Just Announced! Week 8 CLSC Selection

The Department of Education has announced On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear by Rev. Lynn Casteel Harper as a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection for 2021 Summer Assembly Season, Week Eight: The Human Brain – Our Greatest Mystery.

The Department of Education is also delighted to announce a first-ever collaboration with the Department of Religion, who have chosen Rev. Lynn Casteel Harper to serve as Chaplain for Week Eight.

Rev. Lynn Casteel Harper
On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear 
3:30 p.m. Thursday, August 19, 2021 – CHQ Assembly


An estimated fifty million people in the world suffer from dementia. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s erase parts of one’s memory but are also often said to erase the self. People don’t simply die from such diseases; they are imagined, in the clichés of our era, as vanishing in plain sight, fading away, or enduring a long goodbye. In ​On Vanishing, ​ Lynn Casteel Harper, a Baptist minister and nursing home chaplain, investigates the myths and metaphors surrounding dementia and aging, addressing not only the indignities caused by the condition but also by the rhetoric surrounding it. Harper asks essential questions about the nature of our outsized fear of dementia, the stigma this fear may create, and what it might mean for us all to try to “vanish well.”

Weaving together personal stories with theology, history, philosophy, literature, and science, Harper confronts our elemental fears of disappearance and death, drawing on her own experiences with people with dementia both in the American healthcare system and within her own family. In the course of unpacking her own stories and encounters—of leading a prayer group on a dementia unit; of meeting individuals dismissed as “already gone” and finding them still possessed of complex, vital inner lives; of witnessing her grandfather’s final years with Alzheimer’s and discovering her own heightened genetic risk of succumbing to the disease—Harper engages in an exploration of dementia that is unlike anything written before on the subject.

Lynn Casteel Harper is a minister, chaplain, essayist, and author of On Vanishing (Catapult, April 2020). Her work has appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Catapult, The Huffington Post, North American Review, CALYX, the Journal of Religion and Abuse, and elsewhere.  She received the New Delta Review Nonfiction Prize in 2013 and the Orison Anthology’s 2017 Nonfiction Award.  She was named runner up for the Torch Prize in 2016.

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On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear Cover Image
ISBN: 9781948226288
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Catapult - April 14th, 2020