Honors 272: The Human Event

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Honors 272: The Human Event*

*This is a representative syllabus; actual assignments will vary
Instructor: Dr. Karen Bruhn Office Phone: 727-6721

Office: 161 Sage South Honors College Phone: 965-2359 email: kbruhn@asu.edu

NOTE: Successful completion of this course requires a thorough knowledge of this syllabus. Please read it carefully and get in the habit of bringing it to class; you are responsible for the information contained therein..

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Honors 272 is the second-semester portion of a two-semester interdisciplinary seminar entitled “The Human Event,” open only to those students who have been admitted to Barrett. These writings are drawn from a variety of disciplines: literature, history, religion, philosophy, political theory, psychology and the sciences. Honors 272 focuses on texts written from approximately 1600 to the present.

This course is designed to encourage participants to think critically and to express these thoughts in an effective and lucid way. Participants are not expected to “memorize” the assignments, although a command of the author and title, principle ideas, and general context of each work must proceed effective analysis of the works. The class is conducted as a seminar; the instructor will not deliver extended lectures. Participants must come to class prepared to discuss that day’s assigned reading. Always bring assigned readings to class. Active participation is required. The objectives of the course can be categorized as follows:

  1. To broaden the student’s historical and cultural awareness and understanding

  1. To improve the student’s skill in analyzing written material.

  1. To improve the student’s skill in expressing ideas, both orally and in writing.

  1. To encourage the student to think critically and seriously about the nature of human existence and to formulate his or her own views and insights regarding ethics, philosophy, religion, history, literature, etc.

  1. To instill intellectual breadth and academic discipline in preparation for more advanced honors courses.


Grades will be assigned based on the following criteria:

Paper # 1 20%

Paper # 2 20%

Paper # 3 20 %

Class participation 20%

Quizzes on assigned readings 20%

A+ 98-100

A 94-97

A- 90-93

B+ 87-89

B 83-86

B- 80-82

C+ 77-79

C 73-76

C- 70-72

D 65-70

D- 60-64

F below 60


Quizzes: There is a reading assignment for each class (schedule follows). You must read the assignment before class. Approximately 9-12 quizzes will be given during the course of the semester. Each quiz will be given at the beginning of class and address the reading assignment for that day. The lowest quiz grade will be dropped before the final quiz grade is computed. YOU MAY NOT MAKE UP MISSED QUIZZES
Participation: I will provide some historical/cultural background, but the majority of class time is devoted to discussion of the assigned readings. Discussion can include ( but is not limited to) an analysis and/or critique of the author’s position, a comparison of the assigned work to another text, debate as to the meaning or merit of a given work, or an assessment of how historical and/or cultural context may have influenced (or been influenced by) a particular text.

Class participation is evaluated on quality rather than quantity. Comments need not mirror the position of the author (or the instructor, for that matter). You are graded not on the “correctness” of your position, but rather on your grasp of the material and your ability to communicate your ideas. You don’t have to be at the center of every debate, but students who make little or no effort to enter discussions will receive a lower participation grade. Discussion can become lively, heated even. Please respect the rights of others. Do not interrupt; give everyone a chance to express their opinions. While other people’s opinions are fair game, other people are not. When you disagree with someone, be sure to criticize the idea and not the person.

The following is an example of the criteria I use when grading class participation:

A: The student in this grade range arrives in class each day thoroughly prepared with comments and questions on the assigned reading. Comments reveal that the student has read carefully; this student ocassionally initiates the discussion without waiting for the instructor to do so. This student does not, however, try to dominate the class, but listens carefully to the remarks made by fellow class members, and responds as readily to these as to the instructor’s questions.
B: The student in this grade range participates in most discussions, although not as fully or reliably as the student described above. There is evidence of having done the reading. This student pays attention to the comments of the other students
C: The student in this grade range participates only intermittently, and is more willing to discuss broad, general questions than to engage in concrete analysis of an assigned text. Sometimes unprepared, this student lacks interest in the ideas of other members of the class, neglects to bring the proper text to class, and is often inattentive.
D or F. The student in this grade range seldom if ever participates.
Things that lower your participation grade:

  • Sleeping in class

  • A ringing cellphone

  • Talking to your neighbor/ holding conversations separate from the class discussion

Attendance: It counts. Roll is taken, and more than a week of unexcused will lower your grade considerably. You will fail the course if you miss the equivalent of 2 weeks of class (4 class periods).
Essays: Three out-of-class essays are required (See section following the reading and assignments schedule in for specific requirements concerning length and format, grading criteria, etc.)
Exams: There is no midterm. The third essay is treated as a take-home final exam.
Extra Credit

There is extra credit available; see Blackboard for specifics.

Required Texts

You must acquire the texts listed below, making sure that you have the correct edition.

  • The Classics of Western Thought: The Modern World (Vol III) Edgar E Knoebel, ed. (Abbreviated CWT in syllabus)

  • Candide by Voltaire (Penguin edition)

  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (Dover Thrift edition)

  • Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (Bantam edition)

  • Marx for Beginners by Rius (Pantheon Books)

  • Civilization and its Discontents by Sigmund Freud (Norton)

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Anchor Books)

  • Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (Harcourt Brace)

  • A Course Pack available from Alternative Copy 829-7992


(Subject to Change)

Week 1

W: Introduction; NY Times Article on belief and proof (on Blackboard)

Week 2

M: Bacon and Descartes in CWT

W: Hobbes in CWT

Week 3

M: Locke in CWT (both selections)

W: Rousseau in CWT (both selections) and Blackboard

Week 4

M: Pascal in CWT

W: Pope in CWT and NY Times article on free will (on Blackboard)

Week 5

M: Candide (Penguin edition; NOT in CWT)

W: Adam Smith in CWT and on Blackboard

Week 6

M: Marx in CWT and pp: 1-23, 65-85 in Marx for Beginners

Th: Marx’s “Alienated Labor” in Coursepack and pp: 90-105 in Marx for Beginners

First Paper-- electronic copy only—due by 6:00 a.m. Thursday.
Week 7

M: Darwin in CWT and Sumner in Coursepack

W: Nietzsche in CWT and on Blackboard
Week 8

M: Civilization and Its Discontents Chapters 1-4

W: Civilization and Its Discontents 5-7 and Jung in CWT
Week 9


Week 10

M: Metamorphosis ( Read only the story—you do not need to read the introduction or any of the other selections)

W: “The Yellow Wallpaper” on Blackboard and “Paul’s Case” in Coursepack


Week 11

M: Heart of Darkness (all of it)

W: Heart of Darkness

Week 12

M: Eugenics (on Blackboard)

W: Eugenics Part 2

Second paper—electronic copy only—due Thursday.

Week 13

M: Things Fall Apart

W: Things Fall Apart

Week 14

M: “Sartre in CWT and “The Guest” in Coursepack

W: Snow and Heisenberg in Coursepack

Week 15

M: The Distance of the Moon,” and “All At One Point” in Cosmicomic

W: The Aquatic Uncle,” and “The Spiral” in Cosmicomics

Week 16

M : conclusions
Final paper—electronic copy only—Friday .

Essays for Honors 272

Three out-of-class essays are required (the topics for these essays are handed out approximately 2 weeks before the due date). These are to be critical, evaluative essays that develop a clear thesis in response to the issue being investigated. The essay needs to offer a coherent and logically-presented argument, each paragraph adding a relevant contribution or qualification to your thesis (An outline can provide invaluable help in achieving this). This is not a research project; please confine your sources to those assigned in class. While some summary is necessary, the essay will do more than summarize the work. You will be graded on the quality of the writing, the clarity and rationality of your arguments, and the coherence and originality of your essay as a whole. If you have any questions about the nature of the assignment or have trouble getting started, please see me as soon as possible.

Essay Requirements: All essays are to be typed double spaced. Use one-inch margins and 10 or 12 point font. Provide a title page that includes your name, the date, the title of the course, the instructors name, the title of your essay (“Essay #1" is not a title), and the time and day when your section meets. Number all pages except the title page. No table of contents or preface is required or desired. You do NOT need a “Sources Cited page. All quotations must be cited; use parenthetical documentation rather than endnotes or footnotes. Make sure quotations are exact and from the assigned texts (I’ll check for accuracy). For quotations longer than three lines, indent and single-space the quotation. Paraphrasing is allowed, desired even, but must also be cited. ALL PAPERS MUST ALSO BE SUBMITTED TO SAFE ASSIGNMENT ON BLACKBOARD. SEE BLACKBOARD FOR SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS
Length: Essays should be between 1500 and 1900 words. Essays of fewer than 1500 words will receive a reduced grade as will essays of over 1900 words. If you have trouble keeping within these parameters see me before the due date.
Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the borrowing of words or ideas of another and presenting them as your own. This includes looking over a neighbor’s shoulder during a quiz, buying a paper over the Web, using your brother’s/sister’s/friend’s paper, turning in a paper that you have composed for another class, or paraphrasing published material without a proper citation. Since these essays are not research papers, it is assumed that other secondary works will not be used. If you wish to use such material, please speak to me first. The university (and your instructor) considers plagiarism a very serious offense. This is an Honors College, and I expect honorable conduct. Any plagiarized assignment will result in a grade of zero with no opportunity to make it up. Furthermore, I reserve the right, in accordance with University policy, to award a grade of XE (failure due to academic dishonesty) to any student who is caught cheating. The violation will also be reported to the Dean of the Honors College for further action. To protect yourself, please keep notes, rough drafts, outlines, etc. until the end of the semester. You may be required to submit them to the instructor on short notice. NOTE: Such a request does not constitute a charge or suspicion of plagiarism. I also collect them in order to identify certain writing habits and/or techniques.
Important Notes and Considerations

An outline is not required, but can prove enormously helpful. It is particularly useful if you wish to discuss your work-in-progress with the instructor.

Late papers lose 5 points a day (not a class). While computers and word processing have provided us with many shortcuts, they also present problems. Hard drives crash, disks erase, printers fail. You are responsible for backing up your work and allowing adequate time for your work to print. Computer mishaps are not a valid excuse for late papers.
This is a formal essay. Traditional rules of grammar and sentence structure apply, and careful proof reading is essential. Don’t rely on your Spell Check; it can knot awl weighs bee truss Ted. Underline or italicize titles of books, long poems, and plays. Use the active voice whenever possible, i.e. “Gilgamesh states. . .” is better than “It is stated in Gilgamesh. . .” Write concisely. Define your terms and stick to those definitions.
Write from an objective point of view. No doubt the position you take in your essay will be influenced by your religious, political, and philosophical beliefs, but try to neutralize these beliefs for the duration of the paper. Above all, do not parade these beliefs uncritically before the reader as unquestioned truths. Do not try to prove a point simply by citing “the authority.” When thinking critically, a statement is not true simply because the Bible or Charles Darwin says it is. Back up claims with evidence and reasoned argument.
The introduction

The introduction needs to indicate the topic under discussion, the specific issues involved, and your thesis. Every essay your write for this class must have a clear thesis, stated in the introduction, that sets forth your argument. A thesis in an answer to a question. Beware of questions that seem easy to answer--there may be possibilities that you have not explored. You should be able to state your thesis in one or two sentences.

The body

The man portion of your essay defends your thesis. Each paragraph should be organized around a single idea that relates to your argument. Each paragraph needs to have a topic sentence (near the beginning of the paragraph) and everything in the paragraph needs to relate to that topic sentence. When you edit your paper ask yourself after every paragraph, “Is it clear how this paragraph supports my thesis?”

The number and length of paragraphs will vary, but aim for one or two paragraphs a page. If notice a tendency to have more than 2 paragraphs, you probably are not developing (explaining, justifying, citing evidence for) the main idea in each paragraph. Exceptionally long paragraphs may indicate that you have drifted from your topic sentence.

A good conclusion summarizes the evidence supporting the thesis contained in the body of the paper, and can then restate the thesis in a more insightful and/or more forceful way.

Criticism and Grading of Essays

Barrett is committed to very high standards of writing and critical inquiry in all honors courses. Standards in HON 172-272 exceed those in non-honors freshman sections. You should, therefore expect a great deal of critical input on your papers when they are returned. This criticism is meant to be constructive; I assume that you possess the academic accomplishment and the emotional maturity to understand the importance of such input, and hope you will consider my serious (and time-consuming) attention to your work a compliment to your academic potential. These criticisms are given in the expectation that they will help you improve your subsequent work.

The Human Event Writing Center

The Barrett Writing Center is available to assist Barrett Honors College students with their papers for all their classes. Directed by BHC faculty and staffed by BHC writing tutors who themselves have completed both HON 171 and 172, the Barrett Writing Center offers individual tutoring on writing papers for the Human Event and your other courses. Its goal is to help you improve your lifelong writing and critical thinking skills, so please take advantage of its services. Go to the BWC web site at http://honors.asu.edu/ and click on "Resources for Current Students." Under Barrett Writing Center, you then can access tutoring schedules, appointment information, and academic background on the staff.

Grade Disputes

Barrett follows an established procedure regarding any student grievances over his/her final grade. Before formal proceedings start, however, the student must follow an “informal” process in which he/she contacts the instructor no later than the semester following the posting of the disputed grade. If no resolution can be reached, the student must then meet with the College Ombudsman, who will try to mediate an agreement. If this is not successful, then formal proceedings begin. For a complete description of both the informal and formal processes, go the The BHC Website and follow the “Forms/Documents” link.

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