgh General Education Program

This seminar will meet in the Honors Center — HAWKINS 121 SEMINAR ROOM A.

Contact Information

If you would like more information about the honors program at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact

Dr. Tracie Church Guzzio, Director
Email: [email protected]

Sandy Boulerice, Secretary
Email: [email protected]

Office: Hawkins Hall 121–123
Phone: (518) 564-3075
Fax: (518) 564-3071