Monthly Archives: August 2015

Sacks & the Bard’s Midsummer Madness

The late Oliver Sacks’s observations on the mind sometimes sound a lot like Shakespeare in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Tempest.”

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

He Doth Sit By Us and Moan

Last week I was honored by my friend Jean Yeatman when she asked me to sit with her at her mother’s deathbed. We talked about childhood excursions that our families took together and also about the importance of ritual in our lives. Today’s William Blake poem is for her and her brother Clay. Blake finds […]

Posted in Blake (William) | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

All the Devils of Hell Unleashed by Katrina

The panic of New Orleans 9th Ward residents ten years ago is reminiscent of the passengers on board the ship in Shakespeare’s “Tempest”: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here!”

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trump as Frankenstein’s Monster

What is it about Donald Trump that brings out the literary analogies? First a Salon columnist compared him to Odysseus’s Cyclops, then the New Yorker’s John Cassidy saw him as Gulliver, and most recently Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and others have compared him to Frankenstein’s monster. I’ve written about the Cyclops parallel here, but let’s take […]

Posted in Shelley (Mary), Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pleasure of a Pathless Wood

For Americans, wilderness is a more unkempt affair than it for Europeans.

Posted in Byron (Lord Gordon), Longfellow (Henry Wadsworth), Pope (Alexander) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trollope and Patriarchal Marriage

My portraying traditional Victorian marriages, Anthony Trollope exposes the pathologies that came with them.

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Please Go Gentle into That Good Night

Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle” can be read as a narcissistic desire by young people that their elders will go out on young people’s terms.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher), Thomas (Dylan), Tolstoy (Leo) | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dante’s Love: Hot Coals Unconsumed

Solomon plays an important role in Dante’s “Paradiso” become he combines earthly sensuality and celestial wisdom. I find this to be a healthier vision than those who elevate the spirit over the body.

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The Hardy Boys Do Not Age Well

I loved the Hardy Boys when I was growing up. Now I find them unreadable.

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Trollope on Conservatives vs. Liberals

Anthony Trollope has wise things to say about the differences between conservatives and liberals in “Prime Minister.”

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Political Commentary’s Most Cited Poem

The Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne has called Yeats’s “The Second Coming” the most cited poem in political commentary. Yeats may set up a false dichotomy between “passionate intensity” and “lack of conviction,” however.

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

ISIS and the Grand Inquisitor

Dostoevsky may provide a compelling explanation for the recruiting success of ISIS: young people want to escape from freedom.

Posted in Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Houellebecq (Michel) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Herbert & Bronte on Spiritual Restlessness

St. Augustine, George Herbert, and Charlotte Bronte all write about spiritual restlessness.

Posted in Augustine, Bronte (Charlotte), Herbert (George) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump, Lucille Clifton, & Menstruation

Donald Trump assumed that Fox’s Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she aggressively asked him questions. Aside from his sexism, we should listen to Lucille Clifton, who points out how impressively women function even when they are having their periods.

Posted in Clifton (Lucille) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Tolstoy Fable about Radical Empathy

Tolstoy’s story “Esarhaddon” captures a common wish fulfillment of the powerless–that the oppressor see the world through the eyes of the oppressed.

Posted in Tolstoy (Leo) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Attn: English Majors–Business Needs You

Increasingly businesses are discovering that they need employees who have majored in English and the humanities.

Posted in Wallace (David Foster) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fox, Like Odysseus, Tries to Gouge Trump

A Salon columnist compares Trump to the Cyclops in “The Odyssey.” He has a point.

Posted in Homer | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Queasy about Bodies Used for Medicine

The sting videos by anti-abortion activists are designed to shock. But being shocked by the use of dead bodies for medical research is nothing new, as seen in the grave robbing scene in “Tom Sawyer.”

Posted in Twain (Mark) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Aslan and Cecil the Lion’s Death

The death of Cecil the Lion conjures up images of Aslan in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and of the lion in Ernest Hemingway’s “Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”

Posted in Hemingway (Ernest), Lewis (C. S.), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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