Advanced Electives

Each fall and spring, Honors offers four to five Advanced Elective seminars, making it possible for students to choose courses from a wide array of topics and disciplinary approaches. Each semester, an entirely new set of topics is announced. 

Fall 2018

Freshmen are not permitted to enroll in Advanced Electives without permission from the Honors Director
CMA 359  Drones in/and America: History, Culture, Debate

Gerdes of remotely-operated aerial vehicles, or “drones,” for military operations, as well as government and commercial purposes within the U.S., has led to many practical and ethical questions regarding their sudden ubiquity. This course will consider the drone in an interdisciplinary survey, drawing upon research from political science, law, history, art, music, psychology, and media theory. We will explore drone figures in a range of contexts, including nature (drone bees) and music (La Monte Young and minimalist composers), and will address the deployment of surveillance and military technologies from early experiments with hot air balloons and carrier pigeons to the present. From a scientific perspective, the development of aerial perspective and its impact upon human cognition and geographic thought will traverse from Leonardo Da Vinci to cases of remote combat drone operator PTSD. We will, of course, explore the social and legal implications for military and commercial drone programs, but seek to add an additional wrinkle to these conclusions through our own brief experiments in the operation of hobbyist video drones. The course will culminate in original student research addressing the emergence of video and surveillance drones in domestic airspace especially as this pertains to implications for science, journalism, ecology, social movements, and government agencies.

HPA 360  Everyday Law


This course will explore legal issues that arise in everyday life and the pertinent statutes, common law rules and case precedents that guide their response and resolution.  Students will be exposed to areas of law including, but not limited to: contracts, criminal law and procedure, property, constitutional law, domestic relations, health law and bioethics, administrative law, entertainment law, civil procedure and business transactions.  The goals of the course are to foster an understanding of these issues and genres, respectively, as well develop and hone critical thinking, problem solving and logical reasoning competencies

MUS 359  Music in Society


Music has been present in human societies since the dawn of civilization.  Today, music is omnipresent in our lives; indeed, many of us create or experience a “soundtrack” that carries us through the day.  This course will explore the many ways and contexts in which humans use music.  We will explore how individuals and communities use music in a multiplicity of environments and situations includin

g worship, celebration, work, protest, and warfare; and for purposes including the formation of personal and group identity, arousing energy, soothing grief, experiencing and understanding emotion, and joyfully passing the time of day.  We will look at musical practices and repertoires all over the world, from the earliest recorded civilizations to our present moment. 

PHI 359  Gods and Heroes of the Vikings


In recent years, interest in the myths and legends of the Norse (the Vikings) has exploded, with numerous films and television shows (Vikings, Thor, etc.) adapting the myths and sagas, or re-telling them in semi-disguised form (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, etc.). This course introduces students to the original Norse materials – which are in many cases even more exciting and imaginative than their cinematic adaptations. Students will delve into highly-readable translations of the original Old Norse and Icelandic sources for the myths about the gods: the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. In addition, the saga literature will be introduced through the Volsung Saga (the story of Sigurd the dragon-slayer), as well as the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok (which is the basis for the TV series Vikings). Particular attention will be paid to the philosophical interpretation of the myths and legends: what are they communicating to us about ourselves and the world we live in? Students will be introduced to the Norse creation myth, Norse cosmology (which involves nine worlds and a central cosmic tree), the Norse code of ethics, Norse theories of the soul (which involve multiple, sometimes separable parts), and Norse ideas on the rebirth of the soul. In the process of discussing Norse myths and sagas, details concerning the history of the Germanic tribes, and their daily life will be introduced. Students will also learn the “futharks,” the Norse systems of runic letters, how to write in runes, how the Norse used the runes for divination, and how to read ancient runic inscriptions. In addition to texts, some portions of documentaries and other films will be shown, and students will also be introduced to short clips of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung.

Spring 2019

CMA 360


Beginning with a discussion of established philosophical and scientific thinking about the nature of truth and reality, both historical and contemporary, this class will explore the meaning of truth, lies, reality, facts, objectivity and related concepts, as they are used and misused across media platforms today. Special attention will be paid to the “ fake news” phenomenon, filter bubbles, so-called reality television, and the implications of virtual reality, especially as it is used in journalism.

ENG 360 Understanding Hamlet: Sources, Meaning, and Legacy


This course focuses on the origin, meaning, and afterlives of one of the most important achievements of world literature: Shakespeare’s masterpiece Hamlet. In this groundbreaking tragedy--written sometime between 1600 and 1601--Shakespeare changed the nature of early modern literature by focusing on a new model of human consciousness, open to contradiction and change. Rather than embodying the customary stereotype of the avenging hero as a relentless pursuer of justice, Hamlet is unique in his passionate intelligence, cutting wit, and tortured deliberation, as he broods on the murder he has promised to commit. Readers have recurrently found in the hero an image of who they are, although from the 1980s onward, women have also begun to champion Ophelia, Hamlet’s spurned lover, as a compelling feminist icon whose story deserves further attention. Most of the time students, unfortunately, encounter Hamlet out of context, cut off from the vibrant literary, theatrical, critical, and cinematic cultures in which it continues to evolve and develop in startlingly new ways. We will begin by exploring how Shakespeare pieced the play together from a variety of prior sources to produce a play that was then re-created by successive generations of readers, editors, publishers, critics, painters, sculptors, composers, photographers, directors, actors, and audience members, who always seem to imagine Hamlet and Ophelia in different ways, while providing new insights into what the hero himself calls “the heart of my mystery.”

SOC 360  Social Problems and Policy


A number of social problems such as affordable housing, food insecurity, human trafficking, domestic abuse, and educational inequality will be discussed in this class.  Each topic will be examined on a national (and sometimes international) level with a guest speaker from a Long Island agency working to address the issue on a local level, and potential policy solutions to the problem will be discussed/debated.