Monthly Archives: May 2018

For Roth, People Were Always Complex

The late Philip Roth’s novel “Human Stain” reenforced for me that humans are always more complex than ideological caricatures of them.

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Reflections on Internet Trolling

Internet trolling is not contributing to discourse but poisoning it.

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What Is America’s Favorite Novel?

NPR has compiled a list of 100 books to determine America’s favorite novel. It’s often an infuriating list but the exercise is worthwhile all the same.

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Mourning the Mouthless Dead

Charles Hamilton Sorley, killed early in World War I, penned anti-war poetry that anticipated Wilfred Owen.

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A New Isaiah Walks the City Streets

In David Gascoyne’s 1932 poem “New Isaiah,” the poet uses Isaiah imagery to prophesy the decline of the west.

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Murakami and Repressed Anger’s Toxicity

Murakami’s novels cast light on a recent Japanese football incident where a player was instructed to take out the other team’s quarterback.

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My Three Book Projects

In which I share my first three sabbatical–I mean retirement–book projects.

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I Weep Like a Child for the Past

Returning to my childhood home, I thought of one of the great poems about nostalgia, D. H. Lawrence’s “Piano.”

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Retiring to the Garden of Eden

Stepping out of our U-Haul truck and into my mother’s wood, I felt I had entered Milton’s Garden of Eden.

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Trump, Clifton, & Immigrants as Animals

Trump describing immigrants as animals is scary stuff, as this Lucille Clifton poem makes clear.

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Light Breaks Where No Light Was Before

Lucille Clifton’s Lucifer poems are more pentecostal than diabolic.

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A Time To Gather Spiritual Honey

Mary Oliver love flowers because of their origins in dark places and for their ability to make luminous our own dark places.

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A Tale of Two Realities

The U.S. celebrating the opening of the Jerusalem embassy while Israeli soldier kill scores of Gaza protesters bring to mind Dickens’s “Tale of Two Cities.”

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The Meaning of Steampunk Fantasy

Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” helps us understand why authors today are turning to steampunk, which Tolkien would have hated.

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Mike Pence=Elmer Gantry + Uriah Heep

Columnist George Will calls Mike Pence a cross between Elmer Gantry and Uriah Heep. I see the two and raise to a Dante sycophant and Shakespeare’s Cassius.

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Sending Students Out into the World

On Saturday at our commencement ceremony, I read C. P. Cavafy’s poem “Ithaka.” It was a great selection for a number of reasons.

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Hidden in the Dust: Clusters of Roses

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, American Islam’s poet laureate, captures the passionate love for God that Ramadan supports.

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In Lit, Who Best Represents Each Job?

I present the best literary representatives–at least imo-of a range of professions.

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How Fantasy Keeps Us Human

Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett are beloved fantasy writers because they stand up for our humanity in dehumanizing times.

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Will “The Fat Man” Sell Out Jared?

Sounding like a character in “The Maltese Falcon,” Rudy Giuliani declared that Jared Kushner is “disposable.”

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Are Blogging Scholars a Step Forward?

Is academic blogging good or bad for blogging? A podcast run by my two sons discusses the issue.

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Trump, Like Macbeth, Does Murder Sleep

“Macbeth,” a psychological study of a tyrant, also illumines aspects of Donald Trump.

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Authentic Awareness vs. Reason

In Nicole Krauss’s “Dark Forest,” we see a character’s hunger for magic and mystery and her battle with Enlightenment Reason.

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Which Fictional Death Still Haunts You?

In which I try to answer the question, “Which fictional death are you still not over?” Tess Durbeyfield tops my list.

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Browning Describes Incel’s Misogyny

The Toronto van murderer claims to have been an “incel” (involuntary celibate) who acted out his rage against women. He resembles the creepy speaker in Robert Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover.”

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Once More into a War, Dear Friends

Over the weekend, Trump’s new National Security Adviser sent strong signals that he wants a war with Iran. Shakespeare’s Henry V had similar advisers.

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Inducting Students into an Honor Society

Our English Department’s Sigma Tau Delta induction ceremony included passages from Willa Cather, Shakespeare, and Emily Dickinson.

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  • 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.

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