Monthly Archives: July 2011

Summer in the Glen

Scott Bates tells us that when we give ourselves over to the universe of which we are a part, then we escape the entrapment of self.

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Roger Clemens, Greek Tragic Hero

Roger Clemens tried to bully his Congressional interrogators the way that Oedipus bullies witnesses. To say that he should have handled himself differently is to say that he should have been a different man.

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The Debt Ceiling Goes to the Movies

Columnists have been turning to popular movies to talk about the drama of the debt ceiling debate that is currently paralyzing Congress and threatening the credit rating of the United States. The films include “Fifth Element,” “The Town,” “Cowboys and Aliens,” and “Sophie’s Choice.”

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Harry Potter’s Use of Asymmetric Warfare

In today’s post I link to two very smart articles looking at Harry Potter through the lens of the battle against terrorism and armed conflict as it is conducted in today’s world.

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Which Shakespearean Hero Is Murdoch?

So which Shakespeare hero is Rupert Murdoch? Marche floats the names of Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear, Richard II and Richard III. I’d peg him as Iago.

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Grendel as a Norwegian Christian Fascist

Apparently Anders Breivik was very well read and he mentions George Orwell, Franz Kafka, and Ayn Rand. What I find striking about them on the list is that they all articulate high levels of paranoia.

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Beware the Fury of a Patient Man

“Beware the anger of a patient man.” This line from John Dryden’s “Absolom and Architophel” occurred to me as I was listening to President Obama’s speech this past Friday. Does the poem have any predictive value when it comes to our budget impasse?

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A John Bunyan Defense of Harry Potter

Given how for years we’ve been witnessing certain evangelical Christians criticizing, banning and occasionally burning the Harry Potter books, what are we to make of their inability to appreciate Harry’s Christ-like sacrifice as the end of “The Deathly Hallows”?

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Twice Left for Dead, Japan Claws Back

Two images came to mind as I twice watched the Japanese soccer team rebound from deficits. One was from Alain’s Renais’s film “Hiroshima Mon Amour” where we see grass clawing its way back in the city streets on the day following the atom bomb. The other was of the tortoise crossing the road in “Grapes of Wrath.”

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Citizen Murdoch Anti-Elitist? Think Again

Since the Rupert Murdoch scandal broke, a number of commentators have compared the media magnate to Charles Foster Kane of Orson Welles’s 1941 classic. The parallel casts light on one of Murdoch’s most galling claims: that he is anti-elitist.

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Shelley and Non-Violent Resistance

Blogger Austin Allen credits Shelley’s poem “Masque” with setting in motion the idea of non-violent resistance that we are currently seeing employed throughout the Arab world.

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Queen of the Animals Quiz

In “Song for the Queen of the Animals,” Scott Bates celebrates the female life force while presenting the reader with a literary puzzle.

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It Is Your Own Lush Self You Hunger For

In her Garden of Eden poems, Lucille Clifton sees heaven as a stifling morality that both Eve and Satan are trying to break through. Apples in this drama are symbols of female sensuality.

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Walt Whitman as Suicide Prevention

At a time when he was feeling depressed and suicidal, Michael Bourne discovered that Walt Whitman could get him to step beyond his “endless, self-constructed maze of Self.”

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Religion and Self Love

In “Gospel Song,” Scott Bates sees self-interest entering into the motivations of even the holiest of men—King David, Daniel, Jesus and Moses.

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Cinderella vs. Jane Eyre in Soccer Final

In tomorrow’s World Cup finals, Japan is Cinderella going up against America’s Jane Eyre.

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Dreaming of Paris

“Midnight in Paris” may be a celebration of Paris’s past, but ultimately Woody Allen’s film becomes a celebration of its present as well. We are living in a golden age right now.

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Eric Cantor and Famous Literary Sneers

If you’ve been paying any attention to America’s budget battles, you know that Congressional Republicans are currently engaged in a dangerous game of chicken with President Obama over raising the debt ceiling. Today’s post on the subject features a parallel with Macbeth and a glance at famous literary sneers.

Posted in Bronte (Emily), Fielding (Henry), Shakespeare (William), Shelley (Percy) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Refugees Dropped in a Fantastic Terrain

As I watch the brutal repression currently underway in Syria, I am reminded of Syrian-American poet Mohja Kahf’s poem about her family fleeing to America from Assad’s father in 1971.

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Forgive Me for Eating Your Plums

In my experience, no two people respond to William Carlos Williams’s “This Is Just to Say” in the same way. More than most short poems, it seems to function as a Rorschach test, with reactions telling us more about the reader than the poem itself.

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Kiki Ostrenga as Sister Carrie

Columnist David Brooks recently turned to Theodore Dreiser’s 1900 novel “Sister Carrie” in an attempt to make sense of the strange and disturbing case of 13-year-old internet celebrity Kiki Ostrenga.

Posted in Defoe (Daniel), Dreiser (Theodor), Nabokov (Vladimir) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Jerusalem in a Green and Pleasant Land

William Blake’s “Jerusalem” has been used for both religious and patriotic purposes. One must negotiate the relationship between religion and politics very closely since God can get bent to serve narrow agendas, and this poem is frequently misinterpreted.

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Spain’s Tiger Burning Less Bright

Did the god that made the elegant strokes of Roger Federer also make the bruising style of Nadal? Like William Blake gazing at the lamb and the tiger in “Tyger, Tyger,” we can only shake our heads bemused.

Posted in Blake (William), Homer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

U.K. Tabloid Voicemail Scandal as Film Noir

According to Jack Shafer of “Slate,” the U.K. tabloid phone hacking scandal has all the elements of a classic noir, especially “The Big Sleep” and “The Maltese Falcon.”

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Rightwing Rewrites Reality

Today’s Republican right are practitioners of the Humpty Dumpty approach to communication: “I said it very loud and clear. I went and shouted in his ear.” Like Lewis Carroll’s Humpty, they also believe that they can make reality, as Humpty makes words, mean whatever they want it to mean.

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Rasselas, a Bloglodyte’s Salvation

As a blogger, I sometimes spend excessive amounts of time in solitary contemplation. Samuel Johnson warns of the dangers of such a skewed perspective in his philosophic narrative “Rasselas.”

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Blueberry Muffins and Rites of Passage

Writing about her mother’s blueberry muffins in her “Books that Cook” class, student Melanie Kokolios came to understand in a new way her own passage into adulthood.

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Whitman & Hughes Hear America Singing

Today, for July 4, I offer up two ultra-American poems. Walt Whitman embraces multitudes” in “I Hear America Singing,” and Langston Hughes, in an addendum, mentions some of those Americans that, in the past, have been forgotten. May we all remember that America is astounding in its willingness to open itself to all people.

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When God’s Call Feels Like a Burden

“Collar” works as a triple pun—a clerical collar, a prisoner’s collar, and “choler.” Why, for all that I have done, am I only harvesting a thorn, George Herbert cries out in the poem by that name. Why am I still standing in suit to God when I could simply turn my back on it all?

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In Life as in Poker, Trust What You Know

Novelist Rachel Kranz talks about trust, both in poker and novel writing. Once you have the knowledge and the skill, she says, what remains is trusting yourself.

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Top Gun Takes Down Grendel’s Mom

An unexpected parallel between “Beowulf” and the Tom Cruse film “Top Gun” has given me new appreciation for the 8th century Anglo-Saxon epic and a deeper insight into how at least some guys in the military handle grief.

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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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