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. 

We share some past Retro Readings courses below. For a full listing and descriptions of past Honors College courses, visit our course archive.

technology in Crisis

audience members in a movie theaterThis course will guide students through an extensive analysis of one of the most influential essays of the 20th century, “The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility” (1936) by the German Jewish theorist-philosopher-public intellectual Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). As movies grew into the primary mode of mainstream entertainment in the 1930s, many of Benjamin’s contemporaries asked the question ‘Can film be art?’ – to which Benjamin responded by asking ‘How has film changed the very nature of art?’ . 

Learn more on the Technology in Crisis course page.

lord of the rings 

map of middle earthThis Retro Readings course invites students to develop a more sophisticated appreciation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. One might think Tolkien’s work is all fantasy, but he was an Oxford professor of medieval literature, and he thought deeply about the power of myth, the justness of war, and humanity’s relationship to the natural world.

Students wil close read The Lord of the Rings. In particular, the course will study the critical reception of Tolkien’s work, his status as a post-war writer, adaptations of his work, and his use of medieval literature in creating his own fictional universe. Students might also read a small sampling of his professional scholarship as a professor of medieval literature.

Learn more on the Lord of the Rings course page.