Summer 2011
SCP 458.201 Death and Dying
MTWR 2:45 4:45

Mary Ann Drake, Ph. D.
Phone: Office (301-5616) Home (477-4399) e-mail
Home Page:
Office Hours:
         Calendar of Events       Policies and Grades                     Link to Blackboard          


A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis ISBN:0-553-27486-4
The Death of Ivan Illyich
, Tolstoy ISBN 0-451-52508-6
On Death and Dying,
Kubler-Ross ISBN: 13:0-684-83938-7
Annie Freemanís Fabulous Traveling Funeral,
Kris Radish, ISBN: 0-553-38264-0
As I Lay Dying by Faulkner ISBN:0-679-73225-X      


The theme of this Senior Capstone course is Death and Dying. This course is designed to be participatory and full participation (attendance, completing assignments, going on field trips, being prepared for discussions) is expected. Because of the sensitive nature of the material, there may be intense emotional energy present at different times. Respectful, sensitive, and courteous behavior is expected from students at all times. Why do we study death and dying? The first and foremost reason is so that we can live full and meaningful lives. Another reason is that since death is part of life, we are all faced with the loss of loved ones at one time or another. It is                  important for them and for us to participate in the process of their illness and or dying as meaningfully as possible. In days gone by, death and birth occurred in the home and were part of the family process. Now, with modern technology, birth and death have been removed from the intimacy of the family and home to happen in the sterile confines of hospitals and funeral parlors. Many of us are unfamiliar with the processes of death and dying and are frightened.

Because of our fears, we have made no decisions for ourselves or helped our loved ones make theirs. "It is depressing, let's not talk about it now." That is the familiar response to questions of wills, funerals, cremations, rituals, etc. Hopefully, after completing this course death will lose some of its fear either for yourself or a loved one, so that you will be able to provide love and support in the most honorable and loving way for you. We cannot live without death; we must learn to live with it and because of it.

PREREQUISITES: Senior standing or permission of the professor.


Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
                  Reflect on the meaning and nature of death and dying in our society.
                  Describe the processes and procedures one encounters between
                  death and burial or cremation.
                  Describe several emotional responses to death and dying as seen in
                  literature and in everyday life.
                  Perhaps live a fuller life in not being so afraid of death.


 Attendance: Attendance is critically important since what you say and what your classmates say is part of the "text" for the course. More than three absences will affect your grade.

 Critical Book Reviews: Students will write five book reviews. Each review consists of four equal parts:

                  1. A brief synopsis of the events that occur in the text.
                  2. A description of how characters respond or how the main character responds to the  
                       the issue of death.
                  3. A critical interpretation of how the text illuminates the issues of
                  death and dying in relation to the individual, the community, and society.
                  4. Reflections on how the text relates to the discussions in class and to you.

                  Note: Missing a book review constitutes an F in the class

                  Each book review is to be three to four pages, typed, double spaced,
                  standard margins, stapled, and well cited.
                  I do not accept papers electronically.
                  I do not accept unpaginated papers.
                  I do not accept papers with no citations or substantiation.
                  I do not accept papers without paper clips or staples. 
                  No late reviews!

Additional Writing Assignments:

                   Each student writes an introductory essay, a will, an obituary, and a funeral service.                 

Book Discussion:

                  Book Discussions: Each student, either individually or with a partner will lead a
                  class discussion on one of the texts by Radish, Kubler-Ross, Lewis, Faulkner, and Tolstoy.

Religious Tradition Report:           

Each student, either individually or with a partner will inform the class, with thoughtfulness and thoroughness about another cultureís or religionís traditions regarding death.


                  Participation 20%
                  Book Reports 25%
                  Leading discussion 40% (20% each)
                  Will, funeral, obituary 15%  

                  NOTE: Three absences will result in an F  

                  I reserve the right to make appropriate pedagogical changes as I deem necessary.

It is the student's responsibility to read the Policies and Grading section of the syllabus. See link above or on Blackboard.