In this five-part seminar with Tessa Fontaine, we'll explore notions of death and dying around the world, drawing from biology, philosophy, and beyond.
Death is taboo, private, mysterious. Most of us don’t know exactly what happens to the body as it’s dying, or after it’s dead, or how to try to connect with those who are gone. In this online course, we’ll take an inquisitive and interdisciplinary approach to thinking about death and dying, incorporating medical science, philosophy, and personal curiosity. We’ll learn about unusual practices in rituals surrounding dying, death, and mourning, and draw upon materials and experts in all kinds of death-related fields, from death doulas and morticians to scientists who use flesh-eating beetles to clean carcasses. Each week will include some outside materials, in-class discussions, and occasional creative prompts to get us thinking about death in new ways. We’ll investigate not only what happens to the dying and dead, but also what happens to the living as we come to think deeply about the other side.
Syllabus at a Glance
There are five total sessions included in this purchase, each lasting for 1.5 hours on five consecutive Thursdays beginning October 22.
Session 1 (Thursday, 10/22, 7–8:30 PM ET): What does it mean to be dead?
Session 2 (Thursday, 10/29, 7–8:30 PM ET): The dying process
Session 3 (Thursday, 11/5, 7–8:30 PM ET): Death in the wild
Session 4 (Thursday, 11/12, 7–8:30 PM ET): The death industry
Session 5 (Thursday, 11/19, 7–8:30 PM ET): What happens to the living?
Atlas Obscura Online Courses
Our online courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. Courses can take one of two forms: Seminars are intimate, interactive classes—capped at nine to 20 students—exploring topics and crafts through discussion, workshops, assignments, and in-class activities. We also offer lecture series that can be attended live, or viewed a time that works for you for up to one week after they’ve aired.
To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit www.atlasobscura.com/online-courses.
Once registered, you can access the Zoom room for this experience through your confirmation email or Eventbrite account.
Tessa Fontaine is the author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, a New York Times Editors' Choice, finalist for the Utah Book Award, and best book of 2018 from Southern Living, Amazon Editors, Refinery29, PopMatters, and the New York Post. Tessa spent the 2013 season performing with the last American traveling circus sideshow, the World of Wonders. Raised outside San Francisco, Tessa has spent time in West Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States, most recently in a 1982 camper van named Flipper that has been passed down through women in her family. She has taught in prisons and jails, led educational programs for New York Times Student Journeys, designed Experiences and Trips for Atlas Obscura, and founded Salt Lake City’s Writers in the Schools program. Around the country, she has performed her one-woman plays in theatres ranging from New York to San Francisco. These days, Tessa lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she teaches at Warren Wilson College.
This is an interactive, small-group, seminar-style course that will meet on Thursday nights over Zoom. Students will be invited to participate in discussion and receive feedback from the course instructor.
Each week, students should come to class open to discussing death and dying. There will be a few reading and writing assignments outside of class. (PDFs will be provided.)
There are 20 spots available on this experience.
Students must be 16+