Showing 171 - 180 of 377 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mental Illness"
The time is 1963; the place, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. In their lower middle-class home, Piet Bezuidenhout and his wife Gladys are waiting for friends to arrive for dinner. Piet is an Afrikaner man who hasn't achieved much in life, but has found sustenance and meaning in liberal politics. His wife is a South African of English descent, who, we later learn, has recently returned home from being hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. Visible on the stage (or at least to the protagonists) is Piet's collection of indigenous aloe plants. He is attempting to classify a new aloe that he has just found, but which doesn't appear to fit into any of the listed species.
Their awaited guests are Steve Daniels and his family. Steve, a colored man whom Piet met in his political work, was recently released from jail, where he had served time for "subversive" activities. We learn that Steve has obtained a one-way exit permit; the following week he plans to sail with his family to England. When Steve finally arrives two hours late (and a little worse the wear from drinking), it turns out that his wife and children stayed home. In fact, everyone in the movement, including Steve's wife, believes that Piet (the white man) is an informer.
As the two old friends begin to talk, the conversation becomes painful; they circle cautiously around important personal questions. Was Piet really the informer? What happened to Gladys that caused her nervous breakdown? And, finally, why has Steve decided to give up the political struggle and go into exile?
A severe synopsis of Foucault's first major work might show how Foucault charts the journey of the mad from liberty and discourse to confinement and silence and how this is signposted by the exercise of power. He starts in the epoch when madness was an "undifferentiated experience" (ix), a time when the mad roamed the countryside in "an easy wandering existence" (8); Foucault shows the historical and cultural developments that lead to "that other form of madness, by which men, in an act of sovereign reason, confine their neighbors" (ix), challenging the optimism of William Tuke and Phillipe Pinel's "liberation" of the mad and problematizing the genesis of psychiatry, a "monologue of reason about madness" (xi).
Central to this is the notion of confinement as a meaningful exercise. Foucault's history explains how the mad came first to be confined; how they became identified as confined due to moral and economic factors that determined those who ought to be confined; how they became perceived as dangerous through their confinement, partly by way of atavistic identification with the lepers whose place they had come to occupy; how they were "liberated" by Pinel and Tuke, but in their liberation remained confined, both physically in asylums and in the designation of being mad; and how this confinement subsequently became enacted in the figure of the psychiatrist, whose practice is "a certain moral tactic contemporary with the end of the eighteenth century, preserved in the rites of the asylum life, and overlaid by the myths of positivism." Science and medicine, notably, come in at the later stages, as practices "elaborated once this division" between the mad and the sane has been made (ix).
Summary:The narrator is visiting a patient in a mental hospital and sits chewing his sandwich. He has also brought a sandwich for the patient (his brother? father? friend?), but the patient just holds his sandwich motionless in front of his mouth. The narrator tries to accept this as ordinary; he keeps chewing. But his "past is sitting in front of" him, trying unsuccessfully "to bring the present to its mouth."
The story is told by a man living in "the drooling ward," part of a California mental institution. The narrator has been in the ward over 25 years; he helps feed and care for the others. He calls himself a "feeb"--feeble minded--but believes himself to be better than the droolers and certainly better than the stuck-up "epilecs" who though they seem normal throw such terrible fits. He feels as if he could get released from the hospital at any time, but he would rather stay. He tells of the two times he left the hospital. The first time, he was adopted by a couple that ran a ranch. He was forced to do many chores and the man beat him. He snuck off and returned to the home. The second time, he ran away with two "epilecs," but they were hungry and afraid of the dark so returned.
The narrator’s friend Douglas reads a memoir entrusted to him by his young sister’s governess when he was in college: to oblige a handsome bachelor, she agrees to care for his orphaned niece and nephew in a lonely country house. She becomes convinced that Flora and Miles (ages 8 and 10) are haunted by the evil spirits of their former governess, Miss Jessel, and a former valet, Quint.
The housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, tells the governess of the servants’ "corruption" and "contamination" of the children, Miss Jessel’s suspected pregnancy and mysterious death, and Quint’s fatal, drunken fall. The governess’s obsessive struggle with the ghosts over the children culminates in Flora’s descent into a fever and a climactic battle with Quint over the soul of Miles, who dies of heart failure even as the governess asserts her triumph.
Summary:In the heart of New York City the narrator comes across a tall, Senegalese man "speaking to a piece of chalk." The man is "neatly dressed / in the remnants of two blue suits . . . " and regal in his bearing. The man’s language is French, and he speaks "so slowly and precisely" that the narrator, no longer young, is reminded of his high school French class. He is also reminded of writing his name on the blackboard after returning to school, following his father’s death. The man knows "the whole history of chalk"; he knows "what creatures had given / their spines to become the dust time / pressed into these perfect cones . . . " The narrator knows that they are both elderly men "sharing the final poem of chalk . . . " [58 lines]
The unrequited love of the narrator is compared to a devastating fever. Reason, "the physician," is ignored and cannot abate the disease. Without reason, madness (fever) reigns; and the poet renounces his beloved as "black as hell, as dark as night."
Miss Rosie is homeless, a street person surrounded by her foul-smelling possessions. She is not a stranger to the narrator, who has thought long and hard about her present circumstances and how she might have been long ago before she became a familiar sight in the neighborhood. Now reduced to rags, this "wet brown bag of a woman," says the narrator, once was "the best looking gal in Georgia." The narrator "stand[s] up" for her through her "destruction."
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]
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.)