Summer 2004

SCIE 624
The Psychology of Death and Dying

Anthony,Kelly A.

06/21/2004 - 06/25/2004
Monday-Friday 08:30 AM - 05:00 PM

Fisk Hall 412

This course will examine the final stage of life in terms of its psychological, biological/physiological, cognitive, emotional, legal, religious, and intellectual effects for both those dying and their loved ones. We will consider the psychological impact of knowing that one's self or a loved one is dying, we will study medical questions of the relationship between cognition and brain function in legally defining death, and we will explore the hospital industry that ultimately depends on, yet exists to prevent or at least delay, death.

This course is designed to expose you to some of the myriad ways both death and dying have been interpreted, treated, and studied in the physical sciences, literature, religion, film, visual art, and philosophy. We will read several books and articles, as well as see several films on the subject, and attempt to shine some light on these most mysterious (and most feared) stages of life; dying and actual death. Together we will explore questions, from how one ascertains the actual physiological moment of death, to how various cultures envision and approach death, to how we each might imagine (or choreograph) our own deaths, funerals, and aftermaths. We will place special emphasis on how people respond to and perceive death, and how such responses and perceptions are influenced by others and by culture-especially but not exclusively American culture. We will hear from professionals who work in the "business of death"-funeral directors, hospice care workers, and medical doctors specializing in end-of-life care.

Readings include: Derek Humphry, Freedom to Die and Final Exit; Kenneth Iserson, Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies; Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying; Thomas Lynch, The Undertaking; Jessica Mitford, The American Way of Death, Revisited; readings by prominent surgeon and author, Dr. Sherwyn Nuland; and readings from the extremely controversial Princeton ethicist, Peter Singer.

Students will be required to participate actively in the class, read all assigned texts in advance of the class, write response papers to all of the required texts in advance of the class, and write a final paper, due no later than July 16, 2004.

By petition, this course may count toward the social sciences concentration. Registration and withdrawal deadline: May 28, 2004.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Kelly Anthony (B.A. Rutgers University Camden; M.A., Ph.D. University of Houston) is a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Wesleyan University. Her research interests include applied social psychology with a special interest in cross-cultural issues of attribution and blame, political psychology, and women's studies. She was invited to present "Truly Evil or Simply Angry: Attributions regarding the World Trade Center Attackers" at the 2002 Annual Meeting of the New England Psychological Association.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Derek Humphry, JEAN'S WAY (Norris Lane Press), Paperback

Kenneth Iserson, DEATH TO DUST (Galen Press), Hardcover

Thomas Lynch, THE UNDERTAKING (Penguin USA), Paperback

Jessica Mitford, THE AMERICAN WAY OF DEATH (Vintage), Paperback

Sherwin Nuland, HOW WE DIE (Vintage), Paperback


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