Spring 2020 - HUM 325 D100

The Humanities and the Natural World (4)

Class Number: 5467

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    HCC 2540, Vancouver

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 23, 2020
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



A study of the humanistic, scientific, political, and ideological discourses deriving from concern with the natural environment. Using classic and contemporary sources, this course examines the interaction of humans with the non-human world, and includes such topics as human communities and nature, the immersion of the individual in nature, nature and the human habitat. Breadth-Humanities.


... it is not improper to describe the entire phenomenon of morality as animal.

The conceptualization of what it means to be “human” or “animal” dates back to the foundations of Western philosophy, providing a template for the idea of the modern subject and citizen. But what makes possible the separation between humans and the different species that populate our planet? What role do language and knowledge-production play in this conceptualization? What responsibilities do humans bear toward other species?

Following Jacques Derrida’s speculations in The Animal That Therefore I Am, this course will analyze different representations of the animal in literature since antiquity alongside the theoretical work of philosophers ranging from Aristotle and Aquinas to Heidegger and Levinas. We will consider how figurations of the animal have often functioned as projections of fears and anxieties about the self onto other beings and the ethical implications that the conceptual reshaping of human-animal relations entails for the contemporary moment. Although our focus will be on literature and philosophy, our readings and discussions will also include interdisciplinary perspectives from animal studies, ethology, indigeneity, and ecocriticism.


At the end of the course, students will be able to demonstrate their proficiency in the following activities:  

  1. Read and analyze Humanities Texts creatively and to academic standards.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the historical construction of the human-animal dualism through philosophical and literary texts in Western thought and of the violent effects of such discourse on human and non-human animals (theories of race, genocide, slaughterhouses, etc.).
  3. Engage in contemporary debates on animal ethics.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of different perspectives around the world regarding the relationship of humans to other animals and to the natural world (Western, African, Asian, and Indigenous thought).
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of the interdisciplinary methodologies at work in the fields of animal studies and zoontology in the study of non-human animals and the natural world.
  6. Write about Humanities texts analytically by becoming proficient in argumentation, linking claims to evidence, developing a thesis, structuring a paper, and using sources effectively.  


  • Attendance & participation (includes a short presentation) 10%
  • Animal project 20%
  • Short paper (4 pages) 15%
  • Term paper (8 pages) 25%
  • Exam 30%



In-class screening: Conflict Tiger (dir. Sasha Snow, 2006)


Peter Atterton and Matthew Calarco, Animal Philosophy. Bloomsbury, 2004.
ISBN: 0826464149

Frans de Waal, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?. W.W. Norton, 2017.
ISBN: 0393353664

Anon., Renard the Fox. Trans. Patricia Terry. U of California P, 1992. (a copy will be placed on Library Reserve)
ISBN: 0520076842

Franz Kafka, The Complete Stories. Schocken, 1995. (other editions are accepted)
ISBN: 0805210555

Zakes Mda, The Whale Caller: a novel. Picador 2006.
ISBN: 0312425872

John Vaillant, The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival. Vintage, 2011.
ISBN: 0307397157

Canvas: Readings on interdisciplinary perspectives in animal studies and ecocriticism; a selection of Aesop’s Fables; excerpts from philosophy on the question of animality, ranging from Aristotle and Plutarch to the modern age with a focus on Heidegger, Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze and Guattari, Levinas, Irigaray and Derrida; excerpts from the history of biology and ethology, from Charles Darwin and Jakob von Uexküll to Donna Haraway and Frans de Waal; selections from Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think and Agamben’s The Open.

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