Showing 511 - 520 of 606 annotations contributed by Coulehan, Jack

Summary:

Fausto-Sterling is a biologist who challenges various experiments meant to prove the biological bases of sexual difference. The first chapter is a brief introduction describing the interdependence of modern social structure and biology. Chapter Two is called "A Question of Genius: Are Men Really Smarter Than Women?" She is partly concerned here with arguments that women are simply less intelligent than men. More interestingly, she takes on scientists who claim that women have a different sort of intelligence than men (more verbal than visual or spatial). Such claims, argues Fausto-Sterling, simply provide a rationale for sexism in education and employment. Fausto-Sterling questions both the techniques used in the experiments meant to prove these differences and the scientists' objectivity.

Chapter Three, "Of Genes and Gender," similarly critiques theories that suggest humans are totally controlled by genetic information. Particularly, she argues that the binary genetic sex model under which biology works is not nearly as obvious or secure as it seems. The author also points out that studies of "sexual development" are almost always about men. This chapter contains discussions of medical views of menstruation and menopause. The author ridicules positions that see menstruation as a disease or sick-time.

Chapter Four moves the discussion to testosterone, arguing against the equation of testosterone with aggressivity and natural superiority. Chapter Six takes on socio-biology.

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Millie's Date

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: Mar-13-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

With sedative voices we joke and spar around Millie's bed. An aged woman, "all skull," whose only child died at age 77, she cries, "Let me die, let me die!" From the midst of delirium or dementia, she remarks, "the Angels of Death survive forever."

The poet wonders whether some of these Angels "are disguised as vagrants, assigned / to each of us . . . . " One of them must be Millie's date, but where is he? "Has he lost his way, has he lost his mind?" The poet half-expects to find him on the street, begging, playing his violin.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

In his introductory notes, Pritchett calls his book a "biographical and critical study." The author presents Chekhov's life chronologically, while at each stage concentrating on the relationships between life events and art, particularly with regard to the incidents and characters that find their way into Chekhov's stories. A typical chapter begins with the events of a given period and then presents lucid analyses of several stories or plays written during that time.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

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

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dick and Nicole Diver are a sparkling 1920’s expatriate couple with two small children. They are whiling their life away on the French Riviera. Dick is a psychiatrist who, when we first meet him, is not practicing. Nicole had been his patient at an exclusive clinic where she had been admitted after a "nervous breakdown" (schizophrenia) occasioned by an episode of incest with her father.

The first section of the book presents the Divers through the eyes of Rosemary Hoyt, a young actress who is vacationing with her mother and develops an ambiguous relationship with Dick. Later, in a long flashback section, we learn the story of Nicole’s illness and treatment, culminating in Dick’s marriage--with the support of her family--to the incredibly wealthy Nicole. In the interest of Nicole’s health, her sister (“Baby”) helps Dick purchase an interest in the clinic. The remainder of the novel describes a gradual role inversion, whereby Nicole grows strong, healthy, and sympathetic; while Dick gradually weakens, succumbs to alcohol, divorces Nicole, and is finally left drifting from practice to practice in upstate New York.

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The Joys of Motherhood

Emecheta, Buchi

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Nnu Ego is the daughter of a great Nigerian chief. She is expected to have many sons. With her first husband who beats her, she has no children. She leaves him and is married to a man who works on the coast in a British colony. Her life there is miserable. She and her husband slowly lose their village values and begin a daily battle for food and money.

Nnu Ego nevertheless becomes pregnant. Her infant son dies suddenly and she nearly goes mad. She recovers and produces many children, including two sons. Her eldest son goes to school in America, marries a white woman, and rarely contacts his mother. Certainly, he does not financially support her as village ethics demand. Her younger son follows in his brother's footsteps. Nnu Ego is considered a success in her village, but she dies alone. Her eldest son returns to Nigeria and pays for a big funeral in order to prove what a good son he is.

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Three Tall Women

Albee, Edward

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This play takes place in the bedroom of a sick and forgetful old woman (A). In the first act she is cared for by a middle-aged companion (B) and visited by a young woman (C) sent by the lawyer to settle some financial affairs. A is imperious and acerbic; B, practical and compassionate; C, impatient and curious. In the context of A's life, they discuss the human condition with its love, pain, wit, sex, and inevitable decline. At the end of the first act, A suffers a stroke that leaves her on the edge of death. In the second act a mannequin of A lies in the bed. B and C are joined by A on-stage in discussing events in their mutual life and how one became the other--for they are, in fact, all the same woman ("everywoman") at different stages of her life.

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Age of Iron

Coetzee, J. M.

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Mrs. Curren, a retired classics professor in Cape Town, South Africa, is dying of cancer. The novel is in the form of an extended letter to her only daughter who has fled apartheid and lives in the United States. During her final days, Mrs. Curren takes in a homeless alcoholic man who appears on her doorstep. Her housekeeper's son Bheki is involved in an uprising. While helping his mother search for him, Mrs. Curren witnesses the burning of a black township and discovers the boy's bullet-ridden body.

Later, Bheki's friend, who seeks refuge at her house, is killed there by government security forces. In anger and despair, Mrs. Curren is forced to confront the "age of iron" apartheid has wrought. Her only companion in all this is the alcoholic drifter, who agrees (or does he?) to send this last letter to her daughter.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

This is a fascinating book on the relationship of science, medicine, and medical education to the rise of modernism in literature. Crawford uses Williams' work to connect the worlds of literature and medicine. He discovers in Williams' early poems and stories the dominant themes of clarity, cleanliness, objectivity, and authority; these themes also characterize early 20th century science. In Williams' later work, Crawford shows how the poet moved toward a more subjective and relativistic aesthetic, a change that reflects subsequent developments in science, especially physics, and signifies the emergence of "post-modernism" in literature.

Williams' first principle was clarity. As a physician, it was important that he observe human reality with a clear eye so that he could intervene to transform it. Direct apprehension of reality was also for him the source of poetry. He found beauty in the concrete experience of everyday life, but was skeptical of theories and abstractions. Along with clarity, cleanliness and objectivity also characterize Williams' worlds.

But clarity is not, in reality, so clear. To see clearly in a medical way, the physician must first learn to observe the world in a specialized manner in the "theater of proof," a metaphorical extension of the stage on which professors demonstrate anatomical structures or surgeons demonstrate operations. Like medical educators, the poet also creates a theater of proof. While the reader may experience clarity and simplicity in the poem, these effects are actually staged by the poet, who chooses "clean" words and manipulates reality to achieve the desired simplicity. In both medicine and poetry, the practitioner unveils the truth by using manipulative and authoritarian techniques.

In the last chapter, Crawford shows that Williams' later work presages a post-modern, relativistic world. While the earlier Williams speaks of clarity, simplicity, science, and authority, Patterson and the post-World War II poems reveal complexity, fragmentation, and subversion.

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The Visionary

Livingstone, Douglas

Last Updated: Feb-13-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A witch doctor treated a man for trachoma with a caustic root, and the man went blind. Terrified and depressed, he sat in the doorway of his home for two years while "his wives ministered" to him. One night he went off on his own and "fell into a dry well and died upside down."

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The Biopsy

Jones, Alice

Last Updated: Feb-11-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet undergoes a breast biopsy under local anesthesia: "I had thought my skin was a permanent seal. / Now I watch this layer of myself / . . . sprout red flowers . . . . " She observes the (male) surgeon closely, imagines her tissue on its journey to the pathology laboratory, and listens carefully to the surgeon's first words: "this man / who went beyond my skin / as no one else has . . . / as he made me for the first time, his."

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