Sociology 248 -- Sociology of Dying, Death, and Bereavement

TTh 9:35-11:00
Michael R. Leming, Professor
Spring 1998

Class Related Links

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Course Assignments (Syllabus) Discussion Questions

Short Projects


I. Purpose of the Course:

The sociologist, among other things, is concerned with the maintenance of social order upon which society is built. The social order of any society is brought into question whenever humans experience marginal situations or life crises in their lives. According to Peter Berger (1967), death is the marginal situation par excellence. Berger (1967) states that:

Witnessing the death of others (notably, of course, of significant others) and anticipating his own death, the individual is strongly propelled to question the ad hoc cognitive and normative operating procedure of his "normal" life in society. Death presents society with a formidable problem not only because of its obvious threat to the continuity of human relationships, but because it threatens the basic assumptions of order on which society rests.

In this class we will attempt to investigate the phenomenon of death as it relates to the social structure of selected cultures. We will try to gain an understanding into the patterns of social interaction which surround the phenomenon of death and which give meaning to it. Finally, we will concern ourselves with the various aspects or facets of death as humans define them and with the plans of action which they develop to guide them as they confront death.

While this course will have an interdisciplinary flavor as we review some of the literature created by psychologists, anthropologists, social workers, and medical practitioners, the primary emphasis of the class will be sociological.

II. The Classroom:

The class will consist of lectures, discussions, field trips, films, and tests. Your attendance is requested at the times the class meets. Attendance will be taken and grades will be lowered one letter grade for each absence above three (eg., If you earned an A in the course and were absent 4 times, you would receive an A-.). Ideas, comments, questions, and disagreements are welcomed in class, during lectures, and in discussions. Student participation in class is expected and therefore will be subjectively evaluated on borderline cases.

III. Grading and Student Evaluation:

Grades will be based upon your performance on the three exams (300 points), and two short projects (100 points). Grades will be assigned in the following manner:

                A = 91%         C = 71% 
                A-= 90%         C-= 70% 
                B+= 89%         D+= 69% 
                B = 81%         D = 61%    
                B-= 80          D-= 60%
                C+= 79%         F = 59% 

Class participation will be taken into account in border-line situations.


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