Monthly Archives: February 2014

Using Lit to Predict the Weather

Last week, while discussing “The Tempest,” we experienced a literal tempest. Expect cold temperatures today as I’m teaching “Eve of St. Agnes.”

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Prospero’s Magic, a Model for Fantasy Lit

“The Tempest” fits magically into a fantasy course.

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Memorializing Gay Martyrs in Poetry

Uganda’s new anti-gay legislation reminds me of a Mark Doty poem about a Bangor, Maine killing 30 years ago.

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In Defense of Arcane Scholarship

Disciplines may engage in arcane language but they provide the foundation out of which exciting insights emerge.

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“Everybody Wants a Black Man’s Life”

Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” offers a vision of hope for targeted black teens.

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Cain: A Positive Way Past Collective Guilt

Nazi perpetrators who turned to Christianity avoided true contrition. Both the story of Cain and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” show how to really get right with God.

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Women Hockey Players in a State of Nature

A Robert Bly prose poem about hockey to celebrate the exciting Olympics metal rounds.

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The Super Rich: Great Gatsby Redux

Many of today’s billionaires are as paranoid as Tom Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby.”

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Out of Denialism and into Responsibility

Denialism such as we are seeing with regard to climate change is well describe in “All the King’s Men.”

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The Stages of Creativity

This magical Prévert poem captures the stages of the creative process.

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Ayn Rand Likes Systems, Not Humans

Ayn Rand’s novels appeal to those who prefer systems over people.

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Chris Christie as “Boss” Willie Stark

Chris Christie resembles Willie Stark in “All the King’s Men” in more than a few ways.

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Pullman Is of the Devil’s Party

Philip Pullman based “Dark Materials” on “Paradise Lost” but came up with a theological muddle.

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The Skater below the Ice

This wonderful Dacey poem about skating captures the other self we feel is just beyond the horizon–or beneath the ice.

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Relationship Advice from Blake

Blake’s “Clod and the Pebble” warn us to steer between two opposite dangers in our relationships.

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Will Californians Become the New Okies?

The California drought is prompting “Grapes of Wrath” comparisons.

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Penelope’s Advice for Frustrated Writers

John Scalzi’s marvelous poem about Penelope weaving and unweaving her shroud mirrors the writing process.

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Updated Sherlock: Game Is Still On

“Sherlock” plays wonderful variations on the original Sherlock Holmes stories.

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Sauron’s Ring: Power Corrupts

The ring in “Lord of the Rings” lends itself to numerous approaches.

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

A Spiritual Quest Begins inside a Whale

According to Joseph Campbell, a hero’s journey invariably involves a “belly of the whale” experience. Tokien describes the experience in fantasy, Dan Albergotti in everyday life.

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Maybe the Gulfs Will Wash Us Down

Peyton Manning was not Homer’s Odysseus but Tennyson’s Ulysses.

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Moll Flanders: How to Make It in Hard Times

If my students enjoy “Moll Flanders,” it may be because of their large debt load and uncertain job prospects.

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Lear’s Nonsense Perfect for Children

My grandson’s tiny body and large head brought to mind Edward Lear’s Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

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The World’s a Stage–Choose Your Part

In his senior project, one of my students uses literature to examine life and literature to engage with it.

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Jane Austen, Must Reading for Scientists

Jane Austen can serve as a warning to scientists about confirmation bias.

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Seahawks: Unleashed, Endlessly Hungry

Mary Oliver’s poem about hunting hawks about sums up last night’s Super Bowl.

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Real Religion Is Like Literature

If the “Chronicles of Narnia” are read narrowly as Christian propaganda, then they suffer and so does Christianity.

Posted in Lewis (C. S.) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Peyton Manning Pitted against Puck?

Tomorrow’s Super Bowl drama may be forces of order vs. forces of chaos. Or it may involve Denver trying to outwit a trickster Puck-like team.

Posted in Shakespeare (William), Sir Gawain Poet | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


  • 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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