The University Honors Program Capstone Seminar is designed for seniors who have completed at least one Honors track. It is required for students who have completed three tracks and are seeking to become University Scholars.

In this dynamic course, seniors engage and analyze complex cultural artifacts — works of art, architecture, literature, and music — in ways that draw on the methods of their own academic disciplines. Uniting students from all different areas of study, this course develops more fully their critical and imaginative faculties as they encounter works that bring together the familiar and the alien, what is comforting with what is disquieting. Through class discussion and writing assignments, students explore the perspectives that the works encourage, testing and expanding their own understanding of the world.

The theme of the Honors Capstone Seminar changes each semester. Recent topics have included "Work;" "Leisure;" "Man, Beast, and Machine;" "Memory;" "The Human Being;" and "The Two Cultures." In the midst of exploring these fascinating topics, each student researches, writes, and presents a thesis paper relating his/her own academic discipline to the theme of the course. Topics are developed in consultation with the Director of the UHP, who is also the course's instructor.

Recent Topics

  • Leisure and Play

    An interdisciplinary exploration of the role of leisure and play in the human experience. How does childhood play shape us as human beings? What is the relationship between play and art/literature? How should we understand the many parallels between play and religious ritual? To what extent, in sum, is play "serious business"? Core texts drew from a broad range of sources, and included theoretical works by Josef Pieper, Erving Goffman, Roger Callois, and Johan Huizinga, as well as literary texts by Pierre de Marivaux and Thomas Mann and contemporary scientific research.

  • Memory

    A survey of the all-important (yet often troubling) role that memory plays in human thought and culture. Readings will be drawn from Philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Locke, Benjamin...), Literature (Blake, Wordsworth, Proust...), Theology, Neurobiology, Psychology, and History. We also examine cinematic and artistic representations of memory, the role of memory in the law, as well as the fate of memory in an increasingly technological society.

  • Man, Beast, and Machine

    An exploration of the complex relationships (in all of the senses of the word) between human beings, non-human animals, and technology. Readings are drawn from Philosophy (Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Bentham...), Literature (Swift, Zola, Kafka...), Evolutionary Biology, Psychology, and History. We also examine cinematic and artistic representations of human-animal and human-machine relations as well as contemporary ethical questions.

  • The Two Cultures

    An exploration of the dialogue between the humanities and the hard sciences through a wide range of texts ranging from literary texts (scientific poetry, novels), scientific classics, and contemporary debates (the "Sokal hoax"). What does science have to teach us about beauty? Are "postmodern" critiques of scientific objectivity from the humanities warranted? Can the notion of wonder still serve as a bridge between these two disciplinary cultures? What about philosophy and theology: how do they fit in?