Retro Readings


In our Retro Readings courses, students receive a “close reading” experience, the hallmark of a liberal arts education. Faculty experts partner with honors students from all colleges in a 75-minute, seminar-style discussion in which they view classic works through a contemporary lens. Courses may focus on an author, an artist, a composer or even a revolutionary idea. 

Note: Honors College Retro Readings courses no longer require an application. Register as early as possible on UA Connect during your enrollment period to ensure you get a seat in these courses. 


harry potter

Class will meet Mondays, 3:30-4:45 p.m., Fall 2021

The Harry Potter series is one of the most successful and popular book series in modern times. Despite being dismissed as mere children’s literature by some, the Harry Potter books resonated with an entire generation and their parents. In this class, we will examine Harry Potter as a work of literature, as a cultural touchstone and as a multi-billion-dollar industry. You will be challenged to think about Harry Potter in new ways, touching on the fields of history, gender studies, international relations, political science and sociology. We will examine all of the things we love about Harry Potter, while also taking a critical look at some of the issues in the text as well as what the text itself -- and its reception -- tell us about society.

In our literary criticism of the series, we will examine how the books build upon and transform common literary tropes in order to question whether Rowling has produced something new or a reproduction. We will analyze Rowling’s textual treatment of race, class and gender, and place the books in the historical context of British literature and British colonialism. And we will examine broadly how the books have influenced society and culture in the late 20th century and beyond. For instance, are the books fundamentally progressive or do they reinforce Western cultural norms? How are the books received and, at times, transformed outside of the U.S. and Britain? Have the meaning and cultural impact of the books changed as they have become increasingly franchised?

Throughout the class, we will discuss J.K. Rowling’s apparent desire to be the sole arbiter of how the books should be interpreted, as well as her personal statements made online regarding the transgender community. Through this discussion we will attempt to answer the question: can an artistic product be separated from its creator? And if it can, should it?

And of course, we will take some time to discuss a few of the most pressing questions for Harry Potter fans: is The Cursed Child canon? What if Voldemort had picked Neville? Dumbledore: hero or villain? Movies: redeemable or pure trash? Which deathly hallow would you choose? What did Dumbledore really see in the Mirror of Erised? And many more!

Chelsea Hodge, Honors College director of grants and research innovation, will lead this course; visit the Harry Potter course web page for more information.


supreme court

Class will meet Thursdays, 2-3:15 p.m., Fall 2021

The Supreme Court is the most open branch of our federal government. It is the only actor in the federal system that explains, often at length, every decision it makes. That said, it is arguably the most misunderstood branch, a body whose work has been distorted in the public mind by a sense that the Court's work, and the Constitution it explicates, focuses almost exclusively on hot button issues like abortion, affirmative action, same sex relationships and rights, and the like. My goal will be to promote an understanding of the Court that we actually have, its docket and work, and the role it plays in our nation. Both myths and realities will be explored, using actual cases and secondary materials. There will be no assigned text. Rather, the readings will be found online. Each student will in turn select a topic of interest approved by me and write an analytic paper that will, coupled with course participation, provide the basis for the course grade.

Mark Killenbeck, the Wylie H. Davis Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law, will lead this course. Visit the Supreme Court course web page for more information.