Monthly Archives: December 2016

Joy of Life Revealed in Love’s Creation

In Auden’s “Christmas Oratorio,” the shepherds stand in for the working class, who find love and personhood in the birth of Jesus.

Posted in Auden (W. H.) | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

2016’s Top Story–Trump, Trump, Trump

Looking back of 2016, I choose three posts that stood out to me, all dealing with Trump. One compares him to Satan inspiring the invasion of Earth by Sin and Death in “Paradise Lost.” The other two compare him to Herman Melville’s “Confidence Man” and to the narrator’s son in the Raymond Carver short story “Why, Honey?”

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Reading Aloud Enhances Relationships

Couples reading aloud to each other can create a special intimacy, as George Eliot and George Henry Lewes realized in the 19th century. The radio and then television brought an end to that activity.

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Can Art Thwart Trump? A Debate

In which I argue with a writer who claims that art and artists have an inflated sense of their power and that they are irrelevant in the battle against Donald Trump.

Posted in Steinbeck (John), Stowe (Harriet Beecher) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Did Western Liberalism Give Us Trump?

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat suggests that, to understand Trump’s rise, we look not to novels like Sinclair’s “It Can Happen Here” and Roth’s “Plot against America” and instead turn to works by French novelist Michel Houellebecq. These helps us understand the crisis of Western liberalism, which Douthat sees as the major culprit.

Posted in Houellebecq (Michel), Roth (Philip K.), Sinclair (Upton) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Irving’s Xmas Essays Influenced Dickens

While Charles Dickens deserves much of the credit for our modern Christmas, he himself was heavily influenced by Washington Irving essays written when he was a boy. Irving describes a Christmas he witnessed while visiting rural England.

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Christmas During Life’s Storms

In “Christmas at Sea,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s speaker is both buoyed up and saddened by childhood Christmas memories.

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Dickens Returned Xmas to Medieval Roots

Dickens’s “Christmas Carol” didn’t so much invent Christmas as we have come to know it as take it back to its medieval roots.

Posted in Dickens (Charles) | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Decline & Fall of the American Republic?

Trump’s victory may signal the decline of the American republic, just as the rise of the Caesar signaled the end of the Roman republic. Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” is only too relevant to today’s politics.

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

Murakami: Don’t Be a Sheep

Murakami’s “Wild Sheep Chase” is a modern parable that has important lessons for confronting authoritarian regimes. That’s the lesson one of my Bernie supporters took from it. Another student used it to support his decision to come out.

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There’s More to Christmas Than We Think

When fundamentalist Christians say that there is a war on Christmas, they point to secular and pagan threats. But many of the symbols they embrace are borrowed from other religions traditions, as this Scott Bates poem makes clear.

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Must Dreamers “Hibernate” Again?

Ellison’s Invisible Man must retreat to a hole–or, as he calls it, hibernate–after getting banged around by reality. With Trump as president, will the Dreamers and others who benefitted from Obama’s prosecutorial discretion have to hibernate as well, returning back to the shadows?

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The New Moon, A Prayer Opening to Faith

In a powerful Advent poem, David Whyte compares waning faith with the waning moon. The poem reminds me of poems by John Keats and Lucille Clifton.

Posted in Keats (John), Whyte (David) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

For the Final, We Shall Be Tested on Love

Thomas Centolella applies the language of testing to love in this witty and moving poem.

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Harry Potter Stole My Child

Young Adult Fiction like “Harry Potter,” “Perks of Being a Wall Flower,” “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” sometimes threaten parents because they empower children and conjure up visions of them abandoning family values as they enter a secular society.

Posted in Angelou (Maya), Blume (Judy), Chbosky (Stephen), Rowling (J. K.) | 5 Comments

Invisible Man & Lolita Changed the ’50s

Ellison’s “Invisible Man” and Nabokov’s “Lolita” both challenged basic 1950s assumptions. The former changed public perceptions on what it meant to be black while the latter violated a tacit agreement not to go digging under neatly manicured lawns bordered by white picket fences.

Posted in Ellison (Ralph), Nabokov (Vladimir) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Neil Gaiman and the Pipeline Protests

In “American Gods,” Neil Gaiman warns that Americans are doomed if we don’t make spiritual connection with the land. The protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline are making the same argument.

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McConnell as Moriarty, Trump as Figaro

Mitch McConnell is proving himself to be a veritable Moriarty in his ability to weave devious plots to get his way. Trump, by contrast, is more a trickster figure a la Figaro or Mac the Knife.

Posted in Beaumarchais (Caron de), Doyle (Arthur Conan), Gay (John) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Let Us Enter Advent in Hope

At a time when many of us are worried about the future, Allan Boesak reminds us that Advent is a time of hope.

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Culture Theorist Foresaw Trump’s Rise

The Frankfurt School’s Theodor Adorno, “culture industry” theorist, foresaw the rise of Trump. He looked to modernism, including modernist literature, as an antidote.

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Despite Trump, “The Land Holds Us Still”

On this one-month anniversary of the 2016 election, I look back at two authors who meditated on what to do next immediately after hearing the news. Terry Tempest Williams looks to nature while Zadie Smith looks to the music to be found in multiethnic harmony.

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Comic Relief for Desperate Students

If you cramming madly for finals (or remembering a time when you once did), here’s a wonderfully witty Philip Appleman poem about the experience.

Posted in Appleman (Philip) | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Magic Spell Cast by Stories

In “1Q84” Murakami describes novels as holding out the promise to solve our problems only we can’t quite make them out.

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Massacring the Environment Dakota Style

With a North Dakota winter bearing down on those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, I see a convergence of images that also show up in Lucille Clifton’s poem “the killing of the trees”: environmental degradation, oppression of Native Americans, and frozen bodies.

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John the Baptist: his mouth be true as time

In Lucille Clifton’s version of John the Baptist, he is a black minister preaching the social gospel.

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

Poe: Trapped in the Prison of the Self

Two Chinese students have brought home to me, from their collectivist perspective, how Edgar Allan Poe went against the grain of American individualism. He exposed its dark side, even as Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman were unabashedly celebrated it.

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