Monthly Archives: January 2012

Growing More Liberal as We Age

Frost may allude to the belief that we become more conservative as we age, but his own poetry refutes the claim.

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Jilted by Your Fiancé? Turn to Austen

A student distraught when her fiance dropped her used Jane Austen’s ironic wit in “Sense and Sensibility” to regain perspective and reenter the world.

Posted in Austen (Jane) | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Twilight, Evening Bell, After That the Dark

I share Tennyson’s wonderful poem “Crossing the Bar” in memory of an old Navy friend who died this past week.

Posted in Bates (Julia), Tennyson (Alfred Lord) | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Choose, GOP: Rich Mobster or Sleazy Pimp

Columnist Jonathan Chait compares the current battle between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich for GOP voters to the love triangle in the Scorsese film “Casino.”

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Fight Like Hell Till You Get to Heaven

A Scott Bates poem about Mother Jones may be timely as we see the rise of a leftwing populism.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Dear Frustrated in Love: Read a Classic

Literature is better than any self help book for relationship guidance.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Garcia Marquez (Gabriel), Virgil | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Will GOP Base Play the Sap Yet Again?

Is the Republican establishment simply exploiting its base, like Tom (in “Mill on the Floss”) exploits Maggie and as Brigid O’Shaughnessy (in “The Maltese Falcon”) tries to exploit Sam Spade?

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Newt Gingrich, Shades of The Wasteland

Newt Gingrich reminds me of “the young man carbuncular” in “The Wasteland,” “one of the low on whom assurance sits as a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.”

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With Me Stood a Rescued Throng

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s poem “Fishers of Men” invokes Jesus’s words to Peter as she appears to talk about her work on behalf of slaves.

Posted in Harper (Frances Ellen Watkins) | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Vs. Obama, Would Mitt Change Movies?

To run successfully against Obama, Mitt Romney may need to flipflop from Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street” to Edward Lewis in “Pretty Woman.”

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The Translator’s Impossible Dilemma

A translator of literature must choose between poetry and accuracy. It’s almost impossible to have both.

Posted in Cankar (Ivan), Flaubert (Gustave) | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Sons Must Kill Their Fathers, Alas

There’s is no easy way for son’s to find their identities apart from their fathers, but they have no choice but to try.

Posted in Diderot (Denis), Homer, Shakespeare (William), Stendahl | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Following Shipwreck, Replay of Lord Jim?

Joseph Conrad’s novel “Lord Jim” came to mind when I heard reports that the captain of the shipwrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia may have abandoned the ship before all the passengers were off.

Posted in Conrad (Joseph) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

MLK: A Diamond Molded by Pressure

Nikki Giovanni’s “In the Spirit of Martin” talks about Martin Luther King and others in the Civil Rights Movement as having been molded by the immense pressure into crystalline diamonds.

Posted in Giovanni (Nikki) | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Syria’s Massacre of the Innocents

Updating Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, Scott Bates imagines a soldier who takes a principled stand and refuses to participate.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Tintin to the Rescue

The new film “Tintin” takes me back to my childhood, when my brothers and I scoured Paris book shops to assemble a complete set of what were early graphic novels.

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The Classics, Guides to Our Best Selves

Wayne Booth describes the classics as friends in the deepest and most productive sense of the word.

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The Reader’s Role in Literature

Reader Response Theory focuses on the reader’s involvement in literature, opening up avenues untouched by formalist criticism.

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Presidents as Points of Projection

Mitt Romney may appear to lack a core, but so did Chance in Jerzy Kosinski’s novel “Being There.” And even Barack Obama is different things to different people.

Posted in Kosinski (Jerzy), Salinger (J. D.) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How Beowulf Can Save America

In our angry politics, we have versions of the monsters in “Beowulf.” The Geat warrior instructs tell us what we can do to effectively deal with the anger.

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Epiphany Sunday and the Arabian Nights

The Christian Feast of the Epiphany and the Arabian Nights come together in a fanciful Scott Bates poem about the three wise men passing through Baghdad on their way to see Jesus.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Jane Austen Can Change Your Love Life

“Jane Austen Book Club” makes the point that great literature can in fact change your life.

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Is Mitt Romney a Doctor Faustus?

If Mitt Romney sells his soul for the nomination, can he get it back? Christopher Marlowe would say that it doesn’t look good.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Marlowe (Christopher) | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

America’s New Apocalyptic Politics

Thomas Mann has a character in “The Magic Mountain” that casts light on the apocalyptic strain that has taken over the rightwing of the Republican Party.

Posted in Mann (Thomas) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Translation Skeptics, Go Stuff Yourselves

Whenever I teach a work in translation (including Beowulf) I always feel vaguely guilty, as though I’m an amateur when the occasion calls for a professional. Therefore I am deeply grateful to my Ljubljana colleague Jason Blake for the following defense of translation. He puts his finger on my anxieties and assures me that reading […]

Posted in Strniša (Gregor) | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Gazing into the Palantir in 2012

Tolkien warns us about gazing too deeply into the world’s darkness.

Posted in Tolkien (J.R.R.) | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A Time of Rare Beasts, Unique Adventures

Spirit may seem less accessible after Christmas is over, Auden tells us, but that means we should focus all the more on seeking it out.

Posted in Auden (W. H.) | Tagged , , , , | 5 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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