Barclay Reading Response

The Barclay article highlights very important information that Americans need to know as the coronavirus continues to spread. The popular notion of “flattening the curve” has been emphasized on many media platforms because it is so important for combatting the pandemic. The article included a chart that embodies this notion, showing the daily number of cases with and without protective measures. The graphic depicts the cases without protective measures in a red curve, while the other curve is gray. Distinguishing the colors in this manner signifies the unavoidable danger if we do not make an effort towards flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19. Barclay includes a tweet from Carl Bergstrom that states, “even if you don’t reduce total cases, slowing down the rate of an epidemic can be critical.” I found this point extremely interesting because people often get caught up in hoping for a cure or avoiding contraction of the disease at large, which are both very important, but so is slowing the spread, even if it means the same amount of people are infected. The United States is not prepared for a health crisis of this magnitude and hospitals around the country, especially in populated urban hubs, cannot support the demands of coronavirus due to lack of equipment, staff, and space. Flattening the curve through social distancing is the best way we can help healthcare workers because they can provide better care when the number of infected patients is spread across multiple weeks, rather than in large influxes.

What is important to remember during this isolating and strange time is that social distancing is not grilling out with your friends or going to the store for non-essential items. Many individuals, particularly young adults, fail to recognize the risks associated with such activities. We all must make sacrifices to mitigate the spread, and contrary to what many believe, going out and having gatherings puts all of the individuals involved at risk, regardless of age. COVID-19 does not discriminate and will infect any host that has the machinery needed for survival, and although I may not experience symptoms during infection, I am still a carrier and my actions could prove deadly to another person if I go out and inadvertently spread the virus.

Barclay, Eliza, and Dylan Scott. “How canceled events and self-quarantines save lives, in one chart.” Vox, 10 March. 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/10/21171481/coronavirus-us-cases-quarantine-cancellation. Accessed 9 April 2020.

Impact of Graphics in My Degeneration

Illness experiences can oftentimes be difficult to put into words, as pain and suffering easily cross the boundaries of language. In The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Bauby’s disability occasionally hides behind his storytelling. The audience temporarily forgets how he communicates his narrative by only blinking his left eye (Bauby 4). However, in the film adaptation, Bauby’s locked-in syndrome cannot be overlooked because it is prevalent in most scenes. Graphic memoir functions in a similar way, where images can be used to evoke meaning beyond language and depict concepts not easily placed into words. In My Degeneration, Dunlap-Shohl’s illustrations and visual techniques, such as spacing, are tools readers can use to more closely imagine how Parkinson’s Disease (PD) can impact an individual’s life.

Figure 1

Dunlap-Shohl’s drawings provide context to his illness experience that would otherwise be lost in textual form. In Figure 1, Dunlap-Shohl describes becoming “smellblind” as a symptom of PD (51). The associated image of him preparing to step in dog feces provides just one implication of this condition. Although his facial expression makes the situation seem light-hearted, Dunlap-Shohl prompts us to explore how smellblindness impacts other areas of life, such as the inability to smell your favorite meal or experience memories triggered by olfactory sensations. If Dunlap-Shohl’s description of smellblindness had no supporting illustration, it would have been clumped in with the long list of PD symptoms and forgotten. However, the depiction contextualizes this phenomenon and hints at how PD can truly control even the smallest aspects of life.

Figure 2

Spacing the panels in a particular fashion is another technique Dunlap-Shohl uses to evoke meaning. In Figure 2, Dunlap-Shohl depicts his task to learn photoshop in order to preserve his passion of graphic drawings as his disease progresses (41). This process is divided among multiple panels, which suggests his efforts were long and tedious. The space between the panels implies passing time, and it isn’t until later illustrations he expresses the temporality of the process through words. Simply stating the steps of building a photoshopped image, such as “create new, select tool, make layer…” shadows the meaning behind Dunlap-Shohl’s efforts (42). Mastering photoshop was important to Dunlap-Shohl because he knew PD would hinder his ability to draw, and his determination is conveyed in Figure 2 through illustrating the demands and accommodations Parkinson’s requires.

Figure 3

Dunlap-Shohl’s illustrations also allow for a more complete understanding of certain ideas he communicates. For example, in Figure 3, he describes how you cannot assume others are healthy simply because you are not (61). He depicts seemingly healthy people, but writes that they suffer from an illness of some sort that is not outwardly evident. Simply hearing the names of certain illnesses produces a stigmatized image of what that affliction looks like, but this image is not universal. Through pairing this idea with an illustration, Dunlap-Shohl limits the assumptions one can make about an illness experience.

Dunlap-Shohl, Peter. My Degeneration. University Park, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015.

Bauby, Jean-Dominique. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Paris, Editions Robert Laffont, 1997.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Directed by Julian Schnabel, performances by Mathieu Amalric, Anne Consigny, Emmanuelle Seigner, and others, Pathé Distribution and Miramax Films, 2007.

Nancy Mairs’ Use of Crippled

Nancy Mairs’ essay “On Being a Cripple” reveals the raw emotions and truths of suffering from an illness, specifically multiple sclerosis. One of the most powerful sections in Mairs’ essay describes semantics and her choice to call herself a cripple, rather than disabled or handicapped (1). Mairs explains how such euphemisms broaden “the gap between word and reality” of her illness (1). Identifying as a cripple better captures Mairs’ experience with MS, but it also symbolizes her resistance to the societal delicacies concerning sickness.

Mairs’ self-conscious point of view allows her to explain how she addresses her illness and why the “verbal garbage” society uses is not sufficient to describe her “calamitous disease” (1-2). Mairs recognizes her differences from others and acknowledges her losses, refusing to employ language, such as “differently abled” that misconstrue the reality of her suffering (1). In denying these euphemisms, Mairs is working towards reclaiming her illness story as her own. She disregards the fragility of others who choose to shadow the authentic experience of MS with comfortable language that merely serves to reassure themselves.

Mairs explains that “society is no readier accept crippledness than to accept death…” (2). It is easy to assume that those who suffer from an illness would prefer more inclusive language. However, we oftentimes fail to acknowledge that this same language diminishes an individual’s experience with illness and confines their narratives to what society deems acceptable. Mairs wants people to know that she “can face the brutal truth of her existence,” which ultimately gives her more agency and ownership of her illness (1). Mairs, along with others who experience suffering, deserve the right to define it completely and without reservations, and how they choose to do so should influence the language we use when discussing illnesses.

Mairs, Nancy. “On Being a Cripple.” University of Arizona Press, 1986, 1-10.

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