Death & Dying
Monday/Wednesday 2:30pm – 4:20pm
Office: O’Connor 336
Office Hours: Mon/Wed 10:30 – 12:30 or by appointment
Phone: (508) 626-4864
This course will help you see what truly matters in life. It aims to clarify your future endeavors in college and beyond. Ironically, exploring the various ways people understand and respond to the realities of death and dying is a great way – perhaps the best way – to achieve these all-important life goals. The course gives you a forum for discussing a series of topics that are often taboo to talk about elsewhere. We consider these topics within the context of American society as well as cross-culturally.
There is one book to purchase from the campus bookstore; it can also easily be found used online: Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
All other readings are linked below on the syllabus.
*Please bring assigned readings to class. For those that are online, either print them or access them electronically in class via your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
As a way of facilitating rich class discussions, you are to post a reading response on Blackboard in advance of most of our class meetings. The dates when a reading response is due are listed on the schedule below.
Please post no later than 10:00am on the due date. I will only give credit for posts made on time. Your posts should have two parts:
- A 2-3 paragraph critique of the reading. A critique is not a summary. Whereas a summary just goes over the main points in the reading, a critique goes beyond what the reading says and highlights interesting themes or issues it raised for you. There are a variety of ways you can frame your critique:
— Something you found interesting and why.
— Something you found confusing and why.
— An important topic left unexplored.
— Strengths/weaknesses of a study’s methodology.
— How a concept or idea applies to your own life.
- Raise 2 or more questions for our class discussion. These should not be “yes/no” questions. Instead, come up with “how” or “why” questions since these typically generate more discussion.
The best, most lasting way this course will make an impact is by enabling you to see up close the significance of the topics we’ll be discussing. We will be partnering with Brookhaven Hospice which, according to its website, “provides a special way of caring for people with a life limiting illness and for their loved ones.” Twice during October and then again in November (four times total), you are to volunteer at one of Brookhaven’s residences. Two of them are located within walking distance of FSU. Each visit lasts from 30 minutes to two hours and takes place outside of class time. It can be arranged to fit your schedule.
I understand sometimes there are justifiable reasons for missing a class, but if you miss more than two it will start to affect your grade. If you have to be absent, there is no need to give me a doctor’s note. It is your responsibility to catch up on material you missed.
GRADING AND EVALUATION:
Your final grade will be based on the following:
Students should be aware of the University’s policies concerning academic honesty, which are stated in the undergraduate catalog: “Integrity is essential to academic life. Consequently, students who enroll at Framingham State University agree to maintain high standards of academic honesty and scholarly practice. They shall be responsible for familiarizing themselves with the published policies and procedures regarding academic honesty.” Infractions include plagiarism, cheating on exams and quizzes, unauthorized collaboration with other students, and submitting work in more than one course for academic credit without prior approval of the instructor. The FSU Catalog defines plagiarism as “claiming as one’s own work the published or unpublished literal or paraphrased work of another.” Penalties for academic dishonesty may include receiving a failing grade for the course, academic suspension, and dismissal from the University.
NOTICE OF NON-DISCRIMINATION AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY:
By taking this class, you agree to abide by Framingham State University’s policy of non-discrimination and equal opportunity. The University is dedicated to providing educational, working, and living environments that value the diverse backgrounds of all people. The Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (“MCRA,” M.G.L. c. 12, §§ 11H, 11I, 11J) protects the rights of all residents of and visitors to Massachusetts to be free from bias-motivated threats, intimidation, and coercion that interfere with their civil rights. The MCRA protects the right to attend school, live peacefully, and enjoy other basic rights.
CONFRONTING A TABOO SUBJECT
Wednesday, September 5th
*READ IN CLASS: Richard A. Kalish, “The Horse on the Dining Room Table”
Monday, September 10th
No class – Rosh Hashanah
Wednesday, September 12th
*READ: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Chapters 1-2 from On Death and Dying. New York: MacMillan, 1969. (NOTE: This reading may appear sideways on your screen. The only way I know to fix this is if you first save the reading to your laptop and then open it in Adobe Acrobat Reader. Once you have opened it, click “View”, then scroll down to “Rotate View” and then click “Counterclockwise.”)
*READING RESPONSE #1 DUE
Monday, September 17th
*READING RESPONSE #2 DUE
*WATCH IN CLASS: Nancy Berns, “Beyond Closure” (17:24)
Wednesday, September 19th
No class – Yom Kippur
THE POSSIBILITY OF A GOOD DEATH
Monday, September 24th
*READING RESPONSE #3 DUE
Wednesday, September 26th
*COMPLETE VOLUNTEER APPLICATION
Guest: Alyssa Neshe, Brookhaven Hospice
Monday, October 1st
*READING RESPONSE #4 DUE
PEOPLE WHO WORK WITH THE DYING AND THE DEAD
Wednesday, October 3rd
*READING RESPONSE #5 DUE
Monday, October 8th
No class – Columbus Day
Wednesday, October 10th
*READING RESPONSE #6 DUE
Monday, October 15th
*READ: David H. Wendleton, Therese A. Johnson, and Renee S. Katz, “Caregiving of the Soul: Spirituality at the End of Life.” Pp. 27-38 in When Professionals Weep: Emotional and Countertransference Responses in End-of-Life Care. New York: Routledge, 2006.
*READING RESPONSE #7 DUE
Wednesday, October 17th
***Today’s class will be combined with Prof. Coyne’s Business Writing students.
Monday, October 22nd
*WATCH: FRONTLINE: “The Undertaking” (55:34)
*READING RESPONSE #8 DUE
Wednesday, October 24th
*DO: Interview someone who works with the dying and/or the dead
*READING RESPONSE #9 DUE
*WATCH IN CLASS: Kelli Swazey, “Life That Doesn’t End With Death” (13:54)
RITUALIZED RESPONSES TO DEATH & DYING
Monday, October 29th
*READING RESPONSE #10 DUE
Wednesday, October 31st
*READING RESPONSE #11 DUE
Monday, November 5th
*READING RESPONSE #12 DUE (See instructions here)
*WATCH IN CLASS: Lux Narayan, “What I learned from 2,000 obituaries” (6:08)
Wednesday, November 7th
*READING RESPONSE #13 DUE
Monday, November 12th
*No class – Veterans’ Day
SEARCHING FOR A MEANINGFUL LIFE
Wednesday, November 14th
*WATCH: Zach Sobiech, “My Last Days” (22:20)
*READING RESPONSE #14 DUE
Monday, November 19th
*READING RESPONSE #15 DUE
*LISTEN IN CLASS: Amy Krouse Rosenthal, “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” (13:38)
*WATCH IN CLASS: Jason B. Rosenthal, “The Journey through Loss and Grief” (14:09)
*WATCH IN CLASS: Sam Berns, “My Philosophy for a Happy Life” (12:44)
Wednesday, November 21st
*No class – Thanksgiving break
Monday, November 26th
*READ: Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson. New York: Doubleday, 1997. Read up through “The Professor”
*READING RESPONSE #16 DUE
Wednesday, November 28th
*READ: Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie. Finish book.
Monday, December 3rd
Wednesday, December 5th
Monday, December 10th
Wednesday, December 12th
Wednesday, December 19th
Final paper due via email.