Aging and Death in Literature and Films
The purpose of this course is to examine the final two stages of life—old age and death—using a biopsychosocial perspective. We will study the social, emotional, and biomedical changes during these stages and try to better understand the American desire to live as long as possible while delaying death. Although we will examine real-life data on these topics, the focus of the course is to see how these biopsychosocial phenomena are represented in fiction, with emphasis on their presence in novels and popular film. The course is divided into several subsections. These will include “Theories of Aging and Death,” “Gender in Aging and Death,” “Physical and Cognitive Decline in Aging” and “Extending Life by Preventing Death.”
We will document real-life issues of aging and death through an examination of the age structures of developed and developing nations, focusing on the meaning of an aging population for the future of the U.S. As most deaths in the US occur in older people, it is important to link these two phenomena on both a theoretical and pragmatic bases. Keeping the themes of aging and death as constants over the semester, we will examine issues of retirement, relationships and love in late life and among the dying, off-time death, and modern medical intervention with dying patients. We will also discuss institutional differences (i.e., between nursing homes for aging and hospice for dying) and what twenty-first century America must do to prepare for the soon-to-be old and dying baby boomers. Students will each write a final research paper on a topic discussed during the class.
*Monday classes in the summer semester will begin on Wednesday, May 15, to accommodate the May 27 Memorial Day holiday.