Spring 2020 - HUM 320 E100

Cross-Cultural Philosophy in the Humanities (4)

Class Number: 8238

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 3122, Vancouver

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 16, 2020
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



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



Phenomenology and Existentialism are two of the major currents of philosophical thought of the 1900s. Originating from the late 1800s, they continued to develop in the following century and their transformations reached well into our days. Proof of their importance lies in the sheer number of philosophers who, to a larger or lesser extent, helped shape their tenets through their contributions or their critiques, but also in the way in which they continue to inform debates in literature, cinema, and the arts. This course focuses on the history of Phenomenology and Existentialism and the questions they addressed—questions still relevant to our times: What is the meaning of Being and what relation does it bear to the world? What does it mean for something to exist? What is the relation of identity to difference? What role do the body and emotions play in the making of consciousness? Is cognition related to the senses, spatiality, or embodiment? How is consciousness shaped by inter-subjectivity and community? Does truth exist in the lifeworld or in the perception of the subject?

Together we will discuss selections from the work of philosophers and creative writers who have attended to phenomenological and existential questions (i.e., Husserl, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Heidegger, Sartre, De Beauvoir, Ellison, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, Fanon, and Derrida), or who have used these approaches for more recent developments in cultural theory, such as Elizabeth Grosz and Sara Ahmed in feminist and queer theory or Christina Sharpe in Black theory. We will use the insights garnered from these readings to discuss works of literature and art/film that have contributed in pointed ways to these discussions.  


  • Provide students with a historical and theoretical understanding of the philosophies of Phenomenology and Existentialism through the work of their main representatives.
  • Examine the critiques directed to Phenomenology and Existentialism by Marxism and Psychoanalysis, and the possible revisions of such debates.
  • Provide students with an historical understanding of the contexts that gave rise to the emergence of literature addressing phenomenological and existentialist questions.
  • Gain an understanding of the way in which ideas and methodologies derived from Phenomenology and Existentialism inform current theories about the social world, affect, agency, and transformations in political life.
  • Gain an understanding of the way in which, through a phenomenological and existentialist approach, literature, art, and cinema help “make visible” and “felt” the intangible and the non-representable of pain, grief, suffering, and pleasure thus making us subject to the responsibility for the other.


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


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



In-class screening: Melancholia (2011, 2h 16mins) Dir. Lars von Trier. &  Clips from different movies.


Franz Kafka, The Castle (Oxford, 2009)
ISBN: 0199238286

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Harper, 2005)
ISBN: 9780060932138

Albert Camus, The Plague (Penguin, 2013)
ISBN: 0141185139

Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red (McClelland & Stewart, 2016)
ISBN: 0771018134

Gordon Marino, ed., Basic Writings of Existentialism (Modern Library, 2004)
ISBN: 9780375759895

Additional readings provided by the instructor on Canvas (selections): Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emmanuel Levinas, Franz Fanon, Jacques Derrida, Elizabeth Grosz, Sarah Ahmed, and Christina Sharpe.

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