Showing 91 - 100 of 121 annotations contributed by Shafer, Audrey

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Photography

Genre: Photography

Summary:

Levin, a social documentary photographer, immersed herself with the Class of 2001 in the anatomy course at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Her photographs of cadavers, students and instructors are prefaced by a foreword by physician-writer Abraham Verghese. He describes the rite of passage of anatomical dissection: "The living studying the dead. The dead instructing the living." (p. 9)

Interspersed with the full-color images are journal entries by 11 medical students and several artistic anatomic illustrations by 3 of the students. The journal entries and photographs are organized temporally, from the introduction to the dissection lab to the final exam and student-organized memorial service. The end of the book includes the interests and brief biographies of the 11 students and a final dedication by Levin of the book to those who donated their bodies: "I have never before witnessed a gift that is honored, respected, and consumed so completely."

The photographs are not for the squeamish. For example, the double amputee pelvis prosection on page 102, or the multiple images of flayed skin, bits and pieces, or limbs tied to supports provide an insider’s view of an anatomy course. Many of the images show the living in motion: translucent images of students in time-lapse swirl near the static cadavers. Other images conjure the once-upon-a-time personhood of the dead: pink fingernail polish on a female cadaver or a heart palmed by a student. The intensity of the student experience is well documented, as is the relaxed atmosphere that inevitably develops as students become accustomed to the experience of dissection.

The student journal entries are sensitive and thoughtful. Students comment on the intersections of daily living, home life, and their own bodies and bodily functions with what they are learning in the classroom. Particular discomfort regarding certain dissections, such as the pelvic region, are acknowledged. Even though students note growing immunity to the dissection experience, such comments reflect insight into professionalism and defense systems. Gallows humor and uneasiness with such humor is explored by Rebecca (p 62) after she sings "New York, New York" to the roomful of cadavers. Forensic clues about the cause of death for a particular cadaver renew the sense for students that this was once a living, feeling person.

The intense, long hours required for understanding and memorizing the material are clearly evident, but ultimately, these students realize they are given a truly special opportunity: "I began to love learning the material just for the sake of learning. Anatomy no longer felt like a burden, but rather a gift." (David, p. 119) Relationships explored include those of student with cadaver (particularly respect/disrespect, ownership and protection), life with death, and those who have had the experience of dissection with those who never will.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Two metaphors permeate this poem about drinking a barium containing liquid prior to fluoroscopy to determine cancer growth and staging. The first metaphor involves the liquid as alcohol and the radiology suite as a rather perverse bar. Hence the patient drinks the proffered liquid which "froths and hisses like volcanic vodka / or martinis by Dr. Hyde." The second metaphor is 'cancer is war.' The body is seen as a battleground in which the "army of metastasizing cells / advances, armed and dangerous." The patient realizes that medical interventions are allies in this fight, but drinks the barium "as Socrates / must have: one eye on the door."

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The Saltonstall Family

Des Granges, David

Last Updated: Oct-18-2001
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

This monumental portrait of the 17th century knight, Sir Richard Saltonstall, and his family was commissioned for the Saltonstall family home. The wealth of the family is indicated by intricate tapestries, a woven rug, jewels, and the rich fabrics of clothing and curtains. Absent from the picture is any religious iconography.

Saltonstall stands left of center and draws back the rich red curtain on the deathbed of his first wife. With his ungloved right hand he holds the hand of his eldest child, a son. This son is still young enough to wear a dress, but his coloring and the dress style indicate a boy. He in turn holds the arm of his younger sister, so that a diagonal line is formed from the father's hat, down his arm and through the two children.

The pale dead mother lies all in white, her eyes open, and her upturned hand reaching towards her children. On the right side of the picture sits Saltonstall's second wife, and she holds her baby on her lap. She also is dressed in white and is separated from her husband by the first wife. In addition, the diagonal line between Saltonstall's left hand and his baby is interrupted by his dead wife. However, he does gaze in the direction of his second wife, although no one in the portrait looks directly at another person.

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August

Young, C. Dale

Last Updated: May-31-2001
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

August is divided into two sections: "On the Corner of Fourth & Irving" and "To Marie Curie." The narrator, on a street corner in San Francisco near the teaching hospitals and medical school of University of California, San Francisco, meditates on the recurrence of lymphoma in a patient. Evening is approaching, fog blows in from the ocean, and the city pigeons are unsettled--landing and taking flight.

The meditation includes a tribute to Madame Curie and her discovery of the effects of radium. The patient had had a good chance of cure by radiation treatment--unfortunately, this patient is in the twenty percent who are not cured. The narrator, probably a physician-in-training due to the load of textbooks, had read the patient's chest x-ray as negative (normal) previously.

By the end of the poem, we learn that the physician had felt enlarged lymph nodes in this patient's neck today and he bluntly states: "I have failed. He has not been cured." The poem closes with the sound of the wind and the "beating and beating of wings."

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Reuben, Reuben

Harper, Michael

Last Updated: May-04-2001
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem concerns the poet's painful loss of his infant son: "a brown berry gone / to rot just two days on the branch . . . . " The anguish is raw and fierce. Throughout the poem emotion and music are intertwined. The poet reaches for a way to deal with his grief and finds a "music great enough" to offer solace and understanding: jazz.

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Lucky

Hoagland, Tony

Last Updated: Apr-17-2001
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator's mother becomes the child in her illness which has emaciated her body to look like a "childish skeleton." The son cares for the mother in every way: bathing her, carrying her, feeding her with a spoon. But this is caregiving with a twist--the mother is likened to a weakened enemy and the luck of caring for her is the luck of having finally gained power over an ancient enemy.

So although the physical acts of caring are done well--lowering her gently into a warm bath and soaping her withered body, sitting by her bed, feeding her ice cream--the thoughts behind such acts are less than pure. At one point, the son holds his wet mother in midair between bath and wheelchair until she begs him to put her down, an act which he recognizes as cruel and also an "ancient irresistible rejoicing / of power over weakness." The poem concludes on a more positive note--affirming the bond between mother and son and realizing that enemy or no, to feed someone ice cream is still an act of nurturing: "sweet is sweet in any language."

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Vigil

Shapiro, Alan

Last Updated: Aug-15-2000
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Alan Shapiro, poet and professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, chronicles the life and death of his sister, Beth, who died of breast cancer at the age of 49. Beth lived the last four weeks of her life at a hospice in Texas--this memoir traces those weeks in particular and refracts them against decades of family dynamics, turmoil and triumph. The memoir is composed of 14 tersely named chapters ("The Death," "The Joke") followed by "Afterwords": six poems about Beth.

Alan is the youngest of 3 siblings; Beth was the oldest and David, an actor is the middle child. Despite, or perhaps because of their age difference, Beth and Alan were very close. It was he whom she asked to write her eulogy and it was he who stayed the entire 4 weeks of hospice, save for a brief trip home. From Alan's love and devotion grows an admiration for Beth's integrity in life and death.

Beth married an African-American man, fought for liberal causes, and suffered complete estrangement from her parents due to her choices. Her husband, Russ, must deal not only with the loss of his wife and their daughter's loss of her mother, but also with the prejudice of the Shapiro parents and the medical establishment. At one point Shapiro describes how, whenever he accompanied his sister and her husband to the doctor's office, Alan, not Russ, was treated as the spouse and decision-maker.

Shapiro vividly depicts the poignancy of parent-child relationships. Gabbi, the seven-year-old daughter who loves horses, gallops through the house with grace and abandon not possible at the hospice. Alan's anger at his father's actions and his forgiveness of his mother's accomplice role are also strongly demonstrated. A great strength of this book is the choice of detail: the mother completes a book of crossword puzzles during the vigil; the brother becomes infatuated with a particular joke he wants to memorize; nurses leave a solitary rose on the bed of the newly dead at the hospice.

Shapiro is keenly interested in being with his sister right at the moment of her death. He describes the end: "one long, deep, and profoundly eerie moan . . . That moan, I'm certain, marked the end of Beth, the end of life, though the body went on breathing for another minute or so, each breath a little fainter, weaker, the body's electricity guttering down, dissolving, till there was no breath at all." (pp. 111-2)

He also analyzes whether this was "a good death." There had been many gifts: Beth's recognition of her importance, her reconciliation with her father, and her acceptance of her mother's devotion. However, Shapiro also keeps the reader cognizant of Beth's suffering and the now motherless child, the spouseless husband and the myriad other ways that Beth's death marked a void.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the fourth book in a planned series of seven (see annotation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for an introductory summary). Unlike previous books, this one opens with the murder of a Muggle, Frank Bryce, the elderly gardener for the Riddle estate--a home where Tom Riddle Sr. and his elderly parents had been found dead many years before. Voldemort, although still weak and requiring much assistance from his simpering servant Wormtail and his snake Nagini, is positioning himself for a return to full power.

Harry's distinctive scar is burning with pain as he awakes from a dream of the previous scene. This scar had hurt once before, in book one, when Voldemort was on Hogwarts property. Harry alerts his godfather via owl post and joins the Dursleys for breakfast. Breakfast is meager because Dudley, always obese and obnoxious, has now grown to outrageous proportions and is on the diet ordered by his school nurse. His mother, to make him feel better, puts everyone on the same diet. Harry is once again saved from the Dursleys by the Weasley family, although Dudley and his appetite are the objects of a prank by the Weasley twins.

Arthur Weasley (the father) who works for the Ministry of Magic in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office has secured top notch tickets for all to attend the World Quidditch Cup. This fantastic event is marred by the appearance of signs of support for Voldemort by his followers, the Death Eaters, and Arthur hurries home with his charges in tow via Portkey transit.

Harry, now fourteen, enters Hogwarts for his fourth year. This year is different for all of the students due to the resurrection of the Triwizard Tournament, a dangerous international competition for a selected champion from each of three schools, Durmstrang, Beauxbatons, and Hogwarts. Although underage, Harry is selected by the Goblet as an extra competitor from Hogwarts. Everyone is concerned for the competitors' safety (the famous Viktor Krum, the enticing Fleur Delacour, and the decent Cedric Diggory). In particular, Harry's life is in danger from suspected foul play.

Adolescent love, the nastiness of poison-pen reporter Rita Skeeter, the ever-vigilant nature of Mad-Eye Moody (an Auror who caught Death Eaters in the past and who now teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts), spells that cause loss of control, excruciating pain or death, enslavement of house-elves, money, and variable degrees of professionalism by members of the Ministry of Magic, such as Cornelius Fudge, Bartemius Crouch, officious Percy Weasley, and Ludo Bagman are some of the themes and subplots in the novel. The traumatic end to the competition and follow-up lead Harry to witness and participate in some horrific events. Dumbledore, however, refuses to allow Harry to bottle-up the experience--Dumbledore understands that talk, openness, support, and rest are the first steps towards healing.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in a planned series of seven books. Harry's wizard and witch parents, James and Lily, have just been killed by Voldemort, an evil wizard who was thwarted and severely weakened when he tried to kill one-year-old Harry. The murder attempt leaves Harry with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. Harry is whisked off to live with his Muggle (non-magical) suburban middle-class aunt and uncle (Petunia and Vernon Dursley) and their bullying overweight son, Dudley.

Fast-forward nearly ten years and chapter two begins when Harry is almost eleven and suffering a Dickensian childhood, forced to live in the cupboard under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive, the home of the Dursleys. Harry has not been told of his heritage, and is unaware of his own fame in the wizard world. He is punished when any hint of the out-of-ordinary appears, such as when he communicates with a snake at the zoo.

The narrative then follows our bespectacled young protagonist as Hagrid, the huge groundskeeper of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, informs Harry that he is invited to attend the school, takes him shopping for the necessary school equipment such as cauldron and wand, and offers the first sign of affection that Harry can remember. Uncle Vernon rants and tries to prevent Harry from attending the school.

But when Vernon ridicules the name of Albus Dumbledore, the wise and beloved headmaster of Hogwarts, Hagrid hexes Dudley who sprouts a pig's tail, necessitating a visit to a private hospital. The train for Hogwarts leaves from London's King's Cross station, where Harry befriends the wizard Weasley family, who show him how to enter the magical Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.

Hogwarts has four houses, and the new first year students are placed into the appropriate house (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and the sinister Slytherin) by a Sorting hat. Harry's life takes a definite upturn as he finds he is a natural broomstick flyer and is chosen for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. This high flying game with three kinds of balls and seven players per team does lead to injuries. Madam Pomfrey is the school nurse and runs the hospital wing. She cures with special spells and the magic of rest.

The year at Hogwarts is filled with adventure, friendship, and danger. There are characters who seem to detest Harry, such as Potions teacher Severus Snape and a Slytherin first year, Draco Malfoy, mysterious characters such as Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Quirrell, as well as a colorful assortment of ghosts and magical creatures. Harry and his Gryffindor friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger enter a quest: to prevent the sorcerer's stone from falling into the hands of Voldemort and his allies. The stone offers eternal life and hence would be key to Voldemort's plans to return to power.

During part of the adventure, Harry finds the Mirror of Erised, and mourns the loss of his parents anew as he sees them in the reflection. As the astute headmaster Dumbledore teaches Harry, however, love is more powerful than evil and death may not be the worst outcome: "After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." (p. 297)

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second in a planned series of seven books (see annotation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for an introductory summary). Harry's summer with the Dursley family is initially more pleasant because the Dursleys are afraid of Harry's wizard powers and do not realize that he is forbidden to use magic outside of school. However, after a magic spell is performed by a visiting, self-flagellating house-elf, Dobby, Uncle Vernon is informed of this school rule and imprisons Harry in his bedroom.

With this maneuver and others, Dobby tries to not only warn Harry that his life is in danger but also prevent Harry from returning to Hogwarts. Barred and sealed in his room, Harry is forced to live off meager portions of soup, which he shares with his owl, Hedwig, until he is rescued by several of the Weasley boys.

Though Harry (now age 12) and Ron miss the train to Hogwarts, they manage to arrive, meet the Whomping Willow (a violent magical tree that beats anything near it), and are nearly expelled by the strict but kind-hearted Transfiguration Professor Minerva McGonagall, head of Gryffindor House. Many of the students, teachers, assorted creatures and magical items (e.g., the invisibility cloak) return in this book, and again a dangerous adventure features Harry, Ron, and their brainy friend, Hermione.

Ron's younger sister, Ginny, is now an impressionable Gryffindor first year student. The adventure leads Harry to the past, a young but evil Voldemort, and more encounters with snakes, Snape, spiders, the Malfoys, and Moaning Myrtle, the ghost of the girls' bathroom.

Illness, particularly an altered, petrified state, plays a prominent role in this book, requiring the healing powers of Madame Pomfrey and the maturing of mandrakes nurtured by Herbology Professor Sprout. Famed author and narcissist Gilderoy Lockhart, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, muffs the healing of Harry's broken arm, a Quidditch injury, and Harry must go to Madame Pomfrey in the hospital wing for the proper, though painful treatment. Madame Pomfrey is also helpful with a Polyjuice potion gone awry--the potion is supposed to transform the drinker into another person for an hour.

Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix, whose flaming death and rebirth is witnessed by Harry, helps in numerous ways, including the healing powers of its tears. But perhaps, as in the first book, Dumbledore's concern and wisdom are most soothing for Harry. Harry, worried about his strange capabilities that link him with Voldemort, such as their shared ability to talk with snakes (Parseltongue), and that the Sorting hat considered placing Harry in Slytherin House and only put him in Gryffindor due to Harry's request, is reassured by Dumbledore that Gryffindor was the right choice: "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (p 333)

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