Beyond Literary Landscapes—Death and Dying

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column focuses on a literary theme, which may, at first glance, appear quite bleak.  However, as this is simply a natural process of life that we will all meet one day and have surely considered, it is also a theme that has naturally been contemplated by various authors countless times, in both literature and non-fiction.


Some well-known works that focus on the literary theme of death and dying include The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, and Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez.

Other examples include The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.


These works are set in Mexico, Colombia, Italy, Imperial Russia, as well as the United States.


These works take place during the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.


The theme of death and dying may be of interest to students who would like to contemplate existential themes in life, as well as those who would like to consider how the treatment of death is portrayed in various cultures and across various time periods.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to Death and Dying are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in this topic may consider ENGL 492: Research and Writing Projects in Literature, a senior-level, three-credit course, in which they “may wish to focus on a particular literary theme, idea, or theoretical problem.”  (Please note that ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays, as well as two senior-level English courses and the permission of the course coordinator are required prior to enrollment).  Happy reading!