Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Mechanical Magic of the Movies

Martin Scorcese’s “Hugo” pays homage to fantasist Georges Méliès and the history of the movies.

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Time, You Old Gypsy, Will You Not Stay?

Poet Ralph Hodgson compares time to a caravan that will not stop for us.

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Quiz: Identify These Famous Figures

Two wonderfully light poems give readers a chance to test their knowledge of cultural history.

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Velvet Shoes, Walking in Snow

“We shall walk in velvet shoes,” writes poet Elinor Wylie, describing the experience of walking in snow.

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The Brainiest Detective and the Brain

How well did Sherlock Holmes anticipate future studies of the brain? Not very well.

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Holly & Ivy Dance to the Music of the Moon

A Scott Bates version of the “Holly and Ivy” carol shows how multiple religious traditions blend seamlessly in Christmas rituals.

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Braveheart Is NOT a Christmas Movie

GOP members of the House were citing “Braveheart” in their recent battle with the Senate, but “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the movie we should be talking about at this time of year.

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Dickens Helped Shape Our Christmas

Charles Dickens helped solidify the idea of Christmas in the minds of 19th century England by his descriptions in “The Pickwick Papers.”

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Night before Christmas on the Moon

Scott Bates’s “The Night before Christmas on the Moon” delightfully sets Clement Moore’s beloved poem in a lunar landscape.

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College on a Boat

The Sea Voyager, temporary home to St. Mary’s students after we were hit with a bad mold problem, left campus on Sunday, bringing to mind an Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem.

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Hitchens: A Life Lived in Literature

Even in his final days, Christopher Hitchens was having active discussions about novels, poems and plays. He understood how much was at stake in literature.

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Mary’s Irrational Decision to Have Jesus

As Madeleine L’Engle writes, “Had Mary been filled with reason/There’d been no room for the child.”

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Christmas Life in the Face of Death

Comparing the Japanese film “Departures” with “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” give special insight into the meaning of Christmas.

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If Jane Austen Used Facebook . . .

To update Jane Austen, my class took eight of her characters from “Sense and Sensibility” and put them in Facebook conversation with each other.

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Deficit Plan: No Food Stamps for the Rich

The “New Yorker’s” Hendrik Herzberg has a perfect Anatole France quotation for Republican plans to pay for extending the payroll tax exemption.

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The Healing Power of Talking about Race

Race, as we learned from watching a play based on student experiences with the subject, is more painful when we avoid it than we we confront it head-on.

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Move with the Wind, Sleep under the Snow

Here’s a non-Christmas tree poem by Scott Bates for friends of the environment.

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Reaching Out for the Anchoring Pole

In “Vineyard Stories” poet Anne Higgins combines three of Jesus’s parables to imagine a vineyard where all can come and feast.

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Harpo Marx, Unbridled Id

It stands to reason the beat author Jack Kerouac would be a fan of Harpo Marx’s anarchistic energies.

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The Presidential Candidates in Wonderland

Should we dismiss all the rhetoric coming from the Republican presidential candidates as the gryphon in “Alice in Wonderland” dismisses the “off with their heads” commands of the Queen of Hearts?

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Steinbeck Makes Microeconomics Real

Economics teacher Steve Ziliak uses Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” to teach the human side of microeconomics.

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Grapes of Wrath Fermenting in Alabama

Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” allows us to see some of the dynamics that the tough new anti-immigration law in Alabama has set into play.

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Gingrich Auditions for a Dickens Villain

Newt Gingrich’s proposal that poor children be allowed to serve as janitors in their schools calls for a Dickensian response.

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The Rest between Two Notes

A Rilke poem captures the spirit of Advent when he describes his life as “the rest between two notes.”

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Marilyn Monroe Died for Our Sins

Ernesto Cardenal poem “Prayer for Marilyn Monroe” sees the actress sacrificed on the altar of our own longings.

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A Poem for Those Feeling Dragged Down

In “The Fascination of What’s Difficult,” William Butler Yeats gives us a poem that will help get us through end-of-the-year workplace fatigue.

Posted in Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments


  • 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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