Honors 400-level Seminars

Our HON 400-level seminar courses are designed and delivered by some of UNLV’s most talented professors. With maximum class size of 16 students, these one-of-a-kind courses create a powerful atmosphere for invigorating class discussions, discovery, and deep learning.

Our menu of HON 400-level seminars changes each semester to keep students (and professors) on their toes. Click below for descriptions of our upcoming seminars.

Summer 2017

Summer Session 2

HON 410: Propaganda: Art & Ideology in the Digital Age

Mondays–Fridays, 9:40-11:10 a.m.

Dr. Joe Rhodes, Ph.D.

This course presents a critical analysis of the development, principles, techniques, and effects of propaganda campaigns from ancient civilizations to the modern technological society. The course focuses on propaganda in the context of "fake news," ideology, revolution, war, and politics and explores implications for the future of propaganda in the digital age. Activities will include a visit to the Atomic Testing Museum to study nuclear test site propaganda, a critical analysis of a "fake news" website, and the creation of a hypothetical propaganda campaign.

HON 440: Gender, Sex, & Sexuality

Mondays–Fridays, 11:20 a.m.–12:50 p.m.

Dr. Lisa Menegatos, Ph.D.

This interpersonal communication seminar explores the impact of gender roles, biological sex, and sexual orientation on our personal and professional relationships. We will examine biological, social, and cultural influences on gender, as well as how gender roles are socially constructed and performed. Additionally, we will delve into the similarities and differences in the ways men and women communicate, as well as the similarities and differences between heterosexual relationships and gay and lesbian relationships. Through studying the theories and research related to the influence of gender, biological sex, and sexual orientation on our interpersonal interactions, students should be able to develop their own interpersonal communication skills and competence.

Summer Session 3

HON 410: Planes, Trains and Automobiles: How Modern Transportation Changed American Culture

Mondays–Fridays, 9:40-11:10 a.m.

Dr. Dan Bubb, Ph.D.

This course will examine how technology and transportation reshaped and redefined American culture. It will especially look at the pivotal role commercial aviation and airports played in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries as airlines added larger and faster passenger planes, offered more flights, and airports built multi-billion dollar international terminals to meet the growing needs of domestic and international travelers. As the United States continues to compete in a global aviation market, we will explore many themes including the growing challenges it faces as markets in Asia, Europe, and South American continue to proliferate.

HON 440: The Superhero in Literature

Mondays–Fridays, 11:20 a.m.–12:50 p.m.

Dr. Heather Lusty, Ph.D.

This course explores the cultural construction of “heroes” in society (myth, literature, print media, and film). We will consider the evolution of the hero, from the ancient and medieval world to the contemporary, in light of advances in society and technology, examining concerns like race, civil rights, gender (female independence, trans-gender issues, etc.), social responsibility, criminal justice, and culture. Texts from the twentieth century will include new mediums like the graphic novel and television series.

Fall 2017

HON 410-1001: Instructional Leadership

Thursdays, 2:30-5:15 p.m.

Maria Jerinic, Ph.D.

This seminar is substantive introduction to peer techniques effective in leading university-level students in self-motivated exploration of the world of knowledge. Restricted to Honors College students accepted as peer instructors for HON 105.

HON 410-1002: Medical Fiction and the Physician

Mondays, 5:30-8:15 p.m.

Russell Gollard, M.D.

The rigor and breath required for the successful completion of a premedical education and medical education would seem to leave little space for a thoughtful study of the humanities. However, premedical advisors and medical school themselves, as well as society at large, desire physicians to ultimately be humanistic in their approach to patients. The pressures on the new physician today - which include ethical concerns, monetary concerns and balancing the professional with the personal - would seem to all demand that a foundation which involves at least some study of the humanities - including literature, philosophy and the arts Our seminar will focus on fiction and part that medicine plays in it. Though we focus on illness, we will focus on different vantage points from which illness is viewed. Specifically, we will look at the training of physicians, illness as it is experienced by patients and loved ones, and finally, and perhaps most poignantly, we will look at the limitations of modern medicine. We will look at the way death is treated in the novel and novella, particularly the death of individuals in youth or mid-life. The sheer number of reading required is large; hence, emphasis will be placed on classroom discussion of assigned works. All students should keep a notebook in which reactions and queries are recorded. This will help us make good use of what time we have together in the classroom. After the first two weeks, students will be assigned to lead classroom discussions on a weekly basis.

HON 410-1003: Youth, Crime, and Justice

Mondays & Wednesdays, 1-2:15 p.m.

David Tanenhaus, Ph.D.

How should juveniles who break the law be treated?  Should they be tried in the same criminal justice system that prosecutes and incarcerates adults?  Or should their cases instead be handled in a separate justice system designed specifically for them?  Should adolescents be treated more like young children or more like adults?  Should a fifteen-year-old, for example, be punished the same way as either a ten-year-old or a thirty-year-old?  Should chronological age, mental capacity, prior record, alleged offense, or life history be factored in making these decisions?  To answer these questions, this course examines the wide range of social, behavioral, and policy sciences about youth development and governmental efforts to foster adolescent development yet control youth crime. 

HON 410-1004: Contemporary Moral Issues

Mondays & Wednesdays, 1-2:15 p.m.

William Ramsey, Ph.D.

This seminar will provide a philosophical analysis of various contemporary moral problems and debates. The main goal will be to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the ethics of such pressing issues as abortion, physician-assisted suicide, terrorism, torture, the death penalty, and extreme poverty. Students will learn about major philosophical positions, arguments, counter-arguments, and analyses of these important topics. Along with acquiring a much deeper understanding of the moral dimensions of these issues, students should also gain the ability to develop and defend their own views on these topics in an intellectually responsible manner.

HON 410-1005: Faces of Las Vegas: From Desert Frontier to Global Crossroads

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 11:30-12:45 p.m.

David Schwartz, Ph.D.

This course will investigate the many faces that Las Vegas has presented to the world, drawing on historical, literary, and cultural sources to illuminate the evolution in how Las Vegas has evolved since its origins as railroad division point. The “faces” include frontier (ranching/mining district to struggling small town), atomic future (from the heyday of the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s/60s to the more recent Yucca Mountain project), personal liberty (from “quickie” divorce to “what happens here stays here”) and neon metropolis (urbanization, suburbanization, and tourism in the context of the West). Readings include articles from history, philosophy, and cultural studies; novels; short stories; and serious non-fiction writing about Las Vegas.

HON 410-1006: Interpreting Illness

Wednesdays, 2:30-5:15 p.m.

Sheila Bock, Ph.D.

Illness can bring with it disruption, fear, and uncertainty. Looking at a variety of case studies in both the United States and abroad, this course will explore how individuals, communities, and institutions seek to make sense of illness. Specifically, using tools of analysis from the humanities and the social sciences, we will examine what happens when illness experiences get transformed into stories that travel, and how these stories can work as tools of both empowerment and disempowerment in contexts of stigma. We will look at multiple examples of how illness is represented through personal, community, and institutional narratives, as well as the implications of these representations. We will also consider how health professionals can attend most effectively to these diverse meaning-making processes in their work.

HON 410-1007: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10:00-11:15 a.m.

Donald Revell, Ph.D.

Over the centuries, poets have described the life journeys of individual men and women as both hellish and heavenly: almost unbearably difficult at times and, yet, at others, almost indescribably beautiful. In this course we shall follow such journeys, often finding that the distance between heaven and hell is only a few short steps and that certain very brief moments turn out to be eternal. We'll begin with a sampling of Shakespeare's sonnets and then move on to the poetry of William Blake, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg and Sylvia Plath. En route we are likely to realize that heaven and hell are surprisingly intertwined yet always absolutely unique to every human spirit.

HON 410-1008: Did That Really Happen? Reading and Writing Historical Fiction

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.

Cian McMahon, Ph.D.

Historical fiction consistently ranks as one of literature’s most enduring genres. Its popularity rests, in large part, in its combination of sober research and good, old-fashioned storytelling. Yet, while many of us enjoy reading historical fiction, few actually get the chance to sit down and try researching and writing it in a fun, non-confrontational, encouraging environment.

This course is designed to provide exactly that opportunity. What turns your crank? Life at sea during the Middle Passage? The trials and tribulations of suffragettes? Cold War espionage? Whatever your interest, you will, by the end of the semester, have both learned more about a particular historical period of your choice and spun a good yarn about it. In the first third of the course, we will read classic examples of historical short stories. In the second third, you will use primary sources to research an issue/event/question that you have chosen. In the final third of the course, we will workshop together as you write a short story based on what you have learned.

You will be assessed less on the likelihood of your winning the James Fenimore Cooper Prize and more on the effort you put into wrestling with this unique and challenging genre.

HON 410-1009: Waterworld and the West

Mondays & Wednesdays, 10-11:15 a.m.

Dan Bubb, Ph.D. and William Doyle, Ph.D.

This class uses water as a starting point for exploring the natural and cultural history of Las Vegas and the American West. We will open with an overview of American environmental history and then turn to the history of water use and public works projects in the West and their connections to East Coast projects like efforts to drain and—more recently—restore the Florida Everglades. Such a back-and-forth approach (including comparative reading of Cadillac Desert and The Swamp) will help us understand that water use is not simply a local or regional concern, but a national one. Moreover, if we start with water, we quickly get to questions connected to development, agriculture, mining, tourism, recreation, conservation, and legislation. How, for example, will Las Vegas manage its water needs if population projections become reality, and can local tourism continue to expand? Is the lead-tainted drinking water in Flint, Michigan simply a local issue or one example of a larger, national problem? Considering water also allows us to explore how films as different as Chinatown and Waterworld are contemporary cultural critiques and touchstones for understanding history. In addition to examining these (and other) questions through film and text, we will investigate water-related issues by taking local field trips.

HON 410-1010: Anthrozoology: Dogs, Cats, and Human-Animal Interaction

Wednesdays, 2:30-5:15 p.m.

Peter Grey, Ph.D.

Animals shape human lives, just as humans influence the lives of animals. Just ask your beloved pets or animals adapting to human urban environments. This course explores human-animal interactions in an integrative and interdisciplinary way. Topics include the role of animals in human evolution; animal domestication; cross-cultural variation in human-animal interactions; and animals as food, symbols, and family members today. The varieties of human-animal interactions are viewed in social, ecological, and historic context. Readings and discussions draw out key themes and illustrations, with assignments also allowing exploration and application of concepts outside the classroom.

HON 410-1011: Utopian/Dystopian Visions of the City in Cinema and Literature

Mondays, 2:30-5:15 p.m.

Juan Pablo Melo, M.A.

Representations of the city have gained preeminence in our recent cultural imagination: from the futuristic Tokyo of Akira or the historical-inspired cityscapes of Game of Thrones, to the investigations of the inner city in Spike Lee’s Clockers or The Wire;from the wasteland images of Seoul in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeanceto the literary cartography of Mexico City in Roberto Bolaño’s novelThe Savage Detectives. What is encoded in this fascination with urban space and in the forms of its representation in cinema and literature? As the world’s population becomes increasingly urban, the city becomes a node in a network of material and immaterial flows (of labor, commodities, finance, images). In this context, urban space has become the point of conversion for a whole set of political, environmental, economic, technological, and cultural tensions. How does the interplay between text, image, and form in cultural representations of the city tell us about our emerging visions of society, of utopia and dystopia? This course brings together a set of global cultural products, ranging from films to literature to architecture, and puts them in the context of theoretical debates about the nature of urban space and its representation in the twenty-first century. Students will engage with varied cultural products and up-to-date theoretical literature in order to develop critical analytical and writing skills focused towards producing research and theoretical work in the humanities. 

HON 410-1012: The Meaning of Pain

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 1-2:15 p.m.

Megan Becker-Leckrone, Ph.D.

What do we mean when we talk about pain? Most literally, we consider pain a physical phenomenon, a signal of bodily distress, injury, danger or malfunction. But it is also so much more than that, even within one’s self. Few doubt that psychological pain can be any less excruciating than physical pain, or even, more recently, that there’s a clear distinction between the two. Pain is also social, even political. In everyday speech, we assume others know what we mean when we say an emotional loss, a professional disappointment, a social misstep, or interpersonal confrontation is “painful.” We endure growing pains, learn painful lessons, commemorate horrific events with days of “national healing.” What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, no pain no gain, and according to that lawsuit, my “pain and suffering” is worth exactly $33,000. What does any of this mean? Finally, what does pain mean when the stakes are highest? This question is a wholly ethical one: what is the singular responsibility of one being to another being-in-pain? What is my responsibility to the other-in-pain, given the fact that pain seems to be almost uniquely incommunicable and, in profound ways, non-transferable? In the realm of human rights – prohibitions against torture, the rights of people displaced by war to live safely, the right to affordable health care, the right not to suffer severe pain when relief is medically available, the right for it to be made medically available – how we define pain clarifies what it means to be human, ethical, humane. The texts for this class will be a mixture of philosophy, history, and literature with contemporary essays in public policy, neuroscience, medical humanities, and memoir. 

HON 420-1001:​ An Historical Survey of Film Through Acting

Thursdays, 2:30-5:15 p.m.

Michael Tylo, M.F.A.

This course will introduce students to the concepts, style and execution of acting for Film. Films will be screened to show the progression of the art of acting during the medium’s first 100+ years. Actors, directors, writers and producers from Film and Theatre will be discussed; especially those who represented the generational changes as reflected in the historical, social and economic influences of the times. Students are expected to leave the course with a better understanding of why acting has grown to the art form it is today and what is its inherent value in the story telling process of Film.

HON 420-1002: Art and War

Mondays, 2:30-5:15 p.m.

Louisa McDonald, Ph.D.

ART AND WAR is an experimental, inter-disciplinary exploration of the relationship between art and war inspired by the times we live in, which have been described as a state of “perpetual war.” How have artists in different times and places and from many creative disciplines, made work in response to war? What role(s) has art – the literary and visual arts, music, theater, etc. - played in wartime not only in society at large, but also in the personal lives of artists? We will explore these and other questions that will naturally arise through a series of readings and discussion focused on outstanding examples from the past. Some of the greatest masterpieces of the arts have arisen from war, or take war as their theme. Homer’s Iliad, Goya’s Disasters of War, and Picasso’s Guernica, to name a few. From a collective exploration of these examples students will develop methodologies and strategies to guide their research and to write a paper on a modern or contemporary example of the relationship between art and war.

HON 420-1003: Intimations of Mortality: Late Styles Among the Arts

Thursday, 2:30-5:15 p.m.

Anthony Barone, Ph.D.

Proposed description: "The seminar will investigate the radical inflections of style often to be seen in the works of writers, composers, painters, and other artists as they acknowledge and approach death. These style changes may arise from the contemplation of death, the physical decline brought about by illness or aging, and a heightened self-consciousness of the artist's place in history. The course will investigate works from the late or last years of artists including Beethoven, Ibsen, Wagner, Rembrandt, Matisse, Mann, Debussy, Strauss, Shakespeare, and others, and will study texts from the ancient world to the present that, first, define the concept of style generally; second, describe the organic decline and transformations of aged individuals and cultures; and lastly, that grapple directly with the concept and theory of late style.

HON 420-1004: Acting for a Living

Mondays, 2:30-5:15 p.m.

Clarence Gilyard, M.F.A.

What does acting have to do with where I'm going? Quo Vadis? And since we’re on the subject, let’s just be HONEST about what we want out of life. Once you leave UNLV you are going to do and be whatever and whomever you like. Right? Are you able to articulate those two? How do you project yourself manifesting the two? The road to where you want to go in your life seems to lie in the arena of your chosen field of study. Yet you may have questions about such matters as goals, obstacles, excellence, integrity, values, happiness, relevance...This course will use the rubrics of classic Stanislavski actors training, and draw striking relationships between how the acting artist's process creates an effective character and how the artist in you creates an effective future master of the universe. In the words of the great now deceased Shakespeare, creator of Polonius, "All the world's a stage..."

HON 430-1001: Poetry, World & Spiritual Thought

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10-11:15 a.m.

Jaclyn Costello, M.F.A.

Like science, logic, and literature — poetry is another way we come to understand the world. In this course, we'll study poetry that expresses an awareness of the human being's placement within a much grander structure than ourselves. You will be immersed in five unique units of poetry: Persian, Hindu, Buddhist, Western European, and poetry of the Americas. Integrated into our learning experience will be music, film clips, and art. You will also be required to participate in discussions relating to philosophy, spirit, and poems. This course offers you the opportunity to see the world from different perspectives--becoming more globally aware, while participating in an in-depth analysis of poetry and, of course, life.

HON 440-1001 Whose West is It?

Mondays & Wednesdays, 10-11:15 a.m.

William Doyle, Ph.D. and Dan Bubb, Ph.D.

One of the many questions about settlement in the American West is whose territory is it, and how did the federal government acquire it while displacing thousands of people? Some historians argue that it belonged to the Native American and Hispanic people who inhabited the region, while others argue that it was inevitable that Euro-Americans living in the East would head west and occupy the land. From this debate has emerged a significant literature arguing both sides. For example, Andres Stephenson writes about how the government and Euro-American people who migrated west used the auspice of manifest destiny to justify their taking and inhabiting western land. Other western historians such as Gary Nash, James Merrill, James Axtell, and David Gutierrez persuasively argue that the land originally belonged to the native people who settled it, and through a series of specious treaties, and outright manipulations, the US government took the land. The question really has not been answered. This course will attempt to answer this question through the different perspectives of people of multiple races and ethnicities that inhabited the West.