Living, Dying, and the Quest for Meaning

Living, Dying, and the Quest for
Literature: Unit 1
Free Write for 10 minutes on what you think the
meaning of life is and where it originates from.
So what is the meaning of life and
where does it come from?
Solitary reflection
Political Activity
Scientific endeavors
Sources of meaning
So why is this unit called LIFE, DEATH,
and the Quest for meaning?
This is because during the lives of characters in
the novels we will read, they give us clues as to
what they considered to be important and give
their lives meaning. Furthermore, their deaths
can tell us quite a bit.
As we are reading, here are a few
things to keep in mind
*How do the characters in the different texts describe
death? Friend or enemy?
*What, if any, are the connections between the
characters’ attitudes towards death and the values they
recommended living by?
*How does the community help or hurt the individual
who seeks to face death or to make meaning of the
present moment?
*Are there things worth dying for? Worth killing for?
And finally….
*What is the meaning of life?
Unit 1 Literature
Dante’s Inferno
At the end of the Unit you will be taking a multiple choice test and turning in
a 2-3 page paper on one of the following topics:
1. Several of the works in this unit make us consider the reasons that people
hold certain beliefs. Choose at least two of these works and explore what
motivates people to have belief in the first place. What causes people to be
superstitious, religious, trusting? Are there innate human desires we wish to
2. People do not find life meaningful all by themselves. We human beings
learn to face life and death within communities that help us figure out what
we think about the world and how we will live in it. Select two or three works
and explore this questions. How do the characters’ communities assist and/or
hinder them in the process of forming values and beliefs? Or, what is the role
of the community in the process of dying? How do you evaluate the
relationship between these characters and their communities?
3. Most of you have recently seen a movie or a television show that concerns
themes similar to the ones we have been exploring in this unit. How does the
recent text deal with issues of death, or issues of meaning and value? How
does it compare with the texts we have explored in this unit? Select one or
two works from our unit and compare them with a contemporary work from
popular culture.