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Creative Nonfiction Reading

January 12th, 2015 by hannahrozenblat

On December 18th, the Honors Program hosted Professor  Joanne Jacobson’s Honors course, Creative Nonfiction Writing (ENG 1724H) in the Honors Lounge.

Prof. Jacobson’s course explores the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, in the hybrid form sometimes referred to as the “fourth genre,” “literary nonfiction,” or the “lyric essay.” The particular focus of the course is the personal essay – and the different ways in which it strives, in the words of Grace Paley, “to illuminate what’s hidden.”

In addition to Prof. Jacobson herself, various members of the class read excerpts from their writings, all of which concerned issues of illness and family.  The readers were Samuel Apple, Natan Bienstock, Shaul Elson, Daniel Klein, Akiva Schick and Joshua Tranen and all, each in their own way, were thoughtful and moving.

We look forward to more events of this type!

The Conclusion to our Series of Conversations on WWI

December 29th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

At our last luncheon of the semester on December 17th, Honors Program visiting scholar and historian Dr. Mario Kessler of the University of Potsdam, Germany gave a talk titled “German Intellectuals Before and During World War I: Some Thoughts on the Historians,” continuing our series of conversations on World War I this semester.

Among other things, Dr. Kessler discussed the way most influential historians viewed history in relation to power politics and how they viewed the role of the masses as a political factor.Dr. Mario Kessler

He also discussed German intellectuals’ guiding principles in teaching and the way that Judeophobia was made acceptable, with studies being based on the superiority of the German culture. He also discussed at length the role of the intellectuals and University professors who in the run-up and the beginning of the war sided with the German government and became for the most part, with some distinguished exceptions, shameless panegyrists of the war effort.

Dr. Kessler’s talk was followed by a questions and answers session where students and faculty had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with Dr. Kessler about the topic of his talk.

Thank you to all those who attended this luncheon, which was a thoughtful and informative conclusion to what has been a great luncheon line-up.

A Special Visit from Dr. Barron Lerner

December 25th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

On Thursday, December 11th, Dr. Barron H. Lerner, currently a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Population Health at NYU Langone, was the guest of the honors programs at Yeshiva College and Stern College. In addition to his research, Dr. Lerner practices general internal medicine and teaches medical ethics and the history of medicine at NYU.

Prior to his formal presentation, “Two Doctors: Two Generations and the Evolution of Medical Ethics,” Dr. Lerner met informally with students in the Honors Lounge.

Private reception with Dr. Barron LernerAt both the reception and following his presentation, his remarks elicited some spirited and thoughtful questions from the students who attended regarding, for example, patient and family rights, the possibility of adopting a uniform code of ethics applicable to all physicians, and his relationship with his father, who was an infectious disease specialist.

A unique opportunity, especially for pre-med students!

An Afternoon on Broadway

December 17th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

On Sunday, December 7th, the Honors Program attended a matinee of the Broadway show You Can’t Take it With You at the Longacre Theater. Set during the Great Depression and considered a classic of the modern American theater, this revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 comedy written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman starred James Earl Jones, Kristine Nielson, Rose Byrne, and Annaleigh Ashford, among other notable Broadway performers.

The house

The plot focuses on the eccentric Sycamore family, whose daughter Alice is about to bring home her suitor, Tony Kirby, who is the handsome, patrician son of her company’s president. Although Tony comes from a successful and rather straight-laced family, which Alice believes will prove an impediment to their relationship since their families are so different, Tony succeeds in convincing her that as long as they love each other nothing can stand in their way.

Mayhem ensues, however, when Tony accidentally brings his parents to the Sycamores for dinner on the wrong night, starting off a series of embarrassing mishaps that threatens the future of their relationship and Tony’s marriage proposal.

Although many of the scenes in the play were purposely awkward and cringe-worthy, there were plenty of genuinely funny laugh-out-loud moments to break up the tension.

You Can't Take it With You on Broadway

Most impressive, perhaps, was the revolving set designed by David Rockwell, which included the exterior of the Sycamore house as well as an elaborate interior showing their living room, entrance hall, and a staircase leading to the second floor bedrooms, as well as a door leading to the kitchen.

JJS Honors Newsletter November-December 2014 Issue 5.4

December 11th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

Dear Honors Community,

Please enjoy our most recent newsletter, available by clicking this link (JJS Honors Newsletter November-December 2014, Issue 5.4), and read more about the Honors Program’s past and upcoming activities.


The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program Staff

The Honors Program Goes to the Opera

December 10th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat


The Metropolitan Opera

In one of our exciting cultural events of the semester, the Honors Program took a trip to the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center on Monday evening, December 1st, to see the highly acclaimed production of “La Boheme,” Giacomo Puccini’s most popular opera. This tale of tragic young love set in the bohemian Paris of the 1840s was a beautiful introduction to opera for some of our students.

Throughout the course of four acts, the opera told the story of Rodolfo and his group of friends, and his ill-fated love for the sickly Mimi, a neighbor who wanders into his apartment one day when her candle blows out — a storyline that served loosely as the inspiration for the popular musical Rent. Mimi, whose tender, delicate nature contrasts with the more bold and flirtatious Musetta, steals Rodolfo’s heart from the moment they meet. But of course, love is never easy, and as the opera unfolds, Rodolfo’s relationship with Mimi and Marcello’s on-and-off relationship with Musetta are put to the test.

Franco Zeffirelli’s set design greatly enhanced the opera, transporting the viewer back two centuries via a realistic replica of Paris’s streets. While the first and fourth acts take place in the apartment that Rodolfo shares with three roommates, the second and third acts are awe-inspiring in their beauty. In the second act, Rodolfo goes out to dinner with his friends and Mimi, and we see the group walking along a Paris street that is lined with shops and teeming with Parisians young and old. In the third act, the audience is transported to the scene of a nineteenth century small tavern, its yellow lights glowing through a snowstorm that blankets the rest of the scene in a flurried white layer.

La Boheme

The Honors Program was fortunate to be able to see this breathtaking and unforgettable production of La Boheme, and was thrilled that Dr. Selma Botman, YU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, came with the group.

Honors Roundtable: Professor Sumanta Goswami

December 4th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

On November 19th, we had another installment of our Honors Roundtable events, this time with Professor Sumanta Goswami. His presentation, “From the Himalayan Heights to Washington Heights: A Personal Odyssey in Science, Philosophy, and Religion,” focused on his beginnings in India, and his education, travels, and professional career, both before and after joining the Yeshiva University/Einstein College of Medicine faculty in September 2006.

Professor Goswami shared with us his personal philosophy about science and religion, both of which aim to attain the absolute. He also discussed the professional projects that he is working on, with a focus on cancer research, and the ways in which his students have been able to participate, gaining useful experience in the field and making significant contributions to the work. He described the basic idea behind his recent research in personalized cancer therapies and explained why he sees the future of the field going in that direction.

Thank you to all those who attended and especially Professor Goswami for coming to speak to us.

Professor Sumanta Goswami speaking

Painting Total War: The Art of World War I

November 27th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

Dr. Sam Gellens speakingOur very own Assistant Director, Dr. Sam Gellens, led a talk focusing on some of the Great War’s most iconic images as part of our series of conversations on World War I. He discussed how these works of art were used for a variety of purposes: in the service of propaganda, as expressions of grief, and as a bitter commentary on civilization in the wake of the war.

Dr. Gellens opened with the 1914 poem by Rupert Brooke titled “The Soldier,” which was written at the beginning of the war and celebrated death in combat as an expression of English patriotism and nationalism.


He then delved into the images of the time in depth, for example, how the U.S. government commissioned various artists to create wartime propaganda posters. Perhaps the best known of these remains James Montgomery Flagg’s famous “I Want YOU for the U.S. Army” recruitment poster, featuring Uncle Sam (Flagg used his own face as the model).

Aside from propaganda, art was used to express grief over the losses sustained during the war. The most prominent example of this was Kathe Kollwitz’s sculptures, “Grieving Parents.” After losing her youngest son, Peter, earkly in the war, Kollwitz searched for an appropriate way to express her grief, resulting in these sculptures of a grieving mother and father, which were installed in a German military cemetery in Belgium.

In contrast to this highly personal use of art, artists such as Otto Dix and George Grosz depicted the general horrors of war and its effects on humanity. Dr. Gellens pointed out that their angry, bitter representations of war have a phantasmagorical, otherworldly quality, implying that civilization has died as the result of the ferocity of the new and highly destructive weapons employed such as poison gas. The horror of this is depicted in a particularly striking manner in Dix’s “Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas,” which graphically portrays soldiers wearing gas masks that seem to strip away their humanity and make them look like aliens.

The presentation provided a unique and highly interesting perspective on World War I and its horrors from the angle of both art and literature.

Humanities in Dialogue: Professor Shalom Holtz

November 19th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat
On the evening of November 5th, the Honors Lounge saw another edition of the Humanities in Dialogue series, in this case co-hosted by our Program.
The occasion was the launching of the book  Neo-Babylonian Trial Records, compiled by Professor Shalom Holtz, chair of the Department of Jewish Studies in Yeshiva College.   Professor Elizabeth Stewart from the English Department interviewed him, setting up a fascinating dialogue, which  demonstrated the validity and vibrancy of the humanities, and in particular how professors of different disciplines can have a productive dialogue across their fields.
Professor Holtz narrated some of the most interesting among the cases discussed in his book, and gave us a window on how he studies them, the questions they bring to him in terms of authorship, narrative voices, historical record, legal issues and more.  Numerous students and faculty enjoyed the conversation and engaged in an intense question and answer generalized conversation.
You can hear the recording of the event here: Humanities in Dialogue recording

Honors Luncheon: The Electoral Results and What They Mean

November 18th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

Following the national elections on November 4th, Professor Jamie Aroosi from the Department of Political Science led a fascinating discussion on November 5th, at our weekly luncheon, to make sense of the election results of the day before and what they meant for the country, its political landscape, and for us.

Professor Aroosi Speaking

During this timely and highly relevant discussion, Professor Aroosi acknowledged that people often try to predict political events and results, but his goal was rather to interpret the circumstances that led to those results, and he framed those comments by using a quote from Karl Marx’s The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

Additionally, Professor Aroosi acknowledged that elections can provide insight into the current mindset of American voters, and politicians then try to manipulate that mindset to cater to what people want so that they can reach their goal of winning more votes.

Professor Aroosi presented his thoughtful analysis of the political climate by going beyond simply the raw data in explaining the effects these elections might have on our country.

If you missed the talk and are interested in reading more, here is a condensed version of Professor Aroosi’s talk: Read More