Monthly Archives: May 2014

Titanic Struggles, on the Court & at Home

This moving David Rivard poem shows how a moment in basketball can symbolically capture a contentious father-son relationship.

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Books Helped Free Angelou’s Caged Bird

Maya Angelou, who died Wednesday, found strength in the literature of Shakespeare, Poe, Dunbar, and others.

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Benito Cereno on War, Racism

A story of two students who found themselves using “Benito Cereno” to sort through two of the biggest issues that Americans face.

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Haikus Make Econ Less Dismal

Haiku competitions in economics classes can get students engaged in the otherwise dry subject matter.

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Beowulf Blog, 5 Years Old Today

Today is the five-year anniversary of this blog. I can’t quite believe that, in that time, I’ve written close to 1700 posts and probably over a million words. I have never had so much fun writing. I have particularly enjoyed my interactions with readers. Each month during the school year, around 10,000 different individuals visit […]

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He Sleeps Less Cold Than We Who Wake

Wilfred Owen’s “Asleep” looks with sorrow at the death of a comrade.

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A Hermit of the Rocks, Wind & Mist

R. S. Thomas’s powerful poem “Sea-Watching” compares waiting for the Holy Spirit with bird watching.

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Chris Andersen as Queequeg

The Miami Heat’s Chris Andersen is an existentialist enigma that could come straight out of “Moby Dick.”

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Why Christie Aides Targeted Sokolich

Why did Chris Christie aides target Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and close down access lanes to the George Washington Bridge? Voltaire has the answer.

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Libertarian Conmen Want Your Fatted Calf

This Scott Bates poem captures the swagger of those who con their fellow Americans while trumpeting free enterprise and bootstrapism.

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Class Warfare in Harry Potter

J. K. Rowling’s leftwing politics shape the Harry Potter series.

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Warning Labels for the Classics

Suggestions that certain classics come with “trigger warnings” leads of the following reflection.

Posted in Chaucer (Geoffrey), Homer, Milton (John), Sir Gawain Poet, Sophocles, Wilde (Oscar) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

No Calendar Except for this Bountiful Day

Derek Walcott’s elegy to his mother unexpectedly doubles as a Commencement poem.

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Frodo’s Battle with Sin

Students discover that “Lord of the Rings” is a story about their Christian journeys.

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Rituals of Commencement

Robert Creeley’s graduation poem captures both the predictability and the unpredictability of young people going forth into the world.

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Student Learns from Learn’d Astronomer

One of my students took profound lessons from “When I Heard My Learn’d Astronomer.”

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This Is the Way the World Ends

Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” reflects upon how the world will end. Recent news of melting Antarctic glaciers says we can expect fire and ice to both play a role.

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Black Students Examine Uncle Tom

Two African American male students find continued worth in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

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Facing Our Inner Black Cat

Poe’s “Black Cat” has a special attraction for college students–and for good reason.

Posted in Poe (Edgar Allan) | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Melville and Climate Change Denial

Melville’s “Benito Cereno” perfectly captures Rightwing denial of climate change.

Posted in Melville (Herman) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Mothers, Our Teachers

Michael Psello’s famous encomium on his mother in the 12th century inspires this talk about mothers and teaching.

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The End of Every Fan’s Desire

Orioles manager Buck Showalter lived his childhood in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and brings to mind an old Franklin Adams baseball poem.

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Blossoms Storm out of the Darkness

A perfect May poem from Mary Oliver.

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Art Is the Path to Liberation

Nick Brown, a very bright philosophy and English double major, reflects on how to live a worthwhile life. An aesthetic approach to life is at the core of his argument.

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Eating and Drinking the Precious Words

An Emily Dickinson poem that will remind my graduating seniors to keep reading.

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Vonnegut’s Sci Fi Says the Unsayable

Yesterday I spent all day—from 9 am to 6 pm with occasional breaks—listening to our English majors present their senior projects. That I was energized rather than drained by the experience testifies to the strength of the talks. In today’s post I report on my student Chris Hammond’s essay on Kurt Vonnegut’s use of science […]

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Awaiting Godot in the Age of Cable News

Stephen Colbert realizes that only Beckett’s theater of the absurd will do justice to breathless media coverage of the latest crisis (whatever it is).

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Who Is the Third Always Beside You?

Eliot’s reference to the Road to Emmaus story in “The Wasteland” may be sign of hope rather than despair.

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For Sterling, Waves Came Crashing In

Collective player anger may have led to the NBA’s harsh punishment for Clippers owner Don Sterling. Lucille Clifton has a poem about the power of collective black action.

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Mr. Hyde Is Taking over America

Dr. Jekyll is so buttoned down that his Hyde side emerges, but he looks pretty good to an America that is losing restraint.

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History from the Workers’ Perspective

Bertolt Brecht captures the spirit of May Day in “A Worker Reads History.”

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  • 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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