• 2022 Term 3 (Aug-Sep)

Date & Time:

  • 2022 Term 3 (August-September). Classes meet Friday mornings 11:00am-1:00pm. Eight consecutive sessions per Term.

  • First class meets Friday 5 August 2022 (NZ time).

Time Zone equivalents:

  • Honolulu, Hawai’i: Thursdays 1:00-3:00 pm beginning 4 August 2022

  • US Pacific: Thursdays 4:00-6:00 pm beginning 4 August 2022

  • US Mountain: Thursdays 5:00-7:00 pm beginning 4 August 2022

  • US Central: Thursdays 6:00-8:00 pm beginning 4 August 2022

  • US Eastern: Thursdays 7:00-9:00 pm beginning 4 August 2022

  • London, UK: Fridays 12:00-2:00am beginning 5 August

  • New Delhi, India: Fridays 4:30-6:30am beginning 5 August 2022

  • Bangkok, Thailand: Fridays 6:00-8:00am beginning 5 August 2022

  • Singapore: Fridays 7:00-9:00am beginning 5 August 2022

  • Sydney, Australia: Fridays 9:00-11:00 am beginning 5 August 2022


  • Sex used to be the great taboo. Up until the modern era, open talk related to the subject of sexuality was actively frowned upon. The subject of death, however was freely canvased. This situation has now been reversed. Death has become for modern men and women the new taboo, spoken of in hushed terms, if at all, kept concealed behind closed doors and largely unacknowledged.

  • However, recently this trend has been challenged. More and more people are wanting to speak openly about the subject of death. Indeed so pressing has become the need, that within the last few years a new ‘strange’ global phenomena has occurred that has seen the emergence of what are called “Death Cafes.” These “cafes” are simply pop-up meeting places where small groups of people gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss the topic of death. Death has at last come out of the closet.

  • This series of eight talks, from our Selected Topics in History series, explores, historically, the subject of death from the perspective of several different disciplines: religion (both traditional and contemporary), philosophy, art, literature, music and film.

Week 1: Introduction–Overview and sociological perspective

What social/political/intellectual factors were and are at play that has moulded our relation to the topic of death. Historically, how has religion evolved and provided comfort in response to death. We will examine historical examples from Neanderthal man up to and including Christian thinking and everything in between.
 Introduction–Overview and sociological perspective

Week 2: Contemporary theological thought

Why has there come about a shift in religious thinking in the modern age with regard to death. What has happened to Heaven and Hell? The liberal/Fundamentalist culture wars.
Contemporary theological thought

Week 3: Western Philosophical Traditions of Death

An examination of the western philosophical tradition beginning with Socrates and ending in the postmodern era with thinkers like Richard Rorty and Jacque Derrida. Why have philosophers gone quiet on the subject of mortality?
Western Philosophical Traditions of Death

Week 4: Art and Death

A look at how art has represented death over the millenniums, beginning with cave art and tracing its history through all the permutations that take in Michelangelo, Munch, Picasso, Dali, Damien Hurst, and many others with their various and different depictions and reactions to death.
Art and Death

Week 5: Literature and Death

Beginning with the oldest piece of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, we trace the story of how authors have confronted death. Among many works, we will be looking at The Egyptian Book of the Dead, Homer’s Odyssey, the book of Ecclesiastes, the Bhagavad Gita, Plato’s Phaedo, Virgil’s Aeneid, the New Testament, Dante’s Divine Comedy, along with authors such as Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth, Arnold, Tolstoy, Hardy, Joyce, Faulkner, Camus, Beckett, DeLillo, Crace, Robinson, Roth and Max Porter. What light do such a diverse range of writers shed on the topic of death?
Literature and Death

Week 6: Music and Death

Music over the centuries has played a large part in expressing an emotional response to the experience of death. This lecture will explore various musical genres from classical to pop, from Beethoven and Shostakovich to Bob Dylan, and from Jazz to Blues and Rock to track not only the changing forms of musical expression but also the shifts in belief reflected in the music.
Music and Death

Week 7: Film and Death

One of the most important cultural influences of the last century would be the advent of film. Beginning with the movie The Phantom Carriage (1921), we will explore this media to see how directors have tackled the subject of death and how that has changed over the decades. Included in our examination will be Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Vincent Ward’s What Dreams May Come, and Roy Anderson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, among others.
Film and Death

Week 8:

A summation of things. What is there left over in our somewhat denuded secular culture to help deal with the tragic? Has the rot set completely in? Can other cultural perspectives add value – Buddhist, Hindu, Maori, neo-pagan, New Age? The return to the stoic virtues?
week 8

Meet our Instructor:

History, Literature & Philosophy Instructor Peter Dornauf, MA Dip Tchg

Peter Dornauf has taught in secondary schools, Wintec and Waikato University collectively for over 25 years. He is a well know Waikato artist, art critic and a writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. His book “Days of Our Deaths” serves as the basis for one of Peter’s other popular EarthDiverse courses, “A Cultural History of Death.” Peter also teaches our “The Spiritual in Modern Art” course and continues to develop additional EarthDiverse courses for future Terms.


All in-person classes are held at the EarthDiverse offices and classrooms located at 401 Anglesea Street, Hamilton Central, Hamilton (located just north of the Hamilton Central Bus Station) (entrance is located on the side of the building, see map below). Those looking for parking for our evening classes can park just in front of the building in any of the available car parks. Daytime parking can be found in our dedicated car parks, or free 2-hour on-street daytime parking can be found just in front of Anglesea Street.

Distance Learning:

This course has distance-learning options for those unable to attend the live class sessions in Hamilton. Students have three options for attending our courses once they have registered:

  • Attend in-person classes in our Hamilton classrooms at the regularly scheduled day and time.

  • Attend our live on-line classroom sessions via Zoom at the regular scheduled day and time.

  • Watch the live-recorded class sessions at your leisure, at a time, day and place more suited to your schedule.

Distance-Learning option:

  • In addition to our in-person classes in Hamilton, our courses offer distance learning options for those unable to attend classes in-person. Live-streamed Hamilton classes are available via free Zoom software for those living outside the Waikato. Live-streaming allows you to participate fully in your own learning, ask questions of the instructor and participate fully in the same way as if you were in the physical classroom.

  • Those unable to attend the scheduled date and time of the actual class sessions, or those who need to miss a class or two due to previous engagements or unexpected illness, can watch any or all of the live-recorded video sessions on their computers, laptops, tablets or mobile devices and study at their own pace and in their own time.

  • Detailed instructions on how to access our distance learning components will be sent after completing your registration. There are no additional fees for this service. However, distance learners will need access to a desktop or laptop computer with a good quality web-camera (tablet devices and mobile phones can also access our live-streamed classes), a built-in microphone (most modern laptops have built-in microphones) or a headset with a microphone. You will also need to download and install the free Zoom software on your computer or device. Those accessing the video recordings will be able to do so with a simple web browser on any device.

Pricing options:

All prices in New Zealand Dollars


  • Detailed Syllabi are available at the start of each Term.

  • Any Term can be taken independently of the others, and there are no prerequisites for any of the Term courses.

  • This class has no assignments, required readings, quizzes, tests or exams.

  • All classes encourage questions and group discussion.

  • PDF copies of each class presentation are emailed to all participants the next day so that you are free to focus on class content rather than taking notes. You are most welcome to come, sit back, relax, take part in and enjoy the discussions!

  • Course fees include a short tea/coffee/snack break in the middle of each session.

  • There are no refunds for missed classes.

  • Guests of registered participants are welcome to attend a single class at no charge.

  • Certificates of Completion for any particular Term Course or Series are available for Professional Development purposes upon request at the end of each Term or Series.


  • PDF copies of each class presentation are emailed to all participants the next day so that you are free to focus on class content rather than taking notes. You are most welcome to come, sit back, relax, take part in and enjoy the discussions!


  • There are no prerequisites for this course.


  • "A Cultural History of Death course has helped me answer many questions. Having been brought up in a Christian family and gone to a Christian school in Kenya, a big part of me is religious. However, I have questioned a lot about life after death and Heaven. Death is not new to me because from an early age I have experienced the deaths of my siblings and some really close relatives. My father’s death is what changed my life completely as I started questioning why my father had to die so young while he did everything right as per the teachings of God. After my father‘s death I have looked at death differently and this course has helped me understand and put a lot of things into perspective. It has also helped me understand how one can transition peacefully. I have also been able to relate with all the conversations I had with my Mum and grandfather before they died." —Amondi Ouko-Mowbray (Tauranga, Jan 2021)

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