Monthly Archives: April 2012

Dorian Gray – Guilty of “Corrupting” Youth

By expanding the way the same-sex community saw themselves, “Picture of Dorian Gray” was indeed guilty of the charges brought against it.

Posted in Wilde (Oscar) | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Like a Cat Asleep on a Chair, O Lord

In “Pax,” D. H. Lawrence echoes the 23rd Psalm only substitutes a cat for a sheep.

Posted in Bible, Lawrence (D. H.) | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Major in English, Make Millions

My son Toby, currently a graduate student in English, just sent me this link to a Slate article about Mitt Romney discouraging students from becoming English majors. Here is the paragraph that caught my eye: “You really don’t want to take out $150,000 loan to go into English because you’re not going to be able to […]

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Dead Return to Comfort Us

The Pedro Almodovar film “Volver” explores the longing the love will prove more powerful than death.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Students, Fling Up Your Windows!

Stephen Vincent Benet has a perfect poem for students worn out from end-of-the-semester studying.

Posted in Benet (Stephen Vincent) | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Shakespeare with a Smart Phone

The plays would have been different if Shakespeare’s characters had had access to social media.

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A Creeping Sense of Entitlement

King Hrothgar in “Beowulf” describes the creeping sense of entitlement that can possess a society’s wealthiest citizens.

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Loose Cannons and the 2008 Meltdown

Victor Hugo’s terrifying description of a loose cannon can be applied to the 2008 financial meltdown.

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The Silver Water Crushes Like Silk

Although not explicitly religious, Mary Oliver has a Good Friday-Resurrection progression in many of her poems, including “Morning at Great Pond.”

Posted in Oliver (Mary) | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Young Idealists, Become Sam Spade

David Brooks recommends that young idealists toughen up a la Sam Spade.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Day Rabbits Attacked Napoleon

In honor of upcoming Earth Day, I share a poem based on an actual incidents where hundred of rabbits released to be hunted by Napoleon turned on the emperor’s party and routed them.

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

Who Is Your Favorite Dickens Character?

Characters from Dickens novels reside so deeply within us as to become virtual lifelong friends.

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Ellison’s Invisible Man, Always Relevant

Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” remains relevant, including to the Trayvon Martin case.

Posted in Ellison (Ralph) | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

“Harry, I Am Your Father” – Voldemort

Voldemort can be interpreted as the father in Harry Potter’s primal scene.

Posted in Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Rowling (J. K.) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reach Out, Like Thomas, into the Darkness

R. S. Thomas’s poem about religious doubt calls for a leap of faith in the midst of darkness.

Posted in Thomas (R. S.) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Vigilante Films Responsible for Trayvon?

Trayvon Martin’s death has Americans rethinking the vigilante film.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Brecht Applied to Obamacare

Applying Brecht’s “Good Person of Szechwan” to Obamacare reveals America’s conflict between business and benevolence.

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Facing Up to the Gargoyle of Cancer

One of my students is exploring her mother’s terminal illness, and her own grieving, through Gail Godwin’s novel “The Good Husband.”

Posted in Godwin (Gail) | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Santorum as Gatsby?! Okay, Humor Me

Think of the 2012 Republican primaries as “The Great Gatsby,” with Romney as Tom Buchanan and Santorum as Gatsby.

Posted in Fitzgerald (Scott F.) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Lessons of a Bird Killed by a Window

Encountering a dead bird outside my window, I recalled a Lucille Clifton poem on the subject that draws a powerful social message.

Posted in Clifton (Lucille) | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Far Off the Bells Rang through the Morning

Mary Oliver finds Easter holiness in a new born fawn.

Posted in Oliver (Mary) | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Keeping Christ’s Message New and Real

The 1989 film “Jesus of Montreal” shows the establishment church standing in the way of Jesus’s message.

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Why Obama Hatred? Ask Ellison, Baldwin

What causes Obama-derangement? Ellison’s “Invisible Man” and Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain” offer explanations.

Posted in Baldwin (James), Ellison (Ralph) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Will Supreme Court Slay Robin Hood?

If Obamacare’s mandate is overturned, the moneyed interests will have won. In Giebenhain’s poem, the sheriff will have bested Robin Hood.

Posted in Giebenhain (Katy), Vaughan (Henry) | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Could Beowulf Have Saved Jews?

In her book about Eichmann, Hannah Arendt praises the Danes for how they stood up to the Nazis. One can draw a parallel with how Beowulf stands up to Grendel and also apply the lesson to the Trayvon Martin case.

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Faustus’s Soul and a Grieving Student

This past year I have learned, in a new and powerful way, that the Faustus legend is a powerful exploration of the meaning of life and death. This is thanks to Caitie Harrigan, a senior at St. Mary’s who has been writing her senior project on the legend. As Caitie told me recently, she never […]

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher) | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Jesus’s Momentary Desire to Step Back

Levertov focuses on Jesus’s very human moments of doubt, which serve to emphasize the sublimity of his acceptance of his humiliation and death.

Posted in Levertov (Denise) | Tagged , , , | 2 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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