Showing 741 - 750 of 877 annotations tagged with the keyword "Society"

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In 371 E. C. (Efican Calendar) a woman named Felicity Smith gives birth to Tristan, a child with such severe congenital defects that the doctors advise her to let him die. Felicity is an actress and the head of a theater troupe in Chemin Rouge, the capital of a small fictional country called Efica. Instead of getting rid of her son, Felicity takes him to live in the tower of her theater.

The boy actually has three fathers (Bill, Wally, and Vincent), each of whom in his own way accepts responsibility for the horribly deformed child. The boy grows up with the ambition to become an actor, even though he is only three and a half feet tall, his speech is almost unintelligible, and he inspires revulsion in almost everyone that he meets for the first time. Nonetheless, he thrives in the close-knit theatrical community.

When Tristan is eleven, agents from Voorstand murder his mother, who has entered politics and become a "persona non grata" in Voorstand. Tristan also fears for his life, but nonetheless avenges his mother's death by writing subversive pamphlets. Many years later, at the ripe old age of 23, Tristan and Wally (one of his fathers) travel illegally to Voorstand where they encounter many adventures before the novel comes to a satisfactory conclusion.

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Death in the Seine

Greenaway, Peter

Last Updated: Feb-04-2000
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Between April 1795 and September 1801, 306 bodies were pulled from the river Seine in Paris. A register of these deaths, indicating, sex, age, hair colour, wounds (if any) and a description of clothing (if any) was kept by two mortuary clerks, Citizen Bouille and Citizen Daude. If witnesses came forward in the days that followed, the names, occupations of the "silent guests" and the witnesses would be added together with the circumstances of the deaths. In most cases the cause of violent death was unknown, or unrecorded--be it "accident, misadventure, suicide, or murder." Bouille and Daude would not speculate.

This artistic documentary uses a male narrator and an eloquent text to present 23 out of the 306 cases: traveling clerks, hearty horsemen, children, mothers, mistresses, aged widows, and a laundress with her little daughter drowned together. These people had lived through the Revolution, the Terror and the early Consultate and it seems reasonable to wonder if the political circumstances they had experienced were somehow connected to their demise. On the other hand, the occupations--tobacco-pouch maker, carter, delivery clerk--invoke the continuity of daily life in the great city despite the political turmoil.

Each case is presented with the site and details of the discovery of the body, followed by a description of the external anatomy as the camera moves slowly and clinically upward over the naked corpse from the feet to head. The shadowy antics of the crude yet sympathetic bureaucrats Bouille and Daude appear throughout, as they retrieve bodies, wash them, label them, and arrange for the witnesses to view them with enforced respect. But we know less about Bouille and Daude than we do about their "guests."

The narrator reminds us how memory rarely survives more than three generations. Who will remember us, he asks, or these actors who lay very still? And as the register ends, the Revolutionary calendar that governed it ended too. These people who no longer exist could be said to have lived in a time that also no longer exists, because it is no longer measured.

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Snapshots

Martin, Kimbra

Last Updated: Jan-28-2000
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

In short chapters that alternate between remembered scenes of abuse, reflections upon those scenes, and tributes to the natural beauties and human kindnesses that tempered years of domestic violence, the author provides a galling, but not sensationalistic, record of what child abuse looks and feels like. Only when she was older and mostly beyond the reach of a father who routinely beat and sexually abused her and her siblings did the author find out that her father had been dismissed from a police force for gratuitous violence and had subsequently submitted to electroshock treatments for mental illness.

The title describes the nature of the narrative; in its deliberate discontinuities it testifies to the stated fact that there are places where memory has left a blank. Much of the telling is an attempt to piece together a story of recurrent violence, felt danger, and arbitrary rage that seemed at the time both regular and unpredictable.

The sanity of the narrative testifies to the possibility of healing. The writer makes no large claims for final or complete release from the effects of trauma, but does strongly testify to the possibility of a loving, happy, functional adult life as healing continues.

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Free Will

Day, Sarah

Last Updated: Jan-27-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

When at last the authorities came / to lead away her children, she turns around and retreats "inward to the recesses of her mind." This woman doesn't care what happens to the children because she has lived in her own world for a long time, but nobody noticed. The neighbors saw her trash stack up, they smelled "the stench of fetid scraps" in her house, but they continued along their merry way, oblivious to what was happening. [30 lines]

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in the course of one night during the 1820's in the Australian outback. Carney, an Irish convict-turned-revolutionary, is scheduled for execution in the morning. Two soldiers guard him at the lonely outpost. An officer named Adair arrives to interrogate Carney, in the hope that he might betray his surviving comrades, especially Dolan, the leader of the insurrection.

The officer and the prisoner keep a vigil through the long cold night. Carney tells about his impoverished life in Ireland and his goal of achieving freedom for himself and his countrymen. Adair, too, is Irish. He remembers his own, more privileged life in Dublin.

The uneducated Carney asks, "Why is there so much injustice in the world?" Adair has no answer. At dawn Carney asks permission to wash in the stream before he is executed. The officer allows him to do so, and the convict presumably jumps on a horse and successfully flees. It is clear that Adair has permitted his charge to escape.

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The Doctor's Dilemma

Shaw, George Bernard

Last Updated: Jan-24-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The story opens on the day that Ridgeon, a prominent research doctor, is knighted. His friends gather to congratulate him. The friends include Sir Patrick, a distinguished old physician; Walpole, an aggressive surgeon; Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington, a charismatic society doctor; and Blenkinsop, a threadbare but honest government doctor. Each one has his favorite theory of illness and method of cure. These are incompatible--one man's cure is another man's poison. Nonetheless, they all get along.

A young woman (Mrs. Dubechat) desperately seeks help for her husband from Ridgeon, who has evidently found a way to cure consumption by "stimulating the phagocytes." Ridgeon initially refuses, but changes his mind for two reasons--Dubechat is a fine artist and Ridgeon is smitten with his wife.

When the doctors meet Dubechat, however, they find that he is a dishonest scoundrel. Ridgeon eventually decides to treat Blenkinsop (who also has consumption) and refer the artist to Bloomfield Bonington, this insuring that he will die. In the end Ridgeon justifies his behavior as a plan to let Dubechat die before his wife find out what an amoral cad he actually was. This, in fact, happens and Dubechat's artistic reputation soars.

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Summary:

Carl Elliott and John Lantos have brought together a collection of 12 essays that explore the complex work and person of Walker Percy. Personal reflections and stories capture the importance of Walker Percy in the lives and work of several of the essayists, while others offer commentaries on various aspects of Percy's life and work. All of the contributors reveal their affection and appreciation of Walker Percy as physician, novelist, and philosopher.

In addition to the editors, the contributors include Robert Coles, who was Percy's friend; Ross McElwee, the documentary filmmaker; Jay Tolson, Percy's biographer; author and historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown; scholars Martha Montello and Laurie Zoloth; and physicians Brock Eide, Richard Martinez, and David Schiedermayer.

The collection covers many topics and themes. Percy's biography is reviewed: the early losses of his father and grandfather by suicide, the early death of his mother, his medical education and subsequent struggle with tuberculosis, his turn from medicine to philosophy and literature, his marriage and conversion to Catholicism, and his long and productive life as a philosophic novelist.

The essays explore Percy as both physician and patient, and how, as diagnostic novelist, he gives us characters and stories that caution about the technologic-scientific worldview that dominates not only medicine but western life. The many wayfarers are discussed, including Binx Bolling from The Moviegoer, Will Barrett from The Last Gentleman, and Dr. Tom Moore from Love in the Ruins and The Thanatos Syndrome. [These novels have been annotated in this database.]

Percy's spiritual and religious views are reviewed, along with his moral concerns about a post-modern world before anyone had coined the term. The problems of isolation, alienation, and struggle for meaning are apparent in all of his works, and many of the essayists explore the connection between his novels and these existential concerns. The importance of Kierkegaard in his work, his theory of language, and his early essays are discussed.

The contributors give examples of how Walker Percy's life and work are incorporated in medical education and the practice of medicine, both in personal and theoretical terms. Percy's work reminds practitioners of the necessity for human connection in the midst of scientific and technologic paradigms that distance practitioner from patient. Likewise, medicine and medical education shaped Percy the novelist, where keen observation and sustained searching for answers are to be found in all of his fiction.

A feminist critique of Percy's development of women characters, reflections on physician characters in Percy's work, his personal struggle with a family history of depression, and his attitudes about psychiatry and psychoanalysis complete the collection.

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The House with an Attic

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Nov-29-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story is subtitled, "An Artist's Story." The narrator is a landscape artist living on the estate of his friend Belokurov. Nearby is the home of the Volchaninovs, a mother and two daughters. The older daughter, Lydia, is a teacher and social activist. The younger daughter, Zhenya (Missie), is warm and lovable. The narrator insists that Lydia's political and social views are wrong.

"In my opinion," he says, "medical centers, schools, village libraries and dispensaries, under present conditions, merely serve the cause of enslavement. The people are entangled in a great chain, and you are not cutting through the chain, but merely adding new links to it." (p. 223). Lydia replies, "It's true we are not saving humanity, and perhaps we make a great many mistakes; but we do all we can, and--we're right." (p. 224)

The narrator falls in love with Zhenya, who responds to him, but he makes the mistake of telling Lydia, who despises him. The next day Lydia has sent her mother and sister away. The narrator never sees them again, although he still has a faint hope: "I begin to feel that she, too, remembers me, that she is waiting for me and that we shall meet one day . . . ." (p. 231)

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of partly fictional, partly autobiographical stories about a young Russian doctor sent to practice at a rural hospital immediately after graduating from medical school. Muryovo hospital serves the peasantry in a remote region lacking decent roads and amenities like electricity. The doctor works day and night, aided by a feldsher and two midwives. Sometimes he sees over 100 patients a day in his clinic while attending to another 40 in the hospital.

The stories reveal in a clear, engaging style the doctor's anxiety as daily he encounters new problems (his first amputation, his first breech presentation, his first dental extraction) and-- for the most part--overcomes them. They also reveal a constant tension between the peasants' ignorance and the doctor's instructions. Full of blizzards and isolation, the stories are also warm and companionable, with vignettes of friendship, gratitude, and nobility.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

Editors Angela Belli, professor of English at St. John’s University in New York, and Jack Coulehan, physician-poet and director of the Institute for Medicine in Contemporary Society at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, have selected 100 poems by 32 contemporary physician-poets for this succinct yet meaty anthology. The book is subdivided into four sections, each of which is prefaced by an informative description and highlights of the poems to follow.

Section headings take their names from excerpts of the poems contained therein. There are poems that describe individuals--patients, family members ("from patient one to next"), poems that consider the interface between personal and professional life ("a different picture of me"), poems that "celebrate the learning process" ("in ways that help them see"), and poems in which the poet’s medical training is brought to bear on larger societal issues ("this was the music of our lives").

Several of the poems have been annotated in this database: Abse’s Pathology of Colours (9); Campo’s Towards Curing AIDS (13) and What the Body Told (94); Coulehan’s Anatomy Lesson (97), I’m Gonna Slap Those Doctors (21), The Dynamizer and the Oscilloclast: in memory of Albert Abrams, an American quack (129); Moolten’s Motorcycle Ward (105); Mukand’s Lullaby (33); Stone’s Talking to the Family (79) and Gaudeamus Igitur (109).

Other wonderful poems by these authors are also included in the anthology, e.g. Her Final Show by Rafael Campo, in which the physician tends to a dying drag queen, finally "pronouncing her to no applause" (11); "Lovesickness: a Medieval Text" by Jack Coulehan, wherein the ultimate prescription for this malady is to "prescribe sexual relations, / following which a cure will usually occur" (131); "Madame Butterfly" by David N. Moolten, in which the passengers in a trolley car are jolted out of their cocoons by a deranged screaming woman (142).

Space prohibits descriptions of all 100 poems, but each should be read and savored. Some others are particularly memorable. "Carmelita" by D. A. Feinfeld tells of the physician’s encounter with a feisty tattooed prisoner, who ends up with "a six-inch steel shank" through his chest as the physician labors futiley to save him (23). In "Candor" physician-poet John Graham-Pole struggles with having to tell an eight-year old that he will die from cancer (27). Audrey Shafer writes of a Monday Morning when she makes the transition from the "just-awakened warmth" of her naked little son to tend to the patient whom she will anesthetize "naked under hospital issue / ready to sleep" (72).

In "The Log of Pi" Marc J. Straus muses about being asked "the question / I never knew" that he "pretend[s] not to hear" whose "answer floats on angel’s lips / and is whispered in our ear just once" (113). Richard Donze wants to know why "Vermont Has a Suicide Rate" (132). Vernon Rowe remembers the "hulk of a man" who shriveled away from an abdominal wound and begged, " ’Let me go, Doc,’ / and I did" (44).

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