Showing 171 - 180 of 369 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mental Illness"

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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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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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Helen McNulty (Laura Dern) is a reporter. She and her photographer boyfriend, Jan, are on assignment in an unnamed Central American country when they witness militia shooting at protesters. They are both arrested/abducted.

The story picks up a year later. Helen is back in the United States, working on a story about Dr. Anna Lenke (Vanessa Redgrave), a psychiatrist who runs a clinic for survivors of torture. Dr. Lenke herself was raped and tortured at Auschwitz. Helen interviews her, and goes to stay at the clinic to work on her story. Anna recognizes at once that Helen, too, has been tortured.

Helen gradually comes to acknowledge what happened to her. The process culminates in her narrating, and our seeing in flashback, her torture and the murder of her boyfriend. Helen’s recovery is intertwined with and complicated by the story of Tomas Ramirez (Raul Julia), who also identifies himself as a survivor of torture and is at the clinic not only for therapy but because he is in hiding. Helen and Thomas become friends, then lovers, and he is instrumental in her recovery.

As a journalist, though, Helen delves into Thomas’s background and learns that he was not a victim but a perpetrator of torture. Helen turns him over to the authorities and he is arrested. Dr. Lenke’s last words about Tomas, that only once he has confessed can he again be human, rings hollowly: he has already confessed, to her and the other torture survivors at the clinic, and no court of law can present a harsher judge.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) is an airforce pilot. His girlfriend, Lydia (Meg Ryan), leaves him because of his drinking problem. Tuck becomes involved in a top-secret project to miniaturize humans and inject them into the human body. Tuck is the first experimental subject; he is to travel, in a tiny pod, inside the body of a lab rabbit.

This is complicated when, once Tuck and his pod have been shrunk and placed in a syringe ready for injection, the film’s villains, led by the sinister Victor Scrimshaw, break into the laboratory and steal the microchip needed to restore Tuck to his normal size. A scientist escapes with the syringe containing Tuck. Iago, Scrimshaw’s henchman, chases him and, to keep the technology out of their hands, the scientist injects Tuck into Jack Tupper (Martin Short), who just happens to be nearby.

Jack is a hypochondriac who works at a supermarket checkout. When Tuck creates a computer link-up to Jack’s vision and hearing, and speaks to him, Jack believes he has been possessed; his physician suspects a psychiatric disorder. After much anxiety, Tuck explains things, enlisting Jack to track down the villains and get the stolen microchip from them. With Lydia’s help, they thwart the villains (and reduce them to half their normal size).

After journeying inside both Jack and Lydia’s bodies (he moves from one to the other when Jack kisses Lydia), Tuck is rescued and restored to his normal size. Tuck and Lydia reconcile and marry, and Jack, given new confidence by having Tuck within him (like a macho kind of internal inspirational tape), is cured of his hypochondria and anxiety and finds a new life for himself.

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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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Life-Size

Shute, Jenefer

Last Updated: Aug-30-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is a harrowing story, told in the first person, of an obsession with food and body image. "One day I will be thin enough", says Josie, the 25 year old anorectic woman who has been hospitalized for life-threatening self-starvation. "Just the bones, . . . the pure, clear shape of me." "One day I will be pure consciousness." The narration spins out in painful detail the pattern of compulsive behavior which pervades Josie’s existence. Her pitifully barren emotional life is revealed as well.

How did it all begin? Flashbacks of significant events invade Josie’s attempts to stop thinking. A shy, awkward adolescent, overly sensitive to casual comments about excess flesh, decides to diet. Josie stumbles non-communicatively through a teen-age sexual initiation to a later affair with her married professor, retreating ever further from her bewildered family.

But why do events take such an extreme turn? The mystery of anorexia nervosa remains. In the hospital, a nurse who has seen everything seems to strike some responsive cord, and Josie begins eating to gain weight. At the end of the novel she’ll soon be released , under supervision, but the outcome is in doubt. "Can I learn to be so present? Can I learn to be so full?" ". . . if I were a body, what would I be?"

 

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Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator describes the disorientation felt as she attempted unsuccessfully to organize her thoughts. The "sequence [of thoughts] ravelled out of reach / Like balls upon a floor."

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Jane Eyre

Bronte, Charlotte

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Young Jane Eyre was orphaned and sent to live with her uncle, who dies shortly after her arrival. Her step-aunt despises her and sends her to Lowood School so that she can become a governess. She wins the friendship of everyone there, but her life is difficult because conditions are poor at the school. Not until typhus kills many of the students do conditions improve.

Jane completes her education there and obtains a position as governess at a house called Thornfield. Jane’s student is Adele Varens, a petulant but loving ward of the master of the house, Edward Rochester (and possibly his illegitimate child). Rochester is rarely at home and Jane spends most of her time with Adele and the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. When Rochester does come home, he is often moody and imposing.

One night, Jane wakes to strange noises and the smell of smoke. She finds Rochester unconscious in his bed, which is on fire. Other odd things happen in the house: Jane often hears strange laughter and thuds. Jane has meanwhile realized that she loves Rochester but in her pride refuses to confess it.

When Rochester invites a group of friends to the house, including Blanche Ingram whom he is expected to marry, Jane is treated like a servant by the guests. One of the guests, Mr. Mason, is mysteriously injured. Jane is also troubled when her former guardian, Mrs. Reed, calls her to her death bed and admits that several years earlier she had received a letter from one of Jane’s distant relatives, John Eyre, a wealthy man who lives in Madeira. Mr. Eyre had offered to adopt Jane, but Mrs. Reed maliciously told him that Jane had died in the typhus epidemic.

When Jane returns from this visit, Rochester asks her to marry him and Jane joyfully assents. Two nights before their wedding, she wakes to find someone in her room, wearing her wedding veil. She faints in fear, but Rochester convinces her it is her imagination. At the wedding, a man interrupts the service, saying Rochester is already married. Rochester admits it and takes the wedding party to the attic. His wife is a Creole, Bertha Mason, who went mad immediately after their wedding fifteen years before. Now she is imprisoned in the attic.

Jane decides she must run away. Penniless, she becomes a beggar until Reverend St. John Rivers and his two sisters generously take her in. She lives with them under an assumed name, and it is only by accident that she learns simultaneously that John Eyre has died and left her his fortune and that the Rivers are her cousins. They share the fortune. Rivers presses her to marry him and join him as a missionary. He admits that he does not love her, but he thinks Jane smart and useful. Jane feels she must do her duty, but she does not want to marry Rivers.

One night, Jane hears Rochester’s voice calling to her. She returns to Thornfield and finds the house burned to the ground. Bertha had set fire to it and Rochester became blinded in his unsuccessful attempt to save her life. Jane and Rochester marry. It is intimated that Rivers will die gloriously for his cause.

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Illness as Metaphor

Sontag, Susan

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Sontag argues against the use of illness as metaphor. She states her main point on the first page of this long essay : "The most truthful way of regarding illness--and the healthiest way of being ill--is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking."

Tuberculosis and cancer serve as her two central examples of the human tendency to use metaphoric thinking about illness. In the 19th century, tuberculosis was considered a disease of passion, of "inward burning," of the "consumption" of life force. Sufferers were thought to have superior sensibility; the illness purified them of the dross of everyday life. The romantic image of the TB sufferer became "the first widespread example of that distinctively modern activity, promoting the self as an image" (p. 29). Metaphoric thinking about TB declined in the early part of the 20th century as the disease succumbed to science and public health measures.

Cancer has now become the predominant disease metaphor in our culture. Cancer is considered a disease of repression, or inhibited passion. The cancer sufferer characteristically suppresses emotion, which after many years emerges from the unconscious self as malignant growth. As in Auden’s poem, Miss Gee, reproduced on page 49, (see annotation in this database): "Childless women get it, / And men when they retire . . . . " Sontag uses the 19th century view of insanity as another example of malignant metaphoric thinking, while metaphor related to syphilis was somewhat more benign. She concludes the essay with an eloquent prediction that, as we learn more about the etiology and treatment of cancer, its metaphorical system will die on the vine. (I wonder if Sontag would consider my "die on the vine" an appropriate metaphor here?)

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This short play is set in rural Spain at the turn of this century. The characters, all women, exist in a cloistered household managed by a newly widowed mother of five daughters. Under the shadow of the church and the tyranny bred from a need to protect the reputation of the family, the matron (Bernarda Alba) represses her daughters by enforcing an eight year mourning period. The tensions build rapidly among the imprisoned women, with a demented grandmother playing a role resembling that of a Greek chorus. Eventually, the natural spirits of the daughters circumvent Bernarda, but the result is violence and a suicide.

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