Death, Dying, and the Afterlife (RELS 264)

Low-Stakes, Reflective, or "Writing to Learn" Activities Sample in Religious Studies 264

Written communication: Students will improve their writing skills by writing weekly papers discussing different religious perspectives on death, the afterlife, and issues relating to medical ethics. This class is a writing intensive class, so students will receive feedback on their weekly writing assignments both to improve their writing and to improve their knowledge of class concepts. The weekly assignments will build toward larger assignments; for example, the essay exams will ask students to integrate material from the homework assignments into longer synthetic essays. Furthermore, the themes raised in the self-reflection paper at the beginning of the class will be revisited in the final paper in a more elaborate and informed way.

Self-Reflection Paper (100 points)

2-3 pages

Due date:2/4

This should be a brief reflection on your own views of death, dying, and the afterlife and the cultural sources which shaped these. Before you begin to write this paper, look at the exercises in "Personal Reflections on Death, Grief and Cultural Diversity" (posted on Vista). As you work through these exercises, think about the messages you have learned about death, the afterlife, or both, in your own life so far. What was your first experience with death? What did you parents teach you about death? What did your religion teach you? What did other sources (friends, family, books, movies, etc.) teach you about death and the afterlife? Write an essay which talks about the way all these sources have contributed to your own understanding of death.

This essay will not be graded on content; I will be looking for (A) the extent to which you have really tried to reflect on what your own views of death; (B) the extent to which you have attempted to analyze the sources of your ideas and perspectives on death, whether those sources are your family, your religion, the media, or other sources; and (C) the overall structure and organization of the paper

Final Reflection Paper (200 points)

3-6 pages (Due May 20)

Because Annie Dillard's For the Time Being discusses theocracies from Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Chinese religion, this essay will serve as a chance not only to reflect on the book but also to reflect on the course as a whole and to bring together many of the themes we've discussed in class. Before writing this essay, you should look back over the "self-reflection" paper you wrote at the beginning of the semester and reflect on whether your understanding of death has changed over the course of this class. A more complete study guide and set of guidelines for this paper will be posted on Vista.