Showing 291 - 300 of 382 annotations tagged with the keyword "Narrative as Method"

Gogol's Wife

Landolfi, Tomasso

Last Updated: Feb-07-2002
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story is claimed by its narrator to be a chapter in his biography of the Russian writer, Nikolai Gogol. He begins by saying he knows some intimate details of Gogol's life and that as his biographer he feels obligated to reveal them, though as his friend he might have kept all this to himself.

After setting the reader up for some perhaps prurient "facts," the narrator tells us that Gogol's wife was a life-sized balloon, anatomically correct and quite voluptuous. Claiming to be the only person besides Gogol who has ever seen this creation, the narrator goes on to tell us an occasion where he heard her speak. He describes how she developed her own personality, in spite of the fact that she was a balloon, and that she even contracted syphilis, which subsequently infected Gogol.

The narrator and Gogol are celebrating the silver anniversary of Gogol and his wife when the novelist gets insanely irritated with her, inserts a bicycle pump into her, and inflates her until she explodes. Gogol then throws the rubber pieces into the fire (much as he had burned his manuscripts earlier). He also throws into the fire a balloon baby boy. The story closes with the narrator again defending his position of biographer, providing the truth about Gogol to the reader.

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Thinks . . .

Lodge, David

Last Updated: Feb-07-2002
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Helen Reed, a novelist, newly widowed, moves to the University of Gloucester for a semester to teach creative writing. There she meets Ralph Messenger, professor of cognitive science. Their relationship is set within a web of complex professional and family connections, most of which focus on variations of adultery. Everyone has a secret. Helen learns by reading the novel-in-progress of one of her students that the student had had an affair with her husband.

Ralph, awkwardly involved with a Czech grad student who is trying to blackmail him, is regularly unfaithful to his wife, who is in turn having an affair. Another scientist is addicted to on-line child pornography. Helen and Ralph eventually become lovers, until Ralph is found to have a lump on his liver (which later turns out not to be cancer) and then betrays Helen by reading her private journals. She then returns to London and he remains with his wife.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man. So opens the first part of "Notes from Underground," in which the narrator describes his character and psychological states. He is a low ranking public official, 40 years old, who lives alone in a small room. When he received a small inheritance, he immediately quit his job and now spends his time ruminating about who he is and what his life means.

This narrator does not simply accept the laws of nature. He dislikes "the fact that two and two makes four." He realizes that he cannot break down the wall of nature "by battering my head against it," but nonetheless "I am not going to resign myself to it simply because it is a stone wall and I am not strong enough." (p. 12) He is proud of never having begun or finished anything. (p. 17) In fact, "what man needs is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead." (p. 23)

The narrator is "underground" because he has chosen not to participate, not to accomplish, not to interact, not even to justify his non-participation in "ordinary" life. Yet, he is bored, and so he chooses to occupy himself by writing these notes.

The second part is less rumination and more narrative, as the protagonist describes some seminal events in his life. When he was a young clerk, he was a loner with no friends. One day he decided to visit Simonov, an old school acquaintance, who happened at the time to be planning a dinner with some friends to honor another friend, Zverkov, who had done well in the military. The protagonist awkwardly invited himself to this dinner, despite having no money to pay for it, and later, after being thoroughly obnoxious and insulting his hosts, he followed them to a brothel, where he encountered a whore named Liza and conned her into thinking that he cared for her.

When she appeared at his apartment a few days later, he angrily told her that the "fine sentiments" were all false: "I was laughing at you!" When Liza then ran away, the narrator became agitated and tried to follow, but quickly dropped the idea. "Would I not begin to hate her, perhaps even tomorrow, just because I had kissed her feet today? Would I give her happiness? Had I not recognized that day, for the hundredth time, what I was worth?" (p. 113) At this point he breaks off, saying that he chooses not to write any further notes form underground.

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Rebecca

Sacks, Oliver

Last Updated: Feb-05-2002
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Case Study

Summary:

This is one of the two dozen studies of patients with right-brain disorders that make up Sacks's volume The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. The nineteen-year-old Rebecca has significant physical and mental defects (her IQ is 60 at best), and by conventional neurological standards she is severely impaired, but Sacks discovers that she has moments of being quite in touch and "together" (her word).

The essay tells of Sacks's discovery of Rebecca's poetic expression and spiritual qualities, and of her self-awareness, in planes unknown to standard neurological and psychiatric categories. Sacks is broadly critical of psychological and neurological testing as constituting a "defectology" that is blind to important human qualities. He warmly recommends music and story-telling, both as modes of understanding and also as narrative therapies that work by ignoring the defects and speaking to the soul.

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I Stand Here Ironing

Olsen, Tillie

Last Updated: Feb-05-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator stands working at her ironing board, responding mentally to a request someone (a teacher? a social worker?) makes of her regarding her daughter Emily, "I wish you could manage the time to come in and talk with me . . . She's a youngster who needs help." The woman's thoughts go back to Emily's birth during the Depression when she was only 19, and her thoughts range forward, haltingly, in piecemeal fashion, through her daughter's difficult childhood.

Due to the wages of loss, poverty and dislocation, a wall has grown up between mother and daughter--she has always wanted to love the sickly, awkward, stiff, and isolated girl, but has not been able to penetrate the wall. And then, she recalls, out of nowhere Emily won first prize in her school amateur show. The girl is a natural performer, a wonderful comedienne, who now is in demand throughout the city and state.

Suddenly, Emily appears on the scene. "Aren't you ever going to finish the ironing, mother?" She says that she wants to sleep in the morning, even though this will make her late for mid-term exams. Near the end of the story the narrator imagines telling her interlocutor, "Why were you so concerned? She will find her way." But then she implores, "Only help her to know--help make it so there is cause for her to know--that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron."

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Summary:

The author provides a historical review of physicians who became famous practicing a profession other than medicine. Most of the article focuses on physician-writers, beginning with Francois Rabelais, and including both well-known and obscure figures. There are extensive comments on Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Gottfried Benn, Friedrich Wolf, Mikhail Bulgakov, Oliver Goldsmith, Anton P. Chekhov, Arthur Schnitzler, W. (William) Somerset Maugham, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Carlos Williams, among others. The most complete discussion (5 pages) is devoted to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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True History of the Kelly Gang

Carey, Peter

Last Updated: Dec-19-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel purports to be the story of Ned Kelly, the most famous of all Australian outlaws, as told in his own words. We learn that after Ned’s capture in the shoot-out at Glenrowan on June 28th, 1880, "thirteen parcels of stained and dog-eared papers, every one of them in Ned Kelly’s distinctive hand" (p. 4), were discovered among his things. These parcels turned out to be a memoir, addressed to the infant daughter whom he was never to see because his wife fled to San Francisco.

Ned was the son of poor Irish immigrants who farmed a "selection" (i.e. homestead) in the northern part of the colony of Victoria. After his father died, in order to help support her children, Ned’s mother took up with a series of dubious men, including an outlaw named Harry Power, who became the boy’s manipulative mentor. The memoir presents Ned as a goodhearted, loyal, and basically honest young man who came to blows with the law partly as a result of his bad companions, and partly through the intrinsic malice of the police.

Along with his brothers and two friends, he reluctantly becomes a bank robber, commits a few incidental murders, and ends up as a popular hero whose final capture has become part of Australian legend. The memoir shows us that the 26-year-old Ned could have escaped to America with his wife, but chose to remain in Victoria because he hoped somehow to free his mother, who was serving a jail sentence in Melbourne. The memoir also describes the origin of the famous iron armor that Ned was wearing when he was captured.

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Singing Boy

McFarland, Dennis

Last Updated: Dec-18-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Malcolm Vaughan, an architect, his wife, Sarah, a biochemist, and their five-year-old son, Harry, are driving home one evening. The driver of the car in front of them is acting strangely. Malcolm goes to investigate and the driver shoots him dead. The novel traces the effects of Malcolm's death from the alternating points of view of his wife and his best friend, Deckard Jones, a black Vietnam vet. Following different and often conflicting trajectories but linked by their love for Harry, both Sarah and Deck begin to move from traumatized shock to the beginnings of recovery.

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To Render the Lives of Patients

Charon, Rita

Last Updated: Nov-16-2001
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The author, an internist and medical educator with a long-term interest in literature (she recently was awarded a Ph.D. in English literature), describes the literary exercise she uses to develop empathy in students taking her required course in medical interviewing. Charon has her students choose a difficult medical encounter from their own recent training and then write, using the first person, the story of that patient’s life in the day before the difficulty--including being treated by the medical student who is doing the writing. Because much of the story must be imagined, the writer’s intuition is automatically brought into play.

Because it is told from the patient’s point of view, the medical student is forced to see the patient whole and without reference to medical terms. Charon argues that this exercise of the imagination yields a combination of objectivity and empathy that forms the basis for good medical care. She also finds that the exercise helps medical students see themselves as their patients see them--and thus to understand, for instance, the effect on their patients of their youth and nervousness.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Case Studies)

Summary:

Crossing Over presents "extended, richly detailed, multiperspectival case narratives" of 20 dying patients served by the Hospice of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania and the Palliative Care Service of Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. These complex narratives (each written by a single author) reveal the patient’s story from many points of view, including those of family members and professional caregivers.

The authors explain how this project differs from recent books of clinical narratives by Timothy Quill (A Midwife Through the Dying Process, 1996), Ira Byock (Dying Well: The Prospect of Growth at the End of Life, 1997), and Michael Kearney (Mortally Wounded. Stories of Soul Pain, Death and Healing, 1996 [see entry in this database]). Barnard et al. point out that Quill, Byock, and Kearney are "passionate advocates for their own styles of care . . . Yet these very characteristics--advocacy and close personal involvement--limit their books in important respects." (p. 5) Basically, these authors select cases that illustrate the efficacy of their models and present the patients’ stories from their own point of view.

Crossing Over draws on a standard qualitative methodology that includes tape-recorded interviews of patients, families, and health care professionals; chart reviews; and participant observation. After the introduction, the narratives occupy 374 pages of text (almost 19 pages per patient). Part II of the book, entitled "Working with the Narratives," includes a short chapter on research methods and 29 pages of "Authors’ Comments and Questions for Discussion." The latter is designed to be used as a teaching guide.

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