Death & Dying
Tuesday/Friday 12:30pm – 2:20pm
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 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.
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 7am on the due date. I will only give credit for posts made on time. Your posts should have two parts:
- 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.
- 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:
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.
CONFRONTING A TABOO SUBJECT
Friday, September 8th
*LISTEN IN CLASS: Amy Krouse Rosenthal, “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” (13:38)
Tuesday, 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
Friday, September 15th
*READING RESPONSE #2 DUE
*WATCH IN CLASS: Nancy Berns, “Beyond Closure” (17:24)
THE POSSIBILITY OF A GOOD DEATH
Tuesday, September 19th
No class – Prof. Silver needs to attend a funeral.
Friday, September 22nd
Guests: Michele Clayborn, Brookhaven Hospice
Tuesday, September 26th
*READING RESPONSE #3 DUE
Friday, September 29th
Guest: Alyssa Neshe, Brookhaven Hospice
Tuesday, October 3rd
*READING RESPONSE #4 DUE
PEOPLE WHO WORK WITH THE DYING AND THE DEAD
Friday, October 6th
*READING RESPONSE #5 DUE
Tuesday, October 10th
*READING RESPONSE #6 DUE
Friday, October 13th
*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
Tuesday, October 17th
*WATCH: FRONTLINE: “The Undertaking” (55:34)
*READING RESPONSE #8 DUE
Friday, October 20th
*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
Tuesday, October 24th
*READING RESPONSE #10 DUE
Friday, October 27th
*READING RESPONSE #11 DUE
Tuesday, October 31st
No class – class cancelled because of anti-racism protest
Friday, November 3rd
No class – class cancelled because of campus-wide power outage
Tuesday, November 7th
*READING RESPONSE #12 DUE (*See special instructions)
*WATCH IN CLASS: Lux Narayan, “What I learned from 2,000 obituaries” (6:08)
Friday, November 10th
*No class – Veterans’ Day
Tuesday, November 14th
*READING RESPONSE #13 DUE
Friday, November 17th
*READ: Choose TWO of the following poems.
— Dorianne Laux, “Cello” (second poem down, written on the first anniversary of Sept. 11)
*READING RESPONSE #14 DUE (*See specific instructions on Blackboard)
Guest presenter: Colleen Coyne, English Department
SEARCHING FOR A MEANINGFUL LIFE
Tuesday, November 21st
*WATCH: Zach Sobiech, “My Last Days” (22:20)
*READING RESPONSE #15 DUE
*WATCH IN CLASS: Sam Berns, “My Philosophy for a Happy Life” (12:44)
Friday, November 24th
*No class – Thanksgiving break
Tuesday, November 28th
*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
Friday, December 1st
*READ: Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie. Finish book.
*READING RESPONSE #17 DUE
*WATCH IN CLASS: Interview with Morrie Schwartz
Tuesday, December 5th
Friday, December 8th
Tuesday, December 12th
Friday, December 15th
Tuesday, December 19th
Final paper due via email.