Author Archives: Robin Bates

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

God’s Word, the Ultimate Poetry

Poet Jeanne Walker riffs off the opening passage of the Book of John to compare poetic creation to the coming of new truth.

Posted in Walker (Jeanne Murray) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Year in GOP Soul Selling

This blog’s “post of the year” compared the GOP’s embrace of Trump to Faustus selling his soul to the devil.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Poems for Resisting Trump

New York columnist Roger Cohen suggests two poems for resisting Trumpism: “if” and “Harlem.”

Posted in Hughes (Langston), Kipling (Rudyard) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#MeToo: A New Day for Cassandra

The prophetess Cassandra wasn’t listened to, but the #MeToo movement is changing that.

Posted in Aeschylus | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does the GOP Love Big Brother?

Do Congressional Republicans flatter Trump Goneril-like out of convenience or do they “love Big Brother”? Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor may hold the key.

Posted in Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Melville (Herman), Orwell (George), Wells (H. G.) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Was with Me in the Night

May Sarton’s imagines love without weight in her poem “Christmas Light.”

Posted in Sarton (May) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Came Down at Christmas

People ask for physical miracles so that they may believe. Christina Rossetti points out that Jesus gave us something far more miraculous: divine love.

Posted in Rossetti (Christina) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fantasy: GOP Tax Plan in a People’s Court

“The Madwoman of Chaillot’s” caricature is only to apt of a political party that would pass such a regressive tax plan.

Posted in Giraudoux (Jean) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Novel that Upended the USSR

Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” so effectively aided Khrushchev’s destalinization project that it would be banned by Brezhnev.

Posted in Solzhenitsyn | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Graded Essays Are Like Chopped Wood

If you are a teacher swamped by end-of-term essays, Frost’s “Woodpile” has some good advice for you.

Posted in Frost (Robert) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Recovering from the Semester

After an exhausting semester, I feel like Tennyson’s Arthur after his final battle. I’m spending my winter break with my wife and my mother in Sewanee, Tennessee, my version of Avalon.

Posted in Tennyson (Alfred Lord) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Trump, Pale Ravener of Horrible Meat

Melville is famous for exploiting and then casting off advisors. Perhaps they resemble the pilot fish in Herman Melville’s “The Maldive Shark.”

Posted in Melville (Herman) | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Walking Down the Saddest City Lane

In which I read Robert Frost’s “I Have Been Acquainted with the Night” as an Advent poem.

Posted in Auden (W. H.), Frost (Robert) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gawain, Trump and Shame

Trump and Sir Gawain respond in opposite ways to shame: Trump counterattacks by acting shamelessly while Gawain lets it tie him into knots.

Posted in Sir Gawain Poet | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump & GOP as Shakespearean Drama

To see the decline of the GOP as a Shakespeare drama, one must draw on “Macbeth,” “Hamlet,,” “Henry IV,” and “King Lear.” And throw in Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus.”

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | 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