Monthly Archives: October 2016

Toni Morrison Explains Hillary Hatred

The rage against Hillary Clinton is probably the result of primal male fears. Toni Morrison captures such male fear and rage in her novel “Paradise.”

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Shakespeare Does Halloween

Shakespeare does Halloween very well. Some of it was to entertain James I, who was fascinated by the supernatural (to the sorrow of many women, who were executed as witches during his reign).

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American Gods & Roadside Attractions

Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” is a whacky look at religion that ends up making some pretty good points.

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College Girl Novels Explore Transsexuality

College girl novels of the late 19th century explored transsexuality in ways that anticipate today’s debates.

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Oppression’s Walls Will Have To Go

Langston Hughes’s poem “I Look at the World” describes a coming to consciousness of the walls that fence us in. Once we acknowledge the walls, we can begin seeing our way through them.

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Trump, Macduff, and “Untimely Ripped”

Donald Trump’s characterization of late-term abortions as “ripping” harken back to a verb used in “Macbeth.” Most people, however, would argue that both Trump and Macduff are describing caesarians.

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Climate Scientists, Our Cassandras

Our climate scientists must feel like modern day Cassandras, as she appears in Aeschylus’s “Agamemnon” or Robinson Jeffers’s “Cassandra.” The prophetess knew what would happen but no one believed her. As a result, Troy fell.

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Lit Opens Minds to Suffering of the Other

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues that literature is essential for creating good citizens in a diverse society, turning to Sophocles’s “Philoctetes” and Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” to make her point.

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Light a Land Whose Children Shall Be Free

Phoebe Cary’s 1849 poem about a bountiful harvest turns sour as she considers slaves who are not harvesting a bounty for themselves. Her Christian imagery anticipates the way Christian beliefs would bolster those fighting against slavery twelve years later.

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#TrumpBookReports (in 140 characters)

For laughs, check out #TrumpBookReport on twitter. I’ve gathered some of the best renditions of Trump reviewing the classics.

Posted in Bemelmans (Ludwig), Bronte (Charlotte), Bronte (Emily), Carroll (Lewis), Cervantes (Miguel de), Dickens (Charles), Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Dr. Seuss, Hawthorne (Nathaniel), Hemingway (Ernest), Homer, Hugo (Victor), Lee (Harper), Lewis (C. S.), Melville (Herman), Milne (A. A.), Rowling (J. K.), Salinger (J. D.), Shakespeare (William), Silverstein (Shel), Steinbeck (John), Stowe (Harriet Beecher), Styron (William), Tolstoy (Leo) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Reconnecting with My Dead Son

Thursday I had a shock of recognition while teaching Stephen King’s IT in my American Fantasy class yesterday. The approach to life that saves the day for the protagonist is the approach that got my eldest son killed 16 years ago. Yet I don’t think King is wrong. In fact, I was comforted once I saw the […]

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In Defense of The Merchant of Venice

Percy Shelley believes that great art transcends the prejudices of its time, even when it is cloaked in them. If he is right, then “Merchant of Venice” is less of a problem play than many people consider it.

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Nobel Laureate Wrote Archetypal Ballads

Among Nobel laureate Bob Dylan’s notable accomplishments is the ability to write archetypal ballads like “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts.”

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Why We Fear Clowns

The recent outbreak of criminal clowns can be explained by combining Freud’s essay on the uncanny and Stephen King’s IT.

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The Eternal Doesn’t Want To Be Bent by Us

Rilke draws on the story of Jacob and the Angel in his poem “The Man Watching.” We grow, he writes, by “being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater beings.”

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Trump & Mac the Knife, 2 Escape Artists

Donald Trump’s apparent ability to escape unscathed from gaffes and revelations that would sink any other campaign invites comparison with Mac the Knife, John Gay’s glamorous escape artist from “Beggar’s Opera.”

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Kill All the Lawyers? Nope, We Need Them

A district judge reflects upon what lawyers and judges can learn from Shakespeare, including “Othello,” “Merchant of Venice, “Hamlet,” “King Lear,” most of the history plays, and others.

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Ahab Obsession and the Clintons

The right wing’s obsession with the Clinton has prompted one pundit to invoke Ahab’s obsession with Moby Dick.

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We Mooste Calle Him “Hende Donald”

Donald Trump’s self-admitted sexual assaults resemble those of the university student in Chaucer’s “Miller’s Tales.” Hende Nicholas, however, is far more respectful of his lady love.

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How Trumpism Gives a Dark Permission

In a reprinted post, I describe how Trumpism gives permission to Americans to exhibit their dark side and compare it to how Sin and Death in “Paradise Lost” are energized after Adam and Eve bite into the apple.

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

A Pure Heart To Speak without Fear

Spiritual Sunday, Anticipating Yom Kippur I have been reading up on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement when Jews gather to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. Yesterday I came across Avodah: Ancient Poems for Yom Kippur. “Avodah” is the name of the Yom Kippur service. According to editors and translators Michael D. Swartz […]

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Bring the Liberal Arts to West Point

A military man argues that the military academies have been emphasizing the STEM disciplines while overlooking the traditional liberal arts. This is a mistake, he argues, and mentions the Agincourt speech in “Henry V.” Sir Philip Sidney, another warrior, would agree and would add Pindar’s Olympian odes.

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The Liberal Arts Will Not Die

Thursday My colleague Jeff Hammond, a national authority on Puritan poetry and a much lauded writer of reflective essays, recently gave a stirring defense of the liberal arts for our parents-alumni weekend. Jeff’s observations dovetail very nicely with Percy Shelley’s Defence of Poetry, which I happen to be teaching at the moment. Watching poetry getting […]

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Defending Homer against Plato

Plato’s attacks on Homer have to do with the bard’s focus earthly concerns rather than higher ones. Following Plato’s prescriptions, however, will not produce very interesting poetry.

Posted in Fielding (Henry), Homer | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Childhood, Space of Terror & Enchantment

Norman Finkelstein’s wondrous poem “Children’s Realm” (in “The Ratio of Reason to Magic”) examines child’s play spaces and says that the poet also needs play spaces within.

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Butler & Grappling with White Privilege

The figure of the white husband in Octavia Butler’s “Kindred” captures many of the blind spots of white privilege. Examining him led me to examine how I myself have benefitted from America’s slave past.

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Rosh Hashanah – A Stirring of Wonder

Two poems, by Muriel Rukeyser and Denise Levertov, to celebrate Rosh Hashanah by

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