Showing 181 - 190 of 368 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mental Illness"

Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This unique "miscellany" of prose from journals and essays, poems, stories, music, paintings (reproduced in black and white), drawings, and cartoons illustrates countless ways that medicine and the arts, in tandem, "stretch the imagination, deepen the sympathy . . . enrich the perceptions" and give sheer, unadulterated pleasure. Organized by Robin Downie, renowned Professor Emeritus of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University, the anthology is grouped in eight categories: "The Way We Are," "Disease and Mental Illness," "Doctors and Psychiatrists," "Nurses and Patients," "Healing," "Last Things," "Research," and "Ethics and Purpose."

Excerpts include the classic lore [Charles Lamb’s essay, "The Convalescent"; Florence Nightingale’s diary, "Notes on Nursing"; W. H. Auden’s poem, Musee des Beaux Arts (see this database); Theodore Roethke’s poem, In a Dark Time (see this database); C. S. Lewis’s journal, A Grief Observed (see this database); Sir Luke Fildes’s painting, The Doctor (see this database)] and refreshingly new nuggets from John Wisdom’s radio talk, "What is There in Horse-Racing" ("For a game of croquet is not merely a matter of getting balls through hoops, anymore than a conversation is a matter of getting noises out of a larynx,"); Robert Pirsig’s treatise, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"; physician Roy Calne’s tender sketches of his own patients; composer Richard Wagner’s letter, "Biscuits as Therapy"; Janice Galloway’s novel, "The Trick is to Keep Breathing"; and expressions by patients and artists who happen to be patients of their particular illness experiences.

Lest "commentary be intrusive," except as brief introduction to each section, Downie deliberately omitted them, placing illustrations and extracts so as to provide commentary on one another. (Readers cannot help but be stimulated, however, to rearrange and create their own juxtapositions.)

The section on "Healing" considers not only the expected operations, spiritual healing, traditional cures, music and art as therapy, but also "spells, hope, and mothers." Richard Asher’s essay on why medical journals are so dull (British Medical Journal 23 Aug. 1958), or on whether or not baldness is psychological, and the comic strips of Posy Simmonds (the double entendres of "Medical Precautions," the "Minor Operation" burlesque on Shakespeare’s "All the Ward’s a Stage,") remind us yet again that birthing, aging, illness and dying are not pathological events or mere medical processes, and that the arts and humanities are bountiful reservoirs of moral discourse, inspiration, and renewal.

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Heredity

Davidson, Jenny

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Elizabeth Mann, the daughter of a world famous fertility specialist whom she despises, hasn’t quite made it into medical school. She runs away to London, where she can revel in an orgy of self-destructive behavior, while working as a freelance writer for a travel guidebook. She soon develops two obsessions. In an obscure medical museum she encounters the skeleton of Jonathan Wild, a famous 18th century criminal who met his death by hanging. During the same museum visit, she runs across Gideon Streetcar, a young fertility specialist who once worked with her father. Though Gideon is "happily" married, he and Elizabeth soon begin a torrid affair.

Elizabeth’s obsession with Jonathan Wild grows when, through Gideon, she obtains a copy of the criminal’s second wife’s memoir. Through it, she learns that his first wife, who died in childbirth, was named Elizabeth Mann. She develops a scheme to obtain DNA from Wild’s skeleton and use it in association with an experimental cloning procedure to become pregnant with the 18th century criminal’s child (clone).

When the 25 year old Elizabeth reveals that her father tied her tubes when she was 16, after having aborted her fetus--a "slut," he called her--Gideon agrees to attempt in vitro fertilization with her eggs and his sperm. He transfers two blastocysts, plus one of the supposedly cloned Jonathan Wild cells. She becomes pregnant. Soon thereafter she returns to the USA when her father has a massive heart attack and she, apparently, has an opportunity to go to medical school.

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Summary:

This collection of sixteen Chekhov stories brings together in one volume many of Chekhov’s finest tales about doctors. The chronologically-arranged collection includes the famous novella, Ward 6, as well as such shorter classics as An Awkward Business and A Doctor’s Visit. In all sixteen stories, the doctor is a major figure, often at the center of a moral conflict.

Robert Coles , in his thoughtful forward, notes that Chekhov raises the "big questions" about "the meaning and purpose of life and the manner it ought to be conducted (and why)." Himself the editor of William Carlos Williams’s doctor stories, Coles recognizes and honors the comparison between Chekhov’s and Williams’s works and their dual careers as physician-writers. Jack Coulehan, in his introduction and comments, provides interesting biographical information on the great Russian writer as well as insightful interpretations of each story.

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The Scarlet Flower

Garshin, Vsevolod

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story opens with the protagonist, identified only as the "Patient," being forcibly carried into the insane asylum. Once there, he no longer protests, but seems to accept his incarceration in the huge, overcrowded hospital. The doctor and other staff members seem particularly kind. Because the Patient rapidly loses weight, despite his good appetite, he receives a special diet.

The Patient notices a single scarlet flower among the many beautiful flowers in the hospital garden. He suddenly realizes that all the evil in the world is condensed into the scarlet flower. His mission is to destroy it. But when he attempts to pick the flower, hospital personnel prevent him from doing so, since picking flowers is prohibited. Eventually, he manages to destroy the flower, but notices a second scarlet blossom in the garden. He destroys that one as well, but a third scarlet flower appears. Finally, the Patient sneaks out at night to deal with the third flower, and then is found dead in the garden the next morning, clutching the remains of the scarlet blossom.

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Summary:

A long hallway stretches almost all the way to the end of the viewer's perspective. One solitary figure about halfway down the hall makes a quick exit from our view as it ducks into an abutting room. The hallway is colored in somber tones--browns, greens, and muddy yellows make up most of the coloration. These colors make the hallway appear as though it is composed of awkward rivers flowing across the plane of the floor, suggesting a sort of moat or barricade across which travel might be difficult. Additionally, the archways are not stylistically consistent--the arch closest to the viewer is more plain, more bleak, and seems to cordon off the viewer's end of the hall from the remainder of the corridor.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Arabella is a young lady who has lived for a long while at her father’s secluded country home. She spends her time reading romances (in 18th century Britain, "romance" meant fictional works posing as historical accounts of tragic heroines, leibestods, and undying affection--usually French in origin).

She has come to believe the romances to be true and models her behavior after the rigid rules of womanhood contained in them. Moreover, she interprets others’ action or outside events according to romantic expectations.

When Arabella finally goes into society, all are struck with her wisdom and beauty, but are baffled by her behavior and constant references to various romantic characters. She scorns her persistent suitor, Mr. Glanville, since he does not, at first, pursue her according to the rules of romance. He neither pines away, nor allows her to send him to the far ends of the earth to think of her without hope, forever. He soon learns to humor her caprices.

Arabella goes through many adventures all of which depend on her obsession. When she falls ill after diving into a river to save her honor, a doctor is called in to treat her. Learning of her obsession, he resolves to cure her. Using cold logic, he dissolves Arabella’s misconceptions.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film is biographical, based on the life of the actress Frances Farmer (1914-1970), who was briefly successful in Hollywood in the early 1940’s and was then institutionalized for mental illness. She was "cured" by a transorbital prefrontal lobotomy.

The film begins with Frances (Jessica Lange) winning a high school writing competition with an essay criticizing God. This outspoken intelligence characterizes her. As a young actress, she wins a trip to Russia in a competition run by a Communist newspaper, performs on Broadway, and ends up in Hollywood. Quickly, however, it becomes clear that her unconventional behavior and attitudes make her vulnerable to people, including her overbearing and vicariously ambitious mother (Kim Stanley), who demand that she conform to more passive forms of femininity.

When Frances is arrested for drunk driving, her mother puts her in a "convalescent home," where she is given insulin injections in the guise of "vitamins." She escapes and, deciding that the pressures of the film industry are causing her drinking problem, tells her mother that she won’t be returning to Hollywood. Her starstruck mother, appalled, has her committed.

After undergoing the closely filmed experiences of the strait jacket, the padded cell, and shock treatment, all in the frighteningly bedlam-like atmosphere of the asylum, Frances submits to psychiatric surgery. This is perhaps the most disturbing part of the film. She is lobotomized in front of an audience by a mallet-wielding surgeon who boasts he can do ten patients per hour because "lobotomy gets ’em home."

Sure enough, Frances is allowed to go home. The film ends several years later in 1958, when Frances Farmer really did appear on the television show, "This is Your Life." We watch the show through the eyes of Harry York (Sam Shepard), the journalist who has always loved her, and he goes to meet her afterwards.

She has been transformed: composed and seemingly serene, but fundamentally blank, she has become a chilling shadow of herself. Early on in the film, she refuses to cooperate with a psychotherapist, saying "I don’t want to be what you want to make me: dull, average, normal." By the end of the film she has been reduced to the hollow appearance of all these things--and is grateful for it.

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A Face at the Window

McFarland, Dennis

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Cookson Selway has had a problematic childhood (his mother dressed him as a girl and his father was a murderer) and a complex youth (after dealing cocaine and becoming an alcoholic, he went into the restaurant business, made a fortune and retired at thirty-nine). Now 44, he is settled into wealthy middle age, living in Massachusetts with his wife, Ellen, a mystery writer, and his teenage daughter, Jordan. When Jordan goes away to boarding school, Cook and Ellen move to London so that Ellen can research a new novel.

Cook, always unconventional, sometimes sees things no-one else can, and in England, his condition, whatever it is, becomes worse. He begins to believe that the Willerton, the old hotel he and Ellen stay in, is haunted. He encounters three "ghosts," a small boy, an adolescent girl, and a man about his own age who is always drunk and repulsively lascivious. He learns that, years before, a girl died after jumping or falling from an upstairs window. It is rumored that she had been sexually abused by her drunk uncle. The only other person who seems aware of the ghosts is Pascal, the French bellboy, who soon becomes Cook’s ally.

Cook begins acting increasingly strangely, and his wife and the people she befriends (in particular the Sho-pans, an elderly Chinese couple) are convinced that Cook has started drinking again or is having some kind of mental breakdown. The reader is never given a final explanation for what happens; the "ghosts" certainly seem to reenact events from the hotel’s history, but they are also deeply linked to Cook’s own obsessions. They are all, perhaps, aspects of himself. Both fascinated and horrified, he is unable to reject them, even as his obsession estranges his wife. Only when it causes the death of Pascal is he able to leave the hotel and, perhaps, the ghosts. The couple return to America, and tentatively begin to recover.

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Dialogues with Madwomen

Light, Allie

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary presents a pastiche of illness narratives, the stories of seven women (including the filmmaker and the associate producer) who have struggled with mental illness, including depression, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder. Intercut with the interviews are reenactments of key events in the women? lives; vivid depictions of sometimes frightening, sometimes exhilarating mental states experienced by the women; films and still photographs from the womens' childhoods, and archival film footage. In the process of exploring their illnesses and recoveries, the women discuss experiences that hurt them (rape, misdiagnoses, racism) as well as those that helped them heal (creativity, caring, therapists, and spirituality).

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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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