A Good Death

Series in which writers and thinkers ponder the art of dying and confront taboos around death.

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
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01Mary Beard2009033020100705

Death is the one subject we shy away from, and in our frantic obsession with prolonging our lives, the notion of 'a good death' seems to have lost its relevance.

Yet 'the art of dying' has been a defining notion throughout history.

Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge, explains how the Romans and Greeks approached death and asks whether scenes of showmanship, famous last words, and stoical endings really can help us when we come to face our own inevitable demise.

In these five frank and powerful essays, writers and thinkers ponder the art of dying, and confront taboos around death.

They will look at what makes a 'good death' today - is it merely having lived a good life, or is there something intrinsically important in dying well? And, now that our deaths tend to occur in the sterile surroundings of a hospital ward rather than at home surrounded by those we love, they will reflect on how this distancing from death, and loss of control over our demise, has changed our relationship with dying.

With references to the portrayal of death in literature, history and religion, as well as personal reflections on hopes and expectations of death, these essays will give five very different perspectives on the art of dying.

Mary Beard asks what the ancient Romans and Greeks can teach us about the art of dying.

They will look at what makes a 'good death' today - is it merely having lived a good life, or is there something intrinsically important in dying well? And, now that our deaths tend to occur in the sterile surroundings of a hospital ward rather than at home, surrounded by those we love, will reflect on how this distancing from death, and loss of control over our demise, has changed our relationship with dying.

During the week, we hear from:

Acclaimed author, Beryl Bainbridge, reflects on how the idea of death has influenced her life and work.

Philosopher, writer and broadcaster, Baroness Mary Warnock, looks at the Romantics' near obsession with death, and ponders the horrific implications of staying alive for ever.

Rabbi, author and social reformer, Baroness Julia Neuberger, reflects on her work with the dying, and on how the notion of a 'good death' varies across faiths and cultures.

Thomas Lynch, award-winning poet and working undertaker, reflects on friendship, ageing and death, through his poetry.

Mary Beard, professor of classics at Cambridge University, explains how the Romans and Greeks approached death and asks whether scenes of showmanship, famous last words and stoical endings really can help us when we come to face our own inevitable demise.

02Beryl Bainbridge2009033120100706

Death is the one subject we shy away from, and in our frantic obsession with prolonging our lives, the notion of 'a good death' seems to have lost its relevance.

Yet, the art of dying has been a defining notion throughout history.

In this throught-provoking essay distinguished writer Beryl Bainbridge looks back at how the notion of death has overshadowed her own life, from her wartime childhood to her adult brush with death, and reveals her hopes and expectations for her own demise.

In these five frank and powerful essays, writers and thinkers ponder the art of dying, and confront taboos around death.

They will look at what makes a 'good death' today - is it merely having lived a good life, or is there something intrinsically important in dying well? And, now that our own deaths tend to occur in the sterile surroundings of a hospital ward, rather than at home surrounded by those we love, will reflect on how this distancing from death, and loss of control over our demise, has changed our relationship with dying.

With references to the portrayal of death in literature, history and religion, as well as personal reflections on hopes and expectations of death, these essays will give five very different perspectives on the art of dying.

Celebrated writer Beryl Bainbridge on how the idea of death has shaped her life and work.

Writer Beryl Bainbridge looks back at how the notion of death has overshadowed her own life, from her wartime childhood to a brush with death as an adult, and reveals her hopes and expectations for her own demise.

03Mary Warnock2009040120100707

Death is the one subject we shy away from, and in our frantic obsession with prolonging our lives, the notion of 'a good death' seems to have lost its relevance.

Yet 'the art of dying' has been a defining notion throughout history.

Rabbi Julia Neuberger, reflecting on her own work with the dying, looks as how those of different faiths, or no faith at all, approach death, and at why we should all be planning for the kind of death we want.

In these five frank and powerful essays, writers and thinkers ponder the art of dying, and confront taboos around death.

They will look at what makes a 'good death' today - is it merely having lived a good life, or is there something intrinsically important in dying well? And, now that our deaths tend to occur in the sterile surroundings of a hospital ward rather than at home, surrounded by those we love, will reflect on how this distancing from death, and loss of control over our demise, has changed our relationship with dying.

With references to the portrayal of death in literature, history and religion, as well as personal reflections on hopes and expectations of death, these essays will give five very different perspectives on the art of dying.

Baroness Mary Warnock on what we can learn from the Romantics when it comes to dying well.

Baroness Mary Warnock looks at what we can learn from the Romantic poets when it comes to dying well and warns that our obsession with living - almost at all costs - can have disastrous consequences.

Baroness Mary Warnock looks at what we can learn from the Romantic poets when it comes to dying well; and warns how our obsession with living, almost at all costs, can have disastrous consequences.

04Julia Neuberger2009040220100708

Death is the one subject we shy away from, and in our frantic obsession with prolonging our lives, the notion of 'a good death' seems to have lost its relevance.

Yet 'the art of dying' has been a defining notion throughout history.

Rabbi Julia Neuberger, reflecting on her own work with the dying, looks as how those of different faiths, or no faith at all, approach death, and at why we should all be planning for the kind of death we want.

In these five frank and powerful essays, writers and thinkers ponder the art of dying, and confront taboos around death.

They will look at what makes a 'good death' today - is it merely having lived a good life, or is there something intrinsically important in dying well? And, now that our deaths tend to occur in the sterile surroundings of a hospital ward rather than at home, surrounded by those we love, will reflect on how this distancing from death, and loss of control over our demise, has changed our relationship with dying.

With references to the portrayal of death in literature, history and religion, as well as personal reflections on hopes and expectations of death, these essays will give five very different perspectives on the art of dying.

Baroness Julia Neuberger on how attitudes to death vary across faith and culture.

Rabbi Julia Neuberger, reflecting on her own work with the dying, looks as how those of different faiths, or no faith at all, approach death and asks why we should all be planning for the kind of death we want.

(Rpt).

05 LASTThomas Lynch2009040320100709

Death is the one subject we shy away from, and in our frantic obsession with prolonging our lives, the notion of 'a good death' seems to have lost its relevance.

Yet 'the art of dying' has been a defining notion throughout history.

Thomas Lynch, acclaimed poet and working undertaker, looks at the art of dying through his own poetry, reflecting on the themes of friendship, ageing, sex and death, and on why he sees little reason to fear death itself.

In these five frank and powerful essays, writers and thinkers ponder the art of dying, and confront taboos around death.

They will look at what makes a 'good death' today - is it merely having lived a good life, or is there something intrinsically important in dying well? And, now that our deaths tend to occur in the sterile surroundings of a hospital ward rather than at home, surrounded by those we love, will reflect on how this distancing from death, and loss of control over our demise, has changed our relationship with dying.

With references to the portrayal of death in literature, history and religion, as well as personal reflections on hopes and expectations of death, these essays will give five very different perspectives on the art of dying.

Celebrated poet and undertaker Thomas Lynch on friendship, ageing and fear of death.

Thomas Lynch, celebrated poet and working undertaker, looks at the art of dying through his own writing, reflecting on why death has remained such a constant theme in his work, and on why he sees little reason to fear death itself.

Thomas Lynch, acclaimed poet and working undertaker, looks at the art of dying through his own poetry, reflecting on why death has remained such a constant theme in his work, and on why he sees little reason to fear death itself.