Spring 2021 - HUM 340 D100

Great Cities in Their Time (4)


Class Number: 7108

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



An exploration of the cultural and intellectual accomplishments of a specific city that achieved prominence in a particular time period, and had substantial impact and influence on human civilization. Examines the political, social, religious, and cultural factors that help to explain a city's significance and investigates the achievements of its citizens. Students may repeat this course for further credit under a different topic. Breadth-Humanities.


Rome – the eternal city, caput mundi and the place where all roads lead. This course seeks both to explore and to transcend these well-worn conceptions of Rome. Why is it that for centuries Rome has captured the attention and imagination of so many artists, writers, politicians and travellers? In what ways did the city transform as it evolved from the birthplace of a pagan empire, to the centre of western Christendom, to the capital of a modern nation-state? What did Rome look like over the centuries through the eyes of its varied visitors? What did — and does — it mean to be “Roman”? To answer these and other questions, we’ll tour the city’s streets and monuments in the footsteps of Roman emperors, medieval pilgrims, Renaissance architects, Englishmen on the Grand Tour, Mussolini’s Blackshirts and the backpacking tourists of today. Guiding us will be some of the greatest authors of western literature, including Virgil, Livy, Goethe, Lord Byron and Henry James. Throughout the semester, we will complement our verbal texts with visual ones — among others, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s, the Baroque churches of Bernini and Borromini, the engravings of Piranesi, and the architecture of Italian fascism. We’ll also analyze famous cinematic portrayals of postwar Rome, including Hollywood’s “Roman Holiday” and a classic of Italian neorealism, “The Bicycle Thieves.”


Through regular seminar participation and a series of written assignments, students will have the opportunity to strengthen a range of skills. Particular attention will be paid to sharpening skills of critical analysis when analyzing a wide range of texts, including literature, art and film. All assignments are designed to encourage creative as well as analytical approaches to studying, writing, and thinking about the city of Rome.


  • Class Participation (includes discussion posts) 25%
  • First Paper 15%
  • Second Paper 25%
  • Final Project 35%


Please note that almost all undergraduate teaching at SFU in Spring 2021 will be conducted through remote methods. Enrollment in this course 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.

· HUM 340 is a synchronous class. All seminar meetings will be held live on Zoom at the regularly scheduled time (Fridays, 9:30 – 12:20 p.m.). Registered students must be available in this time slot during the semester.

Students with questions about remote learning in HUM 340 are welcome to contact the instructor (eobrien@sfu.ca) before the semester begins.



Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Italian Journey: 1786-1788. Penguin, 1992.

(purchase at your local bookstore or through amazon.ca or indigo.ca)

All other course readings will be made available through Canvas.

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).