Skip to main content


Meliora Humanities Seminars

Going to college provides students with the opportunity to take courses that address important issues and explore new disciplines that are not typically covered in high school. At Rochester, the Meliora Seminars are small, selective courses that allow students and faculty to study fascinating questions about being human in a complex world: What is the nature of democracy? How do we communicate with one another? What is love? What is justice? How have artists and filmmakers addressed the problem of climate change?

The goal of the Meliora Seminars is to create a collaborative and rich intellectual experience for students as they begin their academic careers Rochester. The Meliora Seminars are designed for freshmen and do not presume prior experience in the field.

Each Meliora Seminar is unique, but common features of the seminars include:

  • Explicit attention to the relevance of the course material to contemporary social issues
  • Community engagement through on-or-off campus dialogue with individuals or groups working on issues addressed in the seminars
  • Reading-and-discussion small class formats of twelve to fifteen students

Every one of the Meliora Seminars, which count as regular, graded 4-credit courses, can be used in clusters, minors, and majors. In collaboration with the College’s Writing, Speaking and Argument Program, the Meliora Seminars are also acceptable alternative options for students who petition out of WRT 105.

Course Descriptions

Fall 2017—CLA 167M Democracy: Past and Present

Instructor: Nick Gresens

What would “a government of the people, by the people, for the people” really look like? Is the right to vote sufficient to make a society democratic? Is majority rule any better than tyranny? Can people be trusted to rule themselves? In this course, we examine the first democracy--that of ancient Athens. We will trace the historical development of democracy and explore the social factors and big ideas that shaped it into the form of government that almost every society in the world now looks to as a model. You will learn about the various institutions that allowed Athenian society to function and discover what the Athenians thought about their great experiment, even if they thought it was a very bad idea. We will also observe and discuss some of our own government institutions so that we can better understand our system of government, both in what it shares with ancient Athens and how it differs.

Fall 2017—DAN 167M Ecolinguistics: Language and Movement

Instructors: Anne Wilcox, Solveiga Armoskaite

Movement and language are manifestations of the self, used deliberately or inadvertently. Both are powerful tools of self-expression and communication that connect us to the past and present. How does slang comment on the attitudes of the current generation? What does it mean to “know” a language? How does culture influence, free, or constrain our movement? Do we have patterns in our speech ;and in our movements? What do we forget when we lose a language? Answers to these questions are diagnostics for human wellbeing. “Ecolinguistics” is a term that captures the inter-relatedness of well being and communication. Through analytical and experiential study, LIN 101/ DAN 108 will look at the impact of verbal and non-verbal expression and its role in sustainable living.

Spring 2018—EHU 167M Climate Futures

Instructor: Leila Nadir

Glacier ruins, extreme weather, rising sea levels, an ice age, and no polar bears. As artists, writers, filmmakers, and journalists work to make the often imperceptible transformations wrought by climate change visible to the public, they deploy imagery, narratives, frames, and aesthetic strategies. This course examines visions of the future produced by climate change through studies of literature, film, art, and pop culture. Topics to be studied include philosophical approaches to the Anthropocene (a new geologic era proposed by scientists), strategies deployed by documentary and Hollywood film, and a new works of "climate fiction." A central concern of this course is the relationship between science and the humanities in the understanding the environment. What are the roles of memory and imagination in the struggle to deal with the warming of the earth? Can the humanities save the planet? If climate change is unstoppable, how do we imagine what comes next?

Spring 2018—ENG 167M The Outlaw Robin Hood: Resistance, Violence, and Social Change in Popular Culture

Instructor: Tom Hahn

Drawing on resources from numerous disciplines, in this course we will examine questions about what drives or even justifies acting against or outside the law. In what ways does official culture bring the outlaw into being? Why and how do mainline popular culture and commercial entertainment celebrate defiance of the law? We will examine the central issue of whether the outlaw hero enlarges the possibility of social change and reform, or whether such fantasies impede change and actually affirm the status quo. Secondary readings will include contemporary political and social theory as well as historical and literary criticism that addresses specific assigned texts. We will inevitably address these concerns from our own current perspective, exploring the cult of the outlaw over the last half millennium and in post-Trump America. A crucial feature of the course will be opportunities for hands-on interaction with the actual artifacts that recorded and enshrined Robin Hood’s celebrity from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries: chap books, ballad collections, boys’ and girls’ weeklies, sensational series, “serious” children’s literature, plays and pantomimes, musicals, and, more recently, young adult, fantasy, and literary fiction.

How to Apply

These selective seminars are by application. To apply, please submit the following brief application no later than July 25, 2017. Students will be notified no later than August 21, 2017.

** This application is currently closed. **

(200 words or less)


For questions, contact Sarah Van Munster in the College Dean's Office at