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Honors Reading Seminars

UH 2124: Honors Reading Seminars

If you have a particularly busy semester planned — or are new to the Honors College — UH 2124: Honors Reading Seminars offer an enjoyable, low-pressure way to earn honors credit. We have several offered throughout the week focused on a variety of fun and interesting topics to explore!

Honors Reading Seminars are small, discussion-based classes in which students read about and explore topics of interest; practice critical reading, thinking, and communication skills; and build community with other Honors students.

Reading seminars are taught by the Honors Peer Educator who proposes the seminar topic. Classes meet for 50 minutes, once a week, and earn participants 1 Honors credit. Grading is Pass/Fail only.

Questions? Please reach out to Dr. Paul Heilker.

FALL 2022 HONORS READING SEMINARS

 

Bad at Being Good
Kiera Schneiderman (schkiera@vt.edu)
CRN 91652
9:05 - 9:55 a.m.
MCB 207

In most books, stories, or movies the protagonist is the good guy, someone on your side.  But some TV shows, books, and movies flip the narrative of the villain.  They ask the audience, "Is the bad guy really the hero?" In this course we will discuss that question and delve into conversations about trust, perspective, morality, and vulnerability.

Reading materials:

  • The Stranger — Albert Camus
  • Gone Girl — Gillian Flynn
  • The Last Olympian — Rick Riordan

Life on the Farm
Caitlyn Simmons (caitlynrs237@vt.edu)
CRN 90219 
9:05- 9:55 a.m.
DAV 325

With the American farming industry declining, it is vital to take understand just how important farms are to American culture and examine what they can teach us about who we are and what we do. In this reading seminar, we will delve into the beautiful and hard world of the American farm through the lens of a children's book, an allegorical novel, and a classic of American literature.

Reading materials:

  • Charlotte's Web — E.B White
  • Animal Farm — George Orwell
  • Grapes of Wrath — John Steinbeck

Gender Roles and Societal Economics in Jane Austen

Phoebe Pyles (phoebepyles@vt.edu)
CRN 90225 
10:10 - 11:00 a.m.
DAV 325

This reading seminar will focus on the complexity of life for young women in the 19th century and compare those experiences with young adults of the 21st century. We will consider how topics such as economics, wealth, gossip, family dynamics, and adulthood are as relevant us today as they were for Austen and her characters.

Reading materials:

  • Pride and Prejudice — Jane Austen
  • Sense and Sensibility — Jane Austen

Self-Confidence and Personal Growth
Katie Ramboyong (katierambo@vt.edu)
CRN 90212 
11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
MCB 207

This seminar will examine how we can develop resilience, self-understanding, and self-confidence.  We will consider how reflective mindsets and habits can improve our relationships with ourselves and others.

Reading materials:

  • You Are a Badass — Jen Sincero
  • Atomic Habits — James Clear
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People — Dale Carnegie

Delicious Reads: Food, Literature, and Culture

Grace McCarthy (gmccarthy@vt.edu)
CRN 90207 
12:20- 1:10 p.m.
MCB 207

Food: It's not only at the center of your dinner table but at the center of cultural identity, family traditions, and human relationships as well.  In this seminar, we will explore the intersections of food and culture through the cultural clashes and complicated family dynamics portrayed in three popular novels.

Reading materials:

  • The Joy Luck Club — Amy Tan
  • Like Water for Chocolate — Laura Esquivel
  • The Mistress of Spices — Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Un-Wreck Your Mind: Feminism and Self-Love

Sophie Barkhordari (sophiebark@vt.edu)
CRN 90216 
1:25 - 2:15 p.m.
MCB 207

In this seminar, we will explore topics of feminism, identity, and self-acceptance. On a journey back to our true selves, we will attempt to “unlearn” all of the societal conditioning that has pushed us away from self-love and liberation.

Reading materials:

  • Untamed — Glennon Doyle
    Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement” — Tarana Burke
    The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love — Sonya Renee Taylor 

The Novels of Khaled Hosseini

Madison Harmon (madisonh03@vt.edu)
CRN 90222 
4:00 - 4:50 p.m.
MCB 207

In this reading seminar, we will explore two famous novels of Khaled Hosseini set in Kabul, Afghanistan.  We will consider the themes of ethnic and gender discrimination and consider ways in which these dynamics affect the lives the characters in the novels and our lives as well.

Reading materials:

  • The Kite Runner — Khaled Hosseini
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns — Khaled Hosseini

Controversial Characters in Harry Potter

Cate Bates (cateb@vt.edu)
CRN 90210 
5:30 - 6:20 p.m.
MCB 207

This seminar will discuss some of the morally ambiguous or controversial characters in the Harry Potter series, including Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, and Percy Weasley. We will examine the morality or reasoning behind their actions and consider what we can learn about human nature by studying them. Participants will need access to — and a strong knowledge of — all seven Harry Potter books.

Reading materials:

  • Various chapters from all seven Harry Potter books

The Worlds of Neil Gaiman
Zoe Gaucher (zoeg21@vt.edu)
CRN 90217 
9:30 - 10:20 a.m.
MCB 207

This reading seminar will explore the fictional worlds created by Neil Gaiman and the devices and themes he uses to create them, offering students an opportunity to delve deeper into Gaiman’s famous but mysterious places and characters.

Reading materials:

  • Coraline — Neil Gaiman
  • The Graveyard Book — Neil Gaiman
  • Good Omens — Neil Gaiman

Science Fiction: The Future's Fight for Freedom
Kerry Shea (kshea23@vt.edu)
CRN 90226 
11:00 - 11:50 a.m.
MCB 658

In this seminar, we will explore classic science fiction from the 20th century to consider why its central themes of time travel, artificial intelligence, and the illusion of free will remain so important to contemporary readers.

Reading materials:

  • Slaughterhouse-Five — Kurt Vonnegut
  • Neuromancer — William Gibson
  • Foundation — Isaac Asimov

 

Follow Your Inner Child

Nico Palanca (nicolaspalanca@vt.edu)

CRN 90221 

12:30 - 1:20 p.m.

MCB 207

Life is full of ups and downs, and oftentimes we feel lost and unsure of ourselves. In this reading seminar, we will explore famous texts in children's literature and how they can addresses the hardships in our lives such as loss, grief, and acceptance.

Reading materials:

  • The Velveteen Rabbit — Margery Williams
  • The Giving Tree — Shel Silverstein
  • The Little Prince — Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Charlotte's Web — E.B White
  • Wonder — R.J Palacio
  • The Velveteen Principles — Toni Raiten-D'Antonio

The Book Was Better!

Hamza Mokel (Hamzam@vt.edu)

CRN 90211 

3:30 - 4:20 p.m.

MCB 219

In this seminar, we will consider what, how, and why movie adaptions made changes from the source material of the novels we will read.  We will study the meaning of the details that movies tend to overlook and investigate how these changes affected the characters’ motivations, goals, and experiences and the effectiveness of stories overall.

Reading materials:

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower — Stephen Chbosky
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone — J.K. Rowling
  • The Fault in Our Stars — John Green

Science and Religion in the Novels of Dan Brown
Danny Yessayan (dannyy19@vt.edu)
CRN 90213 
9:05 - 9:55 a.m.
MCB 207

Some people see science and religion as enemies at war for leadership in our modern culture.  In this reading seminar, we will take a deep dive into the works of Dan Brown to explore how science and religion conflict and how they might coexist.

Reading materials:

  • Angels and Demons — Dan Brown
  • The Da Vinci Code — Dan Brown

Exploring Classic Dystopian Fiction
Tulai Raine (traine@vt.edu)
CRN 90209 
10:10 - 11:00 a.m.
MCB 207

This seminar will examine the social commentary and key themes of classic dystopian fiction —including hope, courage, fear, the memory of the past, speculation about the future, power structures, individuality and collectivism, freedom and control/repression — in an effort to understand what makes them continuously worthy of study.

Reading materials:

  • 1984 — George Orwell
  • The Handmaid’s Tale — Margaret Atwood
  • Parable of the Sower — Octavia Butler



Exploring the World of Jane Eyre
Kathryn Letz (kateyl19@vt.edu)
CRN 90214 
11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
MCB 207

In this seminar, we will discuss how Bronte’s and Rhys’ classic novels combine to challenge patriarchal societal norms and explore themes of feminism, independence, romance, perseverance, mental health, and the effects of colonization.

Reading materials:

  • Jane Eyre — Charlotte Bronte
  • Wide Sargasso Sea — Jean Rhys

 

Controversial Characters in Harry Potter

Madison Gearing (mgearing01@vt.edu)

CRN 91653

12:20 - 1:10 p.m.

MCB 207

This seminar will discuss some of the morally ambiguous or controversial characters in the Harry Potter series, including Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, and Percy Weasley. We will examine the morality or reasoning behind their actions and consider what we can learn about human nature by studying them. Participants will need access to — and a strong knowledge of — all seven Harry Potter books.


Reading materials:

·      Excerpts from all 7 Harry Potter novels

The Books That Built Us

Cara Patrick (carapat@vt.edu) & Stephanie Sheets (stephaniems@vt.edu)
CRN 90218 

1:25 - 2:15 p.m.

MCB 207

In this seminar, we will revisit some of the stories that defined our generation’s childhood in order to examine how they have shaped our collective experience and the lens with which we view the world.  We will likewise reflect on how and why our opinions about the novels have changed and why those changes are meaningful.

Reading materials:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone — J. K. Rowling
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief — Rick Riordan
  • The Hunger Games — Suzanne Collins

Resilience

Chelsea Kumi (chelseak19@vt.edu)

CRN 90220 

4:00 - 4:50 p.m.

MCB 207

The seminar focuses on resilience, acceptance, and adaptation and their critical importance in achieving success.  Students will be encouraged to consider these themes as a means to address adversity in their personal and professional lives.

Reading materials:

  • Room — Emma Donoghue
  • When Breath Becomes Air — Paul Kalanthi
  • Holes — Louis Sachar

Medium and Message
Jack Robbins (robb1347@vt.edu)
CRN 90223 
11:00 - 11:50 a.m.
MCB 658

This seminar will be a tour of several mediums through which creative narrative may be expressed. We'll be exploring films, screenplays, poems, comics, podcasts, short stories, plays, and songs. Reading materials will be provided.

Materials:

  • Film: Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut, Parasite screenplay by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won
  • Plays: King Lear or Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Podcast: The 80000 Hours Podcast with Keiran Harris and Howie Lempel (transcripts)
  • Comics: The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Watchmen by Alan Moore
  • Poems: Selected poems by Walt Whitman, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Amanda Gorman, Rabindranath Tagore
  • Songs: Selected songs by the Beatles, Kendrick Lamar, Simon and Garfunkel, J. Cole, Bob Dylan
  • Short Stories: Selected stories from Alice Munro's Best: A Selection of Stories by Alice Munro, Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges

Women’s Empowerment and Feminism
Virginia Chandler (virginiachandler@vt.edu) & Morgan Allison (morganallison@vt.edu)
CRN 90224 
12:30 - 1:20 p.m.
MCB 207

This readings in this seminar will explore the injustice that women have faced and still face because of gender inequality and encourage students discuss feminism more openly and bravely.  The course will help students understand how supporting women and their achievements can lead to the betterment of our society and world.


Reading materials:

  • We Should All Be Feminists — Chimamanda Adichie
  • The Color Purple -- Alice Walker
  • Know My Name — Chanel Miller
  • Everything I Know About Love — Dolly Alder Tan


Know Thyself: Exploring Stories of Self-Exploration
Alyssa McCormick (amm1211@vt.edu)
CRN 90215 
11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
MCB 207

In this seminar, we’ll explore self-exploration, the journey that doesn’t require a single step. We’ll discuss what it means to be human, to grow and change, and maybe, hopefully, we’ll learn something about ourselves while we’re at it.

Reading materials:

  • Paper Towns — John Green
  • Circe — Madeline Miller
  • Wild — Cheryl Strayed

Spring 2022 Honors Reading Seminars

Thoughts from the Middle
CRN 21976 
M 9:05 - 9:55 a.m.
MCB 207
Jessica Coffield (jessicac03@vt.edu)

"Thoughts From The Middle" will explore how the human mind works in different circumstances. We will consider the effects of religion, the past, and absurdities on the lives of characters (and in our own lives as well), and we will examine how rebirth looks different for everyone. 

Reading materials:

  • Demian - Hermann Hesse
  • Beloved - Toni Morrison
  • The Stranger - Albert Camus
  • The Ones Who Walked Away From Omelas - Ursula Le Guin

An Exploration into Techno: Thrillers through the Works of Clive Cussler
CRN 21980 
M 10:10 - 11:00 a.m.
MCB 207
Danny Yessayan (dannyy19@vt.edu)

Techno-thrillers are detail-oriented, action-adventure novels set in the contemporary world, often combining elements of sci-fi and espionage into their narratives. Writing techno-thrillers requires knowledge of science, politics, espionage, and history. In this course, we will explore the genre of techno-thrillers through the works of Clive Cussler and the adventures of Dirk Pitt!

Reading materials:

  • Pacific Vortex - Clive Cussler
  • Treasure - Clive Cussler

The Book Was Better!
CRN 20004 
M 11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
MCB 207
Hamza Mokel (hamzam@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will consider what, how, and why movie adaptions made changes from the source material of the novels we will read. We will study the meaning of the details that movies tend to overlook and investigate how these changes affected the characters’ motivations, goals, and experiences and the effectiveness of stories overall.

Reading materials:

  • Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians - Rick Riordan
  • The Maze Runner -- James Dashner

Contemporary and Confident: The Women of Jane Austen Novels
CRN 19998 
M 12:20 - 1:10 p.m.
MCB 212
Cora Meno (mcora20@vt.edu)

Jane Austen’s works are staples of classic literature. Well-written and wise, her novels remain popular today because of their strong and still-relevant messages. We will explore how Austen challenges gender norms, notions of love, and matches based purely on wealth and social status, and we will examine the poignant lessons of her confident female protagonists.

Reading materials:

  • Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
  • Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Essentialists, Music, and Polymaths
CRN 20010 
M 12:20 - 1:10 p.m.
GOODW 241
Emmanuel Abuah (krad@vt.edu)

This class explores the contrasting positions of sticking to a particular field, subject, or interest versus embracing eclecticism and developing as many hobbies, skills, and career paths as life and time will permit. Students in the course will be encouraged to consider the influence of these positions on their identities and career plans.

Reading materials:

  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less - Greg McKeown
  • The Polymath: A Cultural History from Leonardo Da Vinci to Susan Sontag - Peter Burke
  • The Neo-Generalist: Where You Go Is Who You Are - Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin

A Classic Mystery
CRN 20011 
M 12:20 - 1:10 p.m.
MAJWM 532
Krystyna Hesser (kmhesser@vt.edu

The whodunit has been a staple in books, plays, and movies for well over a century. But what has made them so successful? In this seminar, we will read some of the bestselling mystery novels and consider how they have risen to their popularity. We will also examine how the role of the hero, the villain, and the twist ending have changed over time and how classic whodunits have influenced modern media.

Reading materials:

  • The Hounds of Baskerville - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock - Carolyn Keene
  • The Hardy Boys: The Yellow Feather Mystery - Franklin Dixon
  • Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie

Be True, Be You, Be Confident
CRN 21983 
M 1:25 - 2:15 p.m.
MCB 207
Allison Gray (apg3986@vt.edu)

Do you often find yourself stressed out by trying to be perfect all the time? Why do we feel the need to compare ourselves to others? Why can't we be happy with who we are and accept our strengths and weaknesses? In this seminar, we will consider these questions and more as we explore how we can become happy and confident with ourselves.

Reading materials:

  • The Six Pillars of Self Esteem - Nathaniel Branden
  • How to Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way to Self-Acceptance, Fearless Living, and Freedom from Perfectionism - Stephen Guise
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success - Carol S. Dweck

Survival in the Wilderness: a Lack of Societal Structure
CRN 20008 
M 2:30 - 3:20 p.m.
MCB 207
Elizabeth Schwend (emschwend@vt.edu

This seminar will study and compare three books in which the main character(s) are isolated from society in some way. We will be looking at how the characters respond to adversity without the presence of a larger authority, and we will explore how each of the authors philosophies can be seen in today’s society.

Reading materials:

  • Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  • Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  • Stranger in the Woods - Michael Finkel

Tragedy, Beauty, and Bravery: Winners of the Pulitzer Prize
CRN 21978
T 3:30 - 4:20 p.m.
MCB 212
Ursilia Beckles (ubeckles@vt.edu)

In this course, we will examine two tales of beauty and tragedy that deal with strikingly different issues of race, gender, nationality, and sexual orientation. While we will, of course, discuss their differences, our focus will be on the similarities between the works and the authors. We'll also consider themes in both books deemed to be controversial for their time.

Reading materials:

  • Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
  • The Color Purple - Alice Walker


Dystopia: Welcome to the Unwelcome Future
CRN 19997
T 5:00 - 5:50 p.m.
MCB 207
Clay Williams (cwilliams@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will look at how future societies might adapt and change their rules to deal with problems such as class division, advanced technology, censorship, and war. Then, we will compare these dystopias to real-life societies to help prepare students for their roles in maintaining or changing their communities.

Reading materials:

  • Red Rising - Pierce Brown
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - Phillip Dick
  • Legend - Marie Lu

 

Controversial Characters in Harry Potter
CRN 21977 
W 9:05 - 9:55 a.m.
MCB 207
Caroline Giles (carolineg@vt.edu

This seminar will discuss some of the morally ambiguous characters in the Harry Potter series, including Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, and Percy Weasley. We will look at the morality behind their actions and consider what we can learn about human nature by studying them. Participants will need access to -- and a strong knowledge of -- all seven Harry Potter books.

Reading materials:

  • Various Chapters from the Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling

Accuracy in Historical Fiction
CRN 21981 
W 10:10 - 11:00 a.m.
MCB 207
Katie Buchholz (katiebuchholz5@vt.edu

In this reading seminar, we will explore the accuracies and inaccuracies of the genre of historical fiction and consider the effects of the genre on how history is perceived by readers. Students in the course will fact check young readers' historical fiction to gain insight into these dynamics.

Reading materials:

  • The Crucible - Arthur Miller
  • Stars of Alabama - Sean Dietrich
  • The Devil's Arithmetic - Jane Yolen

History of Ethical Dilemmas in Medicine
CRN 20007 
W 11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
MCB 212
Nikki Keith (xnikkikeithx@vt.edu)


Students in the course will consider ethical dilemmas in medicine to understand what they are, how they have changed over time, and what we can do to address them in our own efforts to improve our health care systems.

Reading materials:

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
  • Being Mortal - Atul Gawande
  • When We Do Harm - Danielle Ofri

How to Be the Best Healthcare Provider I Can Be
CRN 20013 
W 11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
MCB 207
Sadler Lundy (sadlerlundy@vt.edu)

This class will have students consider the following questions: How can I recognize the social determinants of health as they relate to racial inequality? How can I make ethical medical decisions? How can I be an effective communicator with other healthcare providers, patients, and families?

Reading materials:

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
  • The Energy Bus - Jon Gordon
  • When Breath Becomes Air - Dr. Paul Kalanithi

Gender Roles and Societal Economics in Jane Austen Novels
CRN 20000 
W 12:20 - 1:10 p.m.
MCB 212
Phoebe Pyles (phoebepyles@vt.edu)

This reading seminar will focus on the complexity of life for young women in the 19th century and compare those experiences with young adults of the 21st century. We will consider how topics such as economics, wealth, gossip, family dynamics, and adulthood are as relevant us today as they were for Austen and her characters.

Reading materials:

  • Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  • Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen

The Books That Built Us
CRN 20006 
W 12:20 - 1:10 p.m.
MAJWM 532
Cara Patrick (carapat@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will revisit some of the stories that defined our generation’s childhood in order to examine how they have shaped our collective experience and the lens with which we view the world. We will come together to share our thoughts, feelings, and reactions when reading the books again years later and to reflect on how our opinions around the novels have changed.

Reading materials:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
  • The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

Character Studies in Percy Jackson
CRN 21982 
W 12:20 - 1:10
GOODW 241
Stephanie Sheets (stephaniems@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will turn back time to the 2000s and develop character studies of the most beloved and most controversial characters in Percy Jackson's series of young adult novels. We will be reading excerpts from different books in the series each week in connection with a specific character for discussion.

Reading materials:

  • Excerpts from the entire Percy Jackson series: The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan's Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian

Controversial Characters in Harry Potter
CRN 20003 
W 1:25 - 2:15 p.m.
MCB 210
Lauren Bledsoe (lbledsoe@vt.edu)

This seminar will discuss some of the morally ambiguous characters in the Harry Potter series, including Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, and Percy Weasley. We will look at the morality behind their actions and consider what we can learn about human nature by studying them. Participants will need access to -- and a strong knowledge of -- all seven Harry Potter books.

Reading materials:

  • Various Chapters from the Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling.

Exploring Classic Dystopian Fiction
CRN 20014 
W 1:25 - 2:15 p.m.
MCB 207
Gregory Harrison (greg19@vt.edu) and Tulai Raine (traine@vt.edu)

This seminar will examine the social commentary and key themes of classic dystopian fiction -- including fear, the memory of the past, speculation about the future, power structures, individuality and collectivism, freedom and control/repression -- in an effort to understand what makes them continuously worthy of study.

Reading materials:

  • Animal Farm - George Orwell
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
  • Lord of the Flies - William Golding

Facing Adversities Head On
CRN 20009 
W 2:30 - 3:20 p.m.
MCB 207
Christina Green (greenc22@vt.edu)

This seminar will focus on inspiring stories of people who have faced great adversities in their lives, head on, with strength, determination, and grit. Their stories will live on in your heart and mind long after you close the covers of these books.

Reading materials:

  • Educated - Tara Westover
  • When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi
  • Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand

Discover Dystopia
CRN 20002 
W 5:30 - 6:20 p.m.
MCB 207
Brianna McDermott (brimcd@vt.edu)

This seminar will explore the similarities between our world today and those of fictional dystopias, including considerations of artificial intelligence, gender roles, and how drastic shifts in power can throw a society into turmoil.

Reading materials:

  • Klara and the Sun - Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Testaments - Margaret Atwood
  • The Power - Naomi Alderman


A Seminar of Thrones: Feast for Crows
CRN 20012 
TR 11:00 - 11:50 a.m.
AA 109
Katelyn Ragan (kragan@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will take a look at the morality of the actions of the major characters in the fourth book of A Song of Ice and Fire. We will discuss the qualities of a good leader and who, if any, of the characters possess these traits. We will also look at the concept of having a “right” to rule and what dictates this “right.” We’ll relate these topics to modern politics and discuss the pros and cons of current leadership systems.

Reading materials:

  • A Feast for Crows - George R. R. Martin

Fall in Love with Reading
CRN 20001 
TR 12:30 - 1:20 p.m.
WMS 209
Juliette Shore (julietteshore@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will explore the ups, downs, and complexities of modern day love, including discussion of topics such as domestic abuse, rape, LGTBQ+ relationships, and online dating. Students will also reflect about their own loving relationships (whether they are with a romantic partner, family member, friend, or even a pet).

Reading materials:

  • It Ends With Us - Colleen Hoover
  • Call Me By Your Name - Andre Aciman
  • Punk 57 - Penelope Douglas

Dune: A Journey to Arrakis
CRN 19999 
TR 3:30 - 4:20 p.m.
MCB 212
Amelia Schmidt (amelias@vt.edu)

Frank Herbert’s famous 1965 novel Dune introduced readers to a world filled with religious motifs, political strife, ecological dilemmas, and sabotage. We will consider the morality of the events that take place on Arrakis, how power is gained and lost, and connect events in the book to issues in our own world.

Reading materials:

  • Dune - Frank Herbert

Justice & Truth: The Law in Fiction
CRN 21974 
F 9:05 - 9:55 a.m.
MCB 207
Emma Franks (egfranks@gmail.com)

Are you interested in becoming a lawyer? Do you like true crime podcasts and "Criminal Minds"? This reading seminar will focus on stories involving crime, truth, and the law to discuss questions of justice and morality.

Reading materials:

  • A Jury of Her Peers - Susan Glaspell
  • Antigone - Sophocles
  • The Herbal Bed - Peter Whelan
  • The Crucible - Arthur Miller
  • Hamlet l - William Shakespeare

Un-Wreck Your Mind: Letting Go of Societal Norms and Embracing Your True Identity
CRN 20005 
F 12:20 - 1:10 p.m.
MCB 212
Sophie Barkhordari (sophiebark@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will explore topics of feminism, identity, and self-acceptance. On a journey back to our true selves, we will attempt to “unlearn” all of the societal conditioning that has pushed us away from self-love and liberation.

Reading materials:

  • Untamed - Glennon Doyle
  • Women Don't Owe You Pretty - Florence Given
  • Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement - Tarana Burke

Bad at Being Good
CRN 22006 
F 12:20 - 1:10 p.m.
ROB 116
Kajal Desai (kajal@vt.edu)

Recent TV shows, books, and movies have flipped the narrative of the villain. They ask the audience, "Is the bad guy really the hero?" In this course we will discuss that question and delve into conversations about trust, perspective, morality, and vulnerability.

Reading materials:

  • Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
  • The Stranger - Albert Camus
  • The Last Olympian - Rick Riordan


Fall 2021 Honors Reading Seminars

Dystopia: Collapse and Rebirth of a Society

CRN 90765
M 9:05 - 9:55 a.m.
MCB 204
Clay Williams (cwilliams@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will look at how different societies adapt in the midst of a crisis. We will compare how societies deal with problems such as censorship, overpopulation, class division, and misuse of advancing technology. Then, we will compare these dystopias to real-life societies to see how far we are from reaching extreme standards. This seminar will help prepare students for the future by discussing how to maintain a stable society in a rapidly changing world.

Reading materials:

  • Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
  • Children of Eden - Joey Graceffa
  • Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

 

A Look into the Future through Dystopian Novels
CRN 92285
M 10:10 - 11:00 a.m.
AA 114
Hannah O'Malley (hannahgomalley@vt.edu)

This reading seminar will use essential dystopian fiction to examine the philosophy, politics, and science behind totalitarian regimes, environmental destruction, technological control, and government resistance, and the extent to which these concepts are already present in our society.

Reading materials:

  • The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
  • Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

 

A Seminar of Swords
CRN 92288
M 10:10 - 11:00 a.m.
MCB 329
Katelyn Ragan (kragan@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will discuss the qualities of a good leader and which, if any, of the characters in this novel possess these traits. We will also look at the concept of having a "right" to rule and what dictates this "right." We will relate these topics to modern politics and discuss the pros and cons of current leadership systems. This seminar will help students think critically about modern politics and political leaders.

Reading materials:

  • A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin


Controversial Characters in Harry Potter
CRN 90772
M 11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
MCB 207
Caroline Giles (carolineg@vt.edu)

This seminar will discuss some of the morally ambiguous characters in the Harry Potter series, including Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, Percy Weasley, and Merope Gaunt. We will look at the morality behind the actions of fictional characters and consider what we can learn about human nature by studying them. Participants will need access to all seven books in the series, and it is highly recommended that students have a strong prior knowledge of the whole book series so they can discuss it in detail.

Reading materials:

  • Harry Potter (all seven books) - J.K. Rowling


Percy Jackson and Mythology
CRN 92286
M 12:20 - 1:10 p.m.
AA 114
Stephanie Sheets (stephaniems@vt.edu)

This course will provide a close examination of the world of gods, demigod, monsters, and titans in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Students will consider the relationships among Greek mythology, popular culture, and the tradition of oral story telling. Students need to be familiar with the entire series of Riordan's books and have access to all five novels.

Reading materials:

  • Excerpts from The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan's Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian - Rick Riordan
     

The End of the World as We Know It: Stories of the Apocalypse
CRN 90768
M 1:25 - 2:15 p.m.
MCB 207
Alyssa McCormick (amm1211@vt.edu)

This seminar explores different visions of "the apocalypse," the horrifying end of humanity as we know it. We'll discuss the value of reading stories that make it difficult to sleep at night, what we can learn from apocalypse stories, and what draws us to the idea of "the apocalypse" in the first place.

Reading materials:

  • The Road - Cormac McCarthy
  • Bird Box - Josh Malerman
  • World War Z - Max Brooks
     

Justice & Truth: The Law in Fiction
CRN 90762
M 4 - 4:50 p.m.
MCB 207
Emma Franks (egfranks@vt.edu)

Are you interested in becoming a lawyer? Do you like true crime podcasts and Criminal Minds? This reading seminar will focus on stories involving crime, truth, and the law to discuss questions of justice and morality.

Reading materials:

  • A Jury of Her Peers - Susan Glaspell
  • Antigone - Sophocles
  • The Herbal Bed - Peter Whelan
  • The Crucible - Arthur Miller
  • Hamlet - William Shakespeare

How to Take Back Your Life From Social Media
CRN 90774
M 5:30 - 6:20 p.m.
MCB 207
Sarah Gellert (sarahgellert22@vt.edu)

Social media use removes us from reality and creates a superficial and false world through edited pictures and posts. How do we push against this norm? How do we take back our mental health and enjoy all that life has to offer? How do we become more human again? This reading seminar focuses on the dangers of social media and how we can all benefit from taking a step away from being so connected.

Reading materials:

  • Notes on a Nervous Planet - Matt Haig
  • Logged In and Stressed Out: How Social Media is Affecting Your Mental Health and What You Can Do About It - Paula Durlofsky
  • Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now - Jaron Lanier
  • The Power of Moments (Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact) - Chip Heath

How to Be the Best Healthcare Provider I Can Be
CRN 90767
T 9:30 - 10:20 a.m.
MCB 207
Sadler Lundy (sadlerlundy@vt.edu)

This class will have students consider the following questions: How can I recognize the social determinants of health as they relate to racial inequality? How can I make ethical medical decisions? How can I be an effective communicator with other healthcare providers, patients, and families? You do not need to be a pre-health student to enroll in this class. Any honors student from any major is more than welcome to enroll.

Reading seminars:

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
  • The Energy Bus - Jon Gordon
  • When Breath Becomes Air - Dr. Paul Kalanithi


The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Part 2
CRN 90758
T 11:00 - 11:50 a.m.
MCB 207
Madison Nardi (nmaddie19@vt.edu)

This seminar explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through books of creative nonfiction from different perspectives, creating a better understanding of the situation for people unfamiliar the conflict. It offers students the chance to explore a sensitive topic in a safe environment where they can ask questions about a long-lived yet ongoing hostility with global implications.

Reading materials:

  • Crossing Mandelbaum's Gate - Kai Bird
  • Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor - Yossi Klein Halevi


Into the Woods: Finding a Balance between Society and Nature
CRN 90760
T 12:30 - 1:20 p.m.
RAND 120
Evi Euripides (evi@vt.edu)

This seminar will explore our human need for companionship and our equally important need for time alone to grow as an individual. We will consider ideas such as the outdoors being a home, a safe place to be at ease, seeking one's identity through solitude in nature, and the profound effects of changing economic status.

Reading materials:

  • The Stranger in the Woods - Michael Finkel
  • The Outsiders OR That Was Then, This Is Now - S.E. Hinton
  • Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer
  • Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

 

The Book was Better!
CRN 90763
T 12:30 - 1:20 p.m.
MCB 207
Hamza Mokel (Hamzam@vt.edu)

Why should we read the books that popular movies are based on? What gets lost in the process of turning a novel into a film? Students in this seminar will take a deep dive into the immersive experience of a novel that a movie treatment cannot provide. We will study the meaning of the details that movies tend to overlook, details that make these stories so fascinating. Students in the course need to watched all three film adaptations carefully.

Reading materials:

  • The Martian - Andy Weir
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
  • Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk

 

Children's Literature and Meaningful Living
CRN 90773
T 3:30 - 4:20 p.m.
MCB 207
Nico Palanca (nicolaspalanca@vt.edu) and Marciana Castillo (marcianacastillo@vt.edu)

Life is full of ups and downs, and oftentimes we feel lost and unsure of ourselves. In this reading seminar, we will explore different pieces of children's literature and how each one addresses hardships in life. These books present a range of thematic elements that are important in life including friendship, loss, grief, and acceptance. From these stories, we hope to gain a better understanding of the world we live in and how we can live a meaningful life.

Reading materials:

  • The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
  • The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Charlotte's Web - E.B White
  • Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
  • Wonder - R.J Palacio

The Books That Built Us
CRN 90771
W 9:05 - 9:55 a.m.
MCB 204
Cara Patrick (carapat@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will revisit novels that defined our generation's childhood in order to examine how these stories have shaped our collective experience and the lenses with which we view the world. In this seminar, we will come together to share our thoughts, feelings, and reactions about reading these books again years later, examining how and why our opinions have -- or have not -- changed.

Reading materials:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
  • Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

 

Sci-Fi and the Unimaginable Future
CRN 92289
W 10:10 -11:00 a.m.
MCB 329
Tanvir Alam (TanvirNAlam@vt.edu)

We can think of sci-fi as humanity's attempt to imagine its distant (or not so distant) future. In this seminar, we will examine societal constructs and how they are portrayed in these worlds, the influence of technology on human development, and how these portrayals and influences apply to the real world. We will consider the authors' milieu's and prescient their foresight was for their future, that is, our present.

Reading materials:

  • Metropolis - Thea von Harbou
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
  • Neuromancer - William Gibson Cyberia - Chris Lynch

 

The Discipline and Reward of A Healthy Lifestyle
CRN 90770
W 11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
MCB 207
Abby Miller (abbym16@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will discuss how mindset, fitness, and sleep can tie together to be the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. This formula has an enormous contribution to success in all aspects of life. Learn how simple changes in your daily routine relating to these three factors can drastically change your college experience, setting you up for success as you pursue your short and long-term goals.

Reading materials:

  • The Fitness Mindset - Brian Keane
  • Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams - Matthew Walker
  • Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength - Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

 

Facing Adversities Head On
CRN 90766
W 1:25 - 2:15 p.m.
MCB 207
Christina Green (greenc22@vt.edu)

This reading seminar will focus on inspiring stories of people who have faced great adversities in their life, head on, with admirable strength, determination, and grit. These stories will live on in your heart and mind long after you close the cover of the book.

Reading materials:

  • Night - Elie Wiesel
  • When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains - Tracy Kidder
  • Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation) - Laura Hillenbrand
     

Classic American Novels
CRN 90764
W 4:00 - 4:50 p.m.
MCB 207
Tulai Raine (traine@vt.edu)

Students in this seminar will examine what classic novels convey to readers about American culture, society, politics, attitudes, norms, and values. We will discuss how these texts have shaped readers' perceptions of America and the human experience, as well as the reasons why they are considered timeless classics worthy of ongoing study.

Reading materials:

  • The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  • The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison

Controversial Characters in Harry Potter
CRN 90759
W 5:30 - 6:20 p.m.
MCB 207
Lauren Bledsoe (lbledsoe@vt.edu)

This seminar will discuss some of the morally ambiguous characters in the Harry Potter series, including Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, Percy Weasley, and Merope Gaunt. We will look at the morality behind the actions of fictional characters and consider what we can learn about human nature by studying them. Participants will need access to all seven books in the series, and it is highly recommended that students have a strong prior knowledge of the whole book series so they can discuss it in detail.

Reading materials:

  • Harry Potter (all seven books) - J. K. Rowling

A Modern Approach to Drug Use
CRN 90761
TR 11 - 11:50 a.m.
MCB 207
Davis Lang (davis18@vt.edu)

There has long been a conflict between the scientific community and government agencies when it comes to drugs and drug use. Politicians and law enforcement, for instance, tend to spread misinformation and deceive the public. Students in this course use the works of published researchers and neuroscientists to analyze drug use from therapeutic, legal, recreational standpoints and address the implications of drug use in social settings.

Reading materials:

  • Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear - Carl Hart
  • Drugs Without the Hot Air: Making Sense of Legal and Illegal Drugs - David Nutt

Examining Adversities Through LGBTQ+ Fiction
CRN 92290
F 10:10 - 11:00 a.m.
MCB 329
Amelia Schmidt (amelias@vt.edu)

In this seminar, we will examine adversities the LGBTQ+ characters face in these novels and how they affect the characters' growth. We will consider the themes, characterizations, and messages portrayed in these novels, but also examine how the adversities the characters face are applicable to today's society and what they reveal about the fundamental plight of being human.

Reading materials:

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
  • The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
  • The Color Purple - Alice Walker

 

What is a Superhero?
CRN 90769
F 11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
MCB 207
Danny Yessayan (dannyy19@vt.edu)

Via blockbuster movies and high-selling graphic novels, the superhero has become an integral part of American popular culture. In this reading seminar, we will unmask examine the phenomenon of superheroes and their history. We will learn to define what a superhero is and consider the impact they have had on the imaginations and beliefs of Americans. We will learn how, through them, we tell the story of ourselves, our troubled history, and our aspirations.

Reading materials:

  • What is a Superhero? - Robin S. Rosenberg and Peter Coogan
  • Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human - Grant Morrison
  • The Psychology of Superheros: An Unauthorized Exploration - Robin S. Rosenberg and Jennifer Canzoneri