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Probably one of the most rigorous courses for freshman at Suffolk University is Honors SF116, a class called Enlightened Insanity. Offered to incoming honors students, the course primarily covers Art History and French Philosophy. The course is loaded with abstract qualities making it rather difficult to comprehend at times, but here are a few ways to help:

1. Keep up with the readings, or else

Falling behind on the readings in this class can be catastrophic. Throughout the course, students read three thick books, Social Contract by Rousseau, poetry and other snippets of French works. Also, there are a handful of field visits to museums and a final 10 page paper on a self-chosen topic on top of near-weekly response papers. Not knowing your stuff is going to kill you in assignments and in class, as the readings are dense and in high quantity.

2. Educate yourself on the French Revolution

Much of the course’s key concepts found in the readings are ideas that derive from the French Revolution era. If you’re someone who took AP European History in high school and kept some notes, you’re all set if you look back at them a bit to refresh your memory. If you didn’t take it or didn’t pay attention, good luck, because there are references to the Revolution and it’s ideas all over and at all parts of the course.

3. Delve into the artistic aspect of the course and enjoy it

Or fake it. That’s another option. Not everyone who takes this course is into art, symbolism and everything that comes with the impressionist, romantic and contemporary eras. If you fit into this category, take a genuine interest or at least try to. If it’s all bogus or too abstract for you, at least try and do the bare minimum of artistic analysis. Throwing in the towel and not putting in some effort will land you with a solid F for a grade.

4. If you took French in high school, freshen up

Some of the books contain French references to places or words. Students who speak no French are generally fine, but if you speak a little French, you will definitely have the upper hand. It never hurts to know a second language if English is your first language, but in this course it helps a lot.

5. Learn to read quickly

It does not matter how fast of a reader you think you are. Getting through words on a page is one thing, but making sure you understand all of it, as far as character plots and things of the sort, is another story. The readings, as noted, are dense, confusing and manipulating if you aren’t keeping up with them. With this, even if you are a fast reader and can comprehend what is happening in a book with ease, you will still struggle. Being able to get as much information in your brain with little time is a huge asset in this course.

6. Take extensive notes in class

Sometimes the professors will discuss the books in class. Make sure you aren’t sitting there idle. Take notes of characters, their relationships, historical references, plot lines, whatever it may be. It’ll help you when writing papers.

Not everyone will enjoy or hate Enlightened Insanity, but it is a hard course nonetheless. So long as students have the drive, they can do it. It just takes hard work, a keen eye for details and lots of persistence. At the end of the semester it’ll be over, so keep at it.


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Ryan Arel

Suffolk University Journalism Major, Print/Web concentration. I love everything Boston.


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