Fall 2022 Honors First Year Seminars & Launches

Course times and offerings subject to change




ANTH 053H.037 | Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

TR, 9:30 am – 10: 45 am. Instructor: Paul Leslie. Enrollment = 24.
Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is central to one of the most profound revolutions in the history of thought, generating stunning insights but also some misunderstanding and tragic abuse. This seminar aims to provide a clear understanding of how natural selection works, and how it doesn’t. We will examine objections to the theory; how the environmental and health problems we face today reflect processes of natural selection; and recent attempts to understand why we get sick, how we respond to disease, why we get old, why we choose mates the way we do, and more. Class sessions will feature a mix of lecture and discussion of concepts and issues. Students will also engage in small group projects—cooperative explorations of problems raised in class or in the readings and/or designing mini research projects.


Paul Leslie’s professional interests focus on human ecology, and he has pursued this primarily through research among nomadic peoples in East Africa. His most recent project entails studying (while nursing an aged Land Rover across the African savanna) human-environment interactions in northern Tanzania, especially how the changing land use and livelihood patterns of the Maasai people living there affect and are affected by wildlife and conservation efforts. When not teaching or practicing anthropology, he enjoys bicycling, motorcycling, woodworking, and jazz.


CLAS 051H.001 | Greek Drama on Page & Stage

MWF, 9:05 am – 9:55 am. Instructor: Alexander Duncan. Enrollment = 24.

Taking a participatory approach to ancient Greek drama, this course pairs readings from three Athenian playwrights (Aeschylus, Euripides, and Aristophanes) with performance-oriented activities and scholarship.

At its most traditional, this course surveys the historical and cultural context of the so-called “classical” Athens of the fifth-century BCE, emphasizing the political, religious, and aesthetic forces that gave rise to humankind’s first recorded theater. More innovatively, this course probes the dual nature of theater, its distinct but intertwined existences as codified script and socially-embedded performance, through sustained investigations of some of its most influential texts and their modern reception in a global context with case studies focused on post-Apartheid South African and 21st-century Chicanx experiences.

Through a variety of original compositions (including Tweets, TikTok/FlipGrid videos, character backstories, stand-up routines, director’s notes, and scholarly analyses), students gain practical experience and theoretical insight into the ways text, performance, and culture interact. Through improvisational activities, recorded videos, and scene rehearsals, students become thespians in their own right, pressing the limits of how far performance might extend beyond the traditional stage. Class trips to Davis Library and the Forest Theater introduce first-year students to some of the academic and cultural resources UNC offers.


Al Duncan is Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics. He holds a B.A. in English and Classical Languages & Literature from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Classics and the Humanities from Stanford University. Having previously taught in Classics and Comparative Literature at the University at Utah, he joined the Carolina faculty in 2015, where he teaches a variety of courses on ancient Greek language and literature and ancient Mediterranean culture.
Professor Duncan’s research focuses on theatrical production, aesthetics, and genre. He is currently preparing a book on ugliness in Greek drama, as well as several chapters and articles on the material and cognitive aspects of ancient theater.

CLAS 057H.001 | Dead and Deadly Women on the Western Stage

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor: Sharon James. Enrollment = 24.
In this course, we will study the great tragic heroines of ancient Greek drama, focusing on Clytemnestra, Medea, Alcestis, Phaedra, the Trojan Women, Antigone. We will also read a contemporary novel, by Fay Weldon, that engages many of these mythic women. We will study the Greek tragedies intensively, along with their reception in later art, from paintings to poems, stage productions to sculptures, operas to ballets. Our questions will include: why does Greek tragedy focus so intensely on women? Are the playwrights misogynists or do they express some sympathy for women? What about these female characters grabbed the imaginations not only of ancient Greek playwrights but of later writers, painters, composers, not to mention readers? How are their stories relevant to the 21st century? Did the ancient Athenians know something we don’t?


Professor James specializes in Roman comedy, Latin poetry, and women in ancient Greece and Rome.  She has published many articles on these subjects, as well as a book on Roman love elegy (published in 2003); she is currently preparing a large-scale book on women in Greek and Roman New Comedy (the plays of Menander, Plautus, and Terence).  She is also the co-editor of Blackwell’s Companion to Women in the Ancient World and Women in Antiquity (a 4-volume set).  Professor James regularly teaches all these subjects at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Her lecture courses, CLAS/WMST 240/240H (Women in Ancient Greece) and CLAS/WMST 241/241H (Women in Ancient Rome) are cross-listed between Classics and Women’s Studies. In summer 2012 she co-directed an NEH Institute on the performance of Roman comedy. She has two elderly dogs who keep her busy at home. In 2013, she won the University’s William C. Friday/Class of 1986 Award for Excellence in Teaching; in 2021, she won the Board of Governors Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.


DRAM 081H.001 | Staging America: The American Drama

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor: Greg Kable. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar examines our national drama from its colonial origins to the present. Participants read plays and criticism, screen videos, engage in critical writing, and consider performance as related means of exploring the visions and revisions constituting American dramatic history. We will approach American drama as both a literary and commercial art form, and look to its history to provide a context for current American theater practice. Readings are chosen for their intrinsic merit and historical importance, but also for their treatment of key issues and events in American life. Our focus throughout will be on the forces that shaped the American drama as well as, in turn, that drama’s ability to shed light on the national experience.


Gregory Kable is a Teaching Professor in the Department of Dramatic Art, where he teaches dramatic literature, theatre history, and performance courses and serves as an Associate Dramaturg for PlayMakers Repertory Company. He also teaches seminars on Modern British Drama and American Musicals for the Honors program. He has directed dozens of productions at UNC and throughout the local community, and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.


ECON 101H.01F | Introduction to Economics

MWF, 1:25 pm – 2:15 pm; Recitation: T, 2:00 pm – 2:50 pm. Instructor: Rita Balaban. Enrollment = 35.
Introduction to fundamental issues in economics including competition, scarcity, opportunity cost, resource allocation, unemployment, inflation, and the determination of prices.

Rita Balaban is a Teaching Professor in the Department of Economics at UNC-Chapel Hill where she has been a faculty member since 2006.  She earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh in 1999 and prior to her arrival at UNC-CH, she taught at Samford University and the College of Charleston.  Rita is an experienced teacher whose teaching interests are in Applied Microeconomics, specifically the Economics of Sports.  She has won several university-wide teaching awards including the Chapman Family Award (201) and the Tanner Award (2015) for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.  Her research interests are in economics pedagogy and she has presented her work at conferences in Wilmington, Philadelphia and San Diego.


ENGL 089H. | American Poetry in Motion

TR, 12:30pm – 1:45pm. Instructor: Eliza Richards. Enrollment = 24.
In this course we will read recent poems that communicate intensely personal experiences in ways that allow them to be shared, understood, and appreciated by others. We will focus on the work of those who turn to poetry to create space for marginalized or suppressed perspectives. We will explore how social and cultural conditions both limit and enable poetic expression; how poets engage in social and political movements; and to think about the ways writers express themselves in their work. Readings will be chosen from books awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in the present century. The course seeks to develop close reading skills that are crucial for interpreting poetry; to strengthen writing and oral communication skills; and to develop research skills.


Eliza Richards is a Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. She teaches American literature before 1900 and American poetry. She has written about Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, the poetry of the US Civil War, and popular women’s poetry. Professor Richards has won awards for teaching on both the graduate and undergraduate level.

ENGL 089H. | The Machine Mistake from Frankenstein to the Smartphone

MWF, 11:15am – 12:05pm. Instructor: David Ross. Enrollment = 24.
There is the assumption that science fiction propagandizes for the gleaming gadgetry that it depicts. It’s true that science fiction often endorses the scientific endeavor and worldview. It’s further true that the science fictionists of the 1940s and 1950s tended to pine for the space age that began in 1969. But even at its giddiest and wonkiest, science fiction remembers the lesson of Frankenstein. It remembers that our monsters develop ideas of their own; that they wind up haunting us and even hunting us; that our innovations—however seemingly benign—however fenced and fail-safe—threaten to escape our control and our comprehension. This course traces the genealogy of this machine anxiety. Our guiding questions will be: What are machines? Does the artificially intelligent “machine” cease to be a machine? Are machines “natural” or “unnatural”? Are they heretical? Are their dangers inherent? How do they change us? Our course epigraph might paraphrase Winston Churchill: We shape our machines; thereafter they shape us.

Our core in-class activity will be aggressive discussion of the cultural, philosophical, political, and psychological questions that our course materials raise. Students will apply critical thinking skills, seek connections, and develop questions of their own. These questions will propel class discussion.


David A. Ross is a graduate of Yale and Oxford. He has been a member of the Department of English & Comparative Literature at UNC–Chapel Hill since 2002. He is the author of A Critical Companion to William Butler Yeats (2009) and the co-editor/co-translator of The Search for the Avant-Garde, 1946–1969 (2012), the descriptive catalogue of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. A collector and amateur scholar of traditional Chinese paintings and Japanese woodblock prints, he has served as president of Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies and as both editor and book review editor of the Southeast Review of Asian Studies.


GEOL 072H.001 | Field Geology of Eastern California

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor: Drew Coleman. Enrollment = 20.
Have you ever wanted to stand on a volcano, see a glacier, trace out an earthquake fault, or see the Earth’s oldest living things? This seminar is designed around a one-week field trip to eastern California, where students will study geologic features including active volcanoes, earthquake-producing faults, and evidence for recent glaciation and extreme climate change. Before the field trip (which will take place the week of Fall Break and be based at a research station near Bishop, California), the class will meet twice a week to learn basic geologic principles and to work on developing field research topics. During the field trip students will work on field exercises (e.g. mapping, measuring, and describing an active fault; observing and recording glacial features) and collect data for the research projects. After the field trip, students will obtain laboratory data from samples collected during the trip and test research hypotheses using field and laboratory data. Grading will be based on presentation of group research projects, and on a variety of small projects during the trip (notebook descriptions, mapping projects, etc.). Students may be required to pay some of the costs of the trip (a maximum of about $500.) This course will require missing three days of classes. The course is designed to teach basic geology “on the rocks”, so there are no prerequisites. Link to Yosemite Nature Notes video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5RQp77uVPA


Drew Coleman’s research focuses on understanding how the Earth works by determining the rates of processes (mountain building, extinction, volcanism, etc.) that occurred in the past. To accomplish this he and his students date rocks. His teaching is inquiry based and he is most happy when he is teaching “hands on” in the field or lab.


MATH 062H.001 | Combinatorics

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor: Ivan Cherednik. Enrollment = 20.
A leading expert in Modern Combinatorics wants to share his vision of the subject with the students. The seminar is a perfect background for future specialists in mathematics, physics, computer science, biology, economics, for those who are curious what statistical physics is about, what is cryptography, and how stock market works, and for everyone who likes mathematics.

The course will be organized around the following topics:

  1. Puzzles: dimer covering, magic squares, 36 officers
  2. Combinations: from coin tossing to dice and poker
  3. Fibonacci numbers: rabbits, population growth, etc.
  4. Arithmetic: designs, cyphers, intro to finite fields
  5. Catalan numbers: from playing roulette to stock market

The students will learn about the history of Combinatorics, its connections with the theory of numbers, its fundamental role in the natural sciences and various applications.

It is an advanced research course; all students are expected to participate in projects under the supervision of I.Ch. and the Graduate Research Consultant (the GRC Program). This seminar is partially supported by Honors Carolina.

The grades will be based on the exam, bi-weekly home assignments and the participation in the projects. The course requires focus and effort, but, generally, the students are quite satisfied with the progress they make (and their grades too).

From the Course Evaluation: “A difficult but wholly worthwhile course: I feel more competent for having taken it”, “I would recommend this FYS to others ONLY if they have a VERY strong affinity for and ability in Algebra (I thought I did, but I was wrong)”.


Professor Cherednik is Austin H. Carr Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. Trained at the Steklov Mathematics Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and at Moscow State University, his areas of specialization are Representation Theory, Combinatorics, Number Theory, Harmonic Analysis, and Mathematical Physics. Cherednik’s particular affection for Combinatorics is well known: he proved the celebrated Constant term conjecture in Combinatorics.

MATH 231H.01F | Calculus of Functions of One Variable I

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm; Recitation: W, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm. Instructor: Xuqiang Qin. Enrollment = 35.
Math 231 is designed to provide a detailed introduction to the fundamental ideas of calculus. It does not assume any prior calculus knowledge, but the student is expected to be proficient working with functions and their graphs as well as manipulating variable expressions and solving equations using algebra.

This is the Honors section of Math 231. It offers a more demanding and deeper treatment than the regular sections as well as more involved applications. There will be more emphasis on understanding theory than in other sections, and students will be expected to understand and reproduce proofs of theorems and formulas. In addition, this section will cover extra topics, including the epsilon-delta definition of limit. Applications will be more involved and will sometimes involve real data. Homework will be more challenging, with more emphasis on creative problem solving and less emphasis on drill. Students will be expected to complete a final project.




RELI 073H.001 | From Dragons to Pokemon: Animals in Japanese Myth, Folklore and Religion

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor: Barbara Ambros. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar examines the cultural construction of animals in Japanese myth, folklore, and religion. We will discuss various kinds of animals: those that occur in the natural world, those that are found in myths and folklore, and those that have appeared in popular media such as animation. We will explore how images of various animals were culturally constructed as tricksters, gods, monsters, or anthropomorphic companions; how animals were ritualized as divine, demonic, or sentient beings in Buddhism, Shinto, and folk religion; and how animals could serve as metaphors that embodied collective ideals or anxieties. Most of our readings will focus on primary and secondary texts from the Japanese tradition (in English), but we will also read theoretical texts on human-animal relationships and historical studies on animals in the larger Asian context. We will also view and analyze several Japanese films, both anime and documentaries, that deal with animals and environmental issues.


Field of specialization: Religions of Asia Research interests: Religions in early modern through contemporary Japan; gender studies; critical animal studies; place and space; and pilgrimage. Fun fact: she holds a third-degree black belt in Shotokan karate and serves as the faculty advisor for the UNC Shotokan Club.


ROML 055H.001 | Writing with an Accent: Latino Literature and Culture

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. Instructor: Oswaldo Estrada. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar focuses on the literary production of Latinos living in the U.S. Using a variety of materials (essays, documentaries, films, music) and English-language texts (novels, short stories, plays, poetry) we will examine works by Chicano, Peruvian-American, Nuyorican, Central-American-American, Dominican, and Cuban-American writers. Topics to be discussed include: Latino or Hispanic? What’s in a Name?; The politics of Bilingualism; The search for Home in Migrant, Rural, and Urban Environments; The Many Faces of Machismo; Religion and Spirituality in Latino Communities; Forms of Prejudice and Discrimination; Music as a Cultural Bridge. All readings will be in English, though knowledge of Spanish is desirable.


Oswaldo Estrada is a Peruvian-American writer and literary critic. He is a Professor of Latin American Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has authored or edited over a dozen books of literary and cultural criticism. He is the author of a children’s book, El secreto de los trenes (2018), and of three collections of short stories, Luces de emergencia (2019; International Latino Book Awards 2020), Las locas ilusiones y otros relatos de migración (2020; International Latino and Latin American Book Fair Prize 2020), and Las guerras perdidas (2021). He has recently edited the short-story collection Incurables: Relatos de dolencias y males (2020; International Latino Book Awards 2020).


WGST 089H.001 | Sexuality and Salvation

TR, 2:00pm – 3:15pm. Instructor: Sarah Bloesch. Enrollment = 24.
In Christianity and Islam, bodies populate the afterlife. What those bodies look like, how they act, what they feel, and who they engage with are subjects of contentious and long-standing popular and scholarly debates. The various answers that have been offered in these debates deeply affect Christian and Muslim responses to the body, sexuality, race, and gender in this life. This course examines how theories about sex, gender, and identity are constructed within two religious traditions’ histories, ideas, and discussions. In each tradition, we will look at attempts to dictate a wide variety of sexual norms and at the creativity followers have employed in interpreting such regulations. We will examine the many ways that Muslims and Christians have used sexual practices, language, and images to enhance their devotion and pose questions about how to live out religion. This means exploring and analyzing how the afterlife affects earthly life, including family structures, health care debates, legal choices, questions of feminist agency, and imagery of war.

Christianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world, and each possesses an incredible internal diversity of practices and beliefs. This course complicates the still-pervasive double narrative that 1. Christianity and Islam are monolithic religions and 2. Islam and Christianity maintain opposite worldviews and ideologies. Students engage the differences and similarities of these influential religious forces through the dual focus of the course’s title. The first term “sexuality,” includes topics such as family relationships, sexual encounters, gender expressions, and reproductive choices. Sexuality contours embodied experiences of self and society. The second term “salvation” considers how different visions of the afterlife—of otherworldly reward, punishment, and expectation and the possibility of communing with the divine—have concrete effects in our individual and communal lives. The intersections where Christianity and Islam have overlapping ideas about sexuality and salvation and where they diverge, with each other and with themselves, often surprise students.


This course was developed with support of a Hunter Family Honors Carolina Course Development Award.