Monthly Archives: October 2015

Sir Gawain and Celtic Spirituality

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” may represent the clash between two strains of Christianity which today we describe as Dominionism and Green Christianity. The 14th century poem definitely comes down on the green side.

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The Bard Does Halloween

In honor of Halloween, check out what Shakespeare had to say about ghosts. When his graves yawn and yield up their dead, they produce apparitions that are genuinely frightening.

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Style, Not Truth, the Important Thing

Truth was missing in action in the GOP’s Wednesday night debate. Oscar Wilde and John Gay would have understood.

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Cruz as Beowulf? Try Grendel

Thursday Normally I would be delighted with a New York Times article that matched up presidential candidates with works of literature, such as Ted Cruz with Beowulf, Hillary Clinton with Persuasion, and Bernie Sanders with Around the World in 80 Days. This piece, however, strikes me as so uninformative that it’s all but useless. I’ve tried […]

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For a Rich Life, Read Widely and Freely

Literature impacts our lives but the influence is best if we read a wide variety of works. Limiting ourselves to just a few authors can warp us.

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Lit vs. the Evils of History–More Debate

While literature can seem helpless in the face of history’s cataclysms, it proves far more durable than the events that seem to overwhelm it.

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The Maple’s Annual Striptease

Scott Bates describes the trees undergoing a months-long striptease in “Maple Dance.”

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Hearing the Sound of Roses Singing

For Mary Oliver, going into the woods and paying attention to nature is a form of prayer.

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Can Lit Also Be a Force for Evil? A Debate

The classics are capable to doing great good but can they also do harm? Even as they powerfully open up the mind to new possibilities, can they also close it down? A debate.

Posted in Aristotle, Austen (Jane), Plato, Shelley (Percy), Sidney (Sir Philip) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ryan as John Galt–Elect Him or He Shrugs

Paul Ryan sees himself as Ayn Rand’s John Galt as he puts forth the conditions on which he will accept the Speakership of the House. The problem is that he is dealing with people who also see themselves as John Galt.

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Literature as a Basis for Social Change

Italian activist Antonio Gramsci believed that the common people have an unconscious philosophy that, if harnessed, can become the basis for social change. I argue that they also have unconscious literary taste that can also be harnessed.

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Waiting for Biden, Paul Ryan, & Reagan

Some Democrats are waiting for Joe Biden and many Republicans are awaiting the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. Samuel Beckett foresaw in all in “Waiting for Godot.”

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The Rich Complain about Shaming

Some wealthy Americans are receiving therapy to make them feel better about their riches. Swift would have something to say about this, as would F. Scott Fitzgerald and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

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On Sickness and the Power of Prayer

In “War and Peace” Tolstoy gives a powerful account of how prayer and church attendance can help in the recovery process.

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Children Lit’s Changing Racial Landscape

My mixed race granddaughters have children’s books with protagonists of color. It’s a far cry from the Dick-Jane-and-Sally books of my childhood and of the reality described by Toni Morrison’s “Bluest Eye.”

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Trump, Prince Vasili, and Pure Cynicism

Prince Vasili in “War and Peace” will say anything to come out on top. He’s a lot like Donald Trump.

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Satanic Fury from the Freedom Caucus

The Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives has been behaving like Satan in “Paradise Lost.” They would be advised to see what happens to Milton’s anti-hero.

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

Ellison’s Elegy for Innocent Police Victims

The Invisible Man’s eloquent funeral elegy for his friend Tod Clifton, shot by a policeman, could be delivered over any of the unarmed black men who have been shot by police and vigilantes in recent years. It is relevant again as the city of Cleveland seeks to blame 12-year-old Tamir Rice for his death.

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Boehner’s Monkey and Ellison’s Sambo

Speaker John Boehner may keep a wind-up monkey to express how he feels jerked around by the rightwing Freedom Caucus, which prompted him to resign. There is a similar puppet in Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” also signifying emasculation and humiliation.

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My Cries Cannot Pierce Thy Silent Ears

George Herbert poetry is admirable in the way he wrestles with his spiritual doubts. He may owe a debt to “The Book of Job,” where we also see such wrestling.

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John Lennon’s Utopian Vision

John Lennon would turn 75 today. “Imagine” lives on, an instance of utopian thinking that challenges us to look around us.

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Hillary before Judges Like Tolstoy’s Pierre

The Congressional Committee to Investigate Benghazi is like the military tribunal in “War and Peace” that questions Pierre. It is interested only in answers to lead to conviction.

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Misusing Metaphor in the Abortion Debates

Both sides are misusing metaphor in the abortion debates. If we want a deeper vision of reality, we must turn to literature.

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Bernie, Black Lives Matter, & Invisible Man

Bernie Sanders’s early missteps with Black Lives Matter, which bewildered him and his followers, is explained in Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.”

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Tolstoy Calls Us to Aid Syrian Refugees

During the evacuation of Moscow in “War and Peace,” the Rostov family gives up their worldly goods to help soldiers in distress. This is much more than many in the U.S. are willing to do for Syrian refugees.

Posted in Tolstoy (Leo) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thee Thyself We Cannot Lose

In a powerful four-line poem, Mary Elizabeth Coleridge sums up the main lesson in the Book of Job: even when we suffer, we still have God.

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This Time Grendel Chose Umpqua

Every time there is another mass killing, this time at Umpqua Community College, I turn to “Beowulf.” Few works understand such violence as well as this medieval Anglo-Saxon epic.

Posted in Beowulf Poet, Silko (Leslie Marmon) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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