Death in the Classroom

Writing about Love and Loss

By Jeffrey Berman

Subjects: Death And Dying, Composition And Rhetoric Studies, Literary Criticism, Teaching And Learning, English Education
Paperback : 9780791476321, 301 pages, January 2009
Hardcover : 9780791476314, 301 pages, January 2009

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Table of contents

1. Getting Started
2. Writing an Obituary
3. Writing a Eulogy
4. On Teaching the Book of Job—and Being Denounced as a“False Prophet”
5. Writing on Religion and Death
6. Cathy’s Letter to Her Deceased Mother in Wuthering Heights
7. A Problem with Another Student, and Evaluating the Evaluator
8. Ten Things to Do before I Die
9. Writing about Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide
10. Writing about Jeff’s Former Students in Empathic Teaching
11. A Teacher’s Self-Eulogy
Appendix A: “Helping or Harming Students?” Richard Bower
Appendix B: “Writing Has Saved My Life,” Breanna’s Story
Appendix C: “Literature, If Anything, Will Save Me,”Sara E. Murphy
Appendix D: English 226: Love and Loss in Literature and Life
Works Cited
Student Writers

Shows how death education can be brought from the healing professions to the literature classroom.


In Death in the Classroom, Jeffrey Berman writes about Love and Loss, the course that he designed and taught two years after his wife's death, in which he explored with his students the literature of bereavement. Berman, building on his previous courses that emphasized self-disclosing writing, shows how his students wrote about their own experiences with love and loss, how their writing affected classmates and teacher alike, and how writing about death can lead to educational and psychological breakthroughs. In an age in which eighty percent of Americans die not in their homes but in institutions, and in which, consequently, the living are separated from the dying, Death in the Classroom reveals how reading, writing, and speaking about death can play a vital role in a student's education.

Jeffrey Berman is Distinguished Teaching Professor of English at the University at Albany, State University of New York. His previous books include Dying to Teach: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Learning, also published by SUNY Press; Cutting and the Pedagogy of Self-Disclosure; Empathic Teaching: Education for Life; and Risky Writing: Self-Disclosure and Self-Transformation in the Classroom.


"…[an] inspired and inspiring book. " — Metapsychology

"This intensely personal, reflective work tackles emotionally charged subjects—love and loss—with sensitivity and grace … Engaging and provocative, this is a book for students and teachers of composition. " — CHOICE

"Death in the Classroom deals with an extremely important topic—our attitudes toward death and grieving and the possibility of helping students, through reading, writing, and classroom discussion, to reflect on death and grieving in their own and others' lives. I like the book's clarity and the vigor of its argument for death education in the university classroom. This is a book for teachers, especially teachers of literature and life writing who are committed to teaching literature from an ethical and experiential perspective, and it will also appeal to those interested in death education and attitudes toward death and dying, particularly in North America. " — Hilary Clark, editor of Depression and Narrative: Telling the Dark