Monthly Archives: July 2014

Poetry, the Road to Virtuous Action

Sir Philip Sidney believed that poetry was the most powerful means of leading us to virtuous action.

Posted in Sidney (Sir Philip), Virgil | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18–Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day–can be read as a power move.

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Groucho’s Night with T. S. Eliot

Groucho Marx and T. S. Eliot were both reacting to modernism, but a dinner together did not bring about mutual understanding.

Posted in Eliot (T.S.) | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Loud Sneezes, a Sign from the Gods

My loud sneezes, according to Homer, as a sign from the gods.

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The First Day of the Feast Has Come

A Rumi poem capturing the joy that is represented by the Ramadan feast.

Posted in Rumi | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

To Hear an Oriole Sing

I use an Emily Dickinson poem to root for my favorite baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles.

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Books about People Reading Books

Books about books give readers a sense that they are part of a larger community.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Bronte (Charlotte), Dickens (Charles), Grahame (Kenneth), Milne (A. A.), Nesbitt (E.), Ransome (Arthur), Stevenson (Robert Louis), Twain (Mark) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Textualist Judges Out of Control

Textualist judges committed the same mistake as formalists in ruling against federal subsidies for citizens who signed up for Obamacare in the federal exchanges.

Posted in Marvell (Andrew) | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Reading Lit through the Eyes of Others

Reading literature through the eyes of others brings special pleasures and insights.

Posted in Keats (John), Milton (John), Ovid, Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why the Wealthy Get Wealthier

Thomas Piketty turns to Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac to analyze “Capitalism in the 21st Century.”

Posted in Austen (Jane), Balzac (Honoré de), James (Henry), Pamuk (Orhan) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Children’s Hour, Pros and Cons

Longfellow’s “Children’s Hour” may be overly sentimental but, as I played with my grandson, I found myself not caring.

Posted in Longfellow (Henry Wadsworth) | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Divine Stairway of Sharp Angles

Levertov uses to story of Jacob’s Ladder to describe the miracle of poetry.

Posted in Herbert (George), Levertov (Denise), Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Strong in Will vs. Time & Fate

Roger Feder, like Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” braved time and fate and came up just short.

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The Tiny Rituals that Make a Marriage

Alice McDermott in “Someone” captures the small rituals and routines that make up a marriage.

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Silko Foretells the “Brown Surge” North

Silko’s “Almanac of the Dead” foretells the “brown surge” of refugees crossing into the United States.

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In Praise of Light Summer Reading

This Scott Bates imagines a nightingale relaxing into summer reading.

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Whisky, an Ethereal Marchioness

Muriel Barbery’s ecstatic descriptions of food in “Gourmet Rhapsody” enhance our eating experiences.

Posted in Barbery (Muriel) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deutschland über Alles

In honor of Germany’s World Cup victory, here is the poem that serves as the foundation of their national anthem

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Broken in Pieces All Asunder

Flannery O’Connor, like George Herbert, found her Christian faith regularly challenged by deep despair.

Posted in Herbert (George), O'Connor (Flannery) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Return of King James

Lebron’s return to Cleveland is like Odysseus’ return to Ithaka.

Posted in Homer | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Austen on Bad Reasons for Getting Married

In “Pride and Prejudice” Jane Austen systematically explores bad reasons for getting married.

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Raised in Foster Care, Saved by Oates

Joyce Carol Oates’ Wonderland Quartet provided a lifeline for this woman who grew up in foster care.

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Fences Entrap Rather than Protect

“Robinson Crusoe” functions as a parable about America’s fear of immigrants.

Posted in Defoe (Daniel) | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Alice” Shaped Joyce Carol Oates

“Alice in Wonderland” is the book that changed the life of Joyce Carol Oates.

Posted in Carroll (Lewis) | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Steinbeck Described Anti-Migrant Protests

The social unrest caused by the flood of immigrants crossing the American border is described in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

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The Evil I Do Not Want Is What I Do

Spiritual Sunday  In today’s Episcopal service we encounter a passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans that I particularly like, in large part because it captures an internal conflict that we can all relate to. It also reminds me of a passage from Anthony Trollope’s The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867). First, here’s St. […]

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World Cup: Some Said It Couldn’t Be Done

The hackneyed poems of Edgar Guest actually capture the effort put forth by the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team.

Posted in Guest (Edgar) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Learning to Love America

A poem for the 4th of July on how immigrants come to love America.

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SCOTUS Traps Women in Doll’s House

The Supreme Court, with its Hobby Lobby decision, is reminiscent of patronizing Torvald Helmer in Ibsen’s “Doll’s House.”

Posted in Ibsen (Henrik) | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Viagra and the Drums of War

Scott Bates’ “Viagra” offers up an explanation as to why America’s war hawks won’t go away, even after they bungled so badly.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Going to Bed before It’s Dark

Stevenson’s “Bed in Summer” captures a child’s sense of injustice as going to bed while it’s still light.

Posted in Uncategorized | 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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