Showing 721 - 730 of 878 annotations tagged with the keyword "Society"

Good People

Merwin, W. S.

Last Updated: Apr-13-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker muses about his assumption--which he now believes to be incorrect--that "any person with normal feelings" or who was well-educated would understand "pain when it went on before them / and would do something about it." He tries to explain why, in fact, this does not happen. Perhaps "it escapes their attention" or perhaps . . . . The speaker enumerates his vision of massive slaughter and destruction--of children, animals, " victims under the blankets." [20 lines]

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

Leap into the world imagined by Kurt Vonnegut, WNYC's reporter on the afterlife, and land with him at the Pearly Gates, or more precisely, "the hundred yards or so of vacant lot between the far end of the blue tunnel and the Pearly Gates" (8). There, Vonnegut, forever the humanist, has his interviewees talk about that which is of ultimate importance--how they lived (or should have lived) their lives.

Vonnegut begins his journeys from the state-of-the-art lethal injection facility in Huntsville, Texas, and reaches his destination though the able assistance of Jack Kevorkian. Who does he meet at the mid-point of his round trip journeys? Dead folks--many famous ones, some not so famous--21 in all (including his fictional creation, Kilgore Trout). Also on the list of interviewees are John Brown, Clarence Darrow, William Shakespeare, Mary Wallstonecraft Shelley, Karla Faye Tucker (actually put to death in the Huntsville facility), and Isaac Asimov.

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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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Lives of Moral Leadership

Coles, Robert

Last Updated: Mar-20-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In this book Robert Coles elucidates the nature of moral leadership by presenting a series of narratives about moral leaders. These are individuals who have made significant contributions to the author's moral development, mostly through personal interaction, but in some cases through their writings or their influence on other people.

The subjects include public personages like Robert Kennedy, Dorothy Day (of the Catholic Worker), Danilo Dolci (a Sicilian community organizer), Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Erik Erikson; writers who have influenced Coles, such as Joseph Conrad and Ralph Waldo Emerson; and "ordinary" persons whom he encountered over the years in his studies of the moral lives of children.

The "ordinary" person category is most extraordinary. Coles draws heavily on personal interviews that reconstruct the courageous narratives of people like Andrew Thomas, a young Mississippian who worked on the voter registration project during the summer of 1964; Donita Gaines, one of the first black teenagers to "integrate" an all-white high school in Atlanta in 1961; and Albert Jones, a parent who volunteered to drive the school bus that carried black children in 1967 from Roxbury to a previously all-white school in South Boston.

However, the clearest and most powerful narrative that emerges from this book is that of the author himself, as he develops from young, socially conscious child psychiatrist to a middle-aged man seeking to understand what it means to be a moral leader in today's world.

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Summary:

This collection contains all 52 of Williams’s published stories, together with a new introduction by physician-writer, Sherwin B. Nuland. The stories were first collected in one volume in 1961 under the title The Farmer’s Daughers (New Directions); that book, in turn, included three earlier collections, plus "The Farmer’s Daughters"(1956), Williams’s last published story.

Thirteen stories featuring physician protagonists were previously collected by Robert Coles and issued by New Directions as The Doctor Stories (1984). (That volume also includes several poems and an "Afterword" by Williams’s son.) Among the stories with medical themes are Old Doc Rivers, The Girl with a Pimply Face annotated by Jack Coulehan (also annotated by John A. Woodcock), The Use of Force annotated by Felice Aull (also annotated by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan), Jean Beicke(annotated by Felice Aull and also by Pamela Moore and Jack Coulehan--see Jean Beicke), A Night in June, and A Face of Stone. The tales of a nonmedical nature include such masterpieces as "The Knife of the Times," "A Visit to the Fair," "Life Along the Passaic River," "The Dawn of Another Day," "The Burden of Loveliness," and "Frankie the Newspaper Man."

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) and his wife (Rene Russo) are both working for a federal infectious disease laboratory, but their marriage is on the rocks. A mysterious lethal illness, remarkably like Ebola fever, breaks out at various sites in America, all eventually connected to a pet shop that received a monkey from an illegal smuggling operation. Most cases are immediately isolated and contained, but a town in California develops an epidemic of the new disease.

The lab is called in and the military enforces a strict quarantine that divides families and prevents anyone from leaving the area. One worker dies quickly and Sam's wife falls ill. The crass General Donald McClintock (Donald Sutherland) is convinced that the nation can be saved only by the annihilation of the town by a gigantic bomb.

A plane sets out on the gruesome mission. Meanwhile, Hoffman leaps from a helicopter onto the cargo ship where the sailor-smuggler has just died leaving a photo of the monkey carrier. Sam makes a televised appeal for help locating the cute but dangerous, little monkey; a terrified mother responds and the creature is snatched from the arms of her child.

With military snipers in hot pursuit, Sam returns to the town, radioing the baffled bomber pilots with a barrage of reasons why they should ditch their mission of destruction. He puts the tiny monkey to work producing anti-sera and vaccines, which--in only a matter of minutes!--rescue the town, his wife, and his marriage. The pilots disobey orders and dump their bomb in the sea.

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The Unseemly Old Lady

Brecht, Bertolt

Last Updated: Nov-29-2000
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Much to the disapproval of her children, a newly-widowed seventy-two year old woman decides to continue living independently and spends her time in disreputable behavior like going to the cinema alone, visiting insalubrious parts of town, eating at inns, and going to the races. She befriends a middle-aged cobbler (who is also, scandalously, a Social Democrat) and a young "feeble-minded" kitchen maid, and she stops visiting her husband's grave. One of her sons assumes she must be sick and wants to call the doctor. Without consulting her children, she mortgages her large house and apparently gives the money to her cobbler.

The narrator (her grandchild) observes that she has lived two lives: the first as dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, and the second "as Mrs. B, an unattached person without responsibilities." She dies suddenly, without illness, and the grandchild describes a photograph taken of her corpse after death: she has the face of one who "had savoured to the full the long years of servitude and the short years of freedom and consumed the bread of life to the last crumb."

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

This collection of 20 essays continues and expands upon the theme--how we living care for our dead and incorporate them into memory--that Thomas Lynch, a poet and undertaker, introduced in his first book, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (see this database).

In this new book, Lynch writes rambling pieces that begin with some observation about his funereal trade then blaze off into musings about religion ("The Dead Priest"), love and divorce ("The Blindness of Love," "Y2Cat"), poetry ("Reno," "Notes on 'A Note on the Rapture to His True Love'"), and the interplay of mortality and morality ("Wombs," "The Bang & Whimper and the Boom"). In his first book, Lynch wrote scathingly of abortion and mercy killing, and here he continues his thought provoking considerations of both.

In what might be the most interesting and radical essay in this collection, "Wombs," Lynch walks a precarious line between pro-life and pro-choice rhetoric; ultimately, he asserts a woman's right to abhor decisions about her body that "leave her out." At the same time, he asks if the reproductive choices available to women, "when considered for men," might not seem "irresponsible, overly indulgent, and selfish." What if, he writes, men could declare (without stating their reasons) their interest in their unborn children "null and void, ceased and aborted?" Lynch, who spends most of his time in the contemplation of the deceased, seems to find in death a spark of life; then he fans it into flame with language.

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

A 199-page collection of twelve essays by undertaker and poet Thomas Lynch, superficially about his mortuary trade, but actually about much more--life and death; the process of mourning; how we human beings pass though our common lives with grace or desperation; how the graveside ritual serves memory, family, and society. In the preface, Lynch says that early on he came to understand that the undertaking trade he would inherit from his father had little to do with what was done to the dead, but everything to do with how the living responded to the deaths of loved ones, neighbors, and friends.

Particularly outstanding essays include "The Undertaking," in which Lynch divulges the practical and emotional secrets of his trade as he buries Milo, a man who owned a Laundromat; "Crapper," a humorous, rollicking essay that demonstrates our modern society's inability to deal either with the thought of dying or the actual dead body; "The Gulfatorium," a flight of fancy about building a graveyard in a golf course, but really about the nature of suffering and the afterlife; "Mary & Wilbur," about neighbors, about our fear of death and our impulse to memorialize; "Uncle Eddie, Inc.," about an uncle's "clean-up service" that sanitized rooms after messy suicides and about the natural order of life and death and the moral implications of our manipulation of that order through assisted suicide, abortion, and genetic manipulation. My personal favorite is the final essay, "Tract," in which Lynch says how he wants his own death and burial to be managed, how he, a witness to our final rituals, wants to be witnessed.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Peppered with a plethora of black and white stills, this book is a compilation of a physician's film reviews and reflections on how movies have mirrored the changes in medical care and in society's attitudes towards doctors and medicine over the last sixty years. Ten chapters blend a chronological approach with a thematic perspective: Hollywood Goes to Medical School; The Kindly Savior:

From Doctor Bull to Doc Hollywood; Benevolent Institutions; The Temple of Science; "Where are All the Women Doctors?"; Blacks, the Invisible Doctors; The Dark Side of Doctors; The Institutions Turn Evil; The Temple of Healing; More Good Movie Doctors and Other Personal Favorites.

The appendices (my favorite) briefly note recurring medical themes and stereotypes ("You have two months to live," "Boil the Water!"). Formatted as a filmography, the appendices reference the chapter number in which the film is discussed, the sources of the photographs, and a limited index.

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