Showing 2481 - 2490 of 2763 Literature annotations

The Words to Say It

Cardinal, Marie

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Marta, Jan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this autobiographical novelization of a seven-year psychoanalysis the protagonist recounts the life story that led to her psychosomatic symptoms, and the medical and psychiatric story that led to her analysis. Her early relationships, particularly with her mother, her life in French Algeria in the 1930's to 1950's, and her adult relationships as wife and mother, are told through the associative processes of psychoanalysis as the protagonist grows into a healthy, fulfilled woman and writer. Cardinal beautifully illustrates the joy and rebirth in finding the words to say it.

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Three Tall Women

Albee, Edward

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This play takes place in the bedroom of a sick and forgetful old woman (A). In the first act she is cared for by a middle-aged companion (B) and visited by a young woman (C) sent by the lawyer to settle some financial affairs. A is imperious and acerbic; B, practical and compassionate; C, impatient and curious. In the context of A's life, they discuss the human condition with its love, pain, wit, sex, and inevitable decline. At the end of the first act, A suffers a stroke that leaves her on the edge of death. In the second act a mannequin of A lies in the bed. B and C are joined by A on-stage in discussing events in their mutual life and how one became the other--for they are, in fact, all the same woman ("everywoman") at different stages of her life.

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Age of Iron

Coetzee, J. M.

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Mrs. Curren, a retired classics professor in Cape Town, South Africa, is dying of cancer. The novel is in the form of an extended letter to her only daughter who has fled apartheid and lives in the United States. During her final days, Mrs. Curren takes in a homeless alcoholic man who appears on her doorstep. Her housekeeper's son Bheki is involved in an uprising. While helping his mother search for him, Mrs. Curren witnesses the burning of a black township and discovers the boy's bullet-ridden body.

Later, Bheki's friend, who seeks refuge at her house, is killed there by government security forces. In anger and despair, Mrs. Curren is forced to confront the "age of iron" apartheid has wrought. Her only companion in all this is the alcoholic drifter, who agrees (or does he?) to send this last letter to her daughter.

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Red Noses

Barnes, Peter

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

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

Genre: Play

Summary:

This play is set in Auxerre, France, in 1348 in the midst of the Black Plague. The main character is Marcel Flote, a wandering monk who after an inadvertently humorous run-in with a flagellant discovers what God has called him for--laughter in the face of plague, "bright stars not sad comets, red noses not black death. He wants joy."

Flote then sets forth with a troupe of clowns (a new order without order) to make merriment against all odds. Although initially supported by the Church in this endeavor (for its own gain), the Church in the end (not surprisingly) turns against Father Flote and his anti-establishment followers.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This is a fascinating book on the relationship of science, medicine, and medical education to the rise of modernism in literature. Crawford uses Williams' work to connect the worlds of literature and medicine. He discovers in Williams' early poems and stories the dominant themes of clarity, cleanliness, objectivity, and authority; these themes also characterize early 20th century science. In Williams' later work, Crawford shows how the poet moved toward a more subjective and relativistic aesthetic, a change that reflects subsequent developments in science, especially physics, and signifies the emergence of "post-modernism" in literature.

Williams' first principle was clarity. As a physician, it was important that he observe human reality with a clear eye so that he could intervene to transform it. Direct apprehension of reality was also for him the source of poetry. He found beauty in the concrete experience of everyday life, but was skeptical of theories and abstractions. Along with clarity, cleanliness and objectivity also characterize Williams' worlds.

But clarity is not, in reality, so clear. To see clearly in a medical way, the physician must first learn to observe the world in a specialized manner in the "theater of proof," a metaphorical extension of the stage on which professors demonstrate anatomical structures or surgeons demonstrate operations. Like medical educators, the poet also creates a theater of proof. While the reader may experience clarity and simplicity in the poem, these effects are actually staged by the poet, who chooses "clean" words and manipulates reality to achieve the desired simplicity. In both medicine and poetry, the practitioner unveils the truth by using manipulative and authoritarian techniques.

In the last chapter, Crawford shows that Williams' later work presages a post-modern, relativistic world. While the earlier Williams speaks of clarity, simplicity, science, and authority, Patterson and the post-World War II poems reveal complexity, fragmentation, and subversion.

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Montilice, a tiny mountain village in post-World War II Italy, is the setting for this stunning novella. The narrator is a 60 year old priest who is haunted by the request of Zelinda, a woman new to his parish and slightly older than he. It takes the priest a while to get to the essence of Zelinda's request, for she initially approached him with seemingly odd concerns about marriage and divorce. But later he realizes that her inquiries about exceptions to church dogma have to do with the taking of one's life. Zelinda was tired of her existence (as a washerwoman her life was "a goat-life. A goat-life and nothing else . . . ") and she wanted to "finish up a little sooner."

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Coda

Astley, Thea

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Kathleen Hackendorf is the funny, strong heroine of Thea Astley’s Coda, a book built around two eternal questions, "What are we going to do with Mother?" and, from the elderly person’s point of view, "What am I going to do with myself?" Kathleen wants to remain on her own despite her growing awareness of her frailties. But when she begins getting lost and when the government requires her house as right-of-way for a road, Kathleen calls on her children for help.

They, who she says have "the empathy of a piranha" (164), will not take her in; Sham and her husband finally "book" Kathleen into a retirement village called Passing Downs, which Kathleen describes as "fucking awful" (169), where she stays, wreaking havoc at every opportunity, for two nights. We last see her wandering the city, being mugged, and, finally, literally and metaphorically, "taking the ferry to the island."

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The Anatomy Lesson

Connell, Evan

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

During an art class on anatomy, an art instructor in an undergraduate curriculum addresses the students on the dedication and vision an artist needs to become a true artist.

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The Bell Jar

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Feb-17-1997
Annotated by:
Schaffer, Amanda

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this autobiographical novel, Plath's protagonist, Esther Greenwood, sinks into a profound depression during the summer after her third year of college. Esther spends the month of June interning at a ladies' fashion magazine in Manhattan, but despite her initial expectations, is uninterested in the work and increasingly unsure of her own prospects.

Esther grows disenchanted with her traditional-minded boyfriend, Buddy Willard, a medical student who “had won a prize for persuading the most relatives of dead people to have their dead ones cut up, whether they needed it or not . . . . ” Returning home to a New England suburb, Esther also discovers that she's been rejected from a Harvard summer school fiction course. Her relationship with her mother is painfully strained.

Suddenly, Esther finds herself unable to sleep or read or concentrate. She undergoes a few unsuccessful sessions with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gordon, as well as terrifying electroshock therapy. She becomes increasingly depressed, thinks obsessively about suicide, then attempts to kill herself by crawling into the cellar and taking a bottle of sleeping pills: "red and blue lights began to flash before my eyes. The bottle slid from my fingers and I lay down." Esther vomits, however, and so, does not die. She is taken to a city hospital and then, through the financial intervention of a benefactor, to a private psychiatric institution.

There, Esther begins gradually to recover. She enjoys the pleasant country-club surroundings and develops a closeness with her analytically-oriented psychiatrist, Dr. Nolan. Esther also undergoes a more successful regimen of shock therapy, after which she feels the "bell jar" of depression lifting.

The stigma of attempted suicide and hospitalization seems to free Esther to behave less traditionally; defiantly, she loses her virginity to a man she's met on the steps of Harvard's Widener Library. At the novel's end, Esther is preparing to leave the psychiatric hospital and is describing herself, optimistically, as transformed.

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The Visionary

Livingstone, Douglas

Last Updated: Feb-13-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A witch doctor treated a man for trachoma with a caustic root, and the man went blind. Terrified and depressed, he sat in the doorway of his home for two years while "his wives ministered" to him. One night he went off on his own and "fell into a dry well and died upside down."

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