Spring 2019 - HUM 330 D100

Religion in Context (4)

20th Century Religious Autobiography

Class Number: 5744

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    AQ 5025, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



An in-depth investigation of a specific case of religious history and tradition. Religion will be studied through the cultural and historical contexts that pervade and structure religious meaning and expression. Students may repeat this course for further credit under a different topic. Breadth-Humanities.


Religion in Context: 20th Century Religious Autobiography

This seminar provides the opportunity to study and ponder some of the major events, movements, struggles, and religious ideas of the 20th century through reading the autobiographies of six individuals: Mohandas Gandhi (b. 1869), an Indian lawyer, leader, and advocate of nonviolent resistance; Primo Levi (b. 1919), a secular Italian Jew who survived an Auschwitz labor camp; Jane Goodall (b. 1934), a British Christian primatologist who lived and worked for decades with chimpanzees in Tanzania; Muhammed Ali, a convert to the Nation of Islam, boxer, draft resister, and civil rights leader; Richard Wagamese (b. 1955), an Ojibway Canadian novelist and storyteller; and Sister Dang Nghiem (b. 1968), a Vietnamese Buddhist nun and healer whose teacher is Thich Nhat Hanh.  

These autobiographies (or memoirs) are religious in the broadest sense of the word. They raise questions about what is – or is not – religious or spiritual, what it is to be human, and how humans might live with one another and within the world.



  • Two 7 to 9 page essays (worth 30% each) 60%
  • Attendance and participation 20%
  • Seminar presentation 20%



Mohandas Gandhi, Story of My Life, 1955 [1925] – available in pdf

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity, 1996 [1947]

Jane Goodall, Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey, 2003 (1999)

Muhammed Ali with Hana Ali, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey, 2004

Richard Wagamese, For Joshua: An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son, 2002

Sister Dang Nghiem, Healing: A Woman’s Journey from Doctor to Nun, 2010  

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