Monthly Archives: January 2018

On the Carnivalesque in Magic Realism

Some argue that magical realism is inherently democratic and point to the carnival qualities of “100 Years of Solitude.” But carnival populism can push right as well as left.

Posted in Garcia Marquez (Gabriel) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Telling Your Name the Livelong Day

Insecure people like Trump claim that they know everything whereas poets embrace the words “I don’t know.” Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody” captures the difference between poets and people like Trump.

Posted in Dickinson (Emily), Szymborska (Wislawa) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Atwood’s Jezebels at the Presidents Club

The Presidents Club scandal bears much resemblance to “the Club” in “Handmaid’s Tale” to which the Commander takes Offred.

Posted in Atwood (Margaret) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lit for Survivors Lost in a Dark Wood

Monday Commonweal recently published a heartfelt article by West Point visiting English professor Cassandra Nelson on how literature can help trauma survivors recover. Nelson begins with an angry comment about a University of Chicago dean’s facile dismissal of  trigger warnings, even though she herself opposes them. She, however, speaks from the vantage point of one […]

Posted in Dante, Diaz (Junot), Morrison (Toni) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Find a Paradise Within, Happier Far

Milton would have called those white evangelicals promoting Trumpism “grievous wolves.”

Posted in Milton (John) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wordsworth Changed How We See Nature

Writer Margaret Drabble explains how Wordsworth changed the way we see the world.

Posted in Wordsworth (William) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Marquez: How GOP Can Regain Its Soul

What has happened to the GOP is what happens to Col. Aureliano Buendia in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” Fortunately, Garcia Marquez assures us there is a way back.

Posted in Garcia Marquez (Gabriel) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Le Guin: To Refuse Death Is To Refuse Life

When Ursula K. Le Guin died yesterday, I thought of the “Farthest Shore,” the young adult novel where she grapples with humans’ fear of death.

Posted in LeGuin (Ursula K.) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How Atwood Rescued This Single Mom

In an inspiring story, single mom Ashley found Atwood’s novels helped her turn her life around.

Posted in Atwood (Margaret) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shafak: Storyland Is the Taste of Freedom

Turkish novelist Elif Shafak says that we must cultivate emotional intelligence to live in an increasingly diverse world while battling authoritarians’ reductive desires. Lit is vital in this endeavor.

Posted in Shafak (Elif) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Always Overflowing Sea

Neruda’s “Ode to the Sea” can also be an exploration of our relationship to God.

Posted in Neruda (Pablo) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frodo as Newly Minted PhD

How is writing a PhD like Frodo’s journey to Mordor? Check it out.

Posted in Tolkien (J.R.R.) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pope Anticipated the Ansari Affair

Celebrity culture contributed to the Aziz Ansari scandal and the commotion it has caused. Alexander Pope sets forth the dynamics in “Rape of the Lock.”

Posted in Pope (Alexander) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Atwood and the Aziz Ansari Affair

Margaret Atwood is under fire for her cautions about #MeToo movement. Her novels are useful, however, in the Aziz Ansari affair.

Posted in Atwood (Margaret) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patmore’s “Angel,” a Dangerous Poem

Patmore’s “Angel in the House” is no longer read but it defined the domestic ideal for much of the 19th century.

Posted in Patmore (Coventry), Woolf (Virginia) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America, Racist and Revolutionary Both

In America, Jamaican immigrant Claude McKay reminds America what makes it great, even as he exposes its dark side.

Posted in McKay (Claude) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Have Heard You Calling in the Night

I share two poems, by Rita Hawkins and Catherine Ann Lombard, inspired by the passage where God awakens the infant Samuel.

Posted in Hawkins (Rita), Lombard (Catherine Ann) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is Bannon a Thomas Cromwell?

Steve Bannon may see himself as the protagonist of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, but there’s one lesson from Henry VIII’s advisor that he ignored.

Posted in Mantel (Hilary) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black vs. White Responses to “Raisin”

“Raisin in the Sun” was a hit with both white and black audiences when it appeared in 1959 but for very different reasons.

Posted in Hansberry (Lorraine) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Murakami and Millennials’ Identity Quests

Murakami’s novels appeal to millennials because they are existential parables, and young people are grappling with life’s big questions, especially identity and purpose.

Posted in Murakami (Haruki) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pope Describes Triumph of Stupidity

Book IV of Pope’s “Dunciad” captures the triumph of Trumpism. In Pope’s poem, the goddess dullness (stupidity) has conquered the world.

Posted in Pope (Alexander) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A President Who Hates Books

No president has been so adverse to reading as Donald Trump, whose contempt for books conjures up images of “Fahrenheit 451.”

Posted in Bradbury (Ray) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Pause in Time and the Soul’s Awareness

John Thorkild Ellison has two Epiphany poems in which the spirit enters when the poet has all but given up hope.

Posted in Ellison (John Thorkild) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Celebrate a Winter Storm

Here’s a January poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti that will cheer you up if you’re being currently battered.

Posted in Rossetti (Daniel Gabriel) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Herculean Task: Purging Old Files

I’ve spent the last couple of days going through my father’s files (and throwing most of them away). I feel like Heracles cleaning out the Augean stables, as described by Seamus Heaney.

Posted in Clifton (Lucille), Heaney (Seamus) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Austen: Standing Up to Harassers

Jane Austen has powerful lessons for those battling systemic sexism.

Posted in Austen (Jane) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Women as Saviors? Clifton Objects

Some are sanctifying black women voters for saving America from itself after Democratic victories in Virginia and Alabama. Lucille Clifton points out that sanctification isn’t much better than demonization.

Posted in Clifton (Lucille) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Riding with Chaucer into the New Year

Base your New Year’s resolutions on your favorite characters. I look to the Wife of Bath.

Posted in Chaucer (Geoffrey) | Tagged , | Leave a comment

  • AVAILABLE NOW!

  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete