Monthly Archives: May 2015

Though Thou Art in Thy Blood, Live

Spiritual Sunday A couple of weeks ago my library reading group discussed Marilynne Robinson’s Lila, the third novel in what one member described as a triptych. I love Robinson’s depiction of the Congregationalist minister John Ames in Gilead, and Lila gives us the backstory of the woman that Ames marries as an old man. (Home, […]

Posted in Robinson (Marilynne) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Sense of Wonder at the Zoo

Taking my son to the National Zoo recalled A. A. Milne’s “At the Zoo.” As with Christopher Robin, the elephants were the star attraction.

Posted in Milne (A. A.) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Milton Cautions vs. Scientific Arrogance

One of my science students found a way to examine her frustrations at her limited knowledge by looking at Satan and Eve in “Paradise Lost.”

Posted in Milton (John) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Kafka’s K Would Feel at Home with FISA

A “Washington Post” quiz comparing Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” with the United Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court comes up with some disturbing resemblances.

Posted in Kafka (Franz) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vacations Must Be More than Photographs

Wendell Berry warns that photographs can come between us and a profound vacation experience. I’ll keep that in mind in my upcoming trip to Machu Picchu.

Posted in Berry (Wendell) | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Soldier, Rest, Thy Warfare O’er

In “Soldier Rest,” Sir Walter Scott captures how inviting death can look to those caught up in battle’s throes.

Posted in Owen (Wilfred), Scott (Sir Walter) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To See God, the Eye Must Catch Fire

Blake’s poem “Pentecost” explains what is necessary to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Posted in Blake (William) | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stephen King & the War for America’s Soul

In “The Stand,” Stephen King sees the dark and the light fighting for control of America’s soul. His book had the Vietnam War in mind but it is also applicable to future policy in the Middle East.

Posted in Hawthorne (Nathaniel), King (Stephen) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberals Must Reclaim Harrison Bergeron

Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” has been adopted by the rightwing in their opposition to governmental regulations. It’s actually a fairly liberal story.

Posted in Vonnegut (Kurt) | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Is Don Draper a Modern Faustus?

In the finale of “Mad Men,” Draper may enter into yet another Faustian bargain, trading a vision of peace for a catchy Coca-Cola jingle.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

10 Memorable Poetic Pick-Up Lines

10 memorable pick-up lines from poetic greats. Try them at a bar near you.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Behn (Aphra), Donne (John), Herrick (Robert), Marvell (Andrew), Montagu (Lady Mary Wortley), Rostand (Edmond de), Shakespeare (William), Wilmot (John) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hamlet Instructs the Class of 2015

Our commencement ceremonies included a reading of Hamlet’s advice to the players.

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Scorn No Vision That a Dewdrop Holds

Eva Gore-Booth finds divinity with a dewdrop here, and twilight hour there. The “One” can be found in “the gentle Light that shines behind the storm.”

Posted in Gore-Booth (Eva) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Tells Black Graduates to Soar

Michelle Obama used images of flight in a recent commencement speech at Tuskegee University. It was reminiscent of the way Toni Morrison uses flight in “Song of Solomon.”

Posted in Morrison (Toni) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Real Victims of Deflategate

Two characters from “Hamlet” have been invoked in Tom Brady’s deflategate scandal. Can you guess which ones?

Posted in Shakespeare (William), Stoppard (Tom) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poetry that Reclaims Women’s Bodies

A former student, in her senior project, used feminist poems as the basis for art workshops designed to help women feel better about their bodies.

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

Toppling Shakespeare from His Pedestal

“Bardolatry,” the worship of William Shakespeare, can get in the way of truly appreciating him.

Posted in Gregory (Rg), Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Does Lit Blind As Well as Enlighten?

Novelist Rachel Kranz argues that great literature does not only enlighten. It can also keep us from seeing certain possibilities.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Is My Son Mad?” Mary Asks

In Thomas Hardy’s version of Mary, she’s a mother wondering whether her son is mad.

Posted in Hardy (Thomas) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A “Greatest Generation” Vet Reflects

In the reminiscence about his World War II experiences, my father finds it difficult to capture what it was really like

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lear: Finding Love in Adversity

Both “Doctor Faustus” and “King Lear” teach us the silver lining in adversity, “Faustus” in a negative way, “Lear” in a positive.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher), Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Baltimore Blacks Are Down and Out

Black poverty in Baltimore has racial causes that are invisible to most people. Dickens would understand.

Posted in Dickens (Charles) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chaucer’s Squire Meets Tennyson’s May Queen

Love is in the May air. As I look at the College students hand in hand, I think of the men as Chaucerian squires, the women as Tennysonian May queens.

Posted in Chaucer (Geoffrey), Tennyson (Alfred Lord) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Happens to a Dream Deferred?

Langston Hughes puts his finger on Baltimore’s black anger in “Justice” and “Harlem.”

Posted in Hughes (Langston) | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Political Consultants Should Read Lit

Which literary works would you recommend to a political consultant to stay in touch with his or her soul and avoid becoming lost in the dark side? How about Hawthorne, Melville, Shakespeare, Pinter, and Terrence McNally?

Posted in Hawthorne (Nathaniel), McNally (Terrence), Melville (Herman), Pinter (Harold), Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus as the New Dionysus

Parallels between Dionysus and Christ are clearly drawn in Michael Cacoyannis’s translation of “The Bacchae.”

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

Whitman, Melville & Abolitionism

Walt Whitman and Herman Melville’s revolutionary visions of egalitarian societies shaped how Abolitionists thought about America’s potential.

Posted in Melville (Herman), Whitman (Walt) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a 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.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete