Showing 131 - 140 of 261 annotations tagged with the keyword "Infectious Disease"

Doctor Faustus

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The full title of this novel is "Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend." Mann wrote it during the latter part of World War II when he was living in exile in the United States. The Faust character in this story is a German composer named Adrian Leverkühn (1885-1940), whose biography is recounted by his childhood friend, a schoolmaster named Serenus Zeitblom. Zeitblom presents the tale in his own voice--in essence, the novel is an extended reflection on the composer’s life (the past) set into the context of the deteriorating military situation in Germany (the present) as he is writing; i.e. the same period that Mann is actually writing the novel.

Adrian Leverkühn starts out as a student of theology, but succumbs to his passion for musical composition. His early pieces, though technically skillful, lack energy and imagination. However, all this changes when the young man experiences himself as having made a pact with the devil. In a confession written years later, Adrian recounts that he "voluntarily" contracted syphilis in an encounter with a prostitute, an episode that he believed was emblematic of this Faustian bargain.

In the confession he recreates his dialog with Satan, who promises the composer an artistic breakthrough, if he agrees to forego human love. As a result of the pact, Leverkühn sets off on a brilliant 24-year career, becoming the greatest German composer of his time. Throughout the novel Serenus intersperses technical details of Leverkühn’s many compositions, culminating with his masterwork, an oratorio called "The Lamentation of Doctor Faustus."

Adrian Leverkühn had been a self-centered youth who failed to reciprocate the friendship and devotion that others, especially Serenus, had lavished upon him. As an adult he leads an austere, solitary, monk-like life. Yet, while he lives only for his music, he also yearns for love. His personal life consists of a series of aborted relationships. Leverkühn becomes attracted to a female acquaintance and asks a friend to court her for him, only to learn that she has fallen in love with the friend.

Toward the end of his career, Adrian’s 5-year-old nephew comes to live with him in the country. The nephew ignites in him another spark of love, only to be snuffed out when the boy suddenly dies of meningitis. Finally, just as he is in the process of "unveiling" his great composition to a select group of friends, Leverkühn experiences a "stroke" and lapses into a coma from which he recovers physically, but not mentally. He survives for another decade in a demented, childlike state, and cared for by his mother.

The larger theme of this somber work relates to the decline of German culture during the decades before the onset of the Nazi era. Mann explores the collapse of traditional humanism and its replacement by a mixture of sophisticated nihilism and barbaric primitivism. In "The Story of a Novel" (1949),

Mann wrote that "Dr. Faustus" was about "the flight from the difficulties of a cultural crisis into the pact with the devil; the craving of a proud mind, threatened by sterility, for an unblocking of inhibitions at any cost; and the parallel between pernicious euphoria ending in collapse with the nationalistic frenzy of Fascism." In Zeitblum’s narrative comments, Mann subtly relates the composer’s personal tragedy to Germany’s destruction in the war. Mann also claimed a "secret identity" between himself, Leverkühn, and Zeitblom.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This remarkable book takes the reader into a Dutch nursing home where many of the 300 patients are terminally ill. The main protagonist is Anton, a competent, tough, and compassionate physician who tries to discover some meaning in the suffering of his patients, while at the same time disavowing any such meaning. Anton’s colleagues include Jaarsma, a somewhat detached and bureaucratic older physician, and Van Gooyer, a young physician who still believes that science has all the answers.

The first-person narrative consists of short, punchy segments (almost like an endless series of discrete physician-patient interactions) detailing the stories of Anton’s patients and his reactions to them. Many of these persons request assisted suicide or euthanasia. Anton reveals what he feels about these requests, how he goes about judging their validity, and the manner in which he actually carries out assisted deaths. A strong spiritual theme permeates the book; while Anton denies the relevance of God and religion, he seems constantly to be searching for a spirituality that "makes sense" of contemporary life.

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Search for Oz

Bronson, Richard

Last Updated: Jul-26-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is a collection of 61 poems by physician-poet Richard Bronson. The first and largest section contains many poems related to the poet's medical life and experience, including several that arose from his formative and bittersweet years at New York's Bellevue Hospital ("A Bellevue Story," "I Shall Be Your Vasari," and "Pain"). Others re-imagine events in the history of medicine ("The Knowledge," "Plague Doctor," and "The Man Who Dissected His Wife's Brain")

The second section, "Ten Portents of the Future," contains poems that examine the symptoms and signs of contemporary malaise, but find the diagnosis uncertain and the prognosis . . . who knows? It appears grim, though: "I am a lame man / gone to seed / at the terminus of an age." ("After the Big Bang," p. 94) In his last suite of poems, "Six Aspects of Love," written to his wife, Bronson reveals his strong, but purely personal, antidote for the cruelty of our "barbarous times."

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What are Tuesdays Like?

Bumbalo, Victor

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This AIDS play removes "the fourth wall" of a waiting room at an HIV clinic. Using numerous scenes the audience is able to sense how over a period of time a group of strangers thrown together by circumstance "travel the way to friendship, and, finally to family." (from author's note) Juxtaposed through the characters in this play are boundary issues dealing with differences and similarities among gay/straight, rich/poor, black/white, sick/healthy responses to HIV/AIDS.

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Red Noses

Barnes, Peter

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays — Secondary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

France, 1348: the Black Death rages and the playwright takes his reader into the midst of the cynicism, racism, panic, and religious fervor that characterize human response to catastrophic events that they don’t fully understand. The characters are caricatures of social types whose actions were apparent during the medieval plagues: religious figures, flagellants, grave robbers, well-poisoners, finger-pointers. The message sent by the words and actions of these characters is a satire on human behavior--the best and the worst as they are wont to surface during an epidemic. Many of the lines are very funny, but the humor is dark.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Williams's autobiography recounts his life from his first memory ("being put outdoors after the blizzard of '88") to the composition of "Patterson" and a trip to the American West in 1950. The book's 58 short chapters epitomize the writer's episodic and impressionistic style, presenting a series of scenes and meditations, rather than a narrative life story.

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Ward Rounds

Beernink, K. D. (Kenneth Dale)

Last Updated: Apr-24-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This is a collection of poems about patients, written by a young physician in the late 1960's. The book is organized around the theme of a hospital ward. Each poem is named for a patient and has the patient's disease as its subtitle. The poet composed this work during his own illness, when (as he says in the Introduction) "my patients reappeared to me and I lived again in my mind all the many emotions we experienced together."

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Summary:

This collection contains all the stories in Arthur Conan Doyle's Round the Red Lamp, six additional medical tales (three of which are from the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre), and the published version of "The Romance of Medicine" (1910), an awards ceremony address to the medical students at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School.

Round the Red Lamp (see annotation in this database) received almost universally negative reviews when it was published in 1894. They deplored the fact that Conan Doyle wrote about such "nauseating" and "ghastly" topics. All but one of the stories deal with doctors, disease, or medical practice. (The exception is a gothic tale that has a medical student as its hero.)

For example, "Behind the Times" contrasts the behavior of old fashioned humanistic physicians with that of modern scientifically-oriented physicians; "The Doctors of Hoyland" conveys a very positive image of women physicians; "His First Operation" depicts a first-year medical student fainting in the operating room; and "A False Start" presents a humorous account of Conan Doyle's difficulties in starting his own medical practice.

The three Sherlock Holmes stories are "The Dying Detective" (1913), "The Creeping Man," (1923) and "The Blanched Soldier" (1926). "The Romance of Medicine" is an inspirational essay on professionalism and medical history, somewhat similar in tone to, and contemporaneous with, the essays of William Osler.

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They Came Like Swallows

Maxwell, William

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

James and Elizabeth Morison and their two sons, 13-year-old Robert and 8-year-old Peter, called by his nickname, Bunny, live in a town in Illinois. It is 1918, the end of World War I.

The first third of the novel is narrated from Bunny's point of view. His mother, to whom he is deeply attached, lets him know that she is expecting a new baby. Her vivacious sister, Irene, separated from her husband, arrives for dinner. There is talk about the influenza epidemic, and Bunny remembers that on Friday a boy at his school fell ill. Later that evening, Bunny develops a high fever and is put to bed with the flu.

The second part of the book is from Robert's point of view. Bunny is seriously ill. The schools have been closed because of the epidemic and Robert is not allowed to go and play with his friends. His boredom is alleviated when a sparrow gets into Bunny's room and he is allowed to use a broom to drive it out. To his horror he realizes that, while he was fetching the broom, his mother had gone into Bunny's room and sat on the bed, even though the doctor had said she must stay away for fear of infection.

Bunny recovers, and the boys are sent to stay with their Aunt Clara while their parents travel by train to Decatur where Elizabeth will have the baby. At Aunt Clara's they learn that both parents have contracted the flu, and then that, after giving birth to a boy who will live, Elizabeth has died.

The last part of the book is from James's point of view. Returning home without his wife, he is certain that he will be unable to live in the house or take care of his sons. He decides that Clara and her husband should raise his children. Irene arrives and disagrees, telling him that the dying Elizabeth had told her she did not want this. Irene has meantime almost reconciled with her husband (as a small child, Robert had a leg amputated after being run over by the husband's buggy). Irene now tells James that she has decided instead to stay with him and help raise her nephews.

The novel ends with Elizabeth's funeral. The doctor has reassured Robert that he was not responsible for his mother's illness, though James continues to be haunted by the possibility that if he had chosen a different train, they would have avoided infection. At the same time, he recognizes Elizabeth's ordering and determining power, and how it will continue to shape his and his sons' lives.

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What Patients Taught Me

Young, Audrey

Last Updated: Jan-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This collection of stories describes "a medical student's journey" (the subtitle) through the difficult terrain of clinical education. In Audrey Young's case, this is also a geographical odyssey from Seattle to Swaziland to Pocatello, Idaho, as she completes her University of Washington clinical rotations and electives. In one sense the main characters of these narratives are the patients the author encounters in clinics and hospitals. As she writes in the Preface, "Patients teach things that the wisest and most revered physicians cannot, and their lessons are in this book."

In another sense, of course, Dr. Young herself is the central character of these stories; this is an account of her journey into doctoring. The author first takes us to Bethel, a Yupik Eskimo town on the Bering seacoast of Alaska, where she had her initiation into clinical experiences in the form of a summer preceptorship. There she learns that patients are far different from textbook examples, as she confronts the social and cultural factors that influence illness and its amenability to treatment. We follow the author to assignments throughout the WWAMI network. WWAMI is the University of Washington's decentralized clinical training program (Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho).

In Spokane she delivers a baby for the first time, supervised by an opera-loving attending physician. In Pocatello she takes care of her first critically ill neonate. In Missoula her life becomes "one of resigned solitude" in her internal medicine clerkship, where she experiences sleep deprivation and experiences sunlight only "through dusty windows."

During her fourth year, the author finds herself treating desperately ill AIDS patients without a supervising physician (he had gone to Zaire for a funeral and might be back the following week) and also without anti-retroviral drugs. However, it is in Swaziland that she learns the deep power and dignity of medicine, as exemplified by a patient who invites her to a dinner in her honor that requires killing one of his precious chickens.

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