Showing 421 - 430 of 521 annotations tagged with the keyword "Disability"

Blindness

Saramago, José

Last Updated: Jun-27-2001
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A sudden epidemic of blindness spreads throughout an unidentified country. When those who have lost their sight are examined, however, no evidence of pathology or damage can be found. The afflicted all describe "seeing" not darkness but rather a dense, impenetrable whiteness.

Because the government believes the disease is contagious, those people initially affected are quickly quarantined in a former mental hospital that is guarded by soldiers. There, the blind are treated like lepers and live like animals. Enigmatically, the wife of a sightless ophthalmologist has been spared from going blind. She functions as both protector and caregiver of a small group of blind people. They escape their imprisonment only when their captors (and presumably everyone except the ophthalmologist's wife) lose their sight.

Life is reduced to a constant search for food. As the situation grows even more grisly, vision is not only abruptly restored but perhaps with a clarity greater than ever before. When crowds of people rejoice "I can see," the reader wonders whether their earlier loss of sight was genuine or maybe some form of psychic blindness or spiritual malaise.

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Miss Rosie

Clifton, Lucille

Last Updated: Apr-17-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry — Secondary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator observes an old, poor woman "who used to be the best looking gal in Georgia." now in a state of advanced deterioration. The poem expresses the poignancy of watching a decayed life from the perspective of memory; it ends with an affirmation of human dignity.

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Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir

Slater, Lauren

Last Updated: Apr-13-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The first chapter of this memoir consists of two words: "I exaggerate." The narrator then tells us the story of her childhood and early adult experiences as an epileptic. After having her first seizure, at the age of ten, she spends a month at a special Catholic school in Topeka, Kansas, where the nuns teach epileptic children to fall without hurting themselves. This falling may or may not be literal; it is certainly symbolically apt.

During adolescence, Lauren begins lying, stealing, and faking seizures to get attention. She reveals that she has developed Munchausen's Syndrome, whose sufferers are "makers of myths that are still somehow true, the illness a conduit to convey real pain" (88). A neurologist, Dr. Neu, performs surgery severing Lauren's corpus callosum, effectively dividing her brain in half and markedly alleviating the seizure disorder.

Later she attends a writer's workshop where she begins an affair with a married man, a writer much older than she. After it ends badly, she starts going to Alcoholics Anonymous (although she does not drink) and tells her story with such authenticity that when she later confesses that she is NOT an alcoholic, no-one believes her, dismissing her true story as denial. The memoir ends both with her recognition of the value of narrating and with a silent fall to the snowy ground, as the nuns taught her to do, in the knowledge that the sense of falling (rather than the material certainty of landing) is all that is finally, reliably, real.

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Ice Follies

Matthews, William

Last Updated: Mar-28-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A wonderfully descriptive three-stanza poem about the icy perils of a winter walk, especially for "the claudicators, the lace- / boned, the seven-months-pregnant, and the lame." The poet juxtaposes the ludicrous (teetering, wobbling, toppling), with the serious, the "spry" with the infirm. One comfort in this situation is that it threatens everyone who ventures outdoors and there is a camaraderie and mutual empathy among those who are struggling to remain upright. [18 lines]

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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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Parkinson's Disease

Kinnell, Galway

Last Updated: Feb-23-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

There are two characters in this poem. One is the man with Parkinson's disease, who is being fed: "He will not accept the next morsel / until he has completely chewed this one." The man stands, shuffles to the toilet, pees, and then has his diaper changed. The second character is his daughter, who does the feeding and "holds his hand with her other hand, / or rather lets it rest on top of his." The daughter helps her father to the bathroom and "holds the spout of the bottle / to his old penis." On the way back, as she walks backward in front of him, "she is leading her old father into the future."

Wait a second! A third character--the subject, "I"--suddenly appears on this intimate scene. Near the end of the poem the invisible "I" turns the reader's attention to himself: "I watch them closely: she could be teaching him / the last steps that one day she may teach me." [64 lines]

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You See the Armless Woman

Gilbert, Sandra

Last Updated: Feb-12-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The armless woman appears "on some cold suburban corner." She holds a pen between her teeth, she types with her toes, and she is competent and straight. Why do you fear her? Why do you follow her? Why do you ask her to give back the magic of your own arms and elbows? [21 lines]

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet looks through a one-way window into a room where a speech therapist is working with his father, who has had a stroke. The father doesn't seem to be doing well with re-learning language, until suddenly he begins to sing an old hymn, "Jesus loves me, this I know, / For the Bible tells me so . . . " [23 lines]

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Various Antidotes

Scott, Joanna

Last Updated: Oct-16-2000
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Some interesting and very odd characters (including a few scientists and researchers) inhabit the eleven short stories in this collection. In "Concerning Mold Upon the Skin, Etc.," Anton van Leeuwenhoek creates his first microscope and becomes so absorbed by the invisible worlds revealed to him that he neglects his own family. "Nowhere" is the tale of an old anatomy professor who aspires to spice up the curriculum by obtaining a corpse for his students to study. "Tumbling" recounts the difficult life of a young woman understandably haunted by the possibility that she may inherit Huntington’s chorea from her father and her inspired liberation of over one thousand laboratory mice.

In "Chloroform Jags," a professional midwife self-experiments with chloroform "not to escape time but to dissolve time." Other stories describe the execution of an elephant; the murder of a physician who happens to be an important figure in the French Revolution; a woman with a talent for insomnia who has not slept for six months; a psychoanalyst and his patient; an eighteenth century blind beekeeper; and Dorothea Dix, an early advocate for the humane treatment of the mentally ill.

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A Prayer for Owen Meany

Irving, John

Last Updated: Oct-16-2000
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The novel, set in the 1950s in the prep school town of Gravesend, is an extraordinary account of friendship, coming of age, families, "normalcy," politics, faith, and doubt. The title character is an unusually small child--as an adult barely five feet tall--with a strange and striking voice that makes many people uneasy.

The only son of a New Hampshire granite quarrier and his odd and reclusive wife, Owen is best friends with Johnny Wheelwright, the narrator of the book and grandson of one of the town's most distinguished families. The friendship is sealed by a freak accident when Owen hits a baseball that kills Johnny's mother, Tabitha, who is just arriving at the game.

The remainder of the novel is a back-and-forth between past and present as Johnny searches for his identity--his mother is unmarried and never reveals the father's name--and Owen searches for his destiny--he believes that he is an instrument of God. Both searches have amazing resolutions.

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