As part of the core curriculum, all students participate in the Humanities Program, Conversatio, during their freshman year and may elect to take additional Humanities courses in their sophomore, junior, and senior years. 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.

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 intellectual tradition.

Conversatio I - The Individual, The Community, & The Divine

In the first semester, students consider the meaning of humanity in the world by reading and discussing seminal texts that contemplate who we are as individuals, our responsibility within a community, and our relationship with the divine. Among fundamental intellectual ideas, students are introduced to the Catholic, Benedictine intellectual tradition through the spiritual teachings of Saints Benedict and Anselm.

Reading List  2023-2024

  • Plato, Allegory of the Cave
  • Sophocles, Antigone
  • St. Augustine, The Problem of Free Choice, Confessions
  • James McBride, The Color of Water
  • Selections from The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War
  • The Gospel of Luke
  • Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis
  • Selections from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers
  • St. Benedict, Selections from The Rule of St. Benedict
  • Saint Anselm, Selections from the Proslogion, and Why God Became Man
  • Selections from the writings of St. Hildegard of Bingen
  • C.H. Talbot, translator, The Life of Christina of Markyate

Films and Events

  • Film, National Theatre’s Production of Antigone 2012 
  • A panel discussion with members of the Monastic Community
  • Tour Saint Anselm Church and Abbey
  • Film, Groundhog Day
  • Film, Of Gods and Men
  • Film, The Way

Conversatio II - Liberal Arts & the Good Life

The second semester concentrates on conceptions of the good life and the role that the liberal arts play in forming a fulfilling human life. Students build upon ideas from the first semester as they consider three additional 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.

Reading List 2023-2024

  • Joseph Pieper, Selections from Leisure and the Basis of Culture
  • Alexis De Tocqueville, Selections from Democracy in America
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Selections from great speeches including Patrick Henry, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., and Abraham Lincoln
  • Charles Fishman, The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water
  • E. H. Gombrich, Selections from The Story of Art
  • Arthur Danto, Chapter 6: Three Ways to Think about Art
  • William Shakespeare, The Tempest
  • Additionally, each seminar leader makes their own selections of readings for each of the semester’s three units (Democracy and Rhetoric, Science and Society, and Beauty and Art).  Many sections also make visits to the Chapel Arts Center or other local museums.

Films and Events

  • Film, The Great Debaters
  • Play, William Shakespeare's The Tempest
  • Music Performance by guest musicians
  • Day trip to NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art (Optional)


Social Media
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