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Out of Sight

Piercy, Marge

Last Updated: Mar-21-1997
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is about how the mentally ill (especially those who are women/elderly) are pushed out of sight. No one wants to deal with them, so they are put away somewhere. Sometimes this punishment is more than usually unreasonable. One person in the poem is locked up because she refuses to do the dishes. Another's crime is asking the wrong person for help. This treatment is compared to witch burning and to cutting off the hands of thieves. Many think these practices are barbarous, yet they participate in hiding away suffering men and women.

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Summary:

Fausto-Sterling is a biologist who challenges various experiments meant to prove the biological bases of sexual difference. The first chapter is a brief introduction describing the interdependence of modern social structure and biology. Chapter Two is called "A Question of Genius: Are Men Really Smarter Than Women?" She is partly concerned here with arguments that women are simply less intelligent than men. More interestingly, she takes on scientists who claim that women have a different sort of intelligence than men (more verbal than visual or spatial). Such claims, argues Fausto-Sterling, simply provide a rationale for sexism in education and employment. Fausto-Sterling questions both the techniques used in the experiments meant to prove these differences and the scientists' objectivity.

Chapter Three, "Of Genes and Gender," similarly critiques theories that suggest humans are totally controlled by genetic information. Particularly, she argues that the binary genetic sex model under which biology works is not nearly as obvious or secure as it seems. The author also points out that studies of "sexual development" are almost always about men. This chapter contains discussions of medical views of menstruation and menopause. The author ridicules positions that see menstruation as a disease or sick-time.

Chapter Four moves the discussion to testosterone, arguing against the equation of testosterone with aggressivity and natural superiority. Chapter Six takes on socio-biology.

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Millie's Date

Abse, Dannie

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

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

With sedative voices we joke and spar around Millie's bed. An aged woman, "all skull," whose only child died at age 77, she cries, "Let me die, let me die!" From the midst of delirium or dementia, she remarks, "the Angels of Death survive forever."

The poet wonders whether some of these Angels "are disguised as vagrants, assigned / to each of us . . . . " One of them must be Millie's date, but where is he? "Has he lost his way, has he lost his mind?" The poet half-expects to find him on the street, begging, playing his violin.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

In his introductory notes, Pritchett calls his book a "biographical and critical study." The author presents Chekhov's life chronologically, while at each stage concentrating on the relationships between life events and art, particularly with regard to the incidents and characters that find their way into Chekhov's stories. A typical chapter begins with the events of a given period and then presents lucid analyses of several stories or plays written during that time.

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Axe-Time, Sword-Time

Corcoran, Barbara

Last Updated: Mar-08-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Elinor Golden has had trouble reading and writing ever since a golf ball hit her in the head as a child and left her with permanent minor brain damage. Otherwise quite intelligent and fully functional, she has stumbled through school unable to perform assigned tasks, unwilling to make the nature of her problem any more public than she has to, and often alone with it, since few teachers, even those who know the problem, know how to help her. Even her father, a doctor, is baffled.

It is 1943 and, as the U.S. enters the war, her attention is diverted to problems bigger than her own. She joins a volunteer corps that keeps watch for enemy planes approaching the New England coast. In the course of this purposeful work, she is paired on watch with a young teacher who finds a way to help her read by having her trace letters with her finger. Both her new work and her new reading strategy empower her, and help her cope with the crisis of her parents' separation and the departure of her lifelong friend, Jed, for Dartmouth.

She leaves school and joins a group of paid volunteers to do war work, discovering new areas of competency and satisfaction after years of feeling like a failure. At the same time her friend, Jed, discovers something new in her, and friendship turns to romance as personal hope blossoms in the midst of trouble and war.

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The Torch

Penfield, Wilder Graves

Last Updated: Mar-08-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Although he could be a court physician in Macedonia, Hippocrates has returned to the island of Cos, at least temporarily, to take over his dead father's practice. He is summoned to the villa of a wealthy citizen to consult on the fits of a daughter of the house. Using precise clinical observation, he diagnoses hysteria instead of epilepsy. Then, he relates the girl's psychological problems to the neglect of her selfish and adulterous mother, Olympias, who prefers her handsome, athletic, but rather dense (and as it turns out, illegitimate) son, Cleomedes.

A marriage is to be arranged with Cleomedes's obsession, Daphne, the exquisitely beautiful and intelligent daughter of a physician from Cnidus. But Daphne falls in love with Hippocrates, and he with her. In between solving clinical problems, including a real case of epilepsy, a botched abortion, and a broken hip in his own grandmother, Hippocrates is led along a tangled path of intrigue, seduction, and false accusations.

A fire destroys the medical library of Cnidus, killing Cleomedes, who, for once in his life had risen to heroism in attempting to save an invalid woman and her son. When the newly orphaned child reveals that Olympias and her old lover have committed arson, Olympias leaps from the highest wall to her death. Hippocrates is now free to marry Daphne. Adopting the child as their own, they return to the island of Cos.

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Ship Fever

Barrett, Andrea

Last Updated: Mar-08-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In early 1847, the young Quebec city doctor, Lauchlin Grant, struggles to extract a living from his boring practice and pines over his childhood sweetheart, Susannah. She is now the wife of a prominent journalist, Arthur Adam Rowley, who has charged Lauchlin with her care, while he travels in Europe to report on the ghastly potato famine in Ireland and his predictions for its effects on immigration.

Even as Rowley's letters are read at home, waves of starving Irish land at Grosse Ile in the St. Lawrence River where thousands are ill or will sicken of ship fever (typhus), and die. Lauchlin is called to help at the quarantine station. Of the hundreds in his care, he rescues only Nora. Having lost her family, Nora decides to remain as a nurse, because she is now immune.

Lauchlin sees Susannah only once more, learning that she too cares for victims of typhus, which is also ravaging the mainland, despite the quarantine. He senses her unspoken love for him and, filled with an inner peace, returns to Grosse Ile, only to contract typhus and die. Nora takes the doctor's belongings to Susannah's home, hoping to meet the woman whose name he had mumbled in his delirium. Instead, she finds Susannah's newly returned husband dreading the loss of his now dying wife.

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Armadale

Collins, Wilkie

Last Updated: Mar-07-1997
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Armadale is of interest for several reasons. First, the novel centers on issues of fate. Are our destinies determined, or can they be altered? The two heroes of the novel, Ozias Midwinter and Allan Armadale, are born under a curse. Midwinter's father murdered Allan Armadale's father. On his death bed, Midwinter's father warns that if these two sons ever meet, tragedy will occur. Midwinter learns the story and is uncertain whether to leave Allan or to work at changing their fate. Collins does not offer a solution, but provides plenty of opportunity for discussion.

Second, there is a doctor in the novel whose behavior is unethical to say the least. When the reader is first introduced to him, he is running a clandestine abortion clinic. When that operation is shut down by the police, he opens a private sanitarium. He privately confesses to being utterly uninterested in his patients' health. He only wants their money.

When the local ladies come to tour the facilities he espouses a system of liberal care, including dances, fine meals, and edifying concerts on Sunday evenings. However, the building is laid out with an intricate system of pipes that allow the doctor to keep his patients continually sedated. At the novel's end, the doctor helps plan a murder using those pipes.

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Summary:

A journalistic account of the CIA-funded experiments in "psychic-driving" of Dr. Ewen Cameron at Montreal's Allan Memorial Institute in the 1950's and early 1960's. Cameron investigated "treatment" for various forms of depression, consisting of high-dose electroshock (Page-Russell variant), heavy sedation, and the repetetive playing of patient's or the doctor's recorded voice.

Many patients did not respond; some were destroyed by the technique. Particularly moving is the story of Mary Morrow (Chapter 9), a physician-patient whose career was damaged by her experiences. Cameron held the most prominent positions in professional psychiatry; he died unscathed by his questionable research and in pursuit of yet another goal, a mountain peak.

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The Awakening

Chopin, Kate

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Edna Pontellier, an aristocrat from late nineteenth-century New Orleans, goes on vacation with her husband and children. There she meets and falls in love with Robert Lebrun. She also learns to swim, returns to her painting, and listens to the passionate piano playing of eccentric Mademoiselle Reisz. For the first time, Edna feels alive.

When she returns to New Orleans, she is unable to fit herself back into her social role. She defies her husband and ignores her friends. When her husband leaves town, she sets up her own house with money she has earned from her increasingly adept painting. She has an affair with the town seducer.

When Robert returns from a trip abroad, they passionately embrace. But Robert can not bear the stigma of adultery. He leaves her again. Edna returns to the vacation site and drowns herself.

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