Thematic Option

College Academic Services Building 200
(213) 740-2961
(800) 872-2961

Director: Pennelope Von Helmolt, Ph.D.

Thematic Option, the university’s general education core honors program, is an alternative to regular core general education requirements. The program is interdisciplinary and provides a strong intellectual community.

The program teaches students to formulate ethical questions, to analyze and understand the reasoning behind views that differ from their own, to recognize the roles that historical, political and social forces play in matters of personal choice, and to express their views coherently in writing. Thematic Option can be arranged to fit any major.

To maintain small classes and allow for extensive discussion, Thematic Option is limited to 200 students each year. Students must be highly motivated, with a record of academic achievement. The average Thematic Option student has cumulative SAT scores above 2200 and an “A” high school GPA. The program is rigorous and requires extensive reading and writing.

Program Requirements

The Thematic Option honors curriculum consists of four interdisciplinary core classes taught around distinct themes: CORE 101 Symbols and Conceptual Systems; CORE 102 Culture and Values; CORE 103 The Process of Change in Science; and CORE 104 Change and the Future.

CORE 111 Writing Seminar I and CORE 112 Writing Seminar II make up the eight units of writing to meet the university requirement. The classes are accompanied by individual, bi-weekly tutorials. CORE 111, which requires concurrent enrollment with an affiliated CORE 102, focuses on critical thinking and analysis, focusing on academic argument and reasoning through close reading of primary texts. CORE 112 teaches students to convey complex ideas and to advance sophistication of essay structure, grounded argument, and to identify and address specific audiences persuasively in academic discourse.

The core curriculum is supplemented by two theme courses — one in the natural sciences and the other in either the humanities or the social sciences — chosen in consultation with a Thematic Option adviser.

Liberal Arts Modules

Liberal Arts Modules are a college-wide honors opportunity that bring together students with substantial training in their respective disciplines to study a common subject area using multiple approaches while participating in a cross-disciplinary dialogue.

Liberal Arts Modules provide a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary study with peers and faculty from different disciplines. The themes and topics change each semester depending on faculty participation. Students are exposed to different approaches to societal issues, gain experience working collaboratively with peers from other academic areas, apply their knowledge to new subject areas and focus sustained critical attention on disciplinary methods of inquiry.

A typical module includes four classes: three small seminars and one CORE 498 course. The program requires simultaneous enrollment in one of the three seminars and in CORE 498, for a total of 8 units.

Students with at least junior standing and a major/minor GPA of at least 3.0 are eligible to apply. Preference is given to students pursuing double majors or other major/minor combinations in the liberal arts. Students graduating with a B.A. or USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences B.S. degree who complete a module and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5 will have “Distinction in Liberal Arts” listed on their USC Transcript.

Requirements (8 units)
Simultaneous registration in CORE 498 and a Special Topics 499 class that is part of the Liberal Arts Module.

Thematic Approaches to Humanities and Society Minor

The interdisciplinary minor in Thematic Approaches to Humanities and Society allows students to examine a range of thematic and theoretical approaches to understanding culture and society from multiple standpoints in the humanities. The minor is rich in course and schedule options, enabling students with an interest in the humanities to continue their studies. It also includes co-curricular events and advisement from Thematic Option staff. Thematic approaches to humanities and society builds on the intellectual community developed in the Thematic Option honors program and is open to all interested students.

The minor focuses on themes such as interdisciplinary perspectives and modes of inquiry; approaches to criticism and history; reification, ideology, contextualization; and knowledge, human diversity and social relations. Students choose six 4-unit classes, including one lower division elective, one upper division Thematic Option class (CORE 301 Modes of Inquiry), and four upper division electives. Students also complete a 2-unit reading salon (CORE 200 Liberal Arts Reading Salon).

Requirements, lower division (Choose one, 4 units)
CLAS 150, CLAS 151, CORE 102, HIST 101, HIST 102, PHIL 115, REL 132
Course requirements (6 units) units
CORE 200 Liberal Arts Reading Salon 2
CORE 301 Modes of Inquiry 4
Requirements, upper division (16 units)
Enroll in four of the following, at least one from List A, one from List B and not more than one from List C. Not more than two may come from any one department. Courses must be chosen in consultation with a Thematic Option adviser.
List A
Early: CLAS 310, CLAS 320, CLAS 333, CLAS 470, EALC 340, EALC 345, EALC 350, EALC 355, EALC 365, PHIL 345, REL 311, REL 315, REL 317
Modern: COLT 426, COLT 445, EALC 332, EALC 335, EALC 342, EALC 352, EALC 354, FREN 446, GERM 370, GERM 372, PHIL 337, PHIL 355, PHIL 437, REL 340, SLL 330, SLL 344
Humanities and Society: COLT 448, COLT 475, ENGL 473, ENGL 474, FREN 370, ITAL 340, REL 366, REL 462, SLL 345, SLL 348
Critical Approaches: CLAS 380, COLT 391, COLT 401, COLT 454, ENGL 472, ENGL 479, ENGL 480, LING 466, PHIL 361, PHIL 445
Social Science Approaches: ANTH 372, HIST 300, HIST 329, IR 325, POSC 381, POSC 476, SOCI 350, SOCI 360

Courses of Instruction

Thematic Option (CORE)

The terms indicated are expected but are not guaranteed. For the courses offered during any given term, consult the Schedule of Classes.

CORE 101 Symbols and Conceptual Systems: Thematic Option Honors Program (4, FaSp) Study of the structures through which we shape our experience in religion, philosophy, literature, music, and the visual arts, and of competing theories of interpretation. Students may not take this course on a P/NP basis.

CORE 102 Culture and Values: Thematic Option Honors Program (4, Fa) Systematic reasoning about values and ways of living; close reading of major texts within the Western tradition; Biblical and classical through contemporary sources. Students may not take this course on a P/NP basis.

CORE 103 The Process of Change in Science: Thematic Option Honors Program (4, FaSp) Critical problems in the development of scientific thought, studied as vehicles for understanding the content and structure of the sciences. Specific subject matter in selected scientific disciplines will be presented. Students may not take this course on a P/NP basis.

CORE 104 Change and the Future: Thematic Option Honors Program (4, FaSp) Analysis of historical change; social and political theory and revolutionary thought; introduction to competing images of future states of affairs; the continuing process of change. Students may not take this course on a P/NP basis.

CORE 111 Writing Seminar I: Thematic Option Honors Program (4, Fa) Students may not take this course on a P/NP basis.

CORE 112 Writing Seminar II: Thematic Option Honors Program (4, Sp) Students may not take this course on a P/NP basis.

CORE 195 Summer Seminar (3, Sm) An honors course for high school students in summer; each section focuses on a topic in the arts or humanities, social or natural sciences.

CORE 200 Liberal Arts Reading Salon (2, FaSp) Critical readings of a series of texts in the liberal arts designed to promote discussion of important themes, theoretical approaches, research directions, and interdisciplinary connections. Graded CR/NC.

CORE 301 Modes of Inquiry (4, FaSp) Modern tools of cultural and discursive analysis which seek to demystify “the natural,” as it appears in the formation of cultures, their institutions, and individuals.

CORE 498 Honors in Liberal Arts (4, FaSp) Advanced interdisciplinary course on the development of a general theme or topic. Critical analysis of the relation between modes of inquiry and objects of study. Students must be simultaneously enrolled in a selected special topics 499 course that has been approved as part of the College’s Liberal Arts Modules project.

CORE 499 Special Topics (2-4, max 12) Intensive interdisciplinary exploration of a selected theme, problem process, or period.

CORE 601 Teaching Analytical Writing Through Readings in the Humanities (1, max 4, Fa) Theories and practices in the university-level teaching of close-reading and analytical writing, using texts central to Western tradition. Graduate student professionalism through topical workshops and discussions. Open to assistant lecturers and teaching assistants only. Graded CR/NC.