Honors Course Descriptions
(listed by USM Core curriculum category – all standard Core prerequisites apply)
HON 100 Thinking and Writing in Honors
This course combines the basic mechanics of a college writing course with the development of skills fundamental to all other work in Honors. The course is recommended for all entering Honors students. Prerequisite: honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
Entry-Year Experience (EYE):
HON 101 Honors Entry-Year Experience
Each instructor uses a theme listed below to engage students in exploration of significant questions about human culture and the natural world. The course facilitates student transition to college by engaging students in active and collaborative learning that enhances their inclination and ability to view complex issues from multiple perspectives. Corequisites: College Writing, 1st year student, honors student (or permission).
(HON 101-01) Myth, Monsters, and Metamorphoses - What does it mean to be human? What is the difference between a human being and an animal, a human being and a god, a human being and the natural world? How does technology challenge our assumptions about what it means to be human? The course approaches answers to these questions from the ancient and modern worlds, including texts recognized as “foundational” or “canonical” in western intellectual tradition but expanding to include modern, post-modern, and non-western perspectives as well. As its title implies, the course interrogates texts of metamorphosis, texts whose characters challenge and in some cases transgress boundaries among the categories proposed. Prerequisite: honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
(HON 101-02) Power, Corruption and Foundings in the Ancient World - The American founding is ubiquitous in the politics and popular culture of the United States; public figures routinely cite 18th century arguments in support of their actions, and some political advocates even dress in the costumes of 18th century Americans. The authority provided by the founding shapes our politics, and its meanings are constantly invoked, reinterpreted, and adapted; in this, the American republic is similar to political bodies in antiquity. In this class we will study the powerful influence of foundings and the difficult questions they raise. Does reverence for the founding enable politics, undermine them, or both? By what authority can a people break with the past and create something new? Can a polity change its founding over time? Why are so many founding stories violent, including stories of fratricide, infanticide and regicide? In exploring these questions and others, we will study mythical and historic founding narratives from Classical Greece and early Imperial Rome, as well as reinterpretations of founding narratives from ancient philosophy, tragedy and epic poetry. Grades will be based on three papers, rough drafts, and oral presentations. Prerequisite: honors student (or permission). Cr.3
(HON 101-03) Violence, Wisdom, and Dialogue in an Ancient Context - Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Is he right or is ignorance bliss? What kind of life makes us happy? Should we seek power and financial wealth? Does might make right? When viewed within a wider context, we may find that we don’t know what we thought we knew and that finding answers to these and other questions requires us to think in terms of more than one discipline. Therefore, the course introduces ancient texts and context but also the concept of interdisciplinary study. We will read selections from Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Prerequisite: honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
(HON 101-04) Prophecy, Protest, and Power: Making Meaning with Spiritual Texts - Close reading and discussion of literature with spiritual content from ancient and modern times—including The Tao te Ching, Buddhist writings, passages from Greek philosophy and The Bible, as well as modern writings by T.S. Eliot, Chinua Achebe, Yeats, Levertov, M.L. King, and Gandhi. We ask what such texts mean, and how we as readers make meaning through reading as a creative process. We ask how such texts distinguish between physical force and spiritual power, and whether prophecy, as a spiritual orientation expressed by these writers, can be translated in present-day experience into new standards of value and forms of action. Prerequisite: honors student (or permission). Cr.3
(HON 101-05) Culture, Identity & Education - This course focuses on the interrelationships among group affiliation, a quest for inquiry and learning, one's role in society, and one's personal identity. The course explores the basic questions of "Who are you?" and "What/who has influenced who you are and whom you wish to become?" Students will engage in a personal examination of culture and education as components of personal identity. Drawing from concepts borrowed from sociology and educational psychology, students will be asked to analyze educational materials, settings, aims, and procedures, compare these to their own successes or challenges with institutional learning, and frame their future learning goals. Prerequisite: honors student (or permission). Cr.3
HON 102 Confrontation and Cross-Fertilization among Medieval Cultures [Also meets Core Diversity requirement]
This interdisciplinary seminar will explore the intersections between Judaic, Christian, Muslim, and non-monotheistic religious-based cultures during the Middle Ages. Prerequisite: any EYE course (or concurrent) and honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
HON 202 Progress, Process, or Permanence: All That is Solid Melts into Air
"All that is solid melts into air," a quote from Karl Marx, is an apt metaphor for this course. It examines concepts of certainty and uncertainty from various nineteenth- and twentieth-century perspectives. Who has the answers? Are there any answers? Can there be such a thing as "progress," and does our "modern" perspective (whatever it is) give us a unique point of view for addressing these issues? Prerequisite: any EYE course, sophomore standing, and honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
HON 103 Cultural and Historical Perspectives on Poverty
In this course students will examine a wide range of texts from classical culture, early American legal and religious sources, as well as from contemporary economic and political theory about poverty--who is affected by it, what its causes are, and why it persists. Students will engage in analysis of the spiritual, political, ethical, and legal aspects of what it means to be poor. Seminars will prepare students to critically assess the historical and social attitudes towards poverty, and will include work with primary historical texts regarding the use of town farms in 19th century southern Maine as a response to chronic poverty. Required service learning at the Parkside Neighborhood Association will serve to familiarize students with contemporary controversies regarding work and poverty, public and private assistance, education and empowerment. Students will demonstrate effective communication skills through frequent writing, a researched essay, and a group presentation. Prerequisite: any EYE course (or concurrent) and honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
HON 105 An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Logic and Mathematics
This course is an introduction to logic and mathematics. It is an unusual introduction, since it transforms history, philosophy, social thought, literature, and the arts into paths for understanding logical and mathematical concepts and systems. Therein lies the course's interdisciplinarity. These concepts and systems will be deployed to solve basic problems in everyday life and in academic research, from formally representing arguments found in scholarly texts to determining the odds of winning a hand in a game of chance to assessing scientific hypotheses. Special emphasis will be placed on developing the skill of detecting logical and statistical fallacies. Finally, the scope and limits of logical and mathematical systems will be studied. Prerequisite: any EYE course (or concurrent), successful completion of the University's mathematics proficiency requirement, and honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
HON 210/211 Honors Science Exploration: Interdisciplinary Inquiry in the Sciences of the Human Body
The 3-credit seminar provides an interdisciplinary introduction to scientific discourses and scientific practices concerning the human body. It combines selected concepts and methods of inquiry from several disciplines, including psychology, molecular biology, human genetics, anatomy, biological anthropology, human ecology, and the history of medicine. Students and faculty will critically examine the history of various constitutive practices and scientific representations of the body, including many Western scientific conceptions of the body as these have emerged from the European Renaissance through modernity. These explorations are synthesized by students in an independent project. A 1-credit laboratory section accompanies the 3-credit seminar (The 1-credit lab may be waived by students with college-level Biology lab credit). The integrated sequence of weekly lab sessions provides students the opportunity to apply various methods of scientific inquiry from disciplines that address the human body. Prerequisite: any EYE course and honors student (or permission). Cr. 4
HON 175 Oral Interpretation
A course in the assimilation and analysis of literary material (poetry, prose, drama) with emphasis on the techniques used in reading written material aloud to an audience. Designed to stimulate an understanding and responsiveness to literature and to develop the ability to convey to others, through oral reading, an appreciation of that literature. Prerequisite: College Writing and EYE (either may be concurrent); honors student (or permission). Students may not receive credit for both HON 175 and THE 175.
HON 207 Illuminated Autobiography
An introduction to two creative processes – the visual and the literary – the course explores the means (shared, specialized, and complementary) by which they communicate thematic content, and the transformation through which subjective discovery becomes accessible form. Students will develop a control of structural elements within and between the two disciplines sufficient to write, illustrate, design, and publish a limited autobiographical narrative. Prerequisite: College Writing and EYE (either may be concurrent); honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
Ethical Inquiry, Social Responsibility, and Citizenship:
HON 310 Honors Global Ethical Inquiry [Also meets Core International requirement]
Each instructor selects a semester-long theme to foster world-mindedness and engage students in critical reflection on their responsibilities for informed decision making and action in their public and private roles. Prerequisite: sophomore standing (ideally 2nd semester sophomore) and honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
(HON 101-01) Nine Billion People, One Damp Rock - Imagine nine billion consumers vying for the limited resources provided by one damp rock (Earth). As population and consumption expand, challenges such as climate change and water scarcity intensify. This course explores workable solutions for sustainable use of natural resources. We consider actions for individuals, corporations, and nations, including Swedish and Indian ideas that embrace the principles of sufficiency and equity. Prerequisite: sophomore standing (ideally 2nd semester sophomore) and honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
Thematic Cluster – Casco Bay Region: Where We Live (see honors website for non-honors courses in the cluster)
HON 351 - Virtual Sunset vs. Real Sunset: Reading/Writing Maine Environments (approval sought for USM Core Diversity credit)
In this interdisciplinary course, students juxtapose and compare “real” and “virtual” experiences, drawing from the local environment; determine their position in the scholarly debate about “cyber-utopianism”; learn how to do what’s called “rephotography” or “ghost photography”; and analyze French sociologist, philosopher, and cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard’s America in order to imitate its style and method for a final regional studies project. Prerequisite: sophomore standing (ideally 2nd semester sophomore) and honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
HON 355 - Casco Bay Area Topics
Course topics – which vary by instructor – address culture, history, or the natural environment in the context of the Casco Bay area, Maine, or New England. For topic descriptions, contact the Honors Program (www.usm.maine/honors). Open to all students, although Honors Program permission required if a student earned a C+ or lower in a prior HON course. Course may be repeated for credit when topics differ. Prerequisite: sophomore standing (ideally 2nd semester sophomore) and honors student status.
(HON 355-01) Maine Islands: A History - Students examine the history and contemporary issues faced by people living on Casco Bay islands. Each student joins a small group to visit one of several islands to research its ecology, history, population, occupations, governance, and schools. Individual groups present and compare their findings to the class and at an all-campus symposium. Prerequisite: sophomore standing (ideally 2nd semester sophomore) and honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
(HON 355-02) Nature Writing - This course explores environmentally-based readings and writing projects connected to the Casco Bay area. We will consider how writers like Carson, Jewett, and Millay regionalized the tradition of American nature writing while appealing to a wide audience, we'll engage with primary sources in local archives and current newspapers, and we'll get outside to pursue inspired nature writing of our own in this vital place.
HON 359 - Honors Internship/Community Service (students may petition to substitute a similar departmental experience)
Honors Program internship or community service project (provides credit toward the “Casco Bay Region” Thematic Cluster in the USM Core). Students, working individually or in a group, receive permission from the honors director, recruit a faculty sponsor, locate a placement in the Casco Bay region, and develop a learning contract.
Prerequisite: sophomore standing (ideally 2nd semester sophomore) and honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
HON 455 - Topics in New England Studies
Undergraduate seniors seek permission to sit in graduate courses offered by the American and New England Studies. Courses appropriate for the Core’s Casco Bay cluster examine New England’s identity and experience in the context of the broader American experience. Courses combine various disciplinary approaches, but all draw on contemporary scholarship and stress the historicity of the region’s culture and society.
Prerequisite: honors student and permission of Instructor and Director (normally requires 3.5+ GPA and senior standing of 84 credits). Cr. 3
Capstone (six- to nine-credit thesis experience fulfills the three-credit Core capstone and provides general elective credit):
HON 311 Honors Thesis I: Workshop
To graduate with General University Honors, a student completes a multiple-semester thesis project. In the first-semester workshop, each student develops research skills, shapes a preliminary idea into a formal thesis proposal, and organizes a faculty committee to advise the student in HON 411/412. Course may be taken for credit twice. Prerequisites: three credits of honors coursework, junior standing, and Honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
HON 411 Honors Thesis II
In the second semester, students independently execute the plan developed in HON 311, under the guidance of the thesis committee. The emphasis is on in depth reading, field work as applicable, and completion of the introductory thesis chapter and literature review. Note: it is possible to complete the thesis in HON 411, without proceeding to HON 412. Prerequisites: HON 311 (B- or higher grade) and Honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
HON 412 Honors Thesis III
In the third and final semester, still working with their thesis committee, students write their remaining chapters; submit a completed draft; substantially revise that work based on feedback; and present their work in an oral, public defense. Prerequisites: HON 411 and Honors student (or permission). Cr. 3
Miscellaneous Core Requirements or General Electives:
HON 299 Honors Topics (most sections meet a USM Core requirement) Honors program electives include departmental courses that embody the honors experience. Honors students typically share the course with students majoring in course-related disciplines. The course may be repeated for credit when topics differ. Prerequisites vary by course topic, but include honors student (or permission).
HON 321 Honors Directed Research
This optional course allows an Honors student with interests in a particular subject area to research that area under the direction of a faculty supervisor. The research may be carried out in any subject area. Prerequisites: honors student and permission. Cr. 1-3
HON 331 Honors Directed Study
This optional course allows an Honors student to design a reading course in collaboration with a faculty supervisor. It is of particular value to students with self-designed majors who may need to supplement existing courses with additional material. Prerequisites: honors student and permission. Cr. 1-3