Showing 401 - 410 of 420 annotations tagged with the keyword "Pain"

The Culture of Pain

Morris, David

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

On the first page, Morris summarizes his project in this book: to "describe how the experience of pain is decisively shaped or modified by individual human minds and by specific human cultures. It explores what we might call the historical, cultural, and psychosocial construction of pain." Contemporary Western culture tries to convince us that pain is nothing but an aspect of disease and, therefore, a medical problem. But pain only exists in human experience; nerve impulses are not pain.

In calling our attention to the social and cultural meanings of pain, Morris begins with Tolstoy's short novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (see this database). He then presents various images of human suffering: gender-based pain, as in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's, The Yellow Wallpaper (see this database: annotated by Felice Aull, also annotated by Jack Coulehan); religious views, as in the stories of Job and the Christian martyrs; the aesthetic ideal, as manifested in the romantic idea of the sublime as painful; social uses, as in satire and torture (see Kafka's In the Penal Colony, annotated in this database); the relationship between pain and sex, as in the work of Marquis de Sade; and tragic pain, as evidenced in Sophocles' Philoctetes.

Throughout the book, Morris refers to the "invisible epidemic" of chronic pain that exists in the United States today. This epidemic of chronic pain can be adequately understood and treated only by approaching it with a cultural model, rather than a disease model.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Dr. Cassell examines the social and cultural forces that encourage the practice and teaching of a medicine that is governed by the disease theory. This theory discounts the impact of illness on the patient and ignores the suffering that the patient is experiencing. Cassell does not debunk science and technology, rather he encompasses them within the moral enterprise of medicine as tools for helping patients.

The ability to provide compassionate attention to the patient as individual (i.e., with unique values, life experiences, family interactions, etc.), trustworthiness and self-discipline are required characteristics of a "good physician." Cassell illustrates and personalizes the philosophical shift towards focusing on the sick person with stories and anecdotes.

View full annotation

The Stone Diaries

Shields, Carol

Last Updated: Jan-30-1997
Annotated by:
Marta, Jan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Stone Diaries recount the life of Daisy Goodwill (1905-199? [sic]). "[W]ife, mother, citizen of our century," her son closes the benediction of her memorial service. Yet Daisy is also the orphaned daughter of an orphan--her dramatic birth a turning point for her father, the neighbours--and a social outcast. Daisy becomes a happy child, a lifelong friend, a college graduate, a consummate gardener, a cultivator of stories, a pragmatist, a romantic, a widow twice (once scandalously, once more ordinarily) . . . . In short, the diaries of "Day's Eye" bear witness to the extraordinary lives of seemingly ordinary "citizens."

View full annotation

Casualties

Massad, Stewart

Last Updated: Jan-28-1997

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An intern is on duty in a cancer ward. He especially deals with leukemia. He tells one of his patients that he understands how she feels as she cries, facing death. She turns on him, telling him that he can't possibly understand. A short time later, the intern grows weak and ill. He is diagnosed as having leukemia. He spends months in the hospital, feeling helpless as his old classmates treat him. He makes them promise to let him die peacefully when his time comes. He dies when an intern accidentally pierces his spleen while trying to tap his lung.

View full annotation

Summary:

This is a film story in which non-professional actors play themselves. It concerns six old women and their bus driver, a middle-aged woman (Michelle Sweeney), who, when their bus breaks down, are stranded in an isolated countryside. In the two days that follow, they find shelter in an abandoned and derelict house, conspire to find food, and learn about each other and themselves through personal disclosure and storytelling.

Before meeting any of the women, the audience hears their child-like chatter and laughter as they emerge from a deep fog cover into the sunshine. Clearly the women are old, but viewers soon regard them as sisters at recess giggling at the novelty of their unexpected adventure, happy to be in good company. When they reach a dilapidated and deserted house, it offers no amenities: no beds, no electricity, no water, no food. Each woman approaches the situation in a different way, but there is a buoyancy and resourcefulness about them in spite of some possible apprehensions concerning rescue and survival.

Any notion that this is a group of interchangeable old women is quickly dispelled. Separate stories unfold against spectacular scenery and humble shelter, as they try to fix the bus, catch fish with pantyhose, hunt for frogs, collect hay for mattresses, paint, laugh, sing, and sigh. In contrast to the current portrait, additional glimpses of the women are provided by superimposed photographic montages or snapshots of each character when she was younger.

One woman (Mary Meigs) is a lesbian, another a nun, another a survivor of stroke. Some are braver than others, and some have moments in their past that, when alluded to, are profoundly moving. One, we believe, is especially vulnerable and ready to die. Another, Cissy (Cissy Meddings), makes us laugh out loud; stooped and stroke-addled, she is full of life and silliness, while enduring the quiet pain of a partially explained isolation from her son and grandchildren, only the facial expression and eyes letting on. Catherine (Catherine Roche) the nun, who will make the long walk for eventual rescue, brings a serenity to the group, while a good-natured and extremely resourceful Mohawk elder (Alice Diabo) demonstrates both strength in the face of adversity and unhappiness in recollections of her marriage.

Their outer bodies belie the inner sense of being. Except for one woman who wears a wig to cover her thinning hair, none of the characters are concerned about their appearances. We may see them as old, but their actions and spirit suggest playfulness, creative energy, and wisdom. Their options may be gone or diminished, but they think of themselves as ongoing persons with much more to say and do.

Except to say that the women survive the ordeal, there are no resounding triumphs. Viewers, possibly the strangers referenced in the film’s title, gather with the good company of old women to learn about life and themselves, especially the vitality and worth of persons frequently isolated from mainstream society. For a brief time, a new society gathers and sifts experience for mutual benefit. We know about the darkness to follow and wonder what their lives will be when they are found, when this moment has passed.

View full annotation

The Death of Socrates

David, Jacques-Louis

Last Updated: Dec-30-1996
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Condemned to death, Socrates, strong, calm and at peace, discusses the immortality of the soul. Surrounded by Crito, his grieving friends and students, he is teaching, philosophizing, and in fact, thanking the God of Health, Asclepius, for the hemlock brew which will insure a peaceful death. His last words are "a cock for Asclepius!"

The wife of Socrates can be seen grieving alone outside the chamber, dismissed for her weakness. Plato (not present when Socrates died) is depicted as an old man seated at the end of the bed. The pompous "medical celebrity"--as Tolstoy might describe him, were he one of Ivan Ilyich's five consults (The Death of Ivan Ilyich, see this database)--is pontificating on his rounds about the pharmacological details of the medication.

View full annotation

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

De Quincey was a well-known 19th century English journalist and essayist. He was orphaned at a young age and sent away to school, where he was successful but bored and soon ran away. He then spent several years living as a vagrant in Wales, then London. In London, he was reunited with an old family friend who supported him financially and sent him to study at Oxford.

At age 28, De Quincey began to use opium (mixed with alcohol in the form of laudanum) regularly to treat his severe stomach pains. Though his intake was moderate at first, he soon became addicted. At first he rationalized the use of the drug. Later, he experienced opium-induced stupors in which he could not distinguish dream from reality nor note the passage of time.

He also developed memory loss and long periods of depression. He resolved to wean himself from the drug and did so, although in the final version (1856) of this memoir he admits to having slipped back into addiction a number of times.

View full annotation

After the Argument

Dunn, Stephen

Last Updated: Dec-09-1996
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Dunn's poem describes the choreography of married couples after an argument. The narrative voice considers how silence is imposed, then broken and how two people eventually come together after an unpleasant exchange of words. There are, according to the speaker, unspoken rules and rituals. First, a long silence permeates: after all, "whoever spoke first would lose something." In this household drama there is meaning to the clanging of dishes, sleeping arrangements, and accidental touching.

Eventually, one or the other is careless, spontaneously and shamelessly breaking the Yalta-like stalemate with an observation about something ordinary such as a "cardinal on the bird seeder." An accidental comment secures a truce, bringing the couple together in sex, a "knot untying itself."

View full annotation

White-Jacket

Melville, Herman

Last Updated: Oct-17-1996

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

White-jacket is a sailor on the U.S. frigate Neversink. His nickname derives from a jacket stitched together from leftover scraps of rags. This jacket makes the other sailors superstitious and as the ship heads towards Antarctica his mess group kicks him out and he joins another group, serving under the much-liked petty officer, Jack Chase.

The journey is a dangerous one. A man falls overboard. There are constant floggings for the merest inkling of insurrection. All the crew members are forced to watch each flogging. A doctor stands by to stop the flogging if the victim's life is endangered, but he is so callous he doesn't stop a single one. The doctor also prescribes medications, but never attempts to change the conditions that cause the sailors' illnesses, like malnutrition and exposure.

When the ship lands in Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Cadwaller Cuticle boards. In order to show off to the ship's doctors, he amputates the healthy leg of a sailor, who is terribly frightened as the doctors discuss his impending fate in front of him. The man dies of shock. When the boat continues on its journey, White-jacket accidentally falls from the riggings. He barely escapes being speared when a ship-mate mistakes his jacket for a whale. He is fished out and sent up again to complete his task.

View full annotation

Of Experience

Montaigne, Michel de

Last Updated: Oct-17-1996
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

In Montaigne's final essay he expounds upon the results of his long search for self knowledge via life experience. He uses disease, health, medicine and doctors as prime arenas for demonstration of what he has learned from living. On physicians: to be a "right" physician, one must have experienced every illness, accident or mishap one seeks to treat. On going to stool: to have a right bowel movement, one must have peace, quiet, punctuality and privacy to avoid unruliness of the belly. On treatment: "I hate remedies that are more troublesome than the disease itself." On the most preferable ailments: here the essayist writes of the advantages of stone: that is, the agony always ends, the disease does not portend death or worse, the sufferer spends more time feeling well than hurting, and it has political advantages for allowing a show of stoicism. And there is more.

View full annotation