The Art of Death With Tessa Fontaine - Atlas Obscura Experiences
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The Art of Death With Tessa Fontaine

Multiple Dates
5 sessions
$240 per person
Up to 20 people
See Dates
$240 per person
$240 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

In this five-part seminar, we’ll explore notions of death and dying around the world, drawing from biology, history, and beyond.

Course Description

Death is taboo, private, mysterious. Most of us don’t know exactly what happens to the body as it’s dying, or after it’s dead, or how to try to connect with those who are gone. In this online course, we’ll take an inquisitive and interdisciplinary approach to thinking about death and dying, incorporating medical science, case studies, and personal curiosity. We’ll learn about unusual practices in rituals surrounding dying, death, and mourning, and draw upon materials and experts in all kinds of death-related fields, from death doulas and morticians to scientists who use flesh-eating beetles to clean carcasses. Each week will include some outside materials, in-class discussions, and occasional creative writing prompts to get us thinking about death in new ways. We’ll investigate not only what happens to the dying and dead, but also what happens to the living as we come to think deeply about the other side.

Syllabus at a Glance

There are five total sessions included in this purchase, each lasting for 1.5 hours.

Spring Section A: Wednesdays beginning April 13.

Session 1 (Wednesday, 4/13, 7:30–9 PM ET): What does it mean to be dead?

Session 2 (Wednesday, 4/20, 7:30–9 PM ET): The dying process

Session 3 (Wednesday, 4/27, 7:30–9 PM ET): Death in the wild

Session 4 (Wednesday, 5/4, 7:30–9 PM ET): The death industry

Session 5 (Wednesday, 5/11, 7:30–9 PM ET): What happens to the living?

Spring Section B: Mondays beginning May 9, skipping May 30.

Session 1 (Monday, 5/9, 7:30–9 PM ET): What does it mean to be dead?

Session 2 (Monday, 5/16, 7:30–9 PM ET): The dying process

Session 3 (Monday, 5/23, 7:30–9 PM ET): Death in the wild

-week off-

Session 4 (Monday, 6/6, 7:30–9 PM ET): The death industry

Session 5 (Monday, 6/13, 7:30–9 PM ET): What happens to the living?

Between Sessions

Each week, students should come to class open to discussing death and dying. There will be a few reading and writing assignments outside of class. (PDFs will be provided.)

Pricing Options

We currently offer tiered ticket pricing in an effort to increase accessibility for all students, regardless of economic situation. Our lecture series are available at three ticket prices, with a limited number of no-pay spots available for students who could not otherwise participate. This model is intended to support a wider range of students as well as our instructors. To learn more about our tiered sliding scale pricing model, please visit our FAQ page.

Atlas Obscura Online Courses

Our online courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. Courses can take one of two forms: Seminars are intimate, interactive classes—capped at nine to 25 students—exploring topics and crafts through discussion, workshops, assignments, and in-class activities. We also offer lecture series that can be attended live, or viewed via a recording that will be shared within 72 hours after each session airs. Class recordings for lecture series will be available with a temporary password for up to two weeks following the final session of the course.

To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit

For answers to commonly asked questions, check out our FAQ page here.

Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to the class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access your course via Zoom on each scheduled date and time.

About Your Instructor
Tessa Fontaine
Tessa Fontaine

Tessa Fontaine is the author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, a New York Times Editors' Choice, finalist for the Utah Book Award, and best book of 2018 from Southern Living, Amazon Editors, Refinery29, PopMatters, and the New York Post. Tessa spent the 2013 season performing with the last American traveling circus sideshow, the World of Wonders. Raised outside San Francisco, Tessa has spent time in West Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States, most recently in a 1982 camper van named Flipper that has been passed down through women in her family. She has taught in prisons and jails, led educational programs for New York Times Student Journeys, designed Experiences and Trips for Atlas Obscura, and founded Salt Lake City’s Writers in the Schools program. ​Around the country, she has performed her one-woman plays in theatres ranging from New York to San Francisco. These days, Tessa lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she teaches at Warren Wilson College.

What Else You Should Know

This is an interactive, small-group, seminar-style course that meets over Zoom. Students may be invited to participate in discussions, workshop their projects, and receive feedback from the course instructor.

In most cases, instructors will use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Classroom, instructors will be using this platform to post resources, discussion questions, and assignments, when applicable.

We provide closed captioning for all of our courses, as well as transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at if you have any questions, requests, or access needs.

Group Size

There are 20 spots available on this experience.

Who Can Come

Students must be 16+

Dates and Availability
  • Wed, Apr 13, 2022
    7:30 p.m.–9:00 p.m.
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  • Mon, May 9, 2022
    7:30 p.m.–9:00 p.m.
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