Fall 2018
Sociology 366
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
E-mail: isilver@framingham.edu

COURSE DESCRIPTION:

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.

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 10:00am on the due date. I will only give credit for posts made on time. Your posts should have two parts:

  1. 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.
  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.

SERVICE LEARNING:

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.

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 — Part 1Part 2
25%       Paper

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY:

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, §§ 11H11I11J) 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

Course Introduction

*READ IN CLASS: Richard A. Kalish, “The Horse on the Dining Room Table”

Monday, September 10th

No class – Rosh Hashanah

Wednesday, September 12th

*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

Monday, September 17th

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

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

*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

*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.

*READ: Karen Brown, “This is Not the Good Death We Were Promised.” New York Times, January 6, 2018.

*READING RESPONSE #3 DUE

Wednesday, September 26th

*COMPLETE VOLUNTEER APPLICATION

Guest: Alyssa Neshe, Brookhaven Hospice

Monday, October 1st

*READ: Atul Gawande, “Letting Go.” New Yorker August 2, 2010.

*WATCH: FRONTLINE: “Being Mortal” (54:11)

*READING RESPONSE #4 DUE

PEOPLE WHO WORK WITH THE DYING AND THE DEAD

Wednesday, October 3rd

*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.

*READING RESPONSE #5 DUE

Monday, October 8th

No class – Columbus Day

Wednesday, October 10th

*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 #6 DUE

Monday, October 15th

*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 #7 DUE

Wednesday, October 17th

*READ: Jessica Mitford, “Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain.” In The American Way of Death. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963.

*READ: Thomas Lynch, Pp. 1-13 and 179-191 in The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade.  New York: W.W. Norton, 2009.

***Today’s class will be combined with Prof. Coyne’s Business Writing students.

Monday, October 22nd

*WATCH: FRONTLINE: “The Undertaking” (55:34)

*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 #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

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

*READING RESPONSE #10 DUE

Wednesday, October 31st

*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 #11 DUE

Monday, November 5th

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

*READING RESPONSE #12 DUE (See instructions here)

*WATCH IN CLASS: Lux Narayan, “What I learned from 2,000 obituaries” (6:08)

Wednesday, November 7th

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

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

*READING RESPONSE #13 DUE

Monday, November 12th

*No class – Veterans’ Day

SEARCHING FOR A MEANINGFUL LIFE

Wednesday, November 14th

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

*WATCH: Zach Sobiech, “My Last Days” (22:20)

*READING RESPONSE #14 DUE

*WATCH IN CLASS: Sam Berns, “My Philosophy for a Happy Life” (12:44)

Monday, November 19th

*READ: Kristin Wright, “Relationships with Death: The Terminally Ill Talk about Dying.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 2003 29(4): 439-454.

*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)

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

Oral presentations

Wednesday, December 5th

Oral presentations

Monday, December 10th

Oral presentations

Wednesday, December 12th

Wrap-up

Wednesday, December 19th

Final paper due via email.