Author Archives: Robin Bates

Satan and Trump, Gifted Demagogues

Satan in “Paradise Lost” is a gifted leader who manipulates people for his own selfish ends–like a certain American president.

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Is Sexist Lit Gaslighting Women?

A Guardian article argues that critical praise for sexist male authors valorizes patriarchal attitudes.

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Yet Mine It Was To Call

A lovely poem about John the Baptist by an obscure poet speaks up for those who serve in anonymity.

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NRA Uber Alles

Scott Bates “unloads” on the NRA in a poem which never goes out of date.

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The Joker (Trump) Takes Over America

Rushdie compares Donald Trump to Joker in his latest novel.

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Leaders Who Make Their Own Reality

What to make of Trump’s non-stop lying? Rushdie in “Midnight’s Chidren” describes what happens when “reality quite literally cease[s] to exist.”

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Chaucer Invented St. Valentine’s Day

Chaucer may have invented St. Valentine’s Day as we have come to know it. “Parliament of Fowls” was written to celebrate the occasion, along with a royal wedding.

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Swift Predicted Trump’s Lies

Swift anticipated Donald Trump in his essay on “Political Lying.”

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White House Assaulters & Goblin Market

“Goblin Market” seems only to relevant these days given the violence against women incidents emerging from the White House.

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The Wind Is Awake (But Will You Stir?)

John Burt’s poem “On the Will to Believe” sets us up nicely for Lent, a season when we wrestle with our doubts.

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Like Sula, Trump Unites Old Opponents

Trump has brought liberals and center-right Republicans together in a way resembling how Sula unites the town in Toni Morrison’s novel. So what will happen after Trump leaves the stage.

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Reading My Way to Adulthood

As an adolescent, I used fantasy in an attempt to hold on to my childhood innocence and hated “Catcher in the Rye.” Little did I realize that Salinger’s novel describes my struggle.

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English, a More Practical Major than STEM

A recent study by Google of its 72,000 employees discovered that humanities training is more beneficial than STEM.

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Trump Drama as Sherlock Mystery

Trump and the Russian investigation resemble the Sherlock Holmes story “The Five Pips.” But is Trump the secret society doing the killing or the panicked uncle marked out for slaughter?

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Eagles’ Win Was Like a Thunderbolt

A Tennyson poem to toast the Super Bowl champs.

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Caught between Faith and Doubt

Rushdie has a great passage about a character caught between faith and doubt. The passage gives me an opportunity to determine where I myself stand.

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we have always loved each other

Ushering in Black History Month with a lovely Lucille Clifton poem about the need to keep believing in oneself.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 […]

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How To Find a Paradise Within, Happier Far

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

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Wordsworth Changed How We See Nature

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

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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.

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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.

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How Atwood Rescued This Single Mom

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

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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.

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The Always Overflowing Sea

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

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Frodo as Newly Minted PhD

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

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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.”

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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.

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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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