Showing 101 - 110 of 606 annotations contributed by Coulehan, Jack

Mid-Term Break

Heaney, Seamus

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker is a boy away at school when the news comes that his four year old brother has been killed in an accident. Arriving home, "I met my father crying . . . " The boy is "embarrassed / By old men standing up to shake my hand / And tell me they were ’sorry for my trouble.’" The next morning the boy goes upstairs to see his brother lying "in the four foot box as in his cot." [22 lines]

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Night Letters

Dessaix, Robert

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

An Australian man has recently been diagnosed as having a fatal disease. He decides to take a quixotic trip to Europe, an open-ended adventure to unplanned destinations. This novel takes the form of 20 long and extraordinarily articulate letters written from Venice to an anonymous correspondent in Melbourne.

The letters work on three levels. First, they describe the writer’s travels from Locarno to Vicenza to Padua, stages of his journey prior to arriving in Venice. In fact, the book is divided into groups of letters, each of them dealing with one of the three cities and followed by a set of notes that illuminate some of the writer’s literary and historical allusions.

Second, the letters describe the writer’s current activities in Venice and especially his reflections on human nature and mortality. Finally, he refers back to events that occurred in Melbourne immediately preceding his journey. The most important of these events are the consultations with his doctor and, to a lesser extent, the reaction of Peter, his lover, to the lethal diagnosis.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The spirit of St. Francis of Assisi presides over the garden in spring. Hyacinths bloom, and abandoned bird nests are tucked away in the nooks and crannies. Young couples embrace: "St. Francis forgive them / and all lovers / whoever they may be." The scene then fast forwards to summer, when the lovers find themselves bewildered and "incredulous / of their own cure / and half minded / to escape . . . "

The idyllic garden has turned menacing, yet St. Francis continues to have compassion for the lovers who "resemble children / roused from a long sleep." One lover stands up unafraid in the sunlight "as her heart / beats wildly / and her mind / drinks up / the full meaning / of it." [139 lines]

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Mire

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A lieutenant named Alexander Grigoryvitch Sokolsky arrives at the home of Susanna Moiseyevna Rothstein, a Jewess and owner of a vodka distillery. Sokolsky has come to collect the 2300 rubles that Rothstein owes his married cousin. In fact, his cousin doesn’t actually need the money, but Sokolsky is helping his cousin get his debts paid so that he can then borrow the 5000 rubles that he needs to marry his fiancée.

Susanna, a luscious, free-spirited young woman, receives the lieutenant and offers him supper. She entices the IOUs from him, but then refuses to pay up. The next morning Sokolsky returns to his cousin’s house without the money, but presumably sexually satisfied. Kryukov, the cousin, rants and raves. What an outrage! He determines to visit the Jewess himself and demand payment. He does so and, likewise, only returns the next morning, penniless.

After a week, Sokolsky borrows the money from his cousin and leaves. After another week, Kryukov gets an uncontrollable itch to visit the Jewess again. When he arrives at her mansion, there are many men around, including Sokolsky, who evidently has hung around Susanna’s house for a week, having completely forgotten about his fiancée. Krykov’s final words are: "How can I judge him since I’m here myself?"

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

This is a selection from "The Call of Stories" in which Robert Coles argues for a medical ethics rooted in particular lives and particular situations, rather than (or to supplement) the ethics of abstract rules and principles. He tells the tale of an "uppidy nigger" in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1967 who took issue with her clinic doctor because he was insulting and condescending toward his patients: "I told him I expected more of him. Isn’t he a doctor? If he can lord it over people, being a doctor, then he ought to remember how our Lord, Jesus Christ behaved . . . did He go around showing how big and important He was . . . ?"

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

In their introduction to this anthology, the editors write that their goal is "to illustrate and to illuminate the many ways in which medicine and culture combine to shape our values and traditions." Using selections from important literary, philosophical, religious, and medical texts, as well as illustrations, they explore, from a historical perspective, the interactions between medicine and culture. The book is arranged in nine major topical areas: the human form divine, the body secularized, anatomy and destiny, psyche and soma, characteristics of healers, the contaminated and the pure, medical research, the social role of hospitals, and the cultural construction of pain, suffering, and death.

Within each section, a cluster of well-chosen (and often provocative) texts and drawings illuminate the topic. Specifically, literary selections include poems by W. D. Snodgrass ("An Envoi, Post-TURP"), William Wordsworth ("Goody Blake and Harry Gill: A True Story"), and Philip Larkin ("Aubade"); and prose or prose excerpts by Robert Burton ("The Anatomy of Melancholy"), Zora Neale Hurston (My Most Humiliating Jim Crow Experience), Sara Lawrence Lightfoot ("Balm in Gilead: Journey of a Healer"), William Styron (Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness), George Orwell ("How the Poor Die"), Ernest Hemingway (Indian Camp), and Paul Monette (Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir). (The full texts of the pieces by Hurston, Styron, Hemingway, and Monette have been annotated in this database.)

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The Mastectomy Poems

Ostriker, Alicia Suskin

Last Updated: Aug-31-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poems (Sequence)

Summary:

This series of 12 related poems constitutes the final section of Ostriker’s collection, The Crack in Everything. In the first poem, the mammogram positive and her surgery scheduled, the poet crosses "The Bridge" to the hospital. In "The Gurney" she goes under. "Riddle: Post Op" begins: "A-tisket a-tasket / I’m out of my casket . . . . " The poet teases us by asking what the secret is "underneath my squares of gauze." The answer: "Guess what it is / It’s nothing."

Subsequent poems include a lament over "What Was Lost," "Wintering," "Healing," and an "Epilogue: Nevertheless." In the wonderful "Years of Girlhood (for My Students)," Ostriker begins: "All the years of girlhood we wait for them. / Impatient to catch up, to have the power / Inside our sweaters to replace our mother." But in the end, a year later, the poet is well again and tells her friends, "I’m fine, I say, I’m great, I’m clean. / The bookbag on my back, I have to run." ("Epilogue: Nevertheless").

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Malade

Lawrence, D. H. (David Herbert)

Last Updated: Aug-31-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker looks around his sick room. "The tassel of a blind swings constantly." He identifies the room with "the hollow rind of a fruit," where a spider with its legs folded "lies on the dust." In fact, he is the spider.

And what is there outside the window? Only a gray cave "with great spider-cloths hanging / low from the roof." The people he can see are nothing but "spiders with white faces" scuttling around the cave. "Ah, but I am ill, and it is still raining, coldly raining!" [13 lines]

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Lights

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Aug-31-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A doctor is riding through the desolate steppe at twilight and loses his way. He comes to a hut along the new railroad where two men, an engineer and his young assistant, are spending the night. After they all have a few drinks, the engineer marvels over the beauty of lights in the distance, while the young man says the lights remind him "of something long dead, that lived thousands of years ago." (p. 607) He sees no point in human love or accomplishment because, after all, we all have the same fate--death. This encourages the old engineer to tell a tale of his youth.

Once, when visiting his hometown on business, he had come across a childhood friend, a woman who was unhappily married. He looked forward to having a brief affair with her, but she considered him her savior. She desperately wanted him to take her away. The engineer agreed, but then callously abandoned her.

Later, he realized that "I had committed a crime as bad as murder." (p. 635) He went back and "besought Kisotchka’s forgiveness like a naughty boy and wept with her . . . " (p. 639) At the end of "Lights," the doctor rides off at sunrise toward home. All around him nature seems to be saying, "Yes, there’s no understanding anything in the world!"

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Life on the Line relates the experience of 228 writers who express in their work the deep connection between healing and words. Walker and Roffman have organized their anthology into eight topical chapters: Abuse, Death and Dying, Illness, Relationships, Memory, Rituals and Remedies, White Flags From Silent Camps, and a chapter of poems about the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. This hefty volume contains a very broad selection of contemporary poems, stories, and essays by both well-known and relatively unknown writers on the experience of illness and healing.

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