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. When registering, register only for one hour of credit for a Retro Reading.


Class will meet Wednesdays, 5:00-6:15 p.m., Spring 2022

A manuscript of the BibleIn many ways, the Bible is the ultimate “retro reading.” The Bible is a text of great antiquity and authority, lending its historical weight to contemporary world religions. Equally, the Bible is a book of great controversy, prompting endless academic debate over its origins and historical meaning. This course centers on this magisterial—yet frequently misunderstood—corpus of sacred scripture. During the first half of the semester, students will grapple with books of the Bible, selections from Genesis to Revelation. In a seminar-discussion format, twelve honors scholars will engage in the art of textual criticism at an intense, historical level.  In the second half of the term, students will interrogate several biblical afterlives, including the ways in which scripture became a global artifact exchanged across millennia.

Lynda Coon, professor of history and dean of the Honors College, will lead this course; visit the Bible course web page for more information.



Class will meet Thursdays, 5:00-6:15 p.m., Spring 2022

Initiatory secret societies have been a prominent and often powerful element of Western societies since rumors of Rosicrucianism spread through seventeenth-century Europe.  From Freemasonry in the eighteenth century to modern college fraternities and sororities, these groups have inspired both powerful loyalties and violent denunciations.  This course asks why initiatory societies have remained so popular and powerful for four centuries and details their history, evolution, and future prospects. Readings from primary sources, supplemented by the work of historians, anthropologists and neurobiologists will guide the class in its exploration of groups ranging from post-Civil-War African-American groups and the Ku Klux Klan to Freemasons and college Greeks.

John Treat, the Honors College's director of interdisciplinary and curricular learning will lead this course. Visit the Fraternity course web page for more information. 


Presidential speeches

Class will meet Thursdays, 5:00-6:15 p.m., Spring 2022

JFK inauguration"Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “The presidency is not merely an administrative office. That’s the least of it. It is more than an engineering job, efficient or inefficient. It is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership. All our great presidents were leaders of thought at times when certain historic ideas in the life of the nation had to be clarified.” Indeed, presidents through the centuries have used the power of the office to speak directly to the American public during moments of historical consequence. Some of the great speeches, for example, were made in the shadow of war, such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Roosevelt's entreaty to Congress to declare war on Japan. In other instances, presidents such as Washington and Eisenhower used farewell addresses to warn the public of what they viewed as looming threats to domestic tranquility. More recently, presidents have used their platform to announce ambitious programs, such as Kennedy declaring his intention to get to the moon or Johnson introducing his vision for the Great Society program. Today, it is difficult to imagine a president making a significant announcement or decision without making some form of public address to the nation.

All honors students, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, are invited to enroll in Presidential Speeches. The foundation of the course will be the discussion that takes place around a table in the Honors College wing of Gearhart Hall. Each week, the class will study a different presidential speech that is considered to be of great consequence.

Noah Pittman, associate dean of the Honors College, will lead this course. Visit the Presidential Speeches course web page for more information.