Signature Courses

Home / Academics / Honors Courses and Contracts / Barrett Signature Courses

All Barrett students are required to complete the Barrett signature courses. Lower Division students entering the Honors College are required to complete a two-semester sequence of “The Human Event”. Incoming Upper Division students complete a one semester course entitled “The History of Ideas”. These courses are taught by the Honors Faculty Fellows.

“The Human Event” is an interdisciplinary seminar focusing on key social and intellectual currents in the development of humanity in its diversity. Students examine human thought and imagination from various disciplines, including philosophy, history, literature, religion, science, and art. Coursework emphasizes critical thinking, discussion, and argumentative writing. “The History of Ideas” has the same objectives as “The Human Event”, but is more intensive, since it is only one semester in length. The texts in The History of Ideas are generally selected based on a theme of the instructors' choosing. Both of these signature courses represent, in microcosm, the great benefits of becoming part of the Barrett Honors College – small, student-centered, seminar-style classes in which students explore the world’s greatest literature and most profound ideas with a faculty member chosen for his or her ability to facilitate lively, meaningful discussion. In this intellectually rich atmosphere, there is a bonding that takes place among students over the course of the year as they form an honors cohort.

HON 394 - Topic: Ursula K. Le Guin: Non-Fiction

Ursula K. Le Guin is a beloved American author who transformed the way in which the genre of science fiction developed for over half a century. One of the reasons she has remained so popular is that her fiction is informed by her keen understanding of humanity and its weaknesses and promise.

Fall 2018

HON 394 - Topic: International Migration and Mobility in the 21st C

International Migration and Mobility in the 21st Century: Looking closely at the social, cultural, political and economic realities that shape international migration in the 21st Century, this course addresses the diametrically opposed yet interrelated processes of mobility (the ability to move) and enclosure (efforts to control that movement).

Fall 2018

HON 394 - Topic: Place Matters - Global Eurasia

This new seminar course will provide students with fresh perspectives on contemporary globalization, addressing the history, culture and politics of the Eurasian borderlands. The course uses the term to refer to those parts of the world where Russia, China and the Euro-Atlantic alliance now vie for influence--including Afghanistan and Albania, Mongolia and Montenegro, and Uzbekhistan and Ukraine.

Fall 2018

HON 394: Queer Bioethics

This seminar combines the fields of bioethics and health policy with queer studies to examine the myriad challenges persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) may face in the medical system.

Fall 2018

HON 394 - Topic: Race&Resistance:African-AmericanPoliticalThought

This course examines how African-American political thought has understood racial equality and the challenges of black leadership and citizenship. From the classic slave narratives through the Black Lives Matter movement, black thinkers and activists have pushed Americans to confront the tensions between racial inequality and core American political principles.

Fall 2018

HON 394 - Can Sisterhood Be Global?

This course seeks answers to questions like, How do historical, cultural, and geographic differences factor into feminist approaches to politics? What are the different ways in which feminist scholars and activists sought to build solidarity across divides of class, race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, and language?

Fall 2018

Explore the history, anthropology and theory of witchcraft and magic from ancient times into the 21st century. We examine how the witch is constructed as a symbol of evil, and how this imaginary evil being comes to be associated with real, ordinary women and men. 

Fall 2018

HON 394 - The Cold War World: Conflict, Vitriol, and Globalization

This course will survey the battle between East and West known generically as the Cold War.  Covering almost half a century, the global divide that followed the devastation of World War II at once brought about conflict and tension but also opportunities for new leaders throughout the world. 

Spring 2019

HON 394: Bombay to Bollywood

A survey of popular Hindi films, stars, music, and fans that focuses on how these films and the industry that produces them both reflect and shape cultural identity and popular thought in India and beyond, past and present.

Spring 2019

HON 394: Greek and Roman Medicine: Body, Mind, Soul

In this course, we'll be investigating the fundamentals of Greek and Roman medicine. We will see how the ancients approached the art and science of healing—from religious rituals and magical incantations, to pharmacology and herbalism, to blood-letting, dentistry, and brain surgery. Central to Greek and Roman medicine is the belief that good health requires the balance of four essential bodily fluids. 

Spring 2019

HON 394: Barrett's Destination Tangier: American Literature's Encounter with Morocco

Explore the storied cultural history and dynamic present of northern Morocco, focusing on one of the most celebrated cities in global literature: Tangier. Students will explore Tangier as it has been represented by both U.S. writers and Moroccan authors. 

Spring 2019

HON 394: Joan Didion: Literary Journalist

Joan Didion is celebrated as one of our nation's greatest literary authors, but her literary reputation hinges more on her essays and journalism than it does on her novels. In this class, we will explore Didion's nonfiction in order to understand the rare and seemingly contradictory form of writing that we call "literary journalism."

Spring 2019

Improve the student’s ability to reason critically and communicate clearly

Cultivate the student’s ability to engage in intellectual discourse through reading, writing, and discussion

Broaden the student’s historical and cultural awareness and understanding

Deepen awareness of the diversity of human societies and cultures

Instill intellectual breadth and academic discipline in preparation for more advanced study

Chronologically Expansive – We cover some of the earliest recorded texts (e.g. The Epic of Gilgamesh or the Maxims of Good Discourse) to current works (e.g. Kwame Appiah’s The Honor Code).

Extensive Geographical Coverage - We select texts that highlight key issues in human thought, which means the texts we cover are from all over the world (e.g. Tao Te Ching, Plato’s Republic, Kalidasa’s The Recognition of Sakuntala, and Chinua Achebe’s No Longer at Ease).

Focused on Human Cultural Diversity - Every effort is made to incorporate cross-cultural perspectives, non-Western texts and texts composed by women and racial/ethnic minorities (e.g. texts by early female Sufists or American slave narratives).

Student Centered – We encourage students to take the lead in these small, discussion based classes.