Summer 2019 - HUM 320 E100

The Humanities and Philosophy (4)

Class Number: 6062

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 1425, Vancouver

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



An exploration of the characteristic ways in which the humanities, with its emphasis on expression, belief and tradition, presents the important philosophical concepts of western civilization. Based upon an interdisciplinary selection of texts drawn from history, philosophy, literature and the arts. Breadth-Humanities.


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Can we talk of a tradition of philosophical and critical thought in the 1900s? If so, what form does it take? Different schools (national or otherwise) or a continuum?  How did it originate? Most importantly, what is its legacy and why is it important to study it now? What conversations are possible between 20th century “continental philosophy” and contemporary “critical theory”?

In this course we will study the work of some of the major thinkers of so-called Continental Philosophy from the 20th century. We will consider the relation of continental philosophers of the 1900s (a century marked by the catastrophe of two world wars and major social changes) to the philosophical tradition inherited from previous centuries and the extent to which we can talk about “breaks” or “developments.” We will ponder the tensions and interrelations between different schools of thought (e.g., idealism and materialism), their contribution to social debates, and the relation of philosophy to other disciplines (science, technology, or linguistics) in order to address questions that are still pertinent to our age: “authentic” experience and reification, the divided subject and the subject of consciousness, totality and totalitarianism, desire and the Other, anxiety and care, language and difference, perception and existence.

In our readings we will proceed both chronologically and synchronically in order to gain a sense of these developments and to put philosophers and theorists in conversation with each other, while discussing the implications of our analyses in works of literature. For this reason we will organize the material in “modules,” designed not in essentialist terms but as overlapping units of study: 1) Language, Structuralism, Poststructuralism (De Saussure, the Russian formalists, the Prague Circle, Bakhtin, Derrida); 2) Phenomenology (Levinas and Heidegger, and their relation to Husserl; Merleau-Ponty; Heidegger and his relation to Nietzsche; Kojève’s Hegel); 3) Existentialism (Sartre and De Beauvoir); 4) Marxism and Critical Theory (Gramsci, Lukacs, Benjamin, Adorno and Horkheimer); 5) Psychoanalysis (Freud and Lacan; Fanon); and 6) Feminist philosophy (Irigaray, Cixous, Braidotti).


  1. Provide students with a historical and theoretical understanding of Continental European thinkers of the 20th century through the reading and discussion of primary texts.
  2. Gain an understanding of the range and diversity of Continental Philosophy and the revolutionary work it generated.
  3. Analyse and discuss texts of Continental Philosophy in light of the debates generated in the fields of ontology, political theory, philosophy of history, philosophy of language, aesthetics and ethics.
  4. Examine the way in which works of Continental Philosophy can be employed in our understanding and transformation of the social world.  
  5. Examine the relationship between Continental Philosophy and literature/art beyond the confines of literary criticism and aesthetics, and consider the possibility and implications of what Heidegger calls “poetic thinking” as the necessary language of “unconcealment.”


  • Attendance and participation 10%
  • Presentation 15%
  • Short paper (4-5 pages) 15%
  • Final paper (10 pages) 30%
  • Midterm 30%


To receive credit for this course, students must complete all requirements.



Richard Kearney and Mara Rainwater (editors), The Continental Philosophy Reader.        Routledge (1996)
ISBN: 978-0415095266

Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics.       U of Minnesota P (1984)
ISBN: 978-0816612284

Fyodor Dostoevsky (Michael R Katz, editor). Crime and Punishment.                   Norton & Co Inc, Critical edition (2018)
ISBN: 978-0393264272

Milan Kundera, The Joke.                                                                                  Harper (1993)
ISBN: 978-0060995058

Marguerite Duras, The Lover                                                                             Pantheon (1998)
ISBN: 9780375700521

Registrar Notes:

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