Author Archives: Robin Bates

Resisting the Witchery of Nuclear Warfare

Today Barack Obama will be the first American president to visit Hiroshima. Laguna Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko has an explanation for the development of the bomb: witches.

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Defending the Canon vs. New Attacks

Yale English majors have been complaining about requiring them to study canonical writers. Here’s is why they are wrong.

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Pope Foresaw GOP Capitulation to Trump

Alexander Pope warned, in “Essay on Man” that vice loses its ugliness once it becomes familiar. This is the danger we face with the normalization of Donald Trump.

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Hillary Clinton as Emma Woodhouse

Hillary Clinton shares certain characteristics with Emma Woodhouse. (And far fewer with Lady Macbeth.)

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Using Lit to Discover Purpose in Science

My Intro to Literature students, few of whom are English majors, are often startled to discover that literature understands them better than they understand themselves. Today’s post describes the encounters between two science majors and, respectively, Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality” and Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior.”

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Crohn’s Disease and the Mariner’s Agony

A student with Crohn’s disease found a kindred soul in Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.

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Trollope & Trump’s Willing Enablers

Trollope describes gentry who enable to a scandalous financier in “The Way We Live Now.” Parallels can be drawn with those members of the GOP who are reconciling with Donald Trump.

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Lily, Achilles, Bertha & Ishmael on Vacation

Lily Bart, Bertha Mason, Achilles, Ishmael and Queequeg all go on vacation. Where do they go?

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Trump’s Use of the Homeric Epithet

Donald Trump is making regular use of “the Homeric epithet.” He doesn’t use it as well as Homer, however.

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Nature and “My Babe So Beautiful”

I saw my latest grandchild for the first time yesterday. Although it was beautiful spring day, Coleridge’s beautiful “Frost at Midnight” came to mind. That’s because the poet imagines “the great universal teacher” imparting a spirit of inquiry to his infant son.

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How To Pin Down Protean Donald Trump

Trying to pin down Donald Trump is like trying to pin down Proteus. But maybe that means that reporters can use the same tactics that Menelaus does to capture the sea god.

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All Around Me Crimson Petals

My former student Clare Hogan wrote a number of “ecstasy poems” for her senior project. This one about Joan of Arc is particularly compelling.

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How Trump Is Changing the Discourse

Adam Gopnik of “New Yorker” and Andrew Sullivan of “New York” are very, very frightened by the rise of Trump. As they explain why, they quote Tom Stoppard, Sinclair Lewis, Mark Twain, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Plato.

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Crown My Head with Ample Square-Cap

Christopher Smart’s “On Taking a Bachelor’s Degree” is deliberately excessively self-congratulatory. Still, students should feel proud of themselves for graduating.

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#NeverTrump! Never! Never! Never! Never?

Many who vowed NeverTrump are backing away from the word “never.” “Never” is an important word in “King Lear” and Lear, unlike Lear’s opponents, doesn’t back away from it.

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Time for GOP Moderates To Go to Ground?

As the GOP reels in the wake of Trump’s victory, it might want to model itself on Edgar in “King Lear.”

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Now, Gods, Stand Up for Trump!

When traditional institutions like the government or the Supreme Court are undermined, the way is cleared for the rise of liar like Trump.

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Offer Healing to Every House You Enter

Mother’s Day this year has taken on special meaning as my 94-year-old mother passed away yesterday. This Julia Kasdorf poem captures what Jeanette Miksch passed along to my own Julia.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Donald Trump

Czech author Milan Kundera warned about how dictatorships thrive off of our forgetting. In a “Rolling Stone” article, Charlie Pierce argues that forgetting has led to the rise of Donald Trump.

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Hillary & the Pressure To Be a Cool Girl

Understanding the popularity of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” amongst young women helps explain the mixed feelings about Hillary Clinton. She’s not a “cool girl.” But this is actually good.

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Trump and Gazing into the Abyss

Ted Cruz said that, if Donald Trump is the GOP nominee, we would be gazing into the abyss. For what this would be like, I turn to Milton, an expert on abysses.

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In Memory of Daniel Berrigan

Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit activist and poet, died this past Saturday. His “A Dark Word” is a fitting way to note his passing.

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Ted Cruz as Lucifer, “Squat Like a Toad”

After John Boehner compared Sen. Ted Cruz to Lucifer, I went looking through “Paradise Lost” to find passages that would apply. If found a particularly good one but, if you ask me, Cruz more resembles Blifil, Tom Jones’s nemesis.

Posted in Fielding (Henry), Milton (John), Shakespeare (William), Stoker (Bram) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Am the Dance and the Dance Goes On

At my eldest son’s funeral 16 years ago we sang “The Lord of the Dance.” Justin was a joyous dancer and I imagine him dancing somewhere, in some plane, whenever I hear the hymn.

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Fencing People Out & Spiritual Desolation

In her novel “Ceremony,” Leslie Marmon Silko has a vision of spiritual desolation caused when we build fences to keep other people out.

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Fantasy To Cope with Adult Pressures

James Barrie’s “Peter and Wendy” was forged out of the intense resentment of a boy who was forced to grow up too early.

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Euripides Explains Anti-LGBTQ Votes

The North Carolina state legislature recently passed anti-LBGTQ legislation which, among other things, forbids transgender individuals from using the bathrooms of their chosen gender identity. Euripides provides some insight into hostility against crossdressers in “The Bacchae.”

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A Kind of Light Spread Out from Her

John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” contributed to the naming of my latest granddaughter.

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Harriet Tubman Didn’t Take No Stuff

In honor of Harriet Tubman as the first woman and first African American to appear on U.S. currency, here are poems honoring her by Eloise Greenfield and Lucille Clifton.

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Death & Miracles & Stars without Number

In Norman Finkelstein’s account of the Passover, death and miracles are bound up together. It is an uneasy combination, calling upon us to look at our own complicity in the world’s evils.

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In One of the Stars, Prince Will Be Living

A passage from Saint-Exupéry’s “Little Prince” provides an appropriate eulogy for Prince, the rock musician who died yesterday at 59.

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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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