Showing 91 - 100 of 298 annotations contributed by Aull, Felice

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Author Diedrich investigates ("treats") mid-late 20th century memoirs about illness (illness narratives) from an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on the disciplines of literature, social sciences, and philosophy. Her analysis uses the theoretical frameworks of poststructuralism, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis to consider "what sort of subject is formed in the practice of writing . . . illness narratives," the kind of knowledges articulated by such writing, whether and how such writing can transform "expert medical knowledges," how language operates in these memoirs, and "what sort of ethics emerges out of such scenes of loss and the attempts to capture them in writing" (viii).

The book is divided into Introduction, five chapters on specific memoirs, and Conclusion. Chapter 1, "Patients and Biopower: Disciplined Bodies, Regularized Populations, and Subjugated Knowledges," draws on Foucault's theory of power to discuss two mid-20th-century memoirs of institutionalization for tuberculosis. Betty McDonald's the Plague and I is compared with Madonna Swan: A Lakota Woman's Story. Dividing practices and regularization are shown to serve different functions in these two incarcerations, figurative in the case of Betty McDonald, and literal in the case of Madonna Swan.

Chapter 2, "Politicizing Patienthood: Ideas, Experience and Affect," draws on Foucault's approach to the subject and on his discussion of "practices of the self" in contrasting Audre Lorde's The Cancer Journals with Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors (see annotations). Diedrich also brings into her analysis Eve Sedgwick's theory of queer performativity and Sedgwick's own illness narrative, White Glasses. Diedrich views all of these as counter narratives to the clinical medical narrative of illness but she shows how they differ in stance.

Chapter 3, "Stories For and against the Self: Breast Cancer Narratives from the United States and Britain" looks at "the arts of being ill" as they are represented in two cultures, two "conceptions of the self in these countries at a particular historical moment" (61). The narratives discussed are Sandra Butler and Barbara Rosenblum's narrative, Cancer in Two Voices and Ruth Picardie's Before I Say Goodbye (see annotations). Diedrich associates Cancer in Two Voices with an American notion of self-improvement and Before I Say Goodbye with a British "emphasis on the cultivation of an ironic self" (55). The author works in this chapter with Freud's idea of the uncanny, Benedict Anderson's concept of "imagined political communities" and Elaine Scarry's discussion of pain, language, and the unmaking of the self.

Chapter 4, "Becoming-Patient: Negotiating Healing, Desire, and Belonging in Doctors' Narratives," treats Oliver Sacks's illness narrative, A Leg to Stand On, Abraham Verghese's autobiographical My Own Country: A Doctor's Story of a Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS, and Rafael Campo's book of essays, The Poetry of Healing (see annotations). Here Diedrich considers "the possibility that doctors, especially AIDS doctors, might become patients through desiring-and writing-productions" (83) and she utilizes the rhizome model of Deleuze and Guattari to make her case. She discusses how Verghese and Campo are each both cultural insiders and outsiders and how they each "bring the body into language through their writing" (88).

Chapter 5, "Between Two Deaths: Practices of Witnessing," focuses primarily on Paul Monette's writing about the loss of his partner to AIDS, and on John Oliver Bayley's books about the loss of his wife, Iris Murdoch, to Alzheimer's, and her ultimate death (see annotations in this database). In this chapter Diedrich invokes Lacan's concept of the real and his formulation of "the ethical possibility of being between two deaths" (117). She draws also on trauma theory and the work of Kelly Oliver, a contemporary feminist philosopher who has written on witnessing.

Finally, in her "Conclusion: Toward an Ethics of Failure," Diedrich returns to Elaine Scarry's "phenomenological discussion of the experience of pain" and brings in Jean-François Lyotard's concept of incommensurability and his suggestion between the two poles of what is seemingly incommensurable one might search, in Diedrich's words, for "new rules for forming and linking phrases between . . . subject positions" (150). In that context she analyzes physician Atul Gawande's discussion of medical uncertainty and error in his book, Complications (see annotation) and philosopher Gillian Rose's book, Love' s Work. Diedrich concludes that the basic incommensurability between doctor and patient can be a starting point for a new ethics, an ethics of failure and risk "because by taking such risks [of failure, of relations], we open up the possibility of new routes, new treatments: in and between art, medicine, philosophy, and politics" (166).

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When the Emperor Was Divine

Otsuka, Julie

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This short novel tells the story of a Japanese-American family’s internment during World War II. They are living comfortably in Berkeley, California, when their nightmare begins. Soon after Pearl Harbor the husband/father is arrested by the FBI--taken away in his housecoat and slippers. We learn of this through the narration of the eight-year-old son, his ten-year-old sister, and their mother--who are rounded up several months later and sent to a camp in Utah. The father remains shadowy--a figure of memory, wishful thinking, and censored letters stamped "Detained Alien Enemy Mail." The reason for his arrest is never explained, as if there is no reason to question the man’s loyalty.

After her husband’s arrest, the mother is left to take care of her children and the house. A few months later she must pack up the household belongings, give away the family cat, kill and bury the family dog, tell her daughter to let loose the pet macaw. They are allowed to bring with them--where to they do not know--only what they can carry. They take an endless train ride through the Nevada desert to reach an internment camp in Utah, "a city of tar-paper barracks behind a barbed-wire fence on a dusty alkaline plane high up in the desert" (49).

Here they remain until the war ends, some three and a half years later. They learn to live in one room with a single light bulb; to stand on line for everything; to eat in the mess hall; to avoid rattlesnakes, scorpions, and the sun; and to "never say the Emperor’s name out loud" (52). They are unable to avoid the desert dust that covers and gets into everything. The children attend makeshift classes, play cards, are bored, lonely, and confused. The boy misses and has fantasies about his father, the girl reaches adolescence and becomes cynical, the mother is too depressed to eat or read.

At the end of the war, the three are allowed to go home "with train fare and twenty-five dollars in cash" (117). Their house has been vandalized; neighbors, teachers, and classmates either ignore them or are openly hostile. Finally their father is released from detention in New Mexico, a changed man both in appearance and spirit.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist, Henry Sugimoto, depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

Dominating this picture are five brown-skinned, black-haired babies clad only in diapers, who are sitting or standing on a white sheet. Remarkably, the babies are featureless, although one appears to be crying. Another is standing, waving a tiny American flag. Looming in the lower left of the picture is an MP (military police), also brown-skinned, but with Caucasian features. He stands guard, not facing the children, and prominently holding a rifle to which a bayonet is attached.

Separating the babies from the MP is the barbed wire fence that stretches along the painting's foreground. In the background is the watch tower often depicted in Sugimoto's paintings, more barbed wire fences that enclose the children, and a menacing dark brown sky.

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Jerome Camp

Sugimoto, Henry

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist, Henry Sugimoto, depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

This painting is bleak, almost colorless, with its shades of gray and beige; the sky is cloudy. In the foreground there appears to be a marshy area, with water, wooden boards strewn about, and tall grass at the water's edge. Barracks stretch behind the marsh, on either side of a narrow road, the repetitive monotony reinforced by telegraph poles that line one side of the road. There are no people or animals in sight and the only vegetation detectable, besides marsh grass, is the sketchy outline of tree tops in the distance.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist Henry Sugimoto depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

In the foreground of this painting, her back to the viewer, a woman waves a handkerchief in farewell to her husband, who wears an army uniform. The children wave goodbye with her as their father turns around to wave back. The road on which the soldier walks is flanked by the barbed wire of the camp, and in the distance stands a watch tower. The woman and her children are separated from the husband/father by a sign that seems suspended in front of them and says in large letters, "STOP." A guard soldier with bayonet stands next to the woman and children, facing them and the viewer with a stern expression on his gray-white face.

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When Can We Go Home?

Sugimoto, Henry

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist Henry Sugimoto depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

In the center of this painting stands a woman bending down toward a young girl who is facing her. Both are wearing colorful (yellow and red, respectively) dresses and the girl is wearing boots. The child stretches her right arm toward the woman while her left arm points upward toward structures --a suspension bridge, parts of buildings --that are angled, overlap each other, and are placed within a light blue background.

What appear to be two transparent light beams emanate at an acute angle from the right vertical border of the painting. The angled beams and the angled overlapping buildings simultaneously break up the picture and unite its various elements. In the lower left corner a coiled rattlesnake stretches its head toward the child, while in the lower right corner, a squirrel is sitting on a log viewed end on, an ax resting propped up against the log. A large sunflower stretches along the right vertical border of the picture toward the triangle of the upper right hand corner. In this triangle is the ubiquitous watch tower of Sugimoto's camp paintings, tilted (see "Send Off Husband at Jerome Camp" and "Nisei Babies in Concentration Camp" in this database); a camp building, green trees, and a dark blue-black sky through which a lightning bolts tears vertically.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

A man wearing a dark suit and shirt with clerical collar, his head bowed, knees buckling, his forehead and cheek dripping blood, is being held from behind by a young man whose arms reach under the cleric's shoulders to restrain him. To the left of these two men, and moving into the center of the picture with his lifted outstretched leg, a third man, his sleeves rolled up to reveal his muscular arms, punches and kicks the cleric. All three have Asiatic features.

In the background is a drab gray wooden building that says "Mess" while in the foreground a small wooden stake carries a sign saying "Block." The cleric's hat and glasses have tumbled to the ground next to his feet, and a book that appears to be a bible also lies there. The ground, like the Mess Hall, is drab and colorless; the sky is a bleak darkish brown.

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Mother of Sorrows

McCann, Richard

Last Updated: May-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This partly autobiographical collection of linked stories could, as the author notes at his web site, be considered a novel as much as a collection. There is a single first-person (unnamed) narrator throughout, a circumscribed cast of characters, a timeline of almost 30 years, and "individual stories [that speak] to each other and [gather] force as they go forward" (see interview at the author's web site). At the center of these reflections and of the narrator's life is his enigmatic, beautiful mother, "Our Mother of the Sighs and Heartaches . . . Our Mother of the Mixed Messages," "Our Mother whom I adored and whom, in adoring, I ran from, knowing it 'wrong' for a son to wish to be like his mother" (17). The book also delves significantly into the relationship between the narrator and his older brother, and to a lesser extent concerns the narrator's relationship with his father, who dies when the narrator is 11 years old. Interwoven throughout is the narrator's growing awareness and suppression of his own homosexuality.

All the stories are refracted through memory, back to when the narrator was nine years old, living with his brother, mother, and father in post-World War II Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. The stories progress through a roaming young adulthood of lies and random sexual encounters; and move into adulthood, committed relationships, and accumulating personal losses. In addition to the mother, of almost equal importance is the narrator's ambivalent relationship to his brother, Davis, who is sometimes an ally and sometimes a competitor or antagonist. Initially contemptuous of the narrator's identification with his mother, Davis later leads a defiant, drug dependent, and openly homosexual life while the narrator himself remains closeted to his parents and to many others. The narrator depicts himself and his brother as Cain and Abel, only "I was Cain and Abel both, as was my brother" (158).

Particularly striking are "My Mother's Clothes: The School of Beauty and Shame," "The Diarist," and "My Brother in the Basement." In "My Mother's Clothes" McCann develops themes of the narrator's infatuation with his mother, his guilt about that, his uncomfortable relationship with his father, and renunciation -- of his friendship with another boy. "The Diarist" focuses on the narrator's difficult interaction with his father, who expects masculine behavior from him, and with brother Davis, who seems to have no trouble fitting into the role expected of him. "My Brother in the Basement" moves forward into young adulthood and the shocking outcome of Davis's life, and the narrator's retrospective and revisionist analysis of that time.

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Incomplete Knowledge

Harrison, Jeffrey

Last Updated: Apr-26-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The author dedicates this collection to "my brother Andy, in memory." Indeed, the second half of the book (Part II) contains 22 poems that concern the brother's suicide at age 47. Although two poems in Part I are in memory of recently deceased poet-friends, most of Part I handles a variety of experiences, memories, and reflections, all written with self-deprecating humor. There is "My Worst Job Interview"; a poem about a writing class in which the instructor repeatedly announced to the class that Harrison was "hopeless" ("Fork"); a riff on being one of those "who know something about the world / but not a whole lot" ("Incomplete Knowledge"); a poem about a disastrous breakfast with a friend who is said to have Asperger's syndrome ("Breakfast with Dan"); and in a more serious vein, "My Personal Tornado," in which Harrison presciently speculates about "the maelstrom" that is bound to hit him, just as all lives undergo "this beast of wind that sucks you into / the updraft of its hungry funnel."

Part II begins with a museum visit in which the poet speaks to a 15th century statue of a saint: "Now I want to tell you everything / that has happened to me since I last saw you" ("Saint"). There follows the 12 part poem, "An Undertaking," which begins with "The Call" from Harrison's father in the middle of the night, and moves through the family entering the dead brother's apartment, packing his belongings, telling the poet's children, and above all, trying to understand: "I weighed possibilities, made lists, wrote memos / to myself: was it spontaneous or planned -- / and for how long? I couldn't let it go" ("The Investigation"). Attempts to understand continue in "Confession" in which Harrison retrospectively acknowledges "your small odd habits // that were probably symptoms / but which I chose to see as harmless quirks." This long poem sequence ends with a "Plea" to be forgiven for preoccupation with self, for not recognizing a brother in need of help, yet: "No one can forgive me but myself . . . but I can forgive you for killing yourself."

The remainder of Part II includes a poem about the poet's senile grandmother who nevertheless notices at Thanksgiving that "Someone's missing" ("Happiness"); poems about joy and renewed loss when his brother appears in dreams ("The Return," "Not Waking Up," "Visitation Rights"); anniversaries of the death ("Anniversary," "Fall Truce"); memories.

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The Waking

Roethke, Theodore

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
Chen, Irene

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet characterizes, with the tranquility and rhythm of a lullaby, his drifting states of sleep and awareness: "I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow," also hinting at his knowledge and acceptance of impending death. He seems to become one with Nature and the unknowable, ending the poem with a sense of peace and resolution: "I learn by going where I have to go."

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