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 first-year students 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 can art, literature, and film teach us about 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 at Rochester. The Meliora Seminars are designed for incoming first-year students, 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 four-credit courses, can be used in clusters, minors, and majors.

Fall 2022 Course Descriptions

CLTR/GRMN 167M: Reading and Writing War

Instructor: Lisa Cerami, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures

Only some people have direct experience with war, but almost all people have very firm ideas about what war is like—Writing war (writing about war; describing literal wars or fictionalizing them) is as old as writing itself, and war writing a staple of reading. In this Meliora seminar, we will think about the "encounter" with war in reading. With a selection of texts drawn heavily from the World Wars of the twentieth century, we will investigate questions of how war is represented in different media. We will learn how to translate our reading into our own writing. This course is designed to introduce students to the practice of critical reading and textual analysis, practices that are the cornerstone of the humanistic / social science disciplines. This course may be used as a substitute primary writing requirement for students who have successfully petitioned. 

DANC 167M: Ecolinguistics: Language, Movement, and Well-being

Instructors: Anne Wilcox; Solveiga Armoskaite

Ecolinguistics is a combined investigation of linguistics and movement. In the context of sustainable living, the course will examine how verbal and non-verbal expression manifest and shape overall well-being. To provide a specific focus to the course discussion, Ecolinguistics 167 aligns itself with the university’s annual Humanities’ theme. For the year 2022-23 the theme is, Futures (past and present). The course will address questions such as: How does language effect past and present social, political, and cultural attitudes? What language practices drop off and what remains through time? How does our verbal and non-verbal language enable harm or promote well-being? Classes regularly will include movement explorations, rich discussion, and collaborative activities to investigate aspects of self-expression and communication. Students create a final project around the Humanities themes that addresses how verbal language and non-verbal language converge and diverge from each other. The course brings students from multiple disciplines together to deepen their study of the mutually fascinating subject of language.

LING 107 Language and Landscape: Water is Life

Instructor: Professor Joyce McDonough, Department of Linguistics

Water is likely to be one of the most important and difficult issues in the upcoming century. We'll focus on how water is encoded into language and culture, examining topics around how concepts coded in language shape our understanding of phenomena and the controversies around water.

Language and landscape are two aspects of the same human reality: the world we live in. Water (clean water, access to water, ownership of water, water rights, aquifers) is likely to be the most important and difficult issue in the upcoming century. The language we use and the land we live on determine how we treat this substance so essential to life. How is water is encoded into language and culture? I'll examine topics around how concepts coded in language shape our understanding of phenomena and the controversies around water. I'll examine the concepts of water and climate from divergent perspectives and stakeholders, including, importantly, indigenous peoples.