Monthly Archives: March 2010

A Poem for Those that Feel Unloveable

I can think of no better poet to move us into Holy Week than George Herbert, a 17th century Anglican rector who wrestled mightily with a sense of his unworthiness. In his poetry, Herbert is determined to be as honest about his doubts as possible.  He is not a facile Christian.  When he believes that […]

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Maurine Holbert Hogaboom Exits Stage Left

Yesterday a good friend died. Her name was Maurine Holbert Hogaboom and she was 98. If you want to read about her amazing life—how she journeyed to New York from rural Texas as a member of a burlesque troupe, how she found a living in the theatre, how she was called up before the House […]

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How to Respond to Tea Party Rage

Leslie Marmon Silko  This week we celebrate both Passover and Easter, and the world, as it was during the original Passover meal and then again when Jesus celebrated it under Roman rule, is still filled with rage. The weekend newspapers were filled with stories of Tea Party anger, which is being directed at the recent […]

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March Madness, Lightning Strike or Slog?

Sports Saturday Once again March Madness is gripping America.  Once again we see Cinderella teams upsetting the giants (Northern Iowa upsetting top-seeded Kansas, Butler upsetting mighty Syracuse) and games won or lost on remarkable shots made in the waning seconds (Murray State, Michigan State).  Maryland, the team I was rooting for, made a miraculous last […]

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Slasher Films and Liberated Women

Janet Leigh in Psycho      Film Friday Last week when I was giving a series of lectures on “women and film” at the University of Ljubljana, I devoted one of my talks to (of all things) the slasher film.  Below is a shortened version of that talk: A key work in feminist approaches to film is […]

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Republican Invective and King Lear

One of the memorable moments in the history of the U.S. Congress occurred in 1954 when Joseph Welch, head counsel for the United States Army, found one of his young lawyers being attacked by Joseph McCarthy.  The turning point in the hearings occurred when Welch said forthrightly, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I have […]

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Up in the Air, Then Back to Earth

George Clooney, Up in the Air  The wonderful opportunity I had last week to deliver a series of lectures in Ljubljana (Slovenia) has me thinking about why it seems to be more satisfying to teach elsewhere than at home. In Slovenia, everything was fresh and exciting. In America, I feel inundated by worries and obligations. What […]

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Innocents Abroad (in Slovenia)

Ljubljana        I spent last week delivering a series of lectures in my adopted second home, Ljubljana, Slovenia.  Ljubljana is the city where I spent two year-long Fulbright professorships.  I have friends in the English and philosophy departments at the University of Ljubljana, as well as at the two international schools located within the Slovene school system.  […]

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Lochinvar Obama Rides to the Rescue

Barack Obama has pulled off his greatest victory and has brought (near) universal health care to America.  Last night the House of Representatives approved the Senate bill, and once Obama signs the final result, universal coverage will be the law of the land.  To be sure, some drama remains.  It is understood that the Senate will amend the bill […]

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Hoops for Madness, Baseball for Lit

Sports Saturday March Madness—the American college basketball play-offs—is officially underway.  As is the tradition, the first round has witnessed a host of upsets, including Georgetown, a favorite in my area.  (Another favorite, Maryland, won late last night.)  As I scan the scores, I find myself wondering why there isn’t more good literature about basketball.  In fact, […]

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Laughing at Male Anxieties–or Not

Bringing Up Baby      Film Friday  This week I have been delivering a series of four lectures on “Women in Film” at the University of Ljubljana, where I was twice a visiting Fulbright lecturer.  Tuesday’s talk was originally to have been about Katharine Hepburn and screwball comedies, particularly Bringing Up Baby (1938).  Because people evinced an […]

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Shakespeare in the Prisons

  As I am out of town this week, my colleagues have been loaning me articles they have written to share on the website.  Here my colleague Beth Charlebois, our Shakespeare scholar, recounts as instance of literary impact at its most dramatic–in this instance, the effect of Shakespeare on inmates of a Missouri correctional institute. […]

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Books that Cook

Jennifer Cognard-Black        As I am out of town this week, I am asking colleagues in the St. Mary’s English Department to contribute articles to my website.  Jennifer Cognard-Black teaches a course called “Books that Cook” that is so popular that it has a two-year waiting list of students who want to get into it.   You […]

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“No one could resist him”

As I am out of town this week, colleagues of mine have been gracious enough to loan me articles for my website.  The following was written by Ben Click, our department chair and a Mark Twain scholar.  In addition to talking about Twain’s remarkable stage presence, the article announces a Twain colloquium that Ben is […]

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Crossing the Great Gender Divide

In last Friday’s post on Twelfth Night, I talked about how Shakespeare uses cross-dressing to acknowledge that men and women have dimensions to them that are not acknowledged by the standard male and female categories.  I understood this about the play at an early age.  In a past post on Twelfth Night, I describe how […]

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take it to the hoop, magic johnson

Sports Saturday We are entering that time of year when the country goes crazy over college basketball and March Madness.  Actually, March Madness came early to my school because the small college Division III tournament begins two weeks before that of the big boys.  St. Mary’s College of Maryland seldom wins conference titles in sports—it’s […]

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The Temporary Transvestite Comedy

Brown and Lemmon    Film Friday Sometimes my different classes overlap in interesting ways.  I am currently teaching Twelfth Night in my British Literature survey class and Some Like It Hot in my senior-level film genre class.  Thanks to an article on the Billy Wilder classic by film scholar Chris Straayer, I can now label both […]

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The Challenges of Asking Her Out

 In a discussion of Twelfth Night last Friday, my British literature survey class discussed the challenges of a first date.  The scene that sparked our conversation is the one where Viola, passing as a man, carries Orsino’s love proposal to Olivia.  Of course Olivia falls in love with Viola instead. We started talking about Orsino’s decision to […]

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Mix and Match: Mysticism American Style

There was an interesting Lenten column in the New York Times Monday. Ross Douthat, a conservative in the best sense, draws on a Commonweal article by theologian Luke Timothy Johnson criticizing contemporary spiritual practice in this country. From the way Douthat quotes him, it sounds as though Johnson might take exception with my criticism of harsh […]

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Sinning: A Tacky Floor Show

There’s a funny scene in the original Bedazzled (the 1967 film with Dudley Moore, not the one with Adam Sandler) where Moore, having sold his soul to the devil, is watching a particularly tawdry floor show in a seedy bar where he can’t get good service.  As I recall the film, the seven deadly sins […]

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On Lent, Faustus, and the 7 Deadly Sins

Dr. Faustus, Rembrandt etching       Here we are in the midst of Lent with less than a month to go until Easter.  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight describes the season as follows: After Christmas there came the cold cheer of Lent, When with fish and plainer fare our flesh we reprove . . . The […]

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Steve Sax Disease, a Ticket to Freedom

author Jerry Gabriel           Sports Saturday Saturday posts are devoted to the intersection of literature and sports.  To gain access to all the posts on sports, click “sports” in the tag cloud to your right. My creative writing colleague Jerry Gabriel has just published Drowned Boy (Sarabande Books, 2010), a collection of his short stories that won […]

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Environmental Revenge Fantasy

Film Friday Henceforth I will devote my Friday posts to something I like almost as much as literature–which is to say, movies.  Film is, after all, a narrative art form, and I teach film history and theory as well as literature at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Although I may, at times, look at intersections between […]

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Rolled Round with Rocks, Stones and Trees

William Wordsworth        One day Robinson Crusoe, the next William Blake, the next William Wordsworth.  Thanks to four or five classes cancelled due to snow, my Introduction to Literature class is careening through the 18th and early 19th centuries.  But we still had time to stop and contemplate Wordsworth’s wondrous lyric “A slumber did my spirit […]

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Seeking a Spiritual Connection with Nature

from Songs of Innocence and Experience  My Introduction to Literature class (focus on Nature) has just moved from Robinson Crusoe to William Blake, and we are seeing in the 18th century a  conflict similar to one we are witnessing today over the environment. Defoe’s protagonist is an advocate of the “drill, baby, drill” approach to nature although, […]

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Crusoe, A Parable for Our Time

I have been teaching Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in an Introduction to Literature class and am struck once more by how important a book it is. I say this even though it is not read or taught as much as it once was. Robinson Crusoe continues to be relevant because it goes right to the […]

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Invading the Afterlife

My wife Julia and I visited the National Geographic Museum to see the Terracotta Warriors this past Friday. Even though only a few statues and artifacts from the vast archaeological digs in China were on display, we saw enough to be very impressed. Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, started constructing statues for […]

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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