Fall 2020 Honors Scholars Seminars

A list of all Fall 2020 Honors Scholars Seminars offered through the University of Louisville Honors Program.


Several seminars still have available seats for Fall 2020 - inquire at honors@louisville.edu or with your advisor.

NEW! - Democratization: Deterring Dictators, Avoiding Authoritarians, Crafting Citizens

HON 331-09 / HON 341-09 / POLS 347-01
TTh, 11:00 - 12:15
Professor C. Ziegler

Historically there have been many different types of political systems—monarchies, city-states, empires, military dictatorships, theocracies, republics, constitutional monarchies, presidential democracies, and parliamentary democracies. For the most part, authoritarian political systems have outnumbered democracies, though the number of democratic polities has grown in recent decades. The concept of democracy has broad legitimacy--even highly authoritarian states try to claim they are “democratic.” At the same time, many liberal democracies today are experiencing unprecedented challenges from populist and undemocratic movements.

In this course we will examine the differences between democratic and non-democratic states and discuss in comparative perspective the process by which states have transformed from authoritarian to democratic systems, focusing on what Samuel Huntington called the “Third Wave” (1974-1991). We will look at various theories of democratization, the role of endogenous and exogenous factors in democratization, and various efforts to measure democracy. We will try to understand why some regions and cultures (Europe and the Anglo-American world) have been particularly successful in building democracy, while others (Middle East, Africa and the Islamic world) have been noticeably less successful. We will discuss the role of economics and of religion in democracy and the impact of structures such as presidential and parliamentary forms of government. We will discuss why some democratic transitions succeed, why some fail, and why others never start. And we will look at the new populist threat to well-established democracies, including our own.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and for the Department of Political Science.

“Holy Terror:” Religiously Inspired Violence in Contemporary Society

HON 331-01 / HON 341-01
TTh, 2:30 - 3:45 
Professor R. Fuller

One of the distinguishing features of international terrorism over the past twenty years has been the resurgence and proliferation of terrorist groups motivated by religious imperatives. Such groups are far more lethal than their secular counterparts, regarding violence as a divine duty or sacramental act conveyed by sacred text and often imparted by clerical authority. Such “holy terrorism” can be found in all major religious traditions and includes both international and domestic organizations which sometimes operate with government support. Students will examine the religious motivations, support, and tactics behind the phenomena of domestic and foreign terrorism. Analysis of case studies of specific terrorist organizations, justifications for violence, and rationale for target selection will be explored. Course materials will include Mark Juergensmeyer’s Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, a Grawemeyer Religion Award winning book as well as novels, films and other media from popular culture. Methods of countering religiously inspired terrorism will also be explored.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences. 


Adaptations: Reboots, Franchises, and Tie-ins

HON 331-03 / HON 341-03
MW, 2:00 - 3:15
Professor S. Smith-Jones

Ever had that weird sense of déjà v when it comes to your media? What about all of the books that have been made into television shows and movies? He’s Just Not That into You, If Beale Street Could Talk, and The Princess Bride are just a few. Let’s not forget the movies that have been made into amusement park rides and games, or vice versa? How many Spider-Man reboots should there be? Is there a limit on Law and Order? What are the connections among Kanye West’s "Yeezus," "The Life of Pablo," and "Ye?" Just think of all of the media texts that have found extended life as comic books and novels (e.g., Stephen King’s The Stand, Joe Hill’s Nosferatu, Star Wars). Reality TV is its own beast altogether- consider genres such as dating shows (e.g., The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Flavor of Love, etc.) and makeover shows (e.g., Botched, Dr. 90210- versus Flip or Flop, Zombie House Flipping, and others). This course will provide you with the necessary critical tools to reflect upon and understand the various gratifications adaptations provide their audiences. In addition, you will explore the media landscape that makes adaptations possible- including media conglomeration, technology, and fair use. We will develop a more thorough and critical understanding of what makes some adaptations work and why we’re ashamed of others. My hope is that you will become more thoughtful, engaged, critical audience members who are able to understand the purposes of adaptations.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.


Preparing for the 21st Century

HON 331-05 / HON 341-05
MW, 3:30 - 4:45
Professor D. Jones

The world is changing fast—in terms of economics, demographics, politics, and culture—and this class will explore those changes in the present, with an eye towards understanding the world your generation will inhabit.  During the first few weeks, the class will begin with an overview of world cultures, then proceed through a quick history of the modern world, setting the stage for the bulk of the semester’s work:  a prolonged discussion of the major drivers of global change today.  From China to India to Africa and Latin America and beyond, we will utilize a variety of materials to understand these changes:  urbanization, technological change, demographics, the continued relevance of traditional culture, as well as the challenges of modernization. Sources will include formal history, UN reports, journalistic writing, fiction, non-fiction, film and travel literature to uncover how life, and the environment, are changing for people around the world.  Think of it as a multimedia presentation of the world today and where it’s headed.  While not a class on futurism (I consider it more of a “history of the present”), we will continually reference the “world of 2050” and what parameters will shape it, both existing trends and potential disruptions.  As a seminar, in-class participation and small-group communication skills will be key, and you will be required to lead special topics throughout the semester, as well as write and turn in response questions on assignments.  Grades are based on class preparation, answers to response questions, in-class participation, and project quality.  There are two required projects, the first a short presentation during the middle of the semester, and the second a final project/presentation using the medium of your choice.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.

Nonprofit Leadership

HON 331-07 / HON 341-07

MW, 4:00 - 5:15
Professor E. Bobbitt

Louisville is regarded as a Compassionate City. Currently, the city has over 2200 nonprofit organizations that provide support for social services, environmental research, pediatric healthcare, education, child advocacy and more. Nonprofits thrive in Louisville and will continue to do so in the future. One essential question is what does it take to be a leader in the nonprofit sector? How can nonprofit leaders align their values and skill-sets to address civic needs? This seminar will examine nonprofits in Louisville. Specifically, the course will focus on the organizational structure, behavior, perception, volunteer management, marketing, fundraising and special events of nonprofits. This course will analyze the dos and don'ts of nonprofit management, using both theoretical and case study approaches. The course will explore moral issues and ethical conduct among Louisville nonprofit volunteers and employees. 

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.


Day of the Doctor

HON 331-08 / HON 341-08
TTh, 4:00 - 5:15
Professor D. Pruitt

On November 23, 1963, the BBC aired the first episode of a sci-fi-themed time-travel program intended to teach British youngsters about history and science. The program debuted opposite breaking news of US President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, leading the BBC to fear that the show would not find an audience. Fifty-seven years later, that show, Doctor Who, is a global phenomenon. Why? What explains the show’s enduring popularity? Why have fans passionately followed the adventures of a cranky but loving, duplicitous but noble, arrogant but selfless, silly yet deadly, traumatized mad genius who races across time and space in a stolen time machine with human companions? Why? Because Doctor Who, and the Doctor, are bigger on the inside. Appropriately for a show about a time-traveling alien, this seminar traces multiple histories of Doctor Who. We will consider its production history, its story history, and its place in contemporary British and global popular culture history. “Good men don’t need rules,” the Eleventh Doctor observed. “Today is not a good day to learn why I have so many.” The Fall 2020 semester, however, will be! Unless, of course, you would prefer to be exterminated by a Dalek…

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.


The Inside and Outside of Activism and Advocacy: Paths to Resiliency, Liberation, and Equivalence of Power

HON 331-11 / HON 341-11
TTh, 11:00 - 12:15
Professor S. Nuñez

In this seminar, we will explore participatory decision making and organizational structures that are rooted in engagement and fuel member empowerment and coalition building.  Toward understanding such processes, we will examine oral histories, case studies, and current movements (such as Mijente, Black Lives Matter, SURJ, Immigrant Rights, and Environmental Justice as well as the intersection of these movements), and hear from local participants/leaders.  Our primary focus will be on the public sector and local, regional, and national movements.  Further, employing principles that we will study in the course, seminar participants will have opportunities to actively shape areas of focus and assignment selection. This seminar will give students exposure to methods used in activism and advocacy such as: facilitation, leadership skills, organizing, systems analysis, and decision making. Local and national examples of these practices in action will be used. Students will help lead class discussions, connect with community projects, meet leaders, gain new skills, and learn to think critically about how decisions are made and how to engage in community building and movements.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.

Sherlock Holmes // WR

HON 336-01 / HON 346-01
MWF, 12:00 - 12:50
Professor M. Johmann

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 class 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 examine the development of both the literary detective and the detective story genre inspired by Holmes which 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:“Brainy is the new sexy”.Be sure to bring your pipe and deerstalker hat.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.

Ancient Astronomers: The Pioneers Who Mapped Our Cosmos

HON 341-04 / HON 351-04

TTh, 2:30 - 3:45
Professor J. Hale

In this Honors Seminar, we will explore the vast array of evidence from the world’s earliest astronomers. The remains of our ancestors’ astronomical structures and instruments range in size from Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid at Giza, down to small fragments of one bronze device that enabled ancient Greek scientists to plot the positions of sun, moon, planets and constellations on any given night in history. In addition to midterm and final exams, participating students will also conduct a research project on a topic of their choice, and then share their findings during one of our seminar sessions.

This course fulfills requirements in the Social Sciences or Natural Sciences.

Ecotourism on the Ohio River

HON 341-06 / HON 351-06

TTh, 9:30 - 10:45
Professor D. Wicks & R. Barnett

Interested in environmental studies, history, photography, canoeing, urban planning, ecotourism, or economics? This class is designed to collect information to support the designation of the Ohio River as a National Recreational Trail.We will meet with experts from the National Park Service, Ohio River mayors, and community groups to collect historic, cultural, and environmental information as well as information on the economic benefits of Ecotourism.The class will include 4 weekend canoe trips and visits to towns along the river. The tentative dates are Sunday, August 30 from 9am-1pm; Sunday, Sept. 13 from 9am-5pm; Saturday, Sept. 19 from 12-6pm; and Sunday, October 4 from 9am-4pm. Three optional weekday events in September will provide the opportunity to make up missed trips or provide more involvement.

In early December students will participate in an evening public opening for the Ohio River Exhibit at the Louisville Free Public Library, Bernheim Gallery. The evening will present the student's work as well as current and historical photos/maps of the river. This will be the student's final presentation.

Additional information on the Ohio River Recreational trail here and here.

This course fulfills requirements in the Social Sciences or the Natural Sciences.

American Borderlands // WR

HON 436-01 / HON 446-01
TTh, 2:00 - 3:15
Professor Amy Clukey

This course will take an interdisciplinary and interactive approach to the study of the humanitarian crisis enfolding on the U.S.-Mexico border. Our readings will include histories of the border, Chican@ feminist theory, critical race theory, nonfiction about desert ecology, Chican@ literature, and literatures of migration. In addition to traditional writing assignments, students will participate in public humanities projects. The course will be linked to Rachel Singel’s advanced printmaking class; Professor Singel’s art students will create images for a handmade book, and we will create text about the border for that book. We will also be assembling an interactive exhibit called Hostile Terrain 94 (https://www.undocumentedmigrationproject.org). The exhibit surveys the human costs of the U.S. Border Patrol’s policy of ““Prevention Through Deterrence.” This policy uses the desert ecologies of the U.S.-Mexico border—what Border Patrol call “hostile terrain”—to prevent crossings by undocumented immigrants, migrant workers, and refugees. The policy has failed to stop migration through the desert, but it has led to untold suffering, human rights abuses, and thousands of deaths. Readings will likely include Jason De León’s Land of Open Graves, Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, Helena Maria Viramontes’s Under the Feet of Jesus, Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive, Tommy Pico’s Nature Poem, and Javier Zamora’s Undocumented, among others.

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities or the Social Sciences.

Detective Stories: From Edgar Allen Poe to Knives Out // WR

HON 436-02 / HON 446-052 / ENGL 401-02
MWF, 11:00 - 11:50
Professor I. Stansel

Mystery and detective stories have long been dismissed as mere escapism. And yet they are consistently among the most popular genres in both film and books. Is this really only a matter of escapism? Do detective stories not illuminate anything more than our base human instincts and naïve need for tidy resolutions? Author Joyce Carol Oates, bucking conventional—and often snobbish—sentiments, said that the detective “is the very emblem of our souls.” The course will examine the originators of the mystery stories, though special attention will be paid to contemporary iterations of the genre. Through stories, novels, films, stage plays, and games, we will try to understand the tropes and conventions of mystery writing and formulate theories of the genre. How do they work? How do they fail? What do different subgenres (hardboiled, noir, “cozies,” cat-and-mouse, con artist stories, etc.) have in common and where do they diverge? How do race and gender play into our conceptions of these stories and what they might be? And ultimately, why do they, in all their forms, endure?

This course fulfills requirements in the Humanities, the Social Sciences, or the Department of English. If you are seeking to take the course for English credit, please contact Dr. Clukey at amy.clukey@louisville.edu.

The Politics of Climate Change // WR

HON 446-03 / HON 456-03
TTh, 4:00 - 5:15
Professor R. Payne

This course focuses on the politics of global climate change. The semester will begin with an overview of the scientific consensus and explore the politics of denial and doubt as purposefully developed in the public sphere. Students will devote significant attention to international efforts to address climate change, culminating with a focus on the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement and subsequent developments. Class members will study the global distribution of natural resources (especially fossil fuels) and the disparate national emissions of greenhouse gases in order to explain the preferences and behavior of significant nation-states. Students will additionally develop an understanding of the role of various non-state actors, including global corporations, in creating climate change, and the role of activist and interest groups in potentially preventing it. Ultimately, class members will examine a variety of potential national, international, and transnational solutions to climate change.

This course fulfills requirements in the Social Sciences or the Natural Sciences.

Visual Illusions and Perception // WR

HON 446-06 / HON 456-06 / PSYC 414-01
TTh, 1:00 - 2:15
Professor Z. He

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, there will be both lectures and discussions (based on research literature) on visual perception and visual illusions.The students will also have the opportunity to experience various forms of visual illusions and to conduct experiments studying them.m the professor in class. Some out of class time to work together should be expected. Attendance is required for participation points in the course.

This course fulfills requirements in the Social Sciences, the Natural Sciences, or the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.