Fall 2024 - HUM 340 B100

Great Cities in Their Time (4)


Class Number: 4982

Delivery Method: Blended


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 4 – Dec 3, 2024: Mon, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



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. May be repeated for credit when a different topic is taught. Breadth-Humanities.


Great Cities in Their Time: Florence

Think Florence. The spectacular dome of the city's cathedral or Michelangelo's majestic David might come to mind. But Florence is more than just the cradle and the jewel of the Italian Renaissance. Over the last seven centuries, it has been defined, described, and mythologized in myriad and often conflicting ways: as a bastion of liberty, a paradise for exiles — and even a highway to hell! What myths, meanings, and magic have been ascribed to Florence and how can we explain their lasting hold on our collective imagination? Why, for generations, was Florence home to a veritable who's who of foreign novelists, poets, and art critics? How have Florentines themselves represented their city — and themselves —  in art, architecture, literature, and film? These questions will guide us in HUM 340 as we explore representations of Florence across time and in texts both verbal and visual. Our tour is ambitious: it begins in the 14th century with Dante's epic Inferno and concludes with the waves of tourists that flood the city today. Along the way, we will linger at critical junctures in Florence's history, including the crippling crisis of the Black Death; the intellectual and artistic revolution of "the Renaissance"; the reign of the Medici family; the dawn of the Grand Tour; the Nazi bombing of World War II; and the catastrophic flood of 1966. The authors, artists, and film directors we encounter will often be familiar, at least in name: they include Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Botticelli, Lord Byron, Mark Twain, and Roberto Rossellini. But we will also meet others less familiar, among them, the celebrated Florentines Giovanni Boccaccio, Giuseppe Poggi, and Vasco Pratolini. 

Each class meeting will be dedicated to discussing assigned readings, analyzing one or more works of art/architecture, and considering the interplay between our visual and textual sources. As the course progresses, we will also explore how our authors and artists are in conversation with one another across time. Brief background lectures will occasionally preface class discussions or be recorded and posted to Canvas.


Through regular seminar participation and a series of written assignments, students will: 

  • Develop familiarity with a range of authors, genres, and texts (both written and visual) about Florence in their cultural and historical contexts. 
  • Explore themes and questions of central importance to humanities.  
  • Explore how literature, art, and film speak and respond to human societies and how they can transform them. 
  • Develop skills of critical analysis when studying, discussing, and writing about textual, visual, and material sources. 
  • Engage in and develop skills in discussion and debate. 


  • Class participation 20%
  • Discussion posts 10%
  • First written assignment 15%
  • Second written assignment 25%
  • Final project 30%


This course fulfills the Global Humanities requirements for the  



All readings will be made available through Canvas.


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 term 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.