Spring 2021 - HUM 325 D100

The Humanities and the Natural World (4)

Class Number: 7103

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 23, 2021
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM

  • 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 “human” and “animal” dates back to the foundations of Western philosophy and has proved essential to the political imaginary 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, and the discourse of science from late modernity. We will discuss how a shared evolutionary history across “species” has given rise to common traits between humans and animals—including sentience, emotionality, intelligence and intentionality—and how the “radical singularity” of individuals, whether human or non-human animals, demands that we respect the singularities of animal lives. 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 include interdisciplinary perspectives from critical animal studies, ethology, indigeneity, and ecocriticism.

TEACHING MODE: Synchronous lecture – recorded.

This seminar requires a weekly two-hour and a half contact “in class” for lecture and discussion. The remaining hours will be used by students for self-study and assignments on Canvas. The reduced contact hours are meant to lessen the impact of ‘Zoom fatigue’. We will also have breaks for coffee or just to rest eyes and ears. We will all work to build a vibrant online community to make the best of the current circumstances.


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 in Western thought and the violent effects of such discourses 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 socio-cultural perspectives with regard to animal life (Western, Indigenous, African and Asian).
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of the interdisciplinary methodologies at work in the fields of critical animal studies and zoontology.
  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 Canvas posts) 20%
  • Animal project 20%
  • Book Review 15%
  • Term Paper 25%
  • Exam 20%



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

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

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

Luis Sepúlveda, The Old Man Who Read Love Stories. Mariner Books, 1995
ISBN-13 : 978-0156002721

On Canvas, selected readings from interdisciplinary perspectives in animal studies: Aesop’s Fables and the medieval fabliau Renard the Fox (anon.); Plutarch, Aristotle, Descartes, and Agamben’s The Open; biology, ethology and ethnozoology (including Charles Darwin, Jakob von Uexküll and Donna Haraway); anthropology and indigeneity: Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think, Raymond Pierotti’s The First Domestication: How Wolves and Humans Coevolved and Linda Hogan’s The Radiant Life of Animals.

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

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


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).