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Summary:Part of Patricia Foster's collection, Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul, Houston's essay is a cynical, self-deprecating, painfully honest, and wryly humorous observation of contemporary American women's obsession with their bodies, most notably thinness. Musing on her own lifelong fixation with weighing less, she admits that "for a good part of my life I would have quite literally given anything to be thin . . . a finger, three toes, the sight in one eye." Her essay is a collection of snapshots in her life, moments that bring into focus her displeasure with her body shape and size: walking down Fifth Avenue sizing up other women's bodies; the dinner habits of her family of origin that prohibited bread, dessert, or seconds; her husband's (thin) women employees who eyeball her body; her ongoing relationship with mirrors.
Reade was known for writing "novels with a cause." Here, as in several other of his novels, his cause is the deplorable condition of mental hospitals in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Until late in the century, many considered the mentally ill untreatable. Hospitals were more like prisons than places for treatment. Admission policies were also fairly lax. Reade records a common fear that healthy people would be incarcerated.
In Hard Cash, a father incarcerates his son in order to cover up a crime. The doctors who admit him have a kickback scheme worked out with the hospital--they get money for each patient admitted. Once in the hospital, the hero tries to prove his sanity but finds it impossible to battle against doctors who refuse to look past the diagnosis that caused his admission to his actual mental condition. He also must negotiate with the head of the hospital, a woman who is madly in love with him and refuses to allow him out of her sight.
He cannot prove his sanity and only escapes when there is a fire in the asylum. There is one "good" doctor in the story who refuses to bleed patients, deny them food, or admit the sane to mental hospitals. The other doctors think him a quack, but he saves several lives.
Jordanova posits that medicine and science "contain implications about matters beyond their explicit content." Namely, they have historically made assumptions about women and their relation to science/medicine. Jordanova explores this relation through seven chapters.
Particularly interesting is Chapter Three, "Body Image and Sex Roles." Here Jordanova discusses the wax models used by medical students in the nineteenth century to learn about anatomy. These models were almost always female and sometimes even had flowing hair, pearl necklaces, and other realistic details. Jordanova argues that this gendering was no accident. The route to knowledge is historically associated with looking deep into the bodies of women.
Chapter Five pursues this theme, commenting on how nature is often configured as a female whose secrets will be revealed by masculine science. The final two chapters address twentieth century representations, including the gendered nature of drug advertisements in in-house medical magazines.
Summary:The speaker's nephew has drowned at a young age. After the funeral, the speaker visits the grave to say a final goodbye. The speaker puts his "hand on the earth / above [the child's] dead heart," and observes that "it will be night / for a long, long time." Finally the speaker gets up to go and acknowledges a truth that he and the dead child share: "the cold child in the casket / is not the one I loved."
Summary:This 14 line poem deals with a physician's compassion for a hopelessly ill patient ("An apparatus not for me to mend--") and his participation in active euthanasia. The patient, Annandale, was "a wreck . . . and I was there." The narrator asks the reader to view himself or herself "as I was, on the spot-- / with a slight kind of engine." (This "engine" is a hypodermic needle.) He concludes, "You wouldn't hang me? I thought not."
Summary:Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns, where the novel begins. In these few years Quoyle metamorphoses from the human equivalent of a Flemish flake--a one layer spiral coil of rope that may be walked on if necessary--to a multi-layered presence with the capacity for constantly renewed purpose and connection. Grief, love, work, friendship, family, necessity, and community effect this transformation, as does Quoyle’s ancestral home of Newfoundland, a place of beauty and hardship, of memory and reverie.
A former ape presents his report to a meeting of the scientific Academy. Less than five years ago, he was captured in the jungles of West Africa. While on the ship returning to Europe, the ape came to the realization that there was no way out: "I was pinned down." Even if he should escape from his cage, he knew there would be no way to go home.
However, the ape developed a profound inward calm, thanks in part to the kindness of the ship's crew. His close observation of the crew and other humans allowed him to imitate them. In general, they were easy to imitate, although some of the viler human habits like drinking schnapps were more difficult to get used to. Finally, he realized that the only way to stay out of the zoo was to become human enough to perform as an ape-turned-human on the vaudeville stage. That's what he did.
A 'hunger artist' explains the decline of interest in the art of fasting. In the old days people would enthusiastically observe the artist as he fasted, some of them watching carefully for surreptitious snacking. In those times 40 days was the limit of fasting; on the 40th day, the artist's cage was decked in flowers as he emerged to the ministrations of doctors and the crowd's applause.
But the public now has lost interest. The artist left his impresario and hired himself out to a circus where his cage is placed near the cages of animals. He dreads the onslaught of customers, some of whom stop and watch him, but others rush right past him to see the animals.
At the end, the overseer finds the hunger artist among the straw when he enters the cage. Just before he dies, the artist admits that there was no honor in his fasting; he just never found the food that he liked. Had he found it, he would have stopped fasting. He dies and is replaced by a panther.
On her death bed, surrounded by her children, doctor and priest, a memory of 60 years ago, the day she was jilted by her husband-to-be, could no longer be repressed by Granny Weatherall-- "the thought of him was a smoky cloud from hell that moved and crept in her head . . . ." Voices and visions, imagined and real, mingle and merge throughout the story as this hardy woman, one who has weathered so much, lives out her final moments.
Ironically, Granny Weatherall is jilted for a second time when the final sign she's been waiting for from Jesus never appears. "For the second time there was no sign. Again no bridegroom and the priest in the house . . . She stretched herself with a deep breath and blew out the light."
Summary:The narrator observes that we all, from the worm to the brontosaurus, have excrement. As she cleans the horses' stalls of "risen brown buns," she contemplates that sparrows will come to pick "redelivered grain" from the manure, that mushrooms will "spring up in a downpour" from it, that "However much we stain the world," shit indicates that we go on.