Fall 2015
Sociology 366

Tuesday/Friday 12:30pm – 2:20pm

Office: Crocker 109
Office Hours: Mon/Wed 10:30 – 12:30
Phone: (508) 626-4864
E-mail: isilver@framingham.edu

COURSE DESCRIPTION:

This course will help you see what truly matters in life. It aims to enable you 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 goals. The course gives students 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 and across religious traditions.

READINGS:

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.

READING RESPONSES:

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 7am on the due date. I will only give credit for posts made on time. Your posts should have two parts:

  1. A 1-2 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.
  2. 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.

ATTENDANCE:

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:

45%       Reading responses
10%       Class attendance and participation
20%       Oral presentation
25%       Final paper

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY:

Given the Sociology Department’s commitment to maintaining the highest academic standards, 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.

COMING TO GRIPS WITH A TABOO SUBJECT

Friday, September 4th

Course Introduction

Tuesday, September 8th

*READ: Susan Jacoby, “Real Life among the Old Old.” New York Times, December 31, 2010.

*READ: Craig Bowron, “Our Unrealistic Attitudes about Death, Through a Doctor’s Eyes.” Washington Post, February 17, 2012.

*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

Friday, September 11th

*READ: Meghan O’Rourke, “Is There a Better Way to Be Bereaved?” The New Yorker, February 1, 2010.

*READ: Chris Allen, “The Poverty of Death: Social Class, Urban Deprivation, and the Criminological Consequences of Sequestration of Death.” Mortality 2007 12: 79–93.

*READING RESPONSE #2 DUE

Tuesday, September 15th

No class – Rosh Hashanah

Friday, September 18th

*READ: Nancy Berns, “Chasing Closure.” Contexts Fall 2011 48-53.

*WATCH IN CLASS: “Beyond Closure”

Tuesday, September 22nd

*READ: Robin Marantz Henig, “Will We Ever Arrive at the Good Death?” New York Times, August 7, 2005.

*READ: Mark A. Messler, “Negotiating Life for the Dying: Hospice and the Strategy of Tactical Socialization.” Death Studies 1995 19: 235-55.

*READING RESPONSE #3 DUE

THE QUEST FOR IMMORTALITY

Friday, September 25th

*READ: Marc Freedman, “How to Make the Most of Longer Lives.” Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2015.

*READ: Steven Cave, “Imagining the Downside of Immortality.” New York Times, August 27, 2011.

*WATCH IN CLASS: “Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality”

Tuesday, September 29th

*READ: Robert Jay Lifton and Eric Olson, “Symbolic Immortality.” Pp. 632-39 in Death, Mourning, and Burial: A Cross-Cultural Reader. Edited by Antonius C.G.M. Robben. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

*READ: J. Peter Zane, “Hey, at Least You Can Be Virtually Immortal.” New York Times, March 12, 2013.

*READING RESPONSE #4 DUE

Friday, October 2nd

*READ: Roger Rosenblatt, “How We Remember.” Time, May 29, 2000.

*READ: “Commemorating a Tragedy: Public Art and the Boston Marathon Bombings.” WBUR Cognescenti, April 25, 2013.

*READING RESPONSE #5 DUE

Tuesday, October 6th

*READ: Bill Bytheway and Julia Johnson, “Valuing Lives? Obituaries and the Life Course.” Mortality 1996 1(2): 219-234.

*READING RESPONSE #6 DUE. *Click here for specifics.

RITUALIZED RESPONSES TO DEATH & DYING

Friday, October 9th

*READ: Sharon Bourgeois and Amanda Johnson, “Preparing for Dying: Meaningful Practices in Palliative Care.” Omega – The Journal of Death and Dying 2004 49(2): 99-107.

*READ: Romen Borsellino, “Meeting Dylan.” Amherst Alumni Magazine, Fall 2008.

*READ: David Unruh, “Death and Personal History: Strategies of Identity Preservation.” Social Problems 1983 30(3): 340-51.

*READING RESPONSE #7 DUE

Tuesday, October 13th

*READ: Somini Sengupta, “Why Disposing of the Dead Matters to the Living.” New York Times, February 24, 2002.

*READ: Ronny E. Turner and Charles Edgley, “Death as Theater: A Dramaturgical Analysis of the American funeral.” Pp. 285-97 in Life as Theater, Edited by Dennis Brisset and Charles Edgley. New York: Aldine, 1976.

*WATCH IN CLASS: “Life That Doesn’t End With Death”

*READING RESPONSE #8 DUE

Friday, October 16th

*READ: Nancy Scheper-Hughes, “Death without Weeping.” Pp. 179-93 in Death, Mourning, and Burial: A Cross-Cultural Reader. Edited by Antonius C.G.M. Robben. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

*READING RESPONSE #9 DUE

Tuesday, October 20th

*READ: Pierre Clastres, “Cannibalism.” Pp. 211-35 in Chronicle of the Guyaki Indians. New York: Faber and Faber, 1998.

*READING RESPONSE #10 DUE

WORKING WITH THE DYING AND THE DEAD

Friday, October 23rd

*READ: Jerome Groopman, “Dying Words.” The New Yorker, October 28, 2002.

*READ: Daniel Segal, 1988. “A Patient So Dead: American Medical Students and their Cadavers.” Anthropological Quarterly 61: 17-25.

*WATCH IN CLASS: “Being Mortal”

*READING RESPONSE #11 DUE

Tuesday, October 27th

*READ: Carl May, “Disclosure of Terminal Prognoses in a General Hospital: The Nurse’s View.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 1993 18: 1362-68.

*READ: Carl May, “’To Call it Work Somehow Demeans it’: The Social Construction of Talk in the Care of Terminally Ill Patients.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 1995 22: 556-61.

*READING RESPONSE #12 DUE

Friday, October 30th

*WATCH: “The Undertaking”

*READ: Spencer Cahill, “Emotional Capital and Professional Socialization: The Case of Mortuary Science Students (and Me).” Social Psychology Quarterly 1999 62(2): 101-16.

*READ: William E. Thompson, “Handling the Stigma of Handling the Dead: Morticians and Funeral Directors.” Pp. 139-55 in The Practical Skeptic. Edited by Lisa J. McIntyre. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

*READING RESPONSE #13 DUE

Tuesday, November 3rd

*READ: Martha R Jacobs, “What are We Doing Here: Chaplains in Contemporary Health Care.” Hastings Center Report 2008 38(6).

*READ: Raymond de Vries, Nancy Berlinger, and Wendy Cadge, “Lost in Translation: Using Sociology to Help Define Chaplaincy’s Role in Health Care.” Hastings Center Report 2008 38(6).

*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 #14 DUE

Friday, November 6th

*DO: Interview someone who works with the dying and/or the dead. *Click here for specifics.

*READING RESPONSE #15 DUE.

Tuesday, November 10th / Friday, November 13th

No class – I will be away

RELIGIOUS INTERPRETATIONS OF DEATH & DYING

Tuesday, November 17th

Oral presentations about:

  • Islam
  • Atheism

Friday, November 20th

Oral presentations about:

  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism

Tuesday, November 24th

Oral presentations about:

  • Judaism
  • Christianity

Friday, November 27th

No class – Thanksgiving break

REAFFIRMING LIFE IN THE FACE OF DEATH

Tuesday, December 1st

*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”

Friday, December 4th

*READ: Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie. Finish book.

*WATCH IN CLASS: 

Tuesday, December 8th

*READ: Rabbi David Thomas, “A Life of Meaning and Purpose.” Sermon given at Congregation Beth El of Sudbury, September 23, 2015.

*WATCH IN CLASS: “Sam Berns, My Philosophy for a Happy Life”

Friday, December 11th

*READ: Erica Brown, “Death: A Nice Opportunity for Regret.” New York Times, November 9, 2012.

*READ: Bronnie Ware, “Regrets of the Dying,” Inspiration and Chai blog, November 19, 2009.

*WATCH IN CLASS: “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech”

Tuesday, December 15th

Course wrap-up

Monday, December 21st

Final paper due via email.