Pub. Date:
Taylor & Francis
Death Education in the Writing Classroom / Edition 1

Death Education in the Writing Classroom / Edition 1

by Jeffrey Berman


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Death is often encountered in English courses—Hamlet’s death, celebrity death, death from the terrorist attacks on 9/11—but students rarely have the opportunity to write about their own experiences with death. In Death Education in the Writing Classroom, Jeffrey Berman shows how college students can write safely about dying, death, and bereavement. The book is based on an undergraduate course on love and loss that Berman taught at the University at Albany in 2008. Part 1, “Diaries,” is organized around Berman’s diary entries written immediately after each class. These entries provide a week-by-week glimpse of class discussions, highlighting his students’ writings and their developing bonds with classmates and teacher. Part 2, "Breakthroughs," focuses on several students’ important educational and psychological discoveries in their understanding of love and loss. The student writings touch on many aspects of death education, including disenfranchised grief. The book explores how students write about not only mourning and loss but also depression, cutting, and abortion—topics that occupy the ambiguous border of death-in-life.

Death Education in the Writing Classroom is the first book to demonstrate how love and loss can be taught in a college writing class—and the first to describe the week-by-week changes in students’ cognitive and affective responses to death. This interdisciplinary book will be of interest to writing teachers, students, clinicians, and bereavement counselors.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780895034281
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Publication date: 09/01/2011
Series: Death, Value and Meaning Series
Pages: 254
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Jeffrey Berman is Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University at Albany. He received his Ph.D. in English at Cornell University in 1971 and served as a research scholar at the Training Institute of the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis in New York City from 1980 to 1983. Berman is the recipient of the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching and Advising and the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, and he is listed in the Dictionary of International Biography, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in American Education, and Who's Who Among America's Teachers. He is the author of twelve books and more than 100 book chapters, articles, and reviews. He has also served as Series Editor for Literature and Psychoanalysis, published by New York University Press. Berman's books and articles on teaching have been featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed and on National Public Radio. As a result of the death of his wife, Barbara, in 2004, he has focused his teaching, lecturing, and writing on death education, including, most recently, Dying to Teach: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Learning (SUNY Press, 2007), Death in the Classroom: Writing about Love and Loss (SUNY Press, 2009), and Companionship in Grief: Love and Loss in the Memoirs of C.S. Lewis, John Bayley, Donald Hall, Joan Didion, and Calvin Trillin (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010). He lives in Albany, New York, with his cherished companion, Julie.

Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION: “Life Lessons”

PART 1: Diaries

CHAPTER 1—Week One
“Nervous Undergraduates Avoiding Eye Contact”

CHAPTER 2—Week Two
“Hearing It Made His Death More Real”

CHAPTER 3—Week Three
“She Helped Me Say What I Could Not Say Myself”

CHAPTER 4—Week Four
“There’s Too Much Covering Up of Grief in America”

CHAPTER 5—Week Five
“We’re Going to Die”

CHAPTER 6—Week Six
“Thinking Like a Writer”

CHAPTER 7—Week Seven
“I’m Sorry, I Understand”

CHAPTER 8—Week Eight
“Sometimes I Feel Like an Outsider in This Class”

CHAPTER 9—Week Nine
“I Felt As If I Were Reliving that Day”

CHAPTER 10—Week Ten
“There Is No Preparation for a Sight of Death”

CHAPTER 11—Week Eleven
“I Love You Too Much”

CHAPTER 12—Week Twelve
“We’re Taking Risks in a Safe Place”

CHAPTER 13—Week Thirteen
“Write As If You Were Dying”

CHAPTER 14—Week Fourteen
“I Used to Cry in the Middle of the Night and Contemplate Suicide”

CHAPTER 15—Week Fifteen
“I Am Not Alone in This Battle”

PART 2: Breakthroughs

CHAPTER 16—Chipo
“I Have to Turn My Shattered Reality into a Livable Dream”

“Instead of Minimizing My Struggles, I Wrote about Them”

CHAPTER 18—Shannon
“It’s Hard for Me to Express Emotion”

CHAPTER 19—Faith
“If I Could Not Write, I Would Not Survive”

CHAPTER 20—Anonymous
“I Will Always Remember My Unborn Baby”

Conclusion: Reading Dying to Teach
Appendix: Syllabus for English 450: Writing about Love and Loss
Student Writers

What People are Saying About This

David E. Balk

Death Education in the Writing Classroom is an emotionally riveting, intellectually stimulating, profound contribution to death education, from a wise, reflective teacher. (David E. Balk, Professor and Director, Graduate Studies in Thanatology, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York)

Norman N. Holland

In an outstanding series of books, Jeff Berman has taught the rest of us how one can teach writing by teaching life. He shows us how to address issues wrenchingly real to our students but usually left at the classroom door: love and the failures of love, divorce, trauma, therapy, cutting, abortion, and parenting. Now, he has written the first book to combine the teaching of writing with students' week-by-week feelings toward death. It is an extraordinary read. (Norman N. Holland, Marston-Milbauer Eminent Scholar Emeritus, University of Florida)

Gerry R. Cox

This book should provide the courage for others to teach death education in the writing classroom. The growth and development of Berman's students are dramatic. Their thinking, sharing of feelings, writing skills, and understanding of their own feelings and experiences are clearly improved throughout the course. Death Education in the Writing Classroom is a powerful, fulfilling book to read. The students themselves clearly attest to the value of the book and its use in the course. As an educator, I found many invaluable teaching tips. This is an excellent book that should set a standard for the field of death education in writing classes. The experiences of the instructor/author provide superb insights on teaching and learning. (Dr. Gerry R. Cox, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Center for Death Education & Bioethics, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)

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