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The Humanities at Saint Anselm College

All students participate in the Humanities Program, Portraits of Human Greatness, during their freshman and sophomore years and may elect further Humanities courses in their junior and senior years. Humanities does not offer a major program of study.

Through readings, lectures, seminars, and a varied program of films, concerts, exhibitions, and stage presentations, the Humanities Program seeks to confront the student with questions of value, moral choice, and the real significance of human life.

Humanities I-II (HU 101-102)


The first year consists of ten units, each a portrait of human greatness, which range from ancient Greece through the European Middle Ages. In examining these portraits, the student experiences diverse value systems and can face the questions of why and whether a given individual or portrait can be called “great.” Four credits, each semester. The list of units is subject to ongoing evaluation and restructuring by the Humanities faculty.

Conversatio (HU 103-104)


Rooted in the Benedictine vow that encourages faithfulness to a way of life within community, Conversatio is the foundational shared learning experience for every Saint Anselm student.  This year-long interdisciplinary course provides students with an intellectual orientation to studies in the Liberal Arts and acquaints them with the distinctive value of those studies within the Catholic Benedictine tradition. The first semester of Conversatio considers the meaning of humanity in the world by reading and discussing seminal texts that contemplate who we are as individuals, what our responsibility is within a community, and what our relationship is with the divine. Among fundamental intellectual ideas, students are introduced to the Catholic Benedictine intellectual tradition through the spiritual teachings in select readings of Saints Benedict and Anselm.

In the second semester students are asked to consider three additional foundational areas of study central to the Liberal Arts:

  1. Politics, rhetoric, and the emergence of democracy in human history;
  2. The nature of science and the role of scientific understanding in our world;
  3. The nature of beauty and the place of art in the lives of individuals and communities.

As the common academic conversation orienting students to Saint Anselm College, Conversatio invites individuals to discover their intellectual place and voice within the Saint Anselm learning community by encouraging them to read critically, to contemplate significant questions about human existence, and to communicate their ideas to others with greater effectiveness and respect.

Humanities III-IV


The second year consists of portraits of individuals arranged chronologically from the Italian Renaissance to the 20th century. Each individual, great in his or her own right, has far-reaching social, cultural, or political significance. Four credits, each semester. Twelve individuals make up the current list of portraits in human greatness. The list of units is subject to ongoing evaluation and restructuring by the Humanities faculty.