Showing 431 - 440 of 647 annotations tagged with the keyword "Disease and Health"

The Sick Wife

Kenyon, Jane

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Poet Jane Kenyon, very ill with leukemia (from which she died after a 15 month illness), describes what it is like to be so weakened by illness that she prefers to wait in the car while her husband buys the groceries. She is aware of how weak, helpless, and out of place she is--a middle aged woman, sitting in the car in a parking lot in the middle of the day--"she had learned what it's like / not to be able to button a button." She watches enviously as those around her--"even the old and relatively infirm"--scurry about "with such freedom" and drive off in their cars "so briskly . . . ."

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The Bell Curve

Gawande, Atul

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Subtitled "What happens when patients find out how good their doctors really are," this article starts with an important statement: "Every illness is a story, and Annie Page's began with the kinds of small unexceptional details that mean nothing until seen in hindsight."

This is the introduction to a look at a child with cystic fibrosis and how her family sought the best care for her.

The author, Dr. Atul Gawande, goes on not only to tell their story but also the story of the way in which the understanding of this disorder has increased and the unusual rigor with which centers that specialize in the disease are evaluated.

He also includes stories of other sufferers to emphasize the importance of surveillance of their care.

These stories allow him to generalize about the way physicians' care is evaluated in general by the public and our medical organizations and how difficult it is to be at the high end of the Bell Curve. The author concludes, "When the stakes are our lives and the lives of our children, we expect averageness to be resisted."

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Summary:

Healy focuses on the social and cultural meaning of disease in Britain during the early modern period (roughly the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries). Her chapter on "The Humoral-Paracelsan Body" discusses how the humoral theory of Galen, at this time still dominant in constructing a notion of the human body and its functions, was challenged by a new Paracelsan medicine, with its emphasis on spirit and on experiment instead of book-learning, and by the emergence of syphilis. She also establishes the genre of the "regimen[t]," a text advising how to achieve personal and social order.

Her two chapters on "The Plaguy Body" review the late-medieval and Renaissance history of the plague and argue that the social meaning of the plague as a trope of violence and rebellion shifts over the course of the sixteenth century, from a judgment on Britain's "rich extortioners," careless of the welfare of the poor, to the threat represented by London's unruly urban underclass.

Healy's two chapters on "The Pocky Body" argue that the new disease of syphilis became another dominant metaphor for social disorder because it helped focus anxieties about cultural hypocrisy, corruption, and degeneration, linked to the problems of sin generally and excessive appetite in particular. Her final chapter examines "The Glutted, Unvented Body," another powerful figure of excessive appetite, threatening that the body (and its appetites) would dethrone the head (the site of reason).

Healy demonstrates the importance of debates over the glutted, headless body as a way for British writers to negotiate the problems of a trade imbalance and the tricky terrain of resistance against the intemperate Stuart monarchs, culminating in the execution of Charles I in 1649. In the book as a whole, Healy reads literary and historical texts by authors as diverse as William Bullein, Thomas Dekker, Lucretius, Erasmus, William Shakespeare (Measure for Measure and Pericles), and Milton (Comus).

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Losses

Silbert, Layle

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

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

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story begins as a young woman enters the hospital for cancer treatment. She struggles to maintain her identity despite the institutionalized depersonalization typical of the hospital environment. Later, loss of hair from her cancer treatment also threatens her identity, for her appearance is a large part of who she is. Although she is rather proud of the fact that she refuses to buy a wig, preferring scarves instead, she covers all the mirrors in her home. Finally, she learns that even her naked skull can be beautiful, and dares to walk outside bareheaded for the first time after her treatment.

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He Read to Her

Brashler, Anne

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A woman who has had extensive bowel surgery and a colostomy now must deal with her changed appearance. She feels unattractive, and the strong odors and liquid stool that come from her colostomy are repulsive to her and to her husband. She is angry about her loss of identity, and takes the anger out on her husband. He feels guilty about her illness and surgery, and tries to overcompensate by trying extra hard to please his wife. He finally begins reading "Moby Dick" to his wife as a way to say that he will stay with her through the long haul.

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Summary:

The aim of this collage of anecdotes from medical history is largely to entertain, though it is pointedly instructive in its focus on reasons for and results of medical mistakes, misapprehensions, and serendipitous breakthroughs. Gordon's dryly humorous skepticism and general irreverence is balanced by an obvious delight in the intellectual play that characterizes the history of science.

The stories he tells range from Hippocrates to the present with a heavy focus on the 18th and 19th centuries. The book includes a good representative collection of visual art and photography documenting moments in medical history upon which Gordon casts a cold but twinkling eye. Chapter titles such as "Discoveries in the Dark," "Sex and its Snags," "Odd Practices," and "Freud, the English Governess and the Smell of Burnt Pudding" give a bit of the book's flavor.

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Light from an Eclipse

Lagomarsino, Nancy

Last Updated: Aug-15-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In poetry and prose the writer chronicles her father's final months as Alzheimer's disease progressively seals him into a world where those who love him can't follow. Each short segment details a moment on the writer's journey as witness to his losses: moments of confusion--his and her own, uncertainty about appropriate diplomacy, invention of new activities and rituals to keep him linked to love and alive.

With sure, spare language, she sketches in her own memories, bits of family stories, irrational feelings, the different way she comes to look at home, at family relationships, even at familiar objects. More a song than a story, the collection of vignettes offers both comfort and realism to those on similar journeys of slow loss.

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The Devil's Dictionary

Bierce, Ambrose

Last Updated: Aug-11-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Dictionary

Summary:

A scathing parodic dictionary, wherein how words are normatively and conventionally defined is replaced by what they often actually do mean. One of the many classic examples is Bierce's definition of "Bigot" as 'One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.'

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The Doctor's Visit

Steen, Jan

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Clark, Stephanie Brown

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on panel

Summary:

In 17th Century Dutch depictions of "scenes from everyday life," the so-called genre paintings, the single most popular medical representation is the "Doctor's Visit." Among the most comical and complex are those of Jan Steen, who painted at least 18 works with this theme. Typically the patient is a young female, often suffering from a variety of illnesses related to love, either "love sickness," erotic melancholy, or pregnancy. [See relevant paintings by Steen at the Web Gallery of Art: "The Doctor and His Patient," "Doctor's Visit," and "Love Sickness," at http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/welcome.html. Select "S" from Artist Index, scroll down for Steen, select "Page 1".)

In this painting, the doctor looks with concern at his patient, a young girl, dressed in silk and leaning on a table, as he takes her pulse. Behind her stands a smirking young man who holds a holds a herring in one hand and two small onions in the other. At her feet is an opened letter, alongside a bowl with a piece of burnt ribbon, and a heating box filled with coals, known as a brazier. Behind the physician, a woman playing a harpsichord smiles at the young girl. Behind her, a maidservant beckons a tall, dark, and handsome young man in a red cloak to enter the room.

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Buenos Noches, Buenos Aires

Adair, Gilbert

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Gilbert Adair has a flair for French settings in the latter half of the twentieth century (The Holy Innocents, Key of the Tower) and this novella is no exception. Gideon, the narrator, has moved to Paris in the early 1980's in order to teach English at the Berlitz school. Although he detests 'dreary' London and has only a distant relationship with his parents ["The only thing we had in common was our kinship. Did we even have that?" (2)], the reason he gives for his move is obliquely described in a lengthy discussion of his unhappy, unfulfilling, often humiliating sex life.

Once in Paris and at work, he befriends a group of fellow teachers at the school. After languid hours gossiping in the staff room and teaching their students, they make variably energetic attempts to live interestingly bohemian and erotic Parisian lives, before and during the first intimations of AIDS. The narrator then describes how AIDS affects his friends and his own life.

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