Monthly Archives: February 2017

With Many Tears I Went in Search of HIm

Spiritual Sunday I know George MacDonald as the author of various fantasy novels but didn’t realize that he also wrote poetry. Here’s a lovely sonnet about looking for God after suffering a crisis of faith. The poet doesn’t find his “friend” when he searches in the wilderness or in cities, in cathedrals or in charnel houses, […]

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Chaucer’s Wife, an Early Gaslighter

Donald Trump’s non-ending falsehoods have sometimes been described as “gaslighting,” after the old Charles Boyer-Ingrid Bergman film. An early literary example of a gaslighter is Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, although her use of the tactic is far more justifiable.

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Trump’s Faustian Emptiness

Donald Trump has a lot in common with Doctor Faustus: both are narcissists who create hells for themselves by being unable to reach out beyond themselves.

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Teaching Euripides in the Age of Title IX

Recently a student reported me for using sexist language in the classroom. (This while teaching a Kingsolver novel and Euripides’s “The Bacchae.”) The language did not reflect my own views, but the complaint made me realize that I need to be more careful with this generation of students.

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How to Make All Your Fantasies Come True

In high school I learned, from Jacques Offenbach’s opera “Tales of Hoffman,” how to make all my sexual fantasies come true. It took several decades of married life to fully embrace his insight.

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Hughes Dreams the Real American Dream

Langston Hughes’s “Let America Be America Again” is a powerful riposte to President Steven Bannon and Co.’s “Make America Great Again.” Poems like this one can play an important role in resistance against the Trump administration.

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Suffering and God’s Apparent Silence

Susaku Endo’s great novel “Silence” wrestles with the seeming silence of God in the face of humanity’s suffering. A missionary priest in 17th century Japan struggles with his doubts as he witnesses the torture of Christians. In the end, it takes his own betrayal of his mission for him to grasp the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice.

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Humiliation, a Lit Department Game

David Lodge describes a game in “Changing Places” that English departments might enjoy: Humiliation. Check out the rules here.

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Poetry & the Sea Liberate the Imprisoned

For Pablo Neruda’s, the “poet’s obligation” is to speak for freedom–which makes poetry vital important in our time.

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Our Version of Plague Maddened Villagers

Donald Trump’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act and on immigrants could well end up hurting many of his supporters. A similar irony is described in Geraldine Brooks’s “Year of Wonders,” where 17th century villagers, maddened by the plague, kill two midwives.

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Poetry as a Check against Tyranny

African American poet Rita Dove talks about the importance of poetry in resisting tyranny, especially its attack on language. In “American Smooth,” she expresses a foundational optimism about America.

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My Cataract Surgery Recalls Oedipus, Lear

Recent cataract surgery had me recalling all those literary passages where sharp objects get poked into people’s eyes. The real drama, however, was renegotiating my professional identity.

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Curling Up with a Good Book

This Scott Bates is a testimony to the solitary joy of reading.

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Ollie the Bobcat, Whirlwind of Light

Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” helps explain why Ollie, the bobcat who escaped from the National Zoo, returned on her own. Her time in the spotlight gives me an excuse to share a pulsating bobcat poem by Mary Oliver.

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Read Poetry To Keep Hope Alive

Literature that just shows us the grim truth of reality without the possibility of hope calls into question the whole enterprise. Much great literature frames reality in such a way that we can see new possibilities for ourselves.

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