Sociology of Death and Dying Syllabus
Sociology of Death & Dying
Soc 320 -
Sociology of Death - chapman.edu
R327 Sociology of Death and Dying - IUPUI
This course examines inevitable and salient features of the human condition. Historical
evaluation of images and attitudes toward death, the medicalization of death, the human
consequences of high-tech dying, the role of the family in caring for dying loved ones,
the emergence and role of hospices, the social roles of funerals, grief and bereavement,
euthanasia and suicide, the worlds of dying children and grieving parents, and genocide
are major issues that are addressed. Two of the major themes of the course revolve around
the idea that the way we die is a reflection of the way we live; and, that the study of
dying and death is an important way of studying and affirming the value of life.
Study Questions: The sociology of death and dying - D. Moller
1) What does the life and death experience of Kirk Baines suggest about the problem of
meaning in life and dying in American culture?
2) In what ways does the experience of Kirk Baines reflect the vision of Tolstoy regarding
the meaningfulness of modern dying? How is the epiphany of Kirk Baines similar and
dissimilar to that of Ivan Illich?
3) What are the salient differences between traditional and modern forms of dying?
4) Why has modern dying become so difficult?
5) What social factors underlie the rejection of the medicalized model of death?
6) How has the thanatology revolution changed the pattern of medicalized death?
7) Has the thanatology, hospice, and palliative care movement resulted in personal, moral,
and cultural peace with dying?
Sociology of Death & Grief, Soc 330-01 - Professor Roseanne Martorella
- William Paterson College, Wayne NJ
- Acquaint students with the sociological perspective in the area of death and grief;
- Explore our own attitudes toward death and dying;
- Understand the effects of society on dying behavior and grief;
- Understand how the dying individual is affected by his family, friends, and the
medical and nursing professions;
- Analyze the effect of bureaucratic settings (hospitals, old age homes, etc.) on the
behavior of the dying individual, his family and the service workers in the organization;
- Examine the ethical issues surrounding death and dying in contemporary American
The Last Dance: Encountering Death & Dying, 3rd edition, by DeSpelder and Strickland.
Palo Alto, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, l992.
Death in the Midst of Life. by Jack Kamerman. New York: Prentice Hall, l988.
Lesson I - General Introduction
Lesson II - Cemetery Report
Lesson III - THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE
Film - "Death"
Lesson IV - CROSS-CULTURAL/HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON DEATH, LAST RITES AND BURIAL CUSTOMS
Lesson V - Slide Presentation of "King Tut"
Lesson VI - PERSONAL ATTITUDES AND REACTIONS
Lesson VII - GRIEF & BEREAVEMENT
Lesson VIII - Films: "Time to Mourn and Choose" and "Grief"
Lesson IX - DEATH IN CHILDREN'S LIVES (cognitive awareness of death; stages; loss of pets)
Films: "Childhood Cancer,"
"When Children Grieve"
Lesson X - SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND DEATH
Visit funeral home
Lesson XI - HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS
Lesson XII - STAGES OF DYING
On Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross
Film: "To Live Until you Die," featuring Dr. Kubler-Ross
Lesson XIII - MOURNING, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE
Film presentation of "Gramps"
Lesson XIV - SUICIDE
Lesson XV - MEDICAL ETHICS AND DEATH & DYING
Film presentation: "Who's Life Is It Anyway"
SOC 320 - Sociology of Death
1. Bernard McGrane - The Un-TV and the 10 MPH Car
2. Inge Bell - This Book Is Not Required (Revised Edition)
3. Leo Tolstoy - The Death of Ivan Ilich
4. Simone de Beauvoir - A Very Easy Death
5. John James and Russell Friedman - The Grief Recovery Handbook (Revised Edition)
6. Mitch Alben - Tuesdays with Morrie
7. Philippe Aries - Western Attitudes Towards Death
8. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross - On Death and Dying
9. Ernest Becker - The Denial of Death
10. Stephen Levine - Who Dies
11. Raymond Moody - Life After Life
12. Carlos Castaneda - Journey to Ixtlan
13. Sogyal Rinpoche - The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying
14. Reader: "Bardo"
1. Philippe Aries - The Hour of Our Death
2. Michel Foucault - Madness and Civilization
3. Norbert Elias - The Loneliness of Dying
4. R. Kastenbaum - Death, Society and Human Experience: Is There Life After Death
5. Jacques Choron - Death and Western Thought
6. Richard Selzer - Mortal Lessons
7. Audrey Gordon - They Need to Know, How to Teach Children About Death
8. Philip Kapleau - The Wheel of Death
9. Da Free John - Easy Death
10. Trungpa and Freemantle - The Tibetan Book of the Dead
11. Herman Feifel - The Meaning of Death
12. Edwin Schneidman - Voices of Death
13. George Bataille - Death and Sensuality
14. Colin Wilson - Afterlife
15. Avery Weisman - The Coping Capacity
16. Joel Whitton - Life Between Life
17. Stephen Levine - Healing Into Life and Death
18. John Robbins - Diet for a New America
19. P. Sargent, I. Watson - Afterlives
20. Marie-Louise von Franz - On Dreams and Death
21. Robert Bosnak - A Little Course in Dreams
How do humans learn of death (a philosophical-epistemological question and also a
psychological question of child development)? What is death? Is it a natural phenomenon or
does it require explanation in non-natural terms ? What does the history of death, of the
idea of death, look like?
How has contemporary society provided us with a framework to ignore death? How has it
trained us to cultivate a fantasy mentality, a perpetual forgetfulness towards the
realities of old age, death and dying. When and how did death become denied and repressed?
Is it possible to re-discover the ordinariness of death?
Are there significant variations in the experience and interpretation of death
from epoch to epoch (an historical question), from culture to culture (an anthropological
question)? What specific social conditions tend to heighten the awareness of death? The
denial of death? The fear of death? The ordinariness of death? How has death-related
behavior, mourning customs, burial rites (burying, burning, embalming, etc.) changed
Tolstoy - Death of Ivan Illich
Rinpoche - The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying
James and Friedman - The Grief Recovery Handbook
Kapleau - Wheel of Death
Mark and Dan Jury - Gramps, A Man Ages and Dies
Film - Ikiru, Interview with Morrie Schwartz
Kubler-Ross, On Death & Dying (entire)
Aries - Western Attitudes Towards Death (entire);
Becker, The Denial of Death
McGrane, The Un-TV
"Bardo" - Becker's Death Bed Interviews
"Bardo" - Animals, Death, Diet and Ethics
Sogyal Rinpoche - The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying
Stephen Levine - Who Dies
Raymond Moody - Life After Life
Carlos Castaneda - Journey to Ixtlan
"Bardo" - The Wisdom of the West and the Wisdom of the East
Recommended reading: The American Way of Death
COURSE READER: Sociology of Death - "Bardo"
1) Blaise Pascal - Man's Disproportion (from Pascal's Pensees)
2) M. Montaigne - That to Philosophize Is to Learn to Die (from Essays)
3) James Dickey - Falling
4) Fydor Dostoevsky - Death as a Certainty (from The Idiot)
5) Jean Paul Sartre - The Wall
6) Aldous Huxley - Death Scene (from Island)
7) B. Malinowski - Death and the Reintegration of the Group
8) S. Freud - Our Attitude Towards Death
9) On Heidegger's analysis of Death and Dasein:
(a) Alan Paskow - The Meaning of My Own Death
(b) William Smoot - The Social Dimension of Death Anxiety
(c) Kenneth Bryson - Being and Human Death
10) Richard Selzer - The Corpse
(from Mortal Lessons, Notes on the Art of Surgery)
11) Sallie Tisdale - The Sacred and the Dead
12) (a) Kubler-Ross - Talks with Students at Laguna Beach
(b) Kubler-Ross - Playboy Interview on Near Death Experiences
(c) R. Rosenbaum - Critique of Kubler-Ross: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Dead
13) Ernest Becker and Sam Keen - Death Bed Interview
14) The Wisdom of the West (from Great Books of the Western World)
(a) Life and Death
15) The Wisdom of the East
(a) Philip Kapleau - The Wheel of Death
(b) Judith Lief - On the Tibetan Book of the Dead
(c) Antonio Wood - Matters of Life and Death
(d) Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche - Karma and Rebirth; On the Tibetan Book of the Dead:
Guiding the Dead
(e) Da Free John - Easy Death
(f) Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche - The Tibetan Book of the Dead
16) Animals, Death and Diet
(a) John Robbins - Diet for a New America (sections)
(b) Peter Singer - Ethics and Animals
(c) Harriet Schleifer - Images of Death in Life
17) Orange county: The Cost of Leaving Chart
18) Donald Richie - IKIRU (from The Films of Akira Kurosawa)
19) S. Weimer, F. Lu - IKIRU and personal transformation