Fall 2022 - HUM 360 B100

Special Topics: Great Themes in the Humanistic Tradition (4)

Death, Disease & Disaster

Class Number: 6226

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 7 – Dec 6, 2022: Thu, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



An interdisciplinary study of a selected theme that has made a lasting contribution to the humanistic tradition in more than one field of endeavour(e.g. philosophy, politics, literature,economics, religion). This course may be repeated once for credit. Students who have credit for a course with this content under another Humanities course may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities.


A description of my image


Death, Disease, and Disaster through the Lens of the Ecological Humanities

We find ourselves in what feels like a dark night of the collective soul. Limping out of a global pandemic; climate change on the march, democratic political systems being challenged from left and right. This course will generate vibrant conversation around the human embeddedness and entanglement in geological, biological and ecological systems. We will look at the social ecology of disease and disaster and the humanities of death and dying.

As a survey seminar, we will spend time examining cases and themes within these three overarching but interrelated topics from the perspective of the dawn of the Anthropocene. We will draw inspiration from works of theory and literature from many different disciplines, cultures and time periods. Class discussion and presentations will also examine popular culture, film, current events and video games. Through guest speakers, reading, discussion and presentation students will explore the darker side of the earthy-humanities.



  • Become familiar with religious cosmologies/ecologies of personhood, death and dying.
  • Explore the connections between natural disasters and social ecology.
  • Name the entanglements between diseases, ecology and climate.
  • Build bridges between sciences and humanities.
  • Challenge colonial and capitalist narratives of human nature, disease and disaster.
  • Unsettle the anthropocentrism of academia toward the world.
  • Move toward a theory of the human in a post-humanist Anthropocene.
  • Re-imagine, Re-story possible human futures.


  • Final Project Write Up 30%
  • Final Project Proposal 10%
  • Final Project Class Presentation 20%
  • Weekly Reading Reflections 20%
  • Current Event or film review mini-report 10%
  • Certified community service hours 10%


This course counts towards a concentration in Mythologies for students in a Humanities major or minor program as well as the Religious Studies Certificate.



  • Richard Matheson, What Dreams May Come (1978, any edition)
  • Albert Camus, The Plague (1947/1991, Vintage International Edition only)
  • Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006, any edition)
  • Angela Sumegi, Understanding Death: An Introduction to Ideas of Self and the Afterlife in World Religions (2013, available digitally from SFU Library)
  • Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell (2009)
  • Kyle Harper, Plagues Upon the Earth (available digitally from SFU library)


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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