Monthly Archives: November 2014

Advent and Horror at the Void

Donald Hall’s “Advent” captures the darkness of the season, linking death with birth.

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Belichick Ranks with Lit’s Great Plotters

Coach Bill Belichick resembles the nefarious plotters in such works as “Portrait of a Lady” and “Liaisons Dangereuses.”

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Black Friday: Don’t Just Shop

Black Friday’s shopping frenzy can prompt us to forget the spiritual origins of gift-giving. Leslie Marmon Silko helps us see beyond the glitter.

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America’s Obsession with Pie

Hilaire Belloc’s hilarious complaint about the world’s eating tastes would not treat Thanksgiving well.

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Singing a Lullaby to a Dead Child

I write about the lullaby I sang to my dead son and a Eugene Field poem it reminds me of.

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Climate Change: Signs of Witchery

Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko warns of ecological disaster if we don’t change our relationship to the earth.

Posted in Silko (Leslie Marmon) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Invisible Men (and Women) No Longer

Immigrants coming out of the shadows recall Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, who also emerges from darkness.

Posted in Ellison (Ralph) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Often Goes Christ in a Stranger’s Guise

Here’s an old Gaelic poem that captures the spirit of the president’s recent decision to grant relief to the undocumented parents of American citizens.

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Protecting Players in the NFL “Jungle”

Upton Sinclair uses a football analogy as he makes a case for workers needing workplace protections.

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Books Protect Us from Madness

Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief” shows both the power and the danger of stories.

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Behn’s Comedy Masks Feminist Protest

Aphra Behn’s 1677 play “The Rover” hides its feminist protest within a comic form.

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Who is the Worst Rake in Jane Austen?

A ranking of jane Austen’s rakes. Who is the most objectionable?

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Dr. Seuss: We Can Do Better Than This

Scott Bates’ homage do Dr. Seuss tell us to draw on the power of the imagination and buck up.

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A Play for the Painfully Shy

Oliver Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” is balm for the painfully shy

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Biblical Paintings, Allowable Eroticism

Many famous Biblical paintings were thinly veiled excuses for eroticism. Trollope captures this in “The Last Chronicle of Barset.”

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Ignorant Armies Clash by Night

Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” has some sentiments which apply to the National Football League.

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Social Media Invades the Classics

Imagining literary characters using social media opens up new insights into a work.

Posted in Bronte (Charlotte), Dickens (Charles), Mitchell (Margaret) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beholding the Summer Dead before Me

Shakespeare and Swinburne both write powerful poems about autumn.

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Can Donne Help Us Cope with Death?

Meditations on Margaret Edson’s “W;t”–with further reflections on whether Donne’s poetry can help us handle death.

Posted in Brown (Margaret Wise), Donne (John), Edson (Margaret), Justus (May), Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Fellowship of Soldiers

In a poem for Veterans Day, Wilfred Owen captures the heartfelt emotions and the bonding that soldiers experience. Some of these emotions are genuinely moving, others are disturbing.

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“Leda and the Swan”–Warning Necessary?

Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan” contains a disturbing description of a rape. Should teachers issue warnings before teaching it?

Posted in Ovid, Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Battered and Broken and Weary

Writing in the George Herbert tradition, Dorothy Sayers rails against God before finally succumbing to divine love.

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Sports Autographs & Locks of Hair

Fans’ obsession with autographs are like the Baron’s obsession with Belinda’s locks in “Rape of the Lock.”

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Reading Novels for Moral Instruction

“Tom Jones” teaches how to raise adolescents. And how not to.

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10 Famous Fetish Objects in Lit

Literature is filled with fetish objects that take on outsized significance to various characters.

Posted in Dickens (Charles), Fielding (Henry), Poe (Edgar Allan), Pope (Alexander), Proust (Marcel), Rushdie (Salman), Shakespeare (William), Sir Gawain Poet, Wycherley (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hunkering Down in Hard Times

When your side loses in an election, be like Mary Oliver’s blue heron: hunker down, absorb the blows, and keep the fire of hope burning.

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Election Day as Trollope Describes it

Anthony Trollope wittily describes an election in “Doctor Thorne.”

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Sexual Misconduct in the Classics

A sexual misconduct course required of all employees got me thinking of problematic situations in the books that I teach.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Behn (Aphra), Bronte (Charlotte), Burney (Fanny), Euripides, Fielding (Henry), Montagu (Lady Mary Wortley), Sir Gawain Poet, Wilmot (John) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Jordan River Continues to Inspire

The River Jordan, an inspiring image for American slaves, has worked it was into contemporary African American poems, including those of Lucille Clifton.

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A Colossus Bestriding the World (Series)

Sports Saturday What a world series it was for San Francisco Giants pitcher Martin Bumgartner! On Sunday he threw 117 pitches for nine shutout innings to win game five and then on Wednesday he returned to throw another 68 pitches for five shutout innings to preserve a 3-2 lead in the deciding game seven. And […]

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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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