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PDV 105 W — What Matters Most in Life: The Lessons We Can Learn from Dying

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Jul 12—Aug 20
Refund Deadline: Jul 15
Unit: 1
Tuition: $420
Instructor(s): Jason Silverstein
Limit: 55
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens May 17, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Jul 12—Aug 20
6 weeks
Refund Date
Jul 15
1 Unit
Jason Silverstein
Registration opens May 17, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Please note: This course has a different textbook than what appears in the print catalogue.

Poet and cancer survivor Christian Wiman wrote, “Death is here to teach us something, or to make us fit for something.” Indeed, no subject demands answers to the hard questions of life more than death: What kind of life is worth living? How should I cope with aging? How do I want this all to end, and how do I want to be remembered? This course searches for answers to these questions through a compassionate reading of authors who wrote about their experiences with death and dying. The core readings will be three books: Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Throughout this course, we will reflect on identity and the process of living with illness, grieving for others and ourselves, and how to care for others and honor their wishes. In thinking about death, we will think more clearly about what makes life meaningful, what and who we are grateful for, and what goals we ultimately want to set for ourselves. By the end of this course, students will have learned both philosophical and practical lessons about not only the good death but also the good life.

Lecturer and Writer-in-Residence, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Jason Silverstein is a regular contributor to Men's Health and VICE and has reported extensively on COVID-19. He has written about health and politics for The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among others. Silverstein received a PhD in anthropology from Harvard and an MTS in religion, ethics, and politics from Harvard Divinity School.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Paul Kalanithi, When Break Becomes Air (ISBN 9780812988406)
(Required) Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking (ISBN 9781400078431)
(Required) Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Ill ness Medicine and What Matters in the End (ISBN 9780805095159)