Fall 2023 - HUM 321W B100

The Humanities and Critical Thinking (4)

Class Number: 5858

Delivery Method: Blended


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 17, 2023
    Sun, 3:30–6:30 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



A study of the counter-traditions within western civilization. Compares and contrasts diverse traditions within western culture that critique its central value systems. It will focus on the attempts of great artists and thinkers to break with tradition, and the subsequent creation of new ideas and forms of experience and expression. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.



HUM 321W: Shooting the Mafia

This seminar makes an offer you can’t refuse: studying the Sicilian Mafia through Italian cinema.   

Since the end of World War II, Italian filmmakers have taken a sustained interest in the Sicilian Mafia (a.k.a. Cosa Nostra), Italy’s most notorious crime syndicate, and represented it in cinematically diverse ways. The stories that they put on screen draw upon and experiment with a variety of forms, including the Italian “western,” political/investigative cinema, black comedy, melodrama, the police procedural, the biopic, and the social-justice film. Their dynamic approaches to exploring the problem of organized crime in contemporary Italy differ – often significantly – from Hollywood mafia films with which you may be more familiar. 

To sharpen our skills of critical thinking, we will approach our subject in two complementary ways. First, we will read and contextualize our films as audio-visual histories, examining how the Mafia emerged in Sicily and why it flourished; why it has remained an endemic scourge in Italian society for so long; and the extent to which anti-mafia campaigns have succeeded in curbing its influence over time. Second, we will analyze our films as humanistic texts, interpreting their authors’ narrative and aesthetic strategies and, in turn, filmmakers’ contribution to historical knowledge, cultural debate, and civic action through their artistic works.  

No background in Italian or film studies is necessary. 

Teaching Mode: Blended Learning
As a “blended” course, you will watch one film out of class each week. Films will be streamed on Canvas and subtitled in English. To situate films in their social and political contexts, supplemental readings will be assigned each week.  


  • Participation 25%
  • Portfolio 35%
  • Final paper/project 40%


This course counts towards the concentration in Public Engagement and Intellectual Culture for students enrolled in a Global Humanities major or minor program.



John Dickie, Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia 

This text will not be sold via the SFU Bookstore but is widely available online. The e-book can be purchased on amazon.ca and Google Play for $1. A new paperback costs about $25.

ISBN: 9781403970428


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


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.