Showing 821 - 830 of 877 annotations tagged with the keyword "Society"

The Awakening

Chopin, Kate

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Edna Pontellier, an aristocrat from late nineteenth-century New Orleans, goes on vacation with her husband and children. There she meets and falls in love with Robert Lebrun. She also learns to swim, returns to her painting, and listens to the passionate piano playing of eccentric Mademoiselle Reisz. For the first time, Edna feels alive.

When she returns to New Orleans, she is unable to fit herself back into her social role. She defies her husband and ignores her friends. When her husband leaves town, she sets up her own house with money she has earned from her increasingly adept painting. She has an affair with the town seducer.

When Robert returns from a trip abroad, they passionately embrace. But Robert can not bear the stigma of adultery. He leaves her again. Edna returns to the vacation site and drowns herself.

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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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Red Noses

Barnes, Peter

Last Updated: Feb-18-1997
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays — Secondary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This play is set in Auxerre, France, in 1348 in the midst of the Black Plague. The main character is Marcel Flote, a wandering monk who after an inadvertently humorous run-in with a flagellant discovers what God has called him for--laughter in the face of plague, "bright stars not sad comets, red noses not black death. He wants joy."

Flote then sets forth with a troupe of clowns (a new order without order) to make merriment against all odds. Although initially supported by the Church in this endeavor (for its own gain), the Church in the end (not surprisingly) turns against Father Flote and his anti-establishment followers.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Seventeen year-old Phyllis Halliday lives with her parents near the maximum security penitentiary in Kingston, Canada. In the year 1919-20, she establishes a forbidden, epistolic relationship with convict Joseph Cleroux, who is serving a sentence for theft and extortion. Messages, money, and small gifts of tobacco, chocolate, and a ring, are concealed in the quarry next to her home where the convicts are sent to work. Influenced by the newly released film with Mary Pickford, she dubs her new friend "Daddy Long Legs," and herself, "Peggy."

Both Phyllis and Joe fear being caught, and they suffer from parallel illnesses. As she falls in love with the man whom she has never met, she neglects her studies, hoping that he will come for her when he is discharged. However, on that day, he is immediately put on the first train out of town. His letters dwindle and cease, but Phyllis continues to wait and hope.

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The Black Swan

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Feb-03-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

The setting is Germany in the late 1920s. Rosalie, the central character, is a "sociable," cheerful 50 year old widow who lives with her adult unmarried daughter and her adolescent son. Her manner is youthful but "her health had been affected by certain critical organic phenomena of her time of life." Rosalie is keenly aware of all that menopause implies: the loss of sexual allure and of a (biologic) purpose in life. She feels "superannuated."

Along comes a young man, well-built, who is the American-born tutor for her son. She is overwhelmed by physical attraction for him, becoming infatuated, much to the disapproval of her repressed, cerebral daughter. She feels young and attractive once more, believing that her heightened state of sensuality has resulted in the resumption of what appears to be menstrual bleeding.

Planning to declare her love to the tutor, Rosalie arranges a family excursion to the Rhine castle where the black swans swim. In the decaying alcoves of the castle, she does so; the pair will rendezvous that night. The rendezvous never takes place; Rosalie has hemorrhaged. She is found to have a large, metastatic uterine tumor.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Dr. Papper, a revered figure in the field of anesthesiology, questioned why it took so long for anesthesia to be "discovered": after all, pain and suffering existed long before the mid-nineteenth century. This book is a result of Papper’s graduate studies in literature and history and explains his thesis that "societal concern with pain and suffering, and the subsequent development of surgical anesthesia in the Romantic era . . . are outgrowths of Romantic subjectivity."

The book provides biographies of scientists, physicians and poets, such as Humphry Davy, Thomas Beddoes, Sr., Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley, along with analyses of Romantic poetry as related to pain and suffering. Papper theorizes that the exchange of ideas amongst these intellectuals and the political upheavals of the time paved the way for society to recognize that the pursuit of happiness could include the relief of pain.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Doris Grumbach, novelist and critic, experienced the landmark of her seventieth birthday as a traumatic event. She resolved to keep a diary during the months surrounding this time, both to record her "despair" and to seek answers to "what has my life meant?" The result is a relentless reflection on the losses associated with growing old, and on the loss of civility associated with contemporary urban life. Yet there is the liberation which age allows, in setting priorities and discarding the trivial. Ever observant and informed, Grumbach’s commentary on the present and the past is both interesting and moving.

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Arrowsmith

Lewis, Sinclair

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

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

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel was inspirational for several generations of pre-medical and medical students. It follows the hero, Martin Arrowsmith, from his days as a medical student through the vicissitudes of his medical/scientific career. There is much agonizing along the way concerning career and life decisions. While detailing Martin’s pursuit of the noble ideals of medical research for the benefit of mankind and of selfless devotion to the care of patients, Lewis throws many less noble temptations and self-deceptions in Martin’s path. The attractions of financial security, recognition, even wealth and power distract Arrowsmith from his original plan to follow in the footsteps of his first mentor, Max Gottlieb, a brilliant but abrasive bacteriologist.

In the course of the novel Lewis describes many aspects of medical training, medical practice, scientific research, scientific fraud, medical ethics, public health, and of personal/professional conflicts that are still relevant today. Professional jealousy, institutional pressures, greed, stupidity, and negligence are all satirically depicted, and Martin himself is exasperatingly self-involved. But there is also tireless dedication, and respect for the scientific method and intellectual honesty.

Martin’s wife, Leora, is the steadying, sensible, self-abnegating anchor of his life. In today’s Western culture it is difficult to imagine such a marital relationship between two professionals (she is a nurse). When Leora dies in the tropics, of the plague that Martin is there to study, he seems to lose all sense of himself and of his principles. The novel comes full circle at the end as Arrowsmith gives up his wealthy second wife and the high-powered, high-paying directorship of a research institute to go back to hands-on laboratory research.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

For forty years, James Langstaff (1825-1889) practiced medicine in a small town near Toronto. He witnessed the advent of anesthesia, antisepsis, new drug remedies, germ theory, and public health. Chapters are devoted to his management of surgery, obstetrics, and diseases, especially in women and children, his finances, and his role and that of his suffragist wife in the political and social fabric of their community. A reformer and temperance advocate, Langstaff was quick to adopt medical innovations, but slow to abandon familiar practices.

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The Culture of Pain

Morris, David

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

On the first page, Morris summarizes his project in this book: to "describe how the experience of pain is decisively shaped or modified by individual human minds and by specific human cultures. It explores what we might call the historical, cultural, and psychosocial construction of pain." Contemporary Western culture tries to convince us that pain is nothing but an aspect of disease and, therefore, a medical problem. But pain only exists in human experience; nerve impulses are not pain.

In calling our attention to the social and cultural meanings of pain, Morris begins with Tolstoy's short novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (see this database). He then presents various images of human suffering: gender-based pain, as in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's, The Yellow Wallpaper (see this database: annotated by Felice Aull, also annotated by Jack Coulehan); religious views, as in the stories of Job and the Christian martyrs; the aesthetic ideal, as manifested in the romantic idea of the sublime as painful; social uses, as in satire and torture (see Kafka's In the Penal Colony, annotated in this database); the relationship between pain and sex, as in the work of Marquis de Sade; and tragic pain, as evidenced in Sophocles' Philoctetes.

Throughout the book, Morris refers to the "invisible epidemic" of chronic pain that exists in the United States today. This epidemic of chronic pain can be adequately understood and treated only by approaching it with a cultural model, rather than a disease model.

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