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RLM4140 - Confronting death through Ceremony and Symbol: a cross-cultural analysis

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Tamara Prosic


Clayton Second semester 2008 (Day)


The unit explores the ways in which different cultures confront the experience of death through metaphor, ritual, and symbolic association, and the ways in which they memorialize the dead. It considers the nature of beliefs about life, death and the hereafter; funerary rituals and strategies for body disposal; the physical and symbolic boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead; the perceived impact of the dead on the affairs of the living; the dying process as a public or private event; taboos about dying and death in everyday discourse and the language used regarding death; death in myths. Examples will be drawn from major religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism), ancient Mediterranean cultures, and modern secular societies, including contemporary Australia.


Upon successful completion of this unit students will:

  1. Gain familiarity and be conversant with the main conceptions and ritualisation of death and symbolic themes in a range of different cultures and societies.
  2. Reflect critically on the influence particular death ethos has on the conduct of the living.
  3. Understand the nature and the social function of death related practices.
  4. Develop a capacity to understand, analyse and contextualise the symbolic language of death.
  5. Research and complete a research essay that considers the process of memory and ceremony in relation to the dead, within a specific cultural situation.


Tutorial presentation (2000 words) : 20%
Bibliographical review (1000 words) : 10%
Research essay (6000 words) : 70%


RLT4140, RLM5140

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