Fall 2019 - HUM 101W D100

Introduction to the Humanities (3)

Class Number: 1350

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Thu, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 14, 2019
    Sat, 3:30–6:30 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:




An introduction to issues and concepts central to the study of the Humanities. Through exposure to primary materials drawn from different periods and disciplines, students will become acquainted with a range of topics and ideas relating to the study of human values and human experience. Equivalent Courses: HUM101 Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


What does “Humanities” mean? Why do we need them? What purpose does education serve and what purposes should it serve? These are the core questions we will discuss and debate together over thirteen weeks. We will be dealing with these questions at a time when authoritarianism is rising in many countries; a time of increasing polarization of the wealthy and the impoverished, and all of this is situated within an even wider global context of ecological decline. What, if any, connection exists between humanities education and these pressing problems that each one of us must eventually face?  

We will read works from ancient to modern times and from different cultures that present varying perspectives on the above questions. First we will read texts linked to two “trouble-makers:” Plato (428/427-348/347) and Zhuangzi / Chuang Tzu (ca. 369-286) to understand some of their thoughts on education and society followed by reflection on the ideas Indian poet, writer, musician and artist Rabindranath Tagore. We then read modern responses to these ideas in the writings of two women: Ayn Rand and Martha Nusbaum. Both refer to long-standing ideals of human cultivation and social order drawing on classical Greece and South and East Asian writers mentioned above. This work will culminate in a final important question about how these values potentially contribute to or hinder the work of reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people in Canada. The challenges we face are outlined by Darrell Dennis in Peace Pipe Dreams. Dennis, member of the Secwepemc Nation, is a playwright, broadcaster, actor, and comedian. He sees education as key to fostering mutual respect.


  • Reading Quizzes (5) 25%
  • Two Essay Drafts 1,000 words (Peer Reviewed) 10%
  • Two Academic Event Reports 10%
  • Two Final Essays 1,000 words (Revised) 20%
  • Final Exam 35%


Late assignments will be accepted but 2% per day will be deducted from the assignment grade.



Dennis, Darrell. Peace Pipe Dreams: The Truth about Lies about Indians. Douglas & McIntyre, 2014. 
ISBN: 1771000406

Nussbaum, Martha. Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0691173320

Rand, Ayn. The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism. New York: New American Library, Penguin Group, 1961.
ISBN: 0-451-16393-1

Rouse, W.H.D., trans. The Great Dialogues of Plato: Complete texts of The Republic, The Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Ion, Meno, Symposium. New York: Penguin, 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-101-21298-1

Rabindranath Tagore, The Religion of Man the Hibbard Lectures for 1930. New York: MacMillan and Company, 1931.


Watson, Burton. Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings. New York: Columbia University Press; Revised ed. edition 1996. 
ISBN: 0231105959

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html