Showing 471 - 480 of 605 annotations tagged with the keyword "Sexuality"

The Figure in the Carpet

James, Henry

Last Updated: May-22-2001
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, a writer, prides himself on his astute review of Hugh Vereker's latest novel. Vereker dismisses his efforts, explaining that all critics have "missed my little point," "the particular thing I've written my books most for," "the thing for the critic to find," "my secret," "like a complex figure in a Persian carpet." The narrator racks his brains and, in desperation, tells his friend Corvick of the puzzle. Corvick and his novelist fiancée, Gwendolyn, pursue "the trick" without success until Corvick, traveling alone in India, wires Gwendolyn and the narrator "Eureka! Immense."

He refuses, however, to divulge the secret to Gwendolyn until after they are married, and then dies in a car crash. Since Gwendolyn refuses to share her knowledge, the narrator speculates, "the figure in the carpet [was] traceable or describable only for husbands and wives--for lovers supremely united." She marries Drayton Deane, and after her death, the narrator approaches Deane to discover the secret. But Deane is surprised and humiliated by the news of his wife's great "secret," and he and the narrator conclude by sharing the same throbbing curiosity.

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Hamlet

Shakespeare, William

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Hamlet's father, the King of Denmark, is dead and has been succeeded by his brother Claudius, who has married the old king's wife, Gertrude. The King's ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered him, and makes Hamlet promise to avenge his death. The play traces the process by which Hamlet negotiates the conflict between his need to take violent action and his uncertainty about the rightness of doing so.

He pretends to be mad and contemplates suicide. He unintentionally murders Polonius, the new King's counselor, and violently confronts his mother for what he sees as an unfaithful and incestuous marriage to her brother-in-law. He also verbally abuses Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius, whom Hamlet had loved before, contributing to her mental illness and eventual death.

Hamlet finally decides that he must submit to his fate--or his dramatically determined role as the hero of a revenge tragedy--and agrees to a fencing match with Ophelia's brother, Laertes. Arranged by Claudius, the match is rigged. Laertes's rapier is poisoned, and both Laertes and Hamlet are killed with it. Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine intended for Hamlet and dies. Hamlet's last action is to kill Claudius, but whether this counts as the successful culmination of a revenge plot is dubious. As a new order takes over in Denmark, and as the dying Hamlet asks that his story be remembered, we realize that his existential quandaries remain largely unresolved.

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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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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

No loud noise will wake the author's son ("For I can snore like a bullhorn . . . "), but the "stifled come-cry" of his parents' making love brings him to their bedroom, where he "flops down between us . . . his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child." The parents look at one another and "touch arms across his little, startlingly muscled body."

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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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Roman Fever

Wharton, Edith

Last Updated: Apr-13-2001
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Wealthy American widows Alida Slade and Grace Ansley have taken their two marriageable daughters on a Continental tour. As the story opens, the older women linger at a restaurant with a view of the Forum while their daughters leave for an unchaperoned outing. The women talk of how carefully their mothers guarded them, and how their own mothers were in turn warned of Roman fever to keep them in at night.

Alida pushes the talk back to their girlhood, and Grace’s illness after a nighttime sightseeing trip; she reveals her knowledge that Grace had really gone to the Forum to meet Alida’s fiancé, Delphin Slade. Impelled by a mixture of jealousy, guilt, and vengeful satisfaction, Alida declares that she, not Delphin, wrote the letter summoning Grace to the tryst. This initial crisis is followed by a much more powerful one when Grace makes her own revelations about that night at the Forum.

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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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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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