Monthly Archives: May 2013

Ashamed of Dark Fantasies? Turn to Lit

If we have dark fantasies that we are ashamed of, one response is to turn them into art.

Posted in Bronte (Charlotte), Sophocles | 1 Comment

The Bard Captures Old Age Perfectly

Since starting to care for aging parents, I’ve become very impressed with Shakespeare’s “the world’s a stage” speech.

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

How Teachers Can Make Lit Real

The “so what” question is vital if students are to make their responses to literature real.

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

The Meaning of Soldiers and Sex

My father’s tales of soldiers’ sexual experience in World War II remind me of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”

Posted in Sir Gawain Poet | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Vital Necessity of Telling War Stories

To celebrate Memorial Day, listen to a veteran’s stories.

Posted in O'Brien (Tim) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Love Life, Say No to Christian Masochism

Tom Jones gives us a healthier vision of Christianity than that which puts all the emphasis on worldly suffering.

Posted in Fielding (Henry) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Hobbits against Spiders in the Playoffs

The Heat-Pacers NBA series is like Sam Gamgee fighting Shelob in “Lord of the Rings.”

Posted in Tolkien (J.R.R.) | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Iliad and Higher Ed’s MOOCish Future

MOOCs–Massive Open On-line Courses–can never teach lit as well as small classes.

Posted in Homer | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Everyperson’s Environmental E-Car

Scott Bates, cheerleading for solar power and electric cars.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Oklahoma Tornado Recalls Dorothy’s

The Oklahoma tornado recalls literature’s most famous tornado in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

Posted in Baum (L. Frank) | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Returning Home to Aging Parents

Marilynne’s Robinson’s novel “Home” captures some of my own experience returning home.

Posted in Robinson (Marilynne), Roth (Philip K.) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Poems Teach Us to Be Wise

Two young student athletes in my Intro to Literature took important lessons from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and a Wendell Berry poem.

Posted in Berry (Wendell), Coleridge (Samuel Taylor) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Look into Thine Heart and Write

Longfellow reenacts the Pentecost in this reflection up his changing relationship to nature.

Posted in Longfellow (Henry Wadsworth) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Nostalgic for Fluid Basketball

With a lackluster NBA playoffs, I find myself thrown back on my memories. A Fairchild poem understands how I feel.

Posted in Fairchild (B.H) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Comeuppance Fantasy about the Rich

Depressed by the stock market soaring while the economy limps along? Here’s a Great Depression revenge fantasy.

Posted in Fearing (Kenneth) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

To Know Gatsby Is to Know America

“The Great Gatsby” is about fantasizing. Baz Luhrmann’s new film appears to understand this well.

Posted in Fitzgerald (Scott F.) | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Antigone Would Bury Boston Bomber

Sophocles and Homer present compelling cases for granting full funeral rights to the Boston Marathon bomber.

Posted in Homer, Sophocles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Listen Carefully–The Books Are Whispering

I gave a talk last night to Leonardtown, Maryland’s Friends of the Library about—surprise!–“How Literature Can Change Your Life.” It was a busy day, what with writing the talk and turning in final grades and going to one last committee meeting and attending a retirement party (for which I wrote a bit of doggerel) and […]

Posted in Giovanni (Nikki), Simic (Charles), Stafford (William) | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Poetry in the Commencement Ceremony

Our Commencement was jolted by a reading of Martin Espada’s “Imagine the Angels of Bread.”

Posted in Angelou (Maya), Clifton (Lucille), Espada (Martin) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Making a Fetish of Suffering

Ivan Karamazov attacks those Christians who rationalize suffering by finding a higher purpose in it.

Posted in Dostoevsky (Fyodor) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Stephen Curry Explodes on the Scene

Like e.e. cummings’ Bill Bill, Warriors guard Stephen Curry shoots onetwothreefourfive baskets. Just like that.

Posted in cummings (e.e.) | Leave a comment

A Poem for Commencement

Pay attention and you’ll see the magic in graduation.

Posted in Kowit (Steve) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

V-E Day, Whitman, and My 15 Minutes

My 15 minutes: during Slovenia’s 1995 V-E Day celebration I read Walt Whitman to a national television audience.

Posted in Shakespeare (William), Whitman (Walt) | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ballad of Bathtub Gin

“The Ballad of Bathtub Gin” looks back to the days of Appalachian moonshine.

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

Novels as Dating Manuals

The predominant readers of 18th century novels were young readers trying to find answers to the questions facing them.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Novel Readers: The Young & the Restless

The early novel appealed to the young, the ambitious, the mobile, and the urban.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fiction Is Best Way to Tell God’s Story

Story-truth superior to happening-truth, in war stories and in Bible.

Posted in Bible, O'Brien (Tim) | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Will Kevin Durant Suffer Akhilleus’s Fate?

Kevin Durant is like Akhilleus. In more ways than one.

Posted in Homer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Harper Lee’s White Liberal Fantasy

Important though it was, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was also a white liberal fantasy.

Posted in Baldwin (James), Lee (Harper) | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Politics and Beowulf Wish Fulfillment

People who think a modern Beowulf can come in and fix our political problems are delusional.

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Muscles and Mind, Aching to Work

Celebrate May Day with this passage from “Grapes of Wrath,” which emphasizes how vital work is to our sense of self respect.

Posted in Steinbeck (John) | 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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