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Honors Seminars

HMN 295 Honors Seminar in the Humanities - A World of Banned Books

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
~ Joseph Brodsky
Noble Prize in Literature, 1987

What makes a book dangerous, obscene, or offensive? Can a novel be artistically worthy and morally reprehensible? Who decides? When, if ever, is censorship justifiable?

While the history of banned books is long and storied, a serious truth has remained throughout the centuries and across continents: ideas are dangerous. This course introduces us to those books whose ideas have been classified as so dangerous that they were censored, seized, or burned, and their authors fined, jailed, and in some cases, tortured. We will read works -- spanning several centuries and cultures -- that have been banned, challenged, or otherwise censored for reasons of sexual indecency or religious and political dissension. Incorporating texts from the United States, Europe, China, Japan, and the so called “Axis of Evil,” we will examine different systems of censorship and the sometimes surprising connection between church, monarchy, fascism, and democracy to determine how authors write against or within the modes of repression.

Three credit hours – Fulfills Humanities Elective and Literature Elective
Instructor: Pam Emigh-Murphy    Office 5-541    Phone: (585) 292-3378

HMN 295 Honors Seminar in the Humanities - Art, Violence, and Activism

This course will focus on theoretical and cultural intersections between violent acts and representations of violence. Drawing from a variety of contemporary theoretical frameworks that seek to understand both the materiality and constructivity of embodiment in relation to violence and physical suffering, we will then focus on three specific cultural enactments of violence in the United States: racialized violence, gendered/sexualized violence, and state/military violence. We will look at a variety of artistic representations of violence—in literature, theater, and film, in particular—and think about how these representations glamorize/eroticize violence, arguably desensitizing the viewer to the realities of suffering in others, as well as how these representations raise consciousness in the viewer, arguably reducing that viewer’s capacity to inflict/overlook real-life physical pain.

Three Credits - Fulfills Humanities Elective
Professor: Maria Brandt
Office: 5-539
Phone: (585) 292-3394

HMN 295 Honors Seminar in the Humanities - Female Icons

Medusa, Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Mermaid, Pandora, Eve, Pocahontas, Jane Eyre, Lolita, Mona Lisa, Ophelia, Virginia Woolf, Queen Elizabeth, Marie Antoinette, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Rosa Parks, Barbie, Wonder Woman, Lara Croft, Martha Stewart, Oprah.

Most likely you recognize all the names listed above; chances are, you'd recognize their face in a painting or photograph. Why? What gives them their staying power? What accounts for our culture's celebration or, in other cases, vilification of these women? Further, how do their representations change over time or among different cultures/sub-cultures, and how do these transformations reflect shifts in cultural values and attitudes?

HMN 295 Honors Seminar in the Humanities - Female Icons in Literature and Popular Culture will involve the study of these iconic women to try and answer these questions. The seminar will entail reading, discussion, and analysis of famous women in mythology, biblical history, fairy tales and folk tales, classic and contemporary fiction, and 20th century popular culture. A cultural studies approach will be used to analyze these and other icons, and will include a variety of different kinds of texts, including fiction and poetry, artwork, music, film, advertisement.

Please call or stop by my office if you would like more information about this seminar. You can also contact me by email.

Three credits Fulfills Humanities Elective
Professor: Elizabeth Johnston    Phone (585) 292-3383    Office 5-543

HMN 295 - Honors in the Humanities - Math in World Cultures

This interdisciplinary seminar upends the misconception that profound mathematical ideas are disconnected from human culture and require advanced technical knowledge to be appreciated.

Rather than learning mathematical skills to solve problems, this course emphasizes the cultural context in which mathematics arose and was transmitted among western, non-western and small-scale cultures culminating in its refined modern understanding. The interplay of mathematics with religion, ethics, art, history, politics, geography, language, poetry, aesthetics, and psychology is investigated through different frames of reference. Students study the contributions of women to mathematics, the tradition of sub-scientific mathematics, and the ethno-mathematics of subordinated social groups.

The mode of instruction includes hands-on learning, group cooperative efforts, in class discussions, and showing and discussing a documentary and an historic film.

Prerequisites: MTH 098 with a grade of C or higher or the equivalent or Accuplacer level 5, Placement in or completion of ENG 101 or ENG 200 with a grade of C or higher or the equivalent

Three credits, can fulfill: Humanities Elective
Professor David Boni   Phone 292-3129    Office 8-535

HMN 295 - Honors in the Humanities - The Literature and Culture of Witchcraft

“The situation demands that we ask not why the inquisitors were obsessed with destroying witchcraft, but rather why they were so obsessed with creating it.”

Marvin Harris
Cows, Pigs, War, and Witches

In this course we will study witchcraft from an historical perspective which incorporates a variety of responses to “witch fears” that come from society and are expressed in literature and culture. We begin our exploration with the Druids, and then proceed from the time of the Ancient Greeks to the Middle Ages. Later we will concentrate on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in both Europe and America and finally end with a discussion of contemporary witchcraft in the form of McCarthyism, AIDS, and Wicca. This schedule will provide a framework for understanding of all individuals and groups who are marginalized and punished for their differences by society.

Three Credits - Fulfills Humanities Elective
Professor: Lynn Bartholome    Office: 5-543    Phone: (585) 292-3276

HON 101 Honors Studies: Orientation

Strongly Recommended for Incoming Freshman

This course is designed for incoming students accepted to the Honors Institute and is the first in a series of four one-credit courses that comprise the common experience in the MCC Honors Institute. Through a variety of in-class discussions and out-of-class experiences, students will be introduced to the six essential components of the honors experience: scholarly inquiry, self-discovery, creative expression, service learning, global awareness, and abstract thought.

One Credit
Fulfills Honors Studies with Thesis requirement

Professor: Scott Rudd    Phone: (585) 292-3248    Office: 5-556

HON 102 Honors Studies: Exploration and Discovery

This is the second in a series of four one-credit courses that comprise the common experience in the MCC Honors Institute. Students will build on the foundation of the first course as they are introduced to research methodologies in various academic disciplines. Students will also engage in a common service learning project. With coordinator approval, students may begin the four course sequence with this course.

PREREQUISITE: IDC 101 or permission

One Credit
Fulfills Honors Studies with Thesis requirement

Professor: Scott Rudd    Phone: (585) 292-3248    Office: 5-556

IDC 195 Honors Seminar in Critical Analysis - Science, Pseudoscience, and Religion

In this section of honors critical thinking we work collaboratively to learn the skills of argument analysis and evaluation, and apply them to the problem of defining and distinguishing science from pseudoscience and religion. The course has three modules. In Module One, we study logic and argument, learn how inductive and deductive arguments work, and the standards of good arguments. These studies prepare us for Module Two, in which we study the difficulty of distinguishing science from pseudoscience, the characteristics of disciplines known as pseudosciences, and some intellectual and social problems associated with disputes about science and pseudoscience. In Module Three, we take up the relation of science to philosophy and religion, particularly debates about the compatibility of religion and science.

Three Credits - Fulfills Humanities Elective
Professor: Robert Muhlnickel    Office 5-553    Phone: (585) 292-3243

HON 195 Honors Seminar in Critical Analysis – Global Poverty and Global Justice

Global Poverty and Global Justice examines questions about the justice of a global economic system in which dire poverty threatens the lives of many and limits the opportunities of many more to live minimally decent lives. We review research on the nature of poverty, who is poor and who is affluent, the number of the poor, and the causes of poverty in the U. S. and in the world. We consider what contemporary theories of justice require of both the affluent and the impoverished, incorporating philosophical contributions to conceptions of poverty. Topics for individual research include gender and poverty, concepts of poverty, poverty and human rights, economic globalization, and the psychology of donors. Students create a proposal to justify supporting a program that addresses global poverty.

Three Credits Fulfills Humanities Elective
Professor: Robert Muhlnickel    Office 5-553    Phone: (585) 292-3243

HON 195 Honors Seminar in Critical Analysis - Sustainability

How will your life change when gas reaches $15.00 a gallon?

The Promises:
This course provides you the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to make reasoned judgments about real world issues. You will have the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of knowledge, argumentation, and inductive and deductive reasoning. In addition, you will have the opportunity to understand the scientific method and be able to identify when this method is used with integrity and when it is not. Finally, you will have the opportunity to apply these reasoning methods individually and with a number of your classmates to some of the controversial issues raised in Kunstler’s The Long Emergency.

Together, and in response to Kunstler’s challenges, we will shape the future. Be about it!

Three Credits - Fulfills Humanities Elective
Professor: Elizabeth Laidlaw    Office: 5-522    Phone: (585) 292-3368

HON 201 – Honors Studies: Scholarly Process

This is the third in a series of four 1-credit courses that comprise the common experience in the MCC Honors Institute. Students will conduct the scholarly project they proposed in the second course and will continue their engagement in a service learning project.

PREREQUISITE: IDC 102 or permission

One Credit
Fulfills Honors Studies with Thesis requirement

Professor: Celia Reaves   Phone 292-3258   Office 5-440

HON 202 – Honors Studies: Scholarly Presentation

This is the fourth in a series of four one-credit courses that comprise the common experience in the MCC Honors Institute. Through a variety of in-class discussions and out-of-class experiences, students will complete work on a scholarly project which they will ideally present at Scholars' Day and at a regional honors conference and/or professional conference in their discipline.

PREREQUISITE: IDC 201 or permission

One Credit 
Fulfills Honors Studies with Thesis requirement

Team Taught

IDC 295 The City

This multi-disciplinary course will explore the unique cultural, political, socio-economic and environmental facets of urban areas. Using Rochester as a concrete example, but abstracting to all urban centers, the course will explore the history of the rise of cities, sociological and educational issues of wealth distribution and race, the role of cities as incubators of the arts, literature with an urban theme, and the unique environmental conditions created by cities. The course will integrate field trips to local cultural institutions and various other excursions, including an urban nature walk. The course will be taught by a team of faculty representing a wide variety of academic disciplines.

Three Credits Fulfills Social Science or General Elective
Professor: Tokeya Graham   Phone 262-1548   Office 4224 (DCC)

HON 295 - Research Methods and Academic Writing: Justice and Prejudice

This course is a process-based approach to college writing. The assignments, readings, and workshops all mean to prepare you for your final seminar essay and for the research projects you will be expected to write at the 300 and 400 levels when you continue your education after MCC. You will learn critical research strategies and all of the finer points of advanced academic writing. You will leave this class with a step by step blueprint (Bruce Ballenger’s “Five Week Plan”) that will enable you to systematically organize all of your future research essays.

Your research and writing will be based on this course’s theme: Justice and Prejudice. My goal is for us to investigate how the concept of justice has been informed and shaped by various prejudices throughout history. We will explore literary, cinematic, philosophical, sociological, psychological, and neurobiological considerations of this topic. The parallels that exist between Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and the trial and wrongful conviction of “The West Memphis 3” in the 1990s will form the basis for our inquiries throughout the semester and some questions that will be considered include:

  • Is religious belief a kind of prejudice that informs definitions of justice?
  • In what ways does racial prejudice infiltrate applications of justice?
  • In what ways have “scapegoats” been wrongfully convicted throughout history?

Works studied will include The Merchant of Venice, the documentary film Paradise Lost: Purgatory, Sam Harris’ Free Will, Austin Sarat’s The Killing State, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Blindspot: The Hidden Biases of Good People, and other readings in subjects such as law, ethics, race, police procedure, prison conditions, and “the biology of crime.”

Students from last year’s course will be presenting at both MCC’s Scholars’ Day and the Northeast Regional Honors Conference. All seminar essays will be considered for panel presentations at these events in the spring of 2015.

Three credits Fulfills: Certificate in Honors Studies requirement; Certificate in Honors Studies with Thesis requirement; Humanities Elective

Professor: Scott Rudd    Phone: (585) 292-3248    Office: 5-556

SCI 295 Honors Seminar in the Natural Sciences - The Science and Ethics of Stem Cell Research

Stem cell research is one of the most important and exciting fields of current biological research. But the use of stem cells created from human embryos raises a number of ethical issues, many of which are unique to stem cells. This course will explore some of those ethical issues, but to understand these issues, the course will also help students understand the science behind the research. This course is, then, designed for non-science majors so that can intelligently assess the debates about his new line of research. By the end of the course, students should be able to

  • Obtain accurate and up-to-date information on stem cell research
  • Recognize and understand the different perspectives that many people hold about stem cell research
  • Develop skills for critically evaluating media and Internet information on stem cell research
  • Develop decision making skills needed to integrate scientific information with an understanding of the ethical, legal, and social implications that emerge from stem cell technology

Three Credits Fulfills Natural Science Elective
Professor: Judy Kaufman    Office: 8-226    Phone: (585) 292-2730

SCI 295 Honors Seminar in the Natural Sciences - Biodiversity and Conservation

This course will cover topics related to the concept of biodiversity. What is it? Why is it important? How should biodiversity and natural ecosystems be conserved? Some of the topics that will be covered in the course include methods to assess biodiversity, placing value on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and methods used in studying and conserving sustainable ecosystems. Relationships between biodiversity and selected environmental issues, such as global climate change and acid deposition, will be discussed. Examples of biodiversity and conservation will include those from local (Monroe County), regional (Great Lakes region) and global ecosystems.

Conservation of biodiversity will be a major theme of the course. Students will examine conservation of biodiversity through the writings of Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, and E. O. Wilson. The works of other prominent scientists will also be discussed. Students completing this course will be able to explain the science behind biodiversity and conservation. Additionally, students will gain experience in assessing environmental and sustainability issues as they relate to biodiversity and conservation.

Three credits Fulfills Natural Science Elective
Professor: Timothy Tatakis    Office: 8-222    Phone: (585) 292-2332

SBS 295 Honors Seminar in the Social Sciences - Psychology of Religion

SBS 295 - Honors Seminar in the Social Sciences - Psychology of Religion is an introduction to the psychological investigation of religion. We will explore why psychologists are interested in religious beliefs and practices, and how we go about conducting research into the varieties of religious experience. We will differentiate between inner experiences (e.g., beliefs, striving towards higher consciousness, and commitment to a world-view that places humanity within a sacred framework) and the outer elements of religion (e.g. rituals, moral codes, sacred writings, formal organizations).

We will explore how and why humans across cultures construct a religious understanding of the world. We will discuss the idea that the multitude of religious beliefs and practices exist as many paths towards the same goal – the experience of transcendence.

We will focus on the great religions of the world as we address questions like:

  • What is the relationship between biology, psychology, and spirituality? For example, what can modern neuroscience tell us about religious beliefs and practices?
  • What are the differences between religiosity, spirituality, and mysticism?
  • What are the connections between our sense of self, our concept of soul, and the brain?
  •  How does religion inform and influence the way individuals confront the existential dilemma of life – that is, pain, loss, suffering, and death? Further, how does religion contribute (or fail to contribute) to health and well-being?
  • What might be the origins of religious belief?
  • How does the natural world, and our scientific understanding of it, relate to spiritual experience?

Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.

Three credits Fulfills Social Science Elective
Professor: Patricia Kress   Phone292-3295    Office 5-410