Liberal studies education through the Honors Program is an education
in the liberal arts. The seven traditional liberal arts are grammar,
logic, rhetoric, music, astronomy, arithmetic, and geometry. These
arts, and their contemporary counterparts, are called liberal first
because they are appropriate to free people, and second because they
liberate the mind. The liberally educated mind is free from complacency
and prejudice, and free for its proper function of apprehending the
true, the good, and the beautiful.
The Honors Program consists of four types of courses: seminars,
language classes, math-science classes, and electives. Each is
In the seminar courses students and faculty read and discuss great
books. Four different sorts of teachers are active in seminar. First
are the great books themselves, in which the finest minds have recorded
their finest thoughts. As we work to understand the books, the books
work to unsettle our thoughtless assumptions and expand our horizons.
The second teachers are the faculty members who lead the student
discussions. Although not always expert on every text, the instructors
are experienced and intelligent readers who serve, so to speak, as
trail guides to the high country of the mind. The third teachers of
each student are all the other students in the seminar, from whose
insights, perspectives, and questions a larger understanding emerges.
The final teacher is each individual student, whose engaged and active
intelligence makes the work of the other teachers effective.
The language sequence begins in the freshman year with Latin. The
study of such an inflected foreign language forces us to attend to
general features of the liberal art of grammar. In the sophomore year
we pass to the study of literature written in English, beginning with
narratives and dramas, and ending with lyric poems. The British authors
we study include Chaucer, the Gawain poet, Shakespeare, Donne, Jonson,
Milton, Marvell, Swift, Pope, Johnson, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley,
Keats, E. B. Browning, R. Browning, Tennyson, Arnold, Hopkins, Hardy,
Yeats, Woolf, Joyce, Lawrence, Eliot, Auden, and Dylan Thomas. The
American authors we read include Dickinson, Whitman, Frost, Stevens,
cummings, Williams, Roethke, Winters, Hughes, Baraka, Morrison,
Giovanni, and Dove.
The junior language course concerns rhetoric, the liberal art of
persuasion. We study rhetoric directly through texts of Plato and
Aristotle, and by example through American political and constitutional
debates and orations such as those of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick
Douglass. We also study a number of Supreme Court cases, including a
series on civil rights. The final language class is a senior capstone
course in which the student, working closely with a faculty member,
writes an extended essay on a topic of the student's choosing. Writing
is emphasized in all the language courses, and instructors give
detailed feedback on all writing assignments.
The math-science sequence consists of five courses, the first four
of which are part of the liberal studies core. The sequence focuses on
the elements of mathematical and scientific inquiry. It begins with
logic and Euclidean geometry, then moves to astronomy and early modern
physics. The third semester takes up the study of mechanics from Newton
to Einstein's theory of relativity. Evolutionary biology is the concern
of the fourth semester, which focuses on Darwin and the development of
genetics. The upper-division course deals with issues in the social sciences through an introduction to economics and an elementary
treatment of statistics.
A partial reading list for the core Math-Science sequence includes selections from the following texts: Euclid, Elements; Ptolemy, Almagest; Copernicus On the Revolutions; Galileo, Two New Sciences and The Starry Messenger; Descartes Le Monde; Newton, Principia; Einstein, Relativity; and Darwin, Origin of Species.
The upper division reading list includes Wicksteed's Commonsense of Political Economy and Statistics by Freedman, Pisani, and Purves.
In addition to its core sequence, the Honors Program offers elective
courses based on student and faculty interests. A sample of recent
electives is listed below.
Stories of the Quest
Ghosts and Vampires
The Bible: New Testament
Preparing for the 21st Century: Contemporary International Issues
East Asian Religion and Philosophy
Civil Rights Movement in America