Showing 161 - 170 of 522 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mourning"

The Village Watchman

Williams, Terry Tempest

Last Updated: Aug-14-2007

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This is a short piece, a scant twelve pages, in which Williams remembers Alan, an uncle who had mental deficits. During his breech birth, Alan’s brain was starved of oxygen. In the dominant American culture, Alan is called “retarded, handicapped, mentally disabled or challenged.” Williams concludes, “We see them for who they are not, rather than for who they are.” (p. 29) The title of the work refers to an Alaskan totem pole figure whose expression reminds her of Alan. In Tlingit culture, there’s a story of a kidnapped boy who lived with the Salmon People. When he returned twenty years later, he was seen as a holy man, not an “abnormal.”

To the young Terry Tempest, Alan demonstrated enthusiasm and spontaneity, for example bowling with reckless glee, regardless of where the ball went. When she asked him how he was feeling, he said, “very happy and very sad,” explaining that “both require each other’s company.” (p. 31) She liked his direct answers, those of a person we sometimes call a wise fool. Later, he lived in a “training school,” a joyless, ugly, and smelly place where abnormal children in Utah were sent and warehoused. Suffering from epilepsy, he wore a football helmet to protect him from sudden falls.

At age 22, Alan made the choice to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Williams describes the ceremony and how the family supported him through it (including yet another violent epileptic episode). When Alan died at age 28, Williams was 18. Looking at the totem pole, she remembers Alan, seeing him for who he truly was.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Author Diedrich investigates ("treats") mid-late 20th century memoirs about illness (illness narratives) from an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on the disciplines of literature, social sciences, and philosophy. Her analysis uses the theoretical frameworks of poststructuralism, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis to consider "what sort of subject is formed in the practice of writing . . . illness narratives," the kind of knowledges articulated by such writing, whether and how such writing can transform "expert medical knowledges," how language operates in these memoirs, and "what sort of ethics emerges out of such scenes of loss and the attempts to capture them in writing" (viii).

The book is divided into Introduction, five chapters on specific memoirs, and Conclusion. Chapter 1, "Patients and Biopower: Disciplined Bodies, Regularized Populations, and Subjugated Knowledges," draws on Foucault's theory of power to discuss two mid-20th-century memoirs of institutionalization for tuberculosis. Betty McDonald's the Plague and I is compared with Madonna Swan: A Lakota Woman's Story. Dividing practices and regularization are shown to serve different functions in these two incarcerations, figurative in the case of Betty McDonald, and literal in the case of Madonna Swan.

Chapter 2, "Politicizing Patienthood: Ideas, Experience and Affect," draws on Foucault's approach to the subject and on his discussion of "practices of the self" in contrasting Audre Lorde's The Cancer Journals with Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors (see annotations). Diedrich also brings into her analysis Eve Sedgwick's theory of queer performativity and Sedgwick's own illness narrative, White Glasses. Diedrich views all of these as counter narratives to the clinical medical narrative of illness but she shows how they differ in stance.

Chapter 3, "Stories For and against the Self: Breast Cancer Narratives from the United States and Britain" looks at "the arts of being ill" as they are represented in two cultures, two "conceptions of the self in these countries at a particular historical moment" (61). The narratives discussed are Sandra Butler and Barbara Rosenblum's narrative, Cancer in Two Voices and Ruth Picardie's Before I Say Goodbye (see annotations). Diedrich associates Cancer in Two Voices with an American notion of self-improvement and Before I Say Goodbye with a British "emphasis on the cultivation of an ironic self" (55). The author works in this chapter with Freud's idea of the uncanny, Benedict Anderson's concept of "imagined political communities" and Elaine Scarry's discussion of pain, language, and the unmaking of the self.

Chapter 4, "Becoming-Patient: Negotiating Healing, Desire, and Belonging in Doctors' Narratives," treats Oliver Sacks's illness narrative, A Leg to Stand On, Abraham Verghese's autobiographical My Own Country: A Doctor's Story of a Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS, and Rafael Campo's book of essays, The Poetry of Healing (see annotations). Here Diedrich considers "the possibility that doctors, especially AIDS doctors, might become patients through desiring-and writing-productions" (83) and she utilizes the rhizome model of Deleuze and Guattari to make her case. She discusses how Verghese and Campo are each both cultural insiders and outsiders and how they each "bring the body into language through their writing" (88).

Chapter 5, "Between Two Deaths: Practices of Witnessing," focuses primarily on Paul Monette's writing about the loss of his partner to AIDS, and on John Oliver Bayley's books about the loss of his wife, Iris Murdoch, to Alzheimer's, and her ultimate death (see annotations in this database). In this chapter Diedrich invokes Lacan's concept of the real and his formulation of "the ethical possibility of being between two deaths" (117). She draws also on trauma theory and the work of Kelly Oliver, a contemporary feminist philosopher who has written on witnessing.

Finally, in her "Conclusion: Toward an Ethics of Failure," Diedrich returns to Elaine Scarry's "phenomenological discussion of the experience of pain" and brings in Jean-François Lyotard's concept of incommensurability and his suggestion between the two poles of what is seemingly incommensurable one might search, in Diedrich's words, for "new rules for forming and linking phrases between . . . subject positions" (150). In that context she analyzes physician Atul Gawande's discussion of medical uncertainty and error in his book, Complications (see annotation) and philosopher Gillian Rose's book, Love' s Work. Diedrich concludes that the basic incommensurability between doctor and patient can be a starting point for a new ethics, an ethics of failure and risk "because by taking such risks [of failure, of relations], we open up the possibility of new routes, new treatments: in and between art, medicine, philosophy, and politics" (166).

View full annotation

The Bear

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Jul-13-2007
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Popova is still in deep mourning seven months after her husband's death. She stays alone at her country house, refusing to go out or to see anybody. Suddenly, Smirnov arrives and rudely insists on seeing her. Popova's late husband owed him 1200 roubles and he demands the debt be paid at once because his creditors are after him.

Popova delays. Smirnov insists, makes light of Popova's mourning, and refuses to leave. They angrily vie with one another: "Men are rude and inconstant!" "Women are fickle and manipulative!" (It turns out that Popova's husband was actually a liar and cheat, but she remains true to his memory just to show him how faithful a woman can be.)

Smirnov challenges her to a duel for insulting him and Popova brings out her husband's pistols. At this point Smirnov realizes that he has fallen in love with this tough, spunky woman. Popova vacillates for a moment, but they end up in each other's arms. (All this in 12 pages.)

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Draped in blue rags, an emaciated old guitarist sits cross-legged, strumming his guitar in a desolate setting. He is WRAPPED in his music and grief. Like the blind prophet, Tiresias in the Greek tragedies, he has seen all and knows the tragic destination of our strivings--all result in loneliness and death. Painted in Barcelona, the distorted style is reminiscent of the drama found in Spanish religious painting, particularly that of El Greco. The melancholy and pathos of Picasso's works from his Blue period reflect his sadness at the suicide of his young friend, Casagemas.

View full annotation

The Foreshadowing

Sedgwick, Marcus

Last Updated: Jun-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

It is 1915. Sasha, only daughter of a renowned English doctor, longs to be a nurse, as her brother, Thomas, longs to be a doctor. Their father is opposed to both objectives: he thinks Thomas should sign up to "do his bit" in the war effort like his older brother, Edgar, rather than go to medical school, and he doesn't think Sasha could handle the gore of wartime medicine. He is also concerned because on a few occasions, Sasha has let slip that she has accurate premonitions of people's deaths. The first of these came when she was five. She has learned since then not to speak of this "gift" to anyone in her family, for fear of losing credibility, but keeps with her a book of Greek myths, in which the story of Cassandra helps her to validate her sense of her own gift/curse.

Sasha does persuade her father to let her try her hand in the hospital as a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachments)--a minimally trained caregiver--but gets herself thrown out when it is found out that she has been commuincating with a shellshocked patient and also that she foresees patients' deaths. The people around her are afraid of her powers. So she runs away to the front, looking for her brother, Thomas, who keeps appearing in a dream with a bullet whizzing toward him.

An eccentric young soldier who works as a courier appears to have a gift similar to her own. He goes AWOL with her to the place near the Somme where her brother's unit is fighting. When she finally locates Thomas, he is determined to return to the fighting, but, as she understands what mass slaughter is afoot, she shoots him herself to wound him, so he can't return. This surprise ending works to cap the various questions the book raises about how desperate times call for desperate measures.

View full annotation

Kira Kira

Kadohata, Cynthia

Last Updated: Jun-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Katie Takeshima, the narrator of this coming-of-age novel, moved with her immigrant family from Iowa to Georgia when she was in kindergarten. As her parents work long hours in a poultry processing plant with other exploited non-union immigrant workers, she and her older sister Lynn, and her little brother, Sammy, enjoy a loving and fairly free childhood. Lynn is Katie's primary teacher. Among her most important lessons is to see everything around her as "kira kira"--a Japanese word meaning something like "glittering"--moving and alive. When Lynn sickens and then dies of lymphoma, Katie has to do some fast growing up, and in her mourning develops a sharper sense of the glittering, mysterious presence of spirit and life in a world full of prejudice, poverty, and loss.

View full annotation

Memoirs of Hadrian

Yourcenar, Marguerite

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Memoirs of Hadrian is a historical novel in the form of a long letter written by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to his young friend and eventual successor, Marcus Aurelius. Alas, Hadrian is "growing old, and is about to die of a dropsical heart." The Emperor begins by describing his recent visit with his physician Hermogenes, who "was alarmed, in spite of himself, at the rapid progress of the disease" (3). In light of his physical deterioration, Hadrian begins to reflect on his life and work, and to share his wisdom with his young correspondent.

Hadrian tells of his early life as the protégé of the Emperor Trajan, his military and political victories, and his eventual adoption by Trajan, a move that guaranteed the succession when his adoptive father died. While Trajan, whose victories brought the Roman Empire to its greatest size, was a military man to the core, Hadrian considers himself essentially peace loving--his personal life devoted to simplicity and harmony; and his public life to prosperity and justice. Nonetheless, he has always recognized that, in order to govern effectively, ruthless action is sometimes required.

Hadrian's marriage to the Empress Sabina was simply a matter of convenience. The love of his life was a beautiful young man named Antinous. The two men were deeply committed to one another, but at the same time the middle-aged emperor had "a certain dread of bondage" ( 177) that kept him from fully giving himself to Antinous with the abandon of youth. They were visiting Alexandria when the despondent Antinous committed suicide in a way that mimicked a religious ritual, essentially sacrificing himself to the deified Emperor.

Hadrian was crushed with grief and descended into a long period of depression. However, he eventually overcame his depression through his love of literature and ideas, as well as his sense of duty to the Empire (no SSRIs being available at the time), although not before attempting to enlist his physician in assisted suicide. Unable to refuse his emperor's request, the physician himself commits suicide rather than violating his Hippocratic Oath.

Hadrian's final military engagements involve crushing Jewish insurgents in Palestine, completing the destruction of Jerusalem, and founding a new Roman city on its site. The aged Emperor reflects frequently on his tolerance for all religions, except for politically disruptive fanatics like the followers of a Jewish prophet called Christ. As to the Jews in Palestine, he cannot understand why they continue to engage in self-destructive rebellion, most recently with Bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiva as their leaders.

In his final years Hadrian adopts Lucius, one of his former lovers (in this account), as his son and heir, but Lucius soon dies, presumably from tuberculosis. Eventually, the Emperor adopts Antinous Pius as his heir and further arranges for Marcus Aurelius to succeed Antinous Pius. At the end of his letter, Hadrian writes, "I could now return to Tibur, going back to that retreat which is called illness, to experiment with my suffering, to taste fully what delights are left to me, and to resume in peace my interrupted dialogue with a shade." [i.e. Antinous, his lost love (271)].

View full annotation

Summary:

This remarkable collection of short writings, introduced by renowned poet Naomi Shihab Nye, who visited the Sutterwriters (of Sutter Hospital in Sacramento, California) to offer a workshop, provides a broad, compassionate, imaginative window into the life inside and around an urban hospital. Patients, staff, and all interested in healing through writing are invited to come and participate-with an accent on the latter: no one is invited who isn't willing to write.

Chip Spann, the editor, came to Sutter Hospital with a Ph.D. in English, and has the privilege of coordinating this fluid community of writers as part of his work as a staffmember. His conviction, voiced in an engaging introduction, is that literature is a powerful instrument of healing--both the literature we read and the literature we create--and that the experience of literature belongs in community. The individual pieces are accompanied by photographs and short bios of contributors.

View full annotation

Life As I Knew It

Hacker, Randi

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Angelina Rossini tells the story of the year her father died. A lively, opinionated, attractive sixty-nine-year-old Italian happily married to a forty-two-year-old English woman, he has hardly been an inconspicuous presence in the small town of Blodgett, Vermont with a population of 854. Angelina, the only child of this second marriage, loves her father dearly, though she rolls her eyes at his eccentricities, and knows herself to be fortunate in both parents, though they're older, and her mother somewhat less expressive, than she would choose. Her best friend, Jax, belongs to a very different family, large, blue-collar, partly French Canadian. Though she and Jax have been friends since kindergarten, and though she has known for some time that he is gay, her love for him sometimes spills over into desire. They talk about this, as they do about everything else, though this subject is a little tenderer than most. When a girl who has been aggressive and unfriendly suddenly reveals her own same-sex desires, Angelina is able to handle her awkward revelation with compassion.

When Angelina's father has a stroke, all the rhythms of family life are disrupted. Her half sister, whom she's never liked much, comes for an extended visit. Her mother is preoccupied, first at the hospital, then with home care. And she herself has to learn aspects of caregiving for a partly paralyzed father who has lost his speech. The process is, of course, emotionally complex, sometimes comical, often heartbreaking. But when she speaks at his funeral, after a heart attack takes his life, it is with a widened appreciation of the kind of man he was, and of what value his life had even in the months he was severely incapacitated. After his death, she explores, in a few final chapters, the ambiguities of grief, and the process of forging a new relationship with her mother, who has lost her own best friend and companion.

View full annotation

Broken China

Williams, Lori

Last Updated: May-21-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

At fourteen, China Cameron is trying hard to be a good mother to her two-year-old daughter, conceived while China and her best friend, Trip, were "fooling around" at his house one day. Trip and China's disabled Uncle--her only parent since the death of her mother and her father's early abandonment-do all they can to help her stay in school and parent well. But the child contracts a respiratory infection and dies, leaving China not only devastated, but responsible for a large funeral bill: she insists on ordering the most beautiful casket in the catalogue and funeral services that turn out to be devastatingly expensive. To pay the bill, against the advice of Trip and her uncle, China begins working at the reception desk of a local "gentlemen's club."

Though the job requires that she wear skimpy and revealing clothing, and subjects her to the unwelcome attentions of inebriated patrons, she squares it with her conscience by hanging onto the belief that she is doing the best she can for her daughter. The terms of her employment, however, become more difficult as she is moved toward "dancing" on stage. When she finally decides to quit, she finds that the club is partly owned by the funeral director, who has a history of involving young women in her situation in debilitating debt.

A subplot follows the misfortunes of China's best friend, Yolanda, a young women in her twenties with several children by different fathers who is trying to realign her life after her youngest children are taken temporarily to foster care. Despite their various difficulties, the characters enter with compassion and imagination into each other's lives, and find ways to help one another. At the end of the story, China finally consents to visit her daughter's grave--something she has strenuously avoided--nd concedes to the necessity of coming to terms in a new way with her loss so as to reorient her life beyond funeral expenses, and go back to school with a reclaimed hope of a different kind of life.

View full annotation