Fall & Winter 2023 Honors Scholars Seminars

A list of all Fall Semester & Winter Session 2023 Honors Scholars Seminars offered through the University of Louisville Honors Program.

Fall 2023 Honors Scholars Seminar Offerings:


Utopian Visions & Realities in the United States

HON 331-01 / HON 341-01
Professor Roy Fuller
TTh, 9:30 - 10:45 AM

Recent years have seen an influx of dystopian literature and films offering alternative realities even darker than the darkest realities of American life. But beginning with the earliest European settlements to more modern political rhetoric, the United States has been the setting for utopian ideals and realities that have inspired political leaders and movements, religious and secular communes, even our national sense of self-identity. This seminar will examine both the promises and realities of utopianism as seen in the American experience. While some political utopianism can be seen as fantasy or mere political rhetoric, many religious and secular communes were founded to live out utopian visions. Though most of these groups were small and short-lived, their impact on American culture lives on and continues to reverberate in political movements from progressivism to isolationism. The following questions will be explored: What has been the impact of utopianism in the United States? What accounts for the appeal of utopian groups? How have these groups impacted the broader American society? How have they evolved over time? Is utopianism dead or does it continue to inspire and if so, how, and where?

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.


T.V. Criticism of the Paranormal

HON 331-02 / HON 341-02
Professor Siobhan Smith-Jones
MW, 2:00 - 3:15 PM

Claws that tear, fangs that bite, your TV is on…things go bump in the night! Prepare yourself for TV Criticism of the Paranormal!

Today, it’s hard to find a channel on broadcast, cable, or a subscription service that doesn’t offer series such as Hannibal, Lovecraft Country, Stranger Things, Mindhunter, The Walking Dead, Paranormal State, Gravity Falls, and American Horror Story. Our critical analyses will explore how these terrifying texts operate.

This course will provide you with the necessary critical tools to reflect upon and understand the gratifications scary television texts provide viewers. In addition, you will critique the assumptions that these texts put forth about you, others, and the world around you. This semester, we will develop a more thorough and critical understanding of the ways in which paranormal/horror television programs make meanings by studying the theories and methods for examining these programs, the audiences who watch them, and the culture in which television programs are produced and viewed. We can’t do this without also taking into account who produces these horror(fying) texts, who their (assumed) target audiences are, who the texts represent, and the authenticity of these representations. My hope is that you will become more thoughtful, engaged, critical television viewers.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements


The City in Latin American Film

HON 331-03 / HON 341-03
Professor Manuel Medina
TTh, 4:00 - 5:15 PM

Italo Calvino, in Imagined Cities, addresses the dynamic nature of urban space: “The city consists of its relationships between the measurements of its spaces and the events of its past”. Accordingly, often film directors explore how the director perceives the town and how the inhabitants interact with each other and their shared space. This seminar uses cinema as the lens film directors use to represent large Latin American urban centers. “The City in Latin American Film” will read the city as a space of human relationships and study its past and present, the politics of place and space, and the role of gender, class, and race. It will survey films using a critical cultural studies approach to analyze the representation of the city as a historical space. Each film depicts a different city from a unique perspective, allowing students to explore the vast diversity of worlds framed by the director’s point of view. For example, we will explore The City by David Riker to contemplate the nature of the fragmented New York City presented in this film, where the characters hope to realize their dreams and instead find a soulless city.  We will compare it to Argentinian director Eliseo Subiela’s end-of-millennium production, Pequeños Milagros/Little Miracles, to study the presentation of Buenos Aires as a magical space to examine how Subiela uses film to deliver a message of hope using a city that differs sharply with the jungles of New York City in The City.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.


Russian Culture: Cause and/or Effect

HON 331-05 / HON 341-05
Professor Thomas Dumstorf
TTh, 1:00 - 2:15 PM

The seminar will race through as many aspects of Russian Culture as possible to examine what has made Russia, what Russia has made, what is the result of this compilation of centuries of creation and destruction, madness and murder, freewheeling innovation and cultural appropriation, brazen theft and downhill-in-neutral blind-drunk grasping for world attention and consideration. As time permits, we will examine everything from language to film to food to music to interpersonal relationships to geo-political considerations. Participants will read one major work of Russian literature pertaining to their interests, present it to the group and submit a review of the work.  Participants will also choose from a list of major cultural figures and/or events to flesh out their contribution to the conglomeration of Russian culture through a presentation and brief paper. Other short writing assignments (page summaries on readings) may be required to help divide and present material to the rest of the group. Live guests digitally possible. Madness may ensue.         

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.


Sherlock Holmes in Literature, Film, & Popular Culture (WR)

HON 336-01 / HON 346-01
Professor Michael Johmann
TTh, 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM

This course explores the phenomenal popularity of Sherlock Holmes in literature, film, and popular culture.  We will begin with the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle but explore the many ways in which Sherlock has continued to appear in film, on television, and in other media formats into the 21st century.

With the sole exceptions of Santa Claus and Count Dracula, Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed more times in film and on television than any other fictional character. Played by actors ranging from Basil Rathbone to Benedict Cumberbatch, Holmes has not only survived attempts by his own author to kill off the character as early as 1893 but has lived to fight Nazis, defeat Jack the Ripper, reside simultaneously in London and New York, and use digital messaging to taunt the police. This seminar will explore the publishing and media phenomenon that is Sherlock Holmes, who first appeared in print in 1887. Beginning with the novels and short stories, we will examine the fascination with the character among his earliest Victorian readers, which extended onto the Victorian stage and even into silent film during Doyle’s lifetime. With the coming of sound in the 1930s, we’ll explore the ways in which Sherlock, along with his friend and biographer John Watson, become the model for Batman and Robin, along with other superheroes, during the golden age of comics and are transformed from their Victorian origins into patriotic Britons fighting against Hitler’s spies and saboteurs during World War II. We’ll examine the return to a traditional depiction of the great Victorian detective in the Granada Television productions of the 1980s and early 90s starring Jeremy Brett, and his emergence as a 21st century crime solver living in today’s London in the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Along the way, we will consider some of the other characters and types of fiction created by Conan Doyle that either mirror his greatest success or starkly contrast with the Holmes universe. We’ll discuss the development of both the literary detective and the detective story genre inspired by Holmes that dominates so much of contemporary fiction and media and try to answer the question: Why does such an egotistical, arrogant, cocaine-addicted Victorian continue to fascinate us? As one of Sherlock’s adversaries, Irene Adler, famously puts it in the recent BBC series: “Brainy is the new sexy”. Be sure to bring your pipe and deerstalker hat.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.


Russia & Eurasia (WR)

HON 336-02 / HON 346-02 / POLS 345-01
Professor Charles Ziegler
TTh, 9:30-10:45 AM

This course is designed as an introduction to some of the major issues facing Russia and Eurasia—the legacy countries of the former Soviet Union. Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched a war of aggression against Ukraine and cracked down on democrats and dissenters, leading many of Russia's best and brightest to leave the country. The U.S. and NATO are supplying Ukraine with weapons, and Putin in turn threatens the possibility of nuclear war against the West. In this seminar, we'll discuss the roots of authoritarianism in Russia and Central Asia, the democratic successes of the Baltic states, and the mixed records of Ukraine and the Caucasus. How do people live in these countries, and what role do they play in the global economy and international order? We'll also look at art and culture, political parties and interest groups, ethnic relations, and varieties of leadership. 

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities, the Social Sciences, or the Department of Political Science. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.


Urban Ecology

HON 341-04 / HON 351-04
Professor Tim Darst
MW, 4:00-5:15 PM

Urban Ecology examines the natural world in an urban setting and how humans interact with it.  This interdisciplinary field helps us understand how environmental systems and human systems can work together to make our world more sustainable.  Cities can nurture and sustain the human and non-human inhabitants of the earth.  Urban Ecology helps us to see community from a new perspective.

In this class, we will explore, from in the classroom as well as in the outdoors, ways that cities can provide habitat for humans as well as other animals and plants.  We will call upon science, literature, economics, and spirituality to examine the need for seeking harmony between humans and the natural world and look at specific ways that we can bring this about this change.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Social Sciences or the Natural Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements


Payne Hollow: The Confluence of Art, Culture, & the Environment Along our Waterways

HON 341-06 / HON 351-06
Professors Russell Barnett & David Wicks
TTh, 2:30 - 3:45 PM

Harlan and Anna Hubbard are remembered for the “simple lifestyle”, living on the fringe of society, but their lives were a rich tapestry of art, music, literature, and manual labor. Payne Hollow on the Ohio, a nonprofit organization, recently purchased the 61 acres known as Payne Hollow, the homeplace and studio of Anna and Harlan Hubbard. Located on the banks of the Ohio River in Trimble County, Kentucky, it is just downstream of Hanover and Madison, Indiana. With the purchase of the land, the organization's goal is to create an outdoor learning and research station. Participants in this seminar will assist in the development of a land management plan, with both programmatic and administrative components, necessary to create a Payne Hollow interdisciplinary field station. The class will:

  • Explore the relationship of the creative works and lifestyle of the Hubbards within the context of the land and the Ohio River,
  • Develop an ecological base line inventory of Payne Hollow’s flora and fauna as well as a description of the geology and geography,
  • Conduct assessments of water quality and aquatic life in the stream flowing through the property,
  • Assist museum curators in inventorying artifacts in the home and on the property, and
  • Explore the natural and cultural issues that face the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

This experiential class includes weekend field trips to Payne Hollow; discussion of the Hubbards’ art, philosophy and impact on the Ohio River; and interaction with state and local government officials/academics/Hubbard enthusiasts that will have a role in the development of Payne Hollow as a natural area, research station, and educational center. Class members will make recommendations on how the property could be used for these purposes.

We are planning three weekend field trips (Sept. 9 and 10; Sept. 16 and 17; and Oct. 7 and 8, followed by Fall Break, offering the possibility of optional fieldwork) with food provided.  With parts of the early fall spent in fieldwork, seminar meetings will conclude early as project work continues.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Social Sciences or the Natural Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.


Jerks, Liars, & Cheats: What We Can Learn from Difficult Behavior

HON 431-02 / HON 441-02
Professor Kandi Walker
TTh, 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM

In this course, we identify and examine the underbelly of human behavior paying close attention to how people can behave in difficult ways and how challenging behavior can provide opportunities for immense learning.  We will identify relational challenges, personal challenges, and cultural challenges surrounding people behaving in less than ideal ways.  Some topics we will cover include: Is cheating always bad? Is a small lie helpful or hurtful? Is cursing appropriate (and if yes, by whom, what words, and what context?)?, Why do we hurt the ones we love? How do we navigate interactions when people are constantly on their phones? 

This class will cover material that explores how people behave in ways that are sometimes inconsiderate, difficult, challenging, disruptive, and unconventional.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.


Nonprofit Strategy & Organizational Consulting

HON 431-75 / HON 441-75
Professor Eddie Bobbitt
Th, 5:30 - 8:15 PM

This seminar is designed to overview the nonprofit management consulting profession with an emphasis on nonprofits in Louisville. The course will explore organizational structure, earned income strategies, philanthropic giving, grant writing, marketing, and programming outcomes. Students will work with nonprofits in Kentuckiana to assess and address their organization needs. You will leave this course clearer on what a public service-facing management consultant does, having practiced some of the skills they use, and with insight into how you can add the most value to nonprofits you care about.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.


Making Climate Change Matter: Intersections of Culture, Science, & Rhetoric (WR)

HON 436-02 / HON 446-02 / ENGL 401-02
Professor Bronwyn Williams
MWF, 1:00 - 1:50 PM

The science of climate change may be settled, but the public and private conversations, debates, and emotions connected to the issues around climate change are varied and often volatile. How we respond, both individually and as communities, to climate change is shaped, not only by the science, but by history, politics, psychology, rhetoric, popular culture and more. In this course we will explore the connections – and sometimes tensions – that develop in examining climate change as a cultural experience. We will draw on conversations going on in fields such as sustainability education, media criticism, environmental rhetorics, and psychology, as well as climate science, to examine the ways in which cultural contexts shape our understanding of, and responses, to science and the events of climate change. We will also study the conversations taking place in other cultures around the world about the current climate emergency to see how different cultural contexts shape the ways the issues are discussed and the kinds of responses that are adopted. We will be reading a range of works from rhetorical theory, cultural studies, history, politics, media criticism, education, and creative nonfiction including selections from How Climate Change Comes to Matter, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, Sense of Place and Sense of Planet, Reimagining Climate Change, as well as films and other popular culture.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities, the Social Sciences, or the Department of English. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.

The New Mythology (WR)

HON 436-03 / HON 446-03
Professor Joseph Turner
TTh, 9:30 - 10:45 AM

Stories from Greek and Roman mythology have sparked imaginations for millennia. Even in our age, which prides itself on science and reason, interest in mythology has exploded. Writers such as Toni Morrison, Madeline Miller, Anne Carson, and Anthony Doerr have repurposed classical myths to give voice to the previously voiceless and to interrogate how stories can powerfully shape our understanding of such issues as gender equality and climate change. This course will begin with an overview of classical western mythology before turning to contemporary artists interested in reinvigorating and reinventing those myths. Along the way, we will also consider the psychology of myth, the history and structure of mythic storytelling, and also film and comic adaptations that bring these stories to life for new and broader audiences.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.


International  Law (WR)

HON 436-75 / HON 446-75
Professor Julie Bunck
W, 5:30 - 8:15 PM

In focusing upon the role that international law plays within the larger realm of international relations, this seminar will ask where is law important, where is it less important, and why? We will consider where international law comes from, how it differs from and resembles domestic law of various sorts, how international tribunals function, and what is meant by such terms as sovereignty, sovereign immunity, jurisdiction, extradition, adjudication, arbitration, mediation, and conciliation. Throughout the course, we will adopt an interdisciplinary approach to the study of international law, making a special effort to discuss political, historical, and other relevant social contexts.

In pursuing these broad themes, the class will consider a multitude of cases involving different aspects of international law, including the Iran hostage crisis of 1980, trials involving alleged Nazi, American, and Japanese war criminals, and the assassination in the U.S. of a former Chilean politician by Chile’s secret police. We will examine how law enforcement agencies in different countries are cooperating to combat terrorism, drug trafficking, and other forms of organized crime. We will think through issues of cultural property, focusing on artifact looting in war-torn Cyprus, and the problems of refugees, including the boat people of Haiti. The class will also examine the outlawing of piracy, slavery, and genocide, and will assess the role that international law played in United States history, from the Civil War through the world wars to the conflicts in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq. We will analyze the relation of international law to the various responses to the attacks of September 11 and, more generally, the different possible roles for international law in the post-Cold War world. We will discuss international environmental problems such as air pollution crossing borders and natural resources problems involving endangered species, including whales.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.


Visual Illusion & Perception (WR)

HON 446-01 / HON 456-01 / PSYC 414-02
Professor Zijiang He
M, 2:00 - 4:45 PM

Our everyday visual perception apparently reflects the physical world we live in. Or does it? The answer can be glimpsed from the fascinating study of visual illusions. In visual illusion, a stimulus in front of one’s eyes is not the same as the perception it instigates. As a matter of fact, there are overwhelming empirical findings by vision scientists suggesting that our everyday “normal” visual perception can be considered as illusions. This is because our perception of the world is not an exact replica of the external world but a creation of our brain. One good example is color perception. Isaac Newton remarked that, “For the rays to speak properly are not colored. In them there is nothing else than a certain power and disposition to stir up a sensation of this or that color”. In this regard, one can argue that visual illusions are special cases when the “created representation” of the external stimulus/object fails. The phenomenon of visual illusion thus provides a unique opportunity for scientists to explore how the eyes and brain construct visual perception. In this course, students will both take lecture on visual perception, and read and discuss literatures on visual illusions and visual perception research. The students will also have the opportunity to experience various forms of visual illusions and to conduct experiments studying them.

This course fulfills elective requirements in the Social Sciences, the Natural Sciences, or the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.

Winter 2023 Honors Scholars Seminar Offering:

My Health, Your Health, Our Health: Private to Public

HON 431-50 / HON 441-50
Professor Kandi Walker
Distance Education

Despite vast improvements in health care and disease prevention, we still have a long way to go in terms of making our world a healthier place. "It appears that the severity of many health problems could potentially be reduced by improving communication among providers, between providers and patients, between health researchers, and between public health leaders and the public" (Wright, Sparks, O'Hair, 2020, p. 4). This seminar will examine how we communicate health in personal, interpersonal, public, cultural, and mediated ways. The information presented in class will cover a broad range of topics, such as ethical dilemmas surrounding health, the close relationship between health and religious beliefs, and different types of images of health in the media.  Additionally, we will look at how race, age, ability, language, sexual orientation, and economic status impact health.

Students are encouraged to voice and consider a wide variety of viewpoints. The object is not to find the one right answer, but to gain experience discussing and reflecting on the immense responsibilities involved in communicating about health.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. The course cannot be used to satisfy Cardinal Core Requirements.