Showing 371 - 380 of 490 annotations tagged with the keyword "Women's Health"

A Libation of Blood

Weldon, Fay

Last Updated: May-24-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Alison, 39 years old, is twice-divorced, with three children, on the verge of moving in with a man called Bobby. Her breast is sore and she is afraid it's cancer. Her mother tells her it's more likely she's pregnant. She says she uses contraceptives; her mother tells Alison that she was conceived when a condom broke.

Alison considers abortion, recalling her last pregnancy. Having given birth to a child with Down's Syndrome who died at three months, she had had amniocentesis and was told that she was carrying twin boys, both normal. When the twins were born, though, one turned out to be a girl. One twin, it seemed, had been tested twice. Although the female twin did not have Down's Syndrome, Alison began at that point to worry about luck and the uncertainty of medicine (and of life).

So now, pregnant again, she asks her mother what she should do, and is told to "trust to luck." But she is afraid that her luck has run out and she must take control for herself. A scan shows that she is carrying twins again. Only now does her mother tell her that she is in fact a twin, that her sister had Down's Syndrome and died shortly after birth--in fact, her mother admits, the midwife "did away with" her. (The euphemism carries the senses both of euthanasia and of murder.)

Hearing this, Alison decides she wants to have an abortion right away. Her doctor, thinking the problem is that she wants only one child, gives her the option of selectively terminating one fetus and carrying the other one, but tells her she wouldn't be able to choose which to keep and which to abort. She rejects the idea, imagining how she'd tell the surviving twin about her decision later on, and decides instead to "have them both and trust to luck."

As she leaves the clinic, she begins to bleed and miscarries. Later her mother tells her that she, too, once miscarried twins, and tells Alison she'll have better luck next time, because of the bleeding: "Blood, " her mother says, "is the libation the God of Chance requires."

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The Underpainter

Urquhart, Jane

Last Updated: May-24-2001
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The aging and isolated Austin Fraser paints vividly realistic images inspired by his past; he then covers them with a filmy top coat that obfuscates the clarity. His housekeeper thinks he spoils his work with this "style."

Son of a privileged mining magnate, he spent his summers on the northern shores of the Great Lakes, and his winters in upstate New York. His model, Sara, opened her life to him, and waited. He took without giving in return. His good friend George, destined to inherit his father's China Hall, is satisfied, it seems, with a meager life in porcelain painting and selling--trite, cozy images that Austin scorns. They both remember Vivian, a beautiful sophisticate who floated through their lives one summer long ago. Austin has been away in the big city for many years, but he has a hankering to see George again. Vivian reappears and goads Austin to make the journey back in time.

Wounded in the war, George has found a partner in Augusta--a fragile nurse, haunted by her horrifying war experience and addicted to morphine. But when George is confronted with Vivian again, the peaceful stability vanishes. To his amazement, Austin discovers that George had actually married Vivian that summer, but she left him at the urging of his mother. Her return opens painful wounds. After a night of recollection with Austin, Augusta slips away. Austin waits downstairs while she overdoses on morphia. George finds her dead and takes his own life too. Austin has the bodies removed.

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Still Life in Milford

Lynch, Thomas

Last Updated: May-22-2001
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In this collection, Thomas Lynch, a funeral director, examines many of the same topics he explores in his essays (see this database for annotations of The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade and Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality). In section one, he writes about sin and redemption ("Attende Domine," "Inviolata," "Panis Angelicus"), death and grief ("Late April," "Month’s Mind,"), love and sex ("O Gloriosa Virginum," "Casablanca," "Veni Creator Spiritus," "The Hammock"), and introduces his own point-of-view as one who tends the dead ("In Paradisum").

In the second section, Lynch delves more deeply into sin ("Byzance") and memory. In the section’s first poem, "Liberty," Lynch introduces himself as a man from a "fierce bloodline of men," and in the next five poems writes about "Argyle," perhaps a relative, perhaps an alter-ego. A long poem, "The Moveen Notebook," follows, relating the story of Lynch’s family home in Ireland and his relatives who lived and died there, ancestors who are also represented in Lynch’s essays. The rest of the poems expand upon family and memory and serve to complete the portrait of the narrator, a man who tends "toward preachment / and the body politic," who rages and who wants to "offer a witness" ("St. James’ Park Epistle").

The poems in section three serve as laments. Here Lynch addresses the failures of gods and men ("A Rhetoric upon Brother Michael’s Rhetoric upon the Window," "One of Jack’s") and the wonder of aging ("Loneliest of Trees, The Winter Oak"). But the main body of this section comprises stark poems about women and poems about Lynch’s work ("Heavenward," "The Lives of Women," "That Scream if You Ever Hear It," "These Things Happen in the Lives of Women," "How It’s Done Here," "At the Opening of Oak Grove Cemetery Bridge").

In "Couplets," Lynch speaks of teaching his sons the funeral business and the horrors they witness. In the brief poem "Aubade," he tells of an abused woman’s suicide. The last poem of the book, "Still Life in Milford--Oil on Canvas by Lester Johnson," is both a portrait of the town and of the author: "Between the obsequies, I play with words."

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Wordsworth describes his respect for an elderly female friend. Her wrinkles, grey hair, white cheeks, and bent head bring to mind a snowdrop. Like her, the delicate flower that blossoms on snow-covered mountains is a child of winter that prompts thoughts of gentle demise. Aging and death are compared to the moon growing brighter as night grows darker. Old age refines people into something more pure and exquisite.

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The Party

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-30-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The pregnant Olga Mikhaylovna plods through the name-day party she is throwing for her husband, Peter. The party is interminable; she is uncomfortable and tired of being pleasant. As Olga walks through the garden for a moment of peace, she notices her husband has also left the house and is talking with one of their guests, the lovely Lyubochka; she interprets their conversation as lovemaking. Has her husband only married her for her money? Doesn't he love her? She decides he is unfaithful and resolves to confront him.

Later, everyone decides to go to the island for tea. But it begins to rain and they rush back. Much later, when the guests leave, Olga and Peter argue in their room; they are both dead tired. Suddenly, Olga goes into a difficult and prolonged labor that results in a stillborn child. In the last section, Olga is "muzzy from the chloroform," but happy to be alive. Peter sincerely protests his love.

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wishes for sons

Clifton, Lucille

Last Updated: Apr-17-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A sharp poem, directed to the sons of men. The poet wishes them periods, cramps, clots, and hot flashes. She wishes them the difficulties and embarrassments of the female gender. Mostly, she wishes that they experience the arrogance of gynecologists, "not unlike themselves."

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Summary:

This is the second anthology from Donley and Buckley derived after many years of teaching "What's Normal?"--a literature and medicine course at Hiram College where they explore the cultural and contextual influences upon the concept of normality. With the first anthology, The Tyranny of the Normal, the editors focused on physical abnormalities (see this database for annotation). In this second anthology, the focus is exclusively on mental and behavioral deviations from societal norms. With this edition, Donley and Buckley present their case that, as with physical abnormalities, there is a similar tyranny of the normal that "dominates those who do not fit within the culture's norms for mental ability, mental health and acceptable behavior (xi)".

The anthology is divided into two parts. Part I is a collection of essays that introduce various clinical and bioethical perspectives on the subject of mental illness. These essays bring philosophic and analytic voices to the topic. Stephen Jay Gould's terrific essay on Carrie Buck and the "eugenic" movement in the United States in the early part of the 20th century illustrates one of the major themes that can be found throughout the anthology.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion in the 8-1 Supreme Court decision that sealed Buck's fate. Gould begins his essay reminding his readers of the often referenced Holmes quote, "three generations of imbeciles are enough." He then takes us on a fascinating historical adventure that uncovers a deeper and more complicated drama that led to this unfortunate period in American history, and the tragic incarceration and sterilization of Carrie Buck.

This essay, as with other stories, poems, and drama in the anthology, contemplates the relationship between societal values and mental illness, and illustrates how society through medicine can turn to the myth of "objective" diagnostic labels as a way to compartmentalize and control behavior and imaginations that are "abnormal." D. L. Rosenhan's essay from "On Being Sane in Insane Places" further illustrates the failure of the mental illness label. Irvin Yalom's story from Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy provides an example of what is possible when diagnostic labels are avoided, when health care professionals with power turn with humility, curiosity, and kindness toward others, substantiating that these qualities are far more powerful than statistical notions of "normal."

Part II is a collection of fiction, poetry and drama. Intended as a complement to part I, part II engages the reader in the lived experience of the narrators. It is divided into six sections. Section one considers children and adolescent experience of mental illness. Included are Conrad Aiken's "Silent Snow, Secret Snow," an excerpt from Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (see annotation in this database), and an excerpt from Peter Shaffer's Equus (see annotation).

Section two includes stories that capture the world of mental disability and retardation. An excerpt from Of Mice and Men and Eudora Welty's short story Lilly Daw and the Three Ladies are included. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper (annotated by Felice Aull; also annotated by Jack Coulehan) is in section three where women's experiences with mental disorders is the theme (these are annotated in this database).

Section four and five focus on men and mental illness. War experience is considered in the works of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. Section six concludes the anthology. Alzheimer's disease and dementia are examined in Robert Davis's My Journey into Alzheimer's Disease, and in the story, "A Wonderful Party" by Jean Wood.

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Pregnant

Smith, Dave

Last Updated: Mar-20-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet recalls an incident when "a far gone girl" comes waddling onto the scene. The month is June; the place, a mountain stream; and the time, when "there was no dark yet between us." Shoeless, the pregnant woman steps into the stream, "your skirt drawn up thighs / white as the growing mists." Years later, he treasures the image: "you waddle with that quick weight / of the beginning, deliberate as the earth's dim intentions / you keep bearing it like glory." [40 lines]

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Head Above Water

Rottman, S. L.

Last Updated: Feb-23-2001
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Skye Johnson, a high school swimmer, is training for state finals when a new boyfriend distracts her from her single-minded pursuit of athletic championships. As the romance begins to turn abusive, she finds her boyfriend becoming more of a problem in her life than her brother, who has Down's syndrome, and who accompanies her almost everywhere because he needs supervision.

Her divorced, single mother holds down two jobs and can't be home to care for Sunny, the brother, so he has been largely Skye's responsibility since she entered high school. Sunny wants to learn to swim. Skye knows he is teachable, and could be prepared for the Special Olympics, but doesn't want to devote time to training him, so she secretly arranges to give him lessons with her babysitting money.

A serious confrontation with her boyfriend leaves her with an injured hand which prevents her swimming in the state competition, but which, it turns out, allows her to be present when Sunny swims in the Special Olympics. She finds herself deeply proud of him, and able to see again why she loves this brother whom she's regarded for some time largely as a burden.

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to my last period

Clifton, Lucille

Last Updated: Feb-01-2001
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrative voice of this short poem familiarizes her period, giving it life affectionately as "girl," but a girl who never appeared without trouble, "splendid in your red dress." Yet even with the trouble (pain? unexpected appearances?), she now thinks differently as the "girl" begins to leave. The voice calls forth images of huddled grandmothers who, after the "hussy has gone," sit holding her picture, sighing, "wasn't she beautiful?" The poem expresses the ambivalence many women feel toward menstruation--the lived experience of pain, bloating, and inconvenience, contrasted with its earthy, rich, symbolic nature.

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