Showing 1031 - 1040 of 1141 annotations tagged with the keyword "Human Worth"

Together in the Dark

Colfelt, Robert

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of stories and sketches by a practicing neurologist. Most of the material is clinical and autobiographical. In "Mrs. Bachman" a new patient enters the doctor's office, carrying a thick stack of medical records. It all started in 1946 and no doctor has ever found the explanation of her condition. Meanwhile, the doctor is wearing contact lenses for the first time. His eyes begin to tear. Mrs. Bachman thinks that he is crying over her misfortune. She consoles him, "I want you to know that you are the kindest, most sympathetic man I have ever met."

In "Intensive Care" an elderly woman is agitated after a seizure. The staff try unsuccessfully to calm her. Finally, her husband approaches and kisses her. She settles peacefully and they hold hands.

The doctor in "Continuing Medical Education" finally discovers metastatic breast cancer as the cause of a psychotherapist's neck pain, long after he and other physicians had told her again and again that the "driving mechanism" of her chronic pain was "unresolved anger and frustration." In a longer essay, "The Narrow Bridge," the author reflects on the meaning of healing, "Healing helps us find a place in this world for ourselves and for each other."

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The Body in Pain

Scarry, Elaine

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Scarry argues that pain is the most absolute definer of reality. For the person in pain, there is no reality besides pain; if it hurts, it must be real. This characteristic of pain makes it useful politically. In torture, for example, the reality of the one being tortured is reduced to an awareness of pain, while the torturer’s world remains fully present. This is realized most emphatically when torture is described as information-gathering. The torturer insists on questions that for the tortured are no longer of any concern.

War also makes use of pain. In the dispute that leads to war, one country’s beliefs are pitted against another’s. Both sides’ positions are thus called into question; if there is disagreement about the facts, it becomes apparent that the facts are based in opinion, not reality. The injured bodies of war re-connect the victor’s beliefs with the material world. If the injured body is the ultimate in reality, the injured bodies of war can be used to signify the reality of the victor’s position. Simultaneously, the pain of individuals in war is transferred to inanimate objects or large groups. Thus, one speaks of "Division Six" being wounded or weapons being disabled.

This language also uses the absolute reality of the body in pain to secure the truth of a cultural/political position. Scarry discusses the reality-producing quality of pain in Judeo-Christian scriptures, Marx, and humans’ relationships with inanimate objects.

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The Cancer Ward

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in the men's cancer ward of a hospital in a city in Soviet Central Asia. The patients in Ward 13 all suffer from cancer, but differ in age, personality, nationality, and social class (as if such a thing could be possible in the Soviet "classless" society!). We are first introduced to Pavel Rusanov, a Communist Party functionary, who enters the hospital because of a rapidly-growing neck tumor.

We soon learn, however, that the book's central character is Oleg Kostoglotov, a young man who has recently been discharged from a penal camp and is now "eternally" exiled to this particular province. Only two weeks earlier, he was admitted to the ward in grave condition from an unspecified tumor, but he has responded rapidly to radiation therapy. Among the doctors are Zoya, a medical student; Vera Gangart, a young radiologist; and Lyudmila Dontsova, the chief of radiation therapy.

Rusanov and Kostoglotov respond to therapy and are eventually discharged; other patients remain in the ward, get worse, or are sent home to die. In the end Kostoglotov boards a train to the site of his "eternal" exile: "The long awaited happy life had come, it had come! But Oleg somehow did not recognize it."

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An Anthropologist on Mars

Sacks, Oliver

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Case Studies)

Summary:

This book, which is subtitled "Seven Paradoxical Tales," contains seven of Oliver Sacks' clinical stories of persons whose unusual neurological deficits teach us something about the way the brain (and, therefore, the mind) works. In "The Case of the Colorblind Painter" an artist learns to adapt to a completely black-and-white world after sustaining trauma to his occipital lobe.

"The Last Hippie" portrays a man whose ability to form new memories was destroyed by a massive midline brain tumor; he still "lives" in the 1960's. "A Surgeon's Life" depicts a Canadian surgeon with Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome, showing how he is able to live as a respected member of the community and practice surgery despite this disabling condition. "To See and Not See" tells the tale of a man in his 50's who is suddenly able to see after being blind since early childhood.

In "The Landscape of His Dreams" Sacks introduces a painter who, after a serious illness in the 1960's, apparently developed extraordinary and persistent "waking visions" of Pontito, his hometown in Italy. For many years he has obsessively painted remarkably accurate scenes of Pontito. "Prodogies" and "An Anthropologist on Mars" both deal with autism. The first tells of an autistic boy from England who has remarkable skill in visual memory and drawing; the second is about an autistic woman with a Ph.D. in animal science, who teaches at Colorado State University.

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Inter Ice Age 4

Abe, Kobo

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Fefferman, Stanley

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The prelude describes a tidal wave approaching Japan. The story is a first-person narrative by Professor Katsumi, inventor of a self-programming computer which can predict the future. Katsumi and his assistant, Tanamogi, plan to predict the future of a private, individual destiny. They choose a subject from the street and follow him. The next day's paper announces his murder.

To solve the case and forestall suspicion, Katsumi downloads the contents of the man's brain, reconstructs his existence, and questions him/it. The victim did not see his murderer, but he tells the team his mistress had sold her aborted foetus for 7000 yen. Then the mistress is murdered. Katsumi's wife has a forced abortion and receives 7000 yen. Katsumi suspects an organization. His assistant Tanamogi volunteers the name of an organization experimenting with extra-utero development of foetuses, and arranges for Katsumi to visit their lab. Gradually Katsumi learns of a vast conspiracy to create an underwater nation, complete with genetically altered water-oxygenating humans and animals, bred in anticipation of the predicted destruction of Japan by a tidal wave.

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Barren Woman

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Mar-03-1998
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker, the "barren woman" of the poem, describes her state as empty. She likens herself to a deserted space, a "museum without statues," at its center a fountain which, rather than issuing life, recycles its water, which "sinks back into itself." She imagines herself as a mother, but recognizes that "nothing can happen." The only one who pays attention is the moon, silently but ineffectually trying to soothe her. (10 lines)

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Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A woman who works at a rehabilitation center for the blind reflects on the deaths of the people around her, clients as well as patients. She recounts the reaction of the staff to the death of a well-loved employee of the center whose name the narrator doesn't recognize. As she assists the blind clients at the funeral home, she suddenly realizes she did know the dead woman, but never had known her name. The narrator reflects on how a sight-impaired friend of hers, Vange, approaches life with supreme attentiveness, and never misses any details. The colleague's funeral reminds the narrator that living means being more like Vange.

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Past Wildflowers

Charach, Ron

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is the third volume of poetry by Ron Charach, who is a psychiatrist in Toronto, Canada. Charach's poems evoke a wide array of experiences and topics, ranging from surreal dream poems to images of family vacations, from an adolescent biker ("White Laces") to medical imaging techniques ("MRI" and "The Use of Contrast to Study the Spine"). Charach's tone is generally light, frequently insightful, and often surprising.

While "healing" poems are scattered throughout the book, one section ("The Calling") focuses on images of Charach's medical specialty, psychiatry. In "Psychiatrists on the Subway" the poet imagines an off-duty psychiatrist who "sets his ears / on the night table / and prays for a night of long silence / from a God who prefers / to listen." In "Newton" he invites the reader to glimpse the professional life--but with a grain of salt--as he muses about a colleague who "gave so much Electro-Convulsive therapy / he wore wooden cufflinks and rubber-soled Wallabies."

"The Naked Physician" presents an image of a kind and gentle doctor whose failure to be a good husband and father "will be recorded in the final light." Other outstanding poems in this collection include "She Will No Longer Take Her Food," "Equipoise," "Someone Else's Fire," "Labour and Delivery," and "Past Wildflowers."

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Therapy

Lodge, David

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Laurence "Tubby" Passmore is a successful scriptwriter for a television sitcom, in his mid-fifties, married and the father of two grown children. He is indecisive and inexplicably depressed, unhappy with himself, his fat body, bald head, wonky knee, and impending impotence. At least, he is confident in his marriage to Sally, an attractive, self-made academic who enjoys sex; on weekly jaunts to London, he maintains a supportive but platonic relationship with the earthy Amy.

Seeking to alleviate his woes, he dabbles in acupuncture and aromatherapy and regularly attends a blind physiotherapist and a woman psychiatrist; the latter counsels him to write a journal. His wife suddenly announces her wish for a divorce and the television network invokes a contractual obligation to make unwelcome demands on his skills. These events shatter his unappreciated but complacent "angst" and deepen his identity crisis.

Laurence scrambles to rediscover himself. He reads the gloomy, Kierkegaard--because he identified with the titles--and he travels to the existentialist's Copenhagen. He pushes the boundaries of his relationship with Amy in a maudlin trip to Tenerife. He befriends a philosophic squatter, called "Grahame" (with an "e" no doubt to distinguish him from Graham Green whose "writing is a form of therapy" is an epigraph to this book). He flies wildly off to Los Angeles hoping to rekindle a one-night stand "manqué." Finally he recalls and tracks the Irish Catholic, Maureen, his first girlfriend from forty years before. Maureen has suffered too--the death of her son and breast cancer; he finds her on the Road to Compostella.

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Geek Love

Dunn, Katherine

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Geek Love is the saga of a traveling carnival, the owners of which try to save it from financial failure by using ingested chemicals and toxins to create the birth of amazing freaks for the show. The outcome is a family that is both proud and vain about its specialness. The narrative unfolds the intricacies of greed and jealousy that tear the family asunder, resulting in the deaths of some members, the madness of others, and the escape of one.

It is Olympia, the hunchback albino dwarf, who lives on to tell the story of the Binewski clan. Central to the heyday of the carnival is Doc P, a physician of questionable credentials who performs bizarre operations in the traveling hospital that moves with the carnival. The story moves relentlessly toward a climax and denouement that is sufficiently unimaginable to be consistent with the cast of characters.

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