Showing 51 - 60 of 121 annotations tagged with the keyword "Literary Theory"

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The story is told from the perspective of Julian, a recent college graduate who appears to be waiting for employment commensurate with his education; he lives at home with his solicitous widowed mother. The setting is the recently integrated South of the 1960’s. Events unfold during a ride on an integrated bus, in which all of the story’s complex relationships are played out: the vindictive, self-deluding dependency of Julian on his mother; the insightless yet well-intentioned doting of his mother, who is tied to the societal conventions in which she was raised; the condescension of "enlightened" whites toward blacks; the resentment of blacks toward well-meaning whites- all depicted with great skill and humor.

The crisis occurs in a confrontation between Julian’s mother and a black woman wearing the same hat, when the mother tries to give a penny to her counterpart’s child. In the incident, Julian’s mother suffers a stroke to which Julian is at first oblivious, being so consumed with fury at his mother’s (to him inappropriate) gesture to the child. When he realizes how disabled his mother is, Julian is overwhelmed with grief and fear; the extent of his self-deception is fully confirmed.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This disturbing story is told from the view point of Sheppard, widowed for more than a year, and left to raise his ten year old son, Norton. Both are struggling to cope with the grief of this loss, but Sheppard seems incapable of recognizing and responding to his son’s feelings and believes they should both occupy themselves by doing good deeds for others. Sheppard is a volunteer counselor at the local reformatory and prides himself on "helping boys no one else cared about."

He is impatient and insensitive toward his own son, however, and instead has become fixated on one of the reformatory boys, Rufus, an impoverished, fatherless teenager whose mother is in prison. Rufus was born with a club foot and has been brought up roughly by a fanatically religious grandfather. Convinced that Rufus can be salvaged because he has a high I.Q., Sheppard makes Rufus his pet project, devoting to him all of his attention and energy, in spite of the fact that Rufus wants no part of it. Indeed, the boy is a defiant conniver who fends for himself by stealing. He has worked out a complex ethic in which he is convinced that he is under "Satan’s" power to do evil but "the lame shall enter [heaven] first" and all sins will ultimately be forgiven. Sheppard’s do-gooder social atheism infuriates Rufus.

A telescope becomes the vehicle for the tragic culmination of Sheppard’s self-deception, Rufus’s vindictive scorn, and Norton’s severe depression. Rejecting the gift of this telescope which Sheppard bought for Rufus so that he could "see the universe" and be "enlightened," Rufus persuades the impressionable Norton that he will find his mother in the heavens with the scope and could join her there were he to die young. Too late, Sheppard realizes how misdirected his love and concern have been: Norton has hanged himself.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This is the second edition of Hawkins's groundbreaking work on illness narratives--autobiographical and biographical accounts of illness that she calls "pathographies." This edition preserves the text of the earlier (1993) work but updates it with a new preface and a new concluding chapter. This new chapter (chapter 6) surveys works written since 1992 and expands the discussion of mythic thinking and narrative.

Hawkins posits that mythic thinking pervades illness writing. Mythic constructs, she argues, organize the way patients understand their illness, how they interact with the institution of medicine, and how they write their narratives. Myths are formulative in that they attempt to create order out of the disorientation of illness. In the texts selected, Hawkins identifies "archetypal" (transcultural, transhistorical) myths--myths of journey, battle, and death and rebirth (discussed in the first edition as well).

In this edition Hawkins introduces a new term: "ideological" myths. Ideological myths are "linked to a particular culture at a particular time" (xiii). In this category is the myth of healthy mindedness, a way of thinking that was labeled "mythos" in the earlier edition. Hawkins proposes two additional ideological myths, discussed in chapter 6: the Gaia myth (that links illness and environmental problems), and the "myth of narrativity" (xiii).

The book's chapters are organized around the myths enumerated above, with many examples. Most of the works discussed were written in the latter part of the 20th century, but there are several pages devoted to John Donne's Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (see annotation in this database). Hawkins determines how, in specific cases, the myths she has identified function--whether they are "enabling" or "disabling," and whether they are "medically syntonic or dystonic" (21-24). Myths that have an enabling function are adaptive, useful, help recovery or adjustment, ameliorate suffering. They are often medically syntonic--compatible with the belief system of Western medicine. One notable exception to this is Hawkins's paradigm of the ideological "myth of healthy mindedness," in which to be enabled often means to controvert traditional medical practices.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Couser, long interested in autobiography, explores the ethics of representation in biographical writing, and in particular, the ethics of representing vulnerable subjects--for example, the aged or very young, the sick or impaired, or those who are "socially or culturally disadvantaged." He is concerned with representation of people who are intimately connected to the biographer, either as family members, or in some other "trust-based relationship." Couser argues that the relationship between vulnerable subjects and their biographers is analogous to that between patients and their physicians and that therefore principles of bioethics should be applied to such life writing, especially the principles of autonomy, nonmaleficence, and beneficence.

Couser explores life writing and betrayal (Chapter 1), outlines how he will apply the principles of biomedical ethics and ethnographical ethics to life writing (Chapter 2), and applies these principles to examples of collaborative autobiography (Chapter 3). He then critiques in detail Michael Dorris’s memoir about his adopted son, The Broken Cord (Chapter 4); the work of Oliver Sacks (Chapter 6); memoirs of euthanasia (Couser calls these "euthanographies"), Saying Goodbye to Daniel: When Death Is the Best Choice, by Julia Cassutto Rothman; Rescuing Jeffrey, by Richard Galli, and But What If She Wants to Die, by George DeLury (Chapter 7). Finally, in the last chapter, Couser considers how investigation of the human genome might influence the "scripts" of our lives and hence life writing, and also how life writing might be a counter discursive force against genomic essentialism.

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Summary:

A severe synopsis of Foucault's first major work might show how Foucault charts the journey of the mad from liberty and discourse to confinement and silence and how this is signposted by the exercise of power. He starts in the epoch when madness was an "undifferentiated experience" (ix), a time when the mad roamed the countryside in "an easy wandering existence" (8); Foucault shows the historical and cultural developments that lead to "that other form of madness, by which men, in an act of sovereign reason, confine their neighbors" (ix), challenging the optimism of William Tuke and Phillipe Pinel's "liberation" of the mad and problematizing the genesis of psychiatry, a "monologue of reason about madness" (xi).

Central to this is the notion of confinement as a meaningful exercise. Foucault's history explains how the mad came first to be confined; how they became identified as confined due to moral and economic factors that determined those who ought to be confined; how they became perceived as dangerous through their confinement, partly by way of atavistic identification with the lepers whose place they had come to occupy; how they were "liberated" by Pinel and Tuke, but in their liberation remained confined, both physically in asylums and in the designation of being mad; and how this confinement subsequently became enacted in the figure of the psychiatrist, whose practice is "a certain moral tactic contemporary with the end of the eighteenth century, preserved in the rites of the asylum life, and overlaid by the myths of positivism." Science and medicine, notably, come in at the later stages, as practices "elaborated once this division" between the mad and the sane has been made (ix).

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Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The story itself commences after the vituperative dedication to Robert Southey and several stanzas mocking contemporary heroes, with Don Juan's birth in Seville to Donna Inez and Don José. The adventures begin with his affair with Donna Julia, his mother's best friend. Donna Julia's husband, Don Alfonso discovers the secret romance, and Don Juan is sent to Cadiz. A shipwreck along the way sees him stranded, the lone survivor; there he meets a pirate's daughter, Haidée. Expelled from this paradise by Haidée's father, the pirate Lambro, he is captured, and sold into slavery.

Gulbayaz, one of the Sultan's harem, has him purchased and smuggled into her company dressed as a girl; after he spends the night in the bed of one of her courtesans, Gulbayaz threatens both with death. When next we see Don Juan, he has escaped. He joins in the Russian attack on Ismail, where he fights valiantly and rescues Leila, a Muslim child. They are taken to St Petersburg, where he impresses Catherine The Great and joins her entourage. Due to illness, he is sent to London, where, as an ambassador for Russia, he joins the Court and finds for Leila a suitable governess; the final cantos see him amongst the Lords and Ladies of British aristocracy, in particular Lady Adeline and the mysterious Aurora Raby.

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Oleanna

Mamet, David

Last Updated: Oct-29-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Act One: The professor, John, receives his student, Carol, who is seeking help with an essay. She readily admits that she does not understand the premise of the course. During the interview, he is animated and cavalier about her difficulty. He is also distracted by preoccupations from home and allows their encounter to be interrupted by phone calls about the sale of his house. Insisting that academic work is not as difficult as some would pretend, he suggests that she simply come to see him from time to time.

Act Two: Carol and John meet again in his office. She has reported to his tenure committee, accusing him of sexism, elitism, grandiosity, and offering good grades in exchange for coming to see him. He is upset and angry because he thinks she has misinterpreted his offer. He had considered himself a good and original teacher. More than insulting, the accusations now mean that he is in financial trouble because he had bought a house on the strength of his bid for tenure. He asks how he can make amends. She interprets the question as attempt to force a retraction. She moves to leave, he moves to restrain her, and she screams.

Act Three: Carol comes to John’s office at his request and against advice. There has been an investigation and he is to be disciplined. He refers to her complaints as “allegations,” but she insists that they are “proven facts.” She has asked that his book be banned, and is considering criminal charges for battery and attempted rape. His career and perhaps also his marriage are ruined. Outraged he starts to beat her—but suddenly stops as if he finally understands her position.

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The Turn of the Screw

James, Henry

Last Updated: Sep-12-2006
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

The narrator’s friend Douglas reads a memoir entrusted to him by his young sister’s governess when he was in college: to oblige a handsome bachelor, she agrees to care for his orphaned niece and nephew in a lonely country house. She becomes convinced that Flora and Miles (ages 8 and 10) are haunted by the evil spirits of their former governess, Miss Jessel, and a former valet, Quint.

The housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, tells the governess of the servants’ "corruption" and "contamination" of the children, Miss Jessel’s suspected pregnancy and mysterious death, and Quint’s fatal, drunken fall. The governess’s obsessive struggle with the ghosts over the children culminates in Flora’s descent into a fever and a climactic battle with Quint over the soul of Miles, who dies of heart failure even as the governess asserts her triumph.

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Soldiers Cry by Night

Matute, Ana Maria

Last Updated: Sep-08-2006
Annotated by:
Marta, Jan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Toward the end of the Spanish Civil War, Manuel’s biological father, Jorge de Son Major, dies, finally recognizing him in his will. His social father, Jose Taronji, had been killed only two years before. Manuel, newly rich but philosophically impoverished, seeks a secular spiritual father in "Jeza", an imprisoned rebel leader, and Jose’s comrade. When Jeza is killed, Manuel informs his wife, Marta, and together they plan a final revolt. They use Jorge de Son Major’s boat, Antinea, to deliver rebel documents, then make one final, "crazy," fatal stand, to honor and mourn Jeza, to remember and create themselves.

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New Bridge over the Missouri

Khan, Jemshed

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem, written in five sections of free verse, begins with the speaker remembering the old steel bridge he used to drive over on his way to work. He describes how the gaps between the steel beams had given him access to the world beyond the bridge: he had been able to see the river bank and railroad tracks and, most importantly, the people down there, "wild dangerous men" living near the edge of the river.

The poet next describes the new bridge, with its smooth speedy surface and solid concrete sides concealing the view. He then steps back and reflects: "what now?" He compares the engineer making the bridge with his own writing, "diminish[ing] the homeless to a poetic abstraction," and asks where this leaves him. Both bridge and abstraction, he implies, take the life, untidy and dangerous but valuable, out of his experience of crossing the Missouri.

He cannot view the material for his poetry now, unless he were to stop, back up the traffic, and risk his life climbing the walls of the bridge, and even then he does not know what he would say, because the new bridge has made him realize something about himself: "I am partly the leech come to feed, / yet I cannot waver from my groove." As a poet, he needs access to the lives of others, an access he likens to parasitism. But his career, the work to which he is going, requires him to speed on across the bridge without pausing.

He now elaborates on his distance from the world of the homeless people (and, by implication, all the other material for his poetry), saying that he has "safely bled away the guilt, / and pity and compassion," from his involvement or complicity in the meaning of his material, and "channeled it" into the poem. The leech image is now applied to the poem which, once filled with those ambivalent emotions, becomes separate from the poet and attaches itself instead to the reader, who now becomes the one feeding on the "dark spurt of old blood," the horrifying riches of which the speaker has rid himself.

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