Teaching my first-time First Year Experience class at the College of Charleston has been educational and eventful for me as well as the students, I hope.
my experiences writing two books about Charleston's venerable Victorian necropolis Magnolia Cemetery to craft a multi-disciplinary curriculum.
The "Holy City" of Charleston with its many churches and adjacent graveyards (many within walking distance of campus) was an ideal place to study death and all it involves from numerous perspectives: history, religion, sociology, psychology, anthropology, art, art history, medicine and more.
I am excited to again be going "Beyond the Grave" with CofC freshmen next school year.
The final question I put on my final exams is to ask the students what they learned in this class that asks"what old cemeteries tell and teach the living." Here are some of their responses (names withheld).
|Student explore St. Patrick's church graveyard|
"Graves and cemeteries teach the living so many things but overall it's the history of life that can be expressed through the art of graves."
"Life and death are very complex, convoluted and confusing topics to cover, but the sheer gist of it is the realization that we seemingly only have one chance at being remembered whether it be on a headstone or a heart."
|Fun can be had even at cemeteries!|
"I learned to blog all my explorations!"
"Gravesites show people in the present how people in the past grieved their lost loved ones. We can learn who the people were by the epitaph left behind for their legacy...Also that ghosts are probably real!"
|Tour of Charleston's Old City Jail|
"Maybe the students who have taken this course can walk away with this lesson: Death doesn't have to be avoided. Instead, cherish the remembrance of your loved one by carrying on the 'old' tradition. Visit your loved ones after they pass and use it as a sacred time to bring the living together."
More on my course "Beyond the Grave: What Old Cemeteries Tell and Teach the Living" can be found on the class blog