Author Archives: Robin Bates

An ABC of Our Attack on the Earth

In his “ABC of Radical Ecology,” Scott Bates sets forth an alphabet primer for various environmental ills.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The End of Summer

As we look back at the summer that is coming to an end, did we lose ourselves in a time of innocence or did we worry that time was passing too fast? This Rachel Hadas poem suspects the second.

Posted in Hadas (Rachel) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Why It’s Good To Offend Students

An entering Duke student has refused to read Alison Bechdel’s “Fun House.” A professor comes partially to his defense.

Posted in Bechdel (Alison), Brecht (Bertolt), Kafka (Franz) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sacks & the Bard’s Midsummer Madness

The late Oliver Sacks’s observations on the mind sometimes sound a lot like Shakespeare in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Tempest.”

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

He Doth Sit By Us and Moan

Last week I was honored by my friend Jean Yeatman when she asked me to sit with her at her mother’s deathbed. We talked about childhood excursions that our families took together and also about the importance of ritual in our lives. Today’s William Blake poem is for her and her brother Clay. Blake finds […]

Posted in Blake (William) | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

All the Devils of Hell Unleashed by Katrina

The panic of New Orleans 9th Ward residents ten years ago is reminiscent of the passengers on board the ship in Shakespeare’s “Tempest”: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here!”

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump as Frankenstein’s Monster

What is it about Donald Trump that brings out the literary analogies? First a Salon columnist compared him to Odysseus’s Cyclops, then the New Yorker’s John Cassidy saw him as Gulliver, and most recently Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and others have compared him to Frankenstein’s monster. I’ve written about the Cyclops parallel here, but let’s take […]

Posted in Shelley (Mary), Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pleasure of a Pathless Wood

For Americans, wilderness is a more unkempt affair than it for Europeans.

Posted in Byron (Lord Gordon), Longfellow (Henry Wadsworth), Pope (Alexander) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trollope and Patriarchal Marriage

My portraying traditional Victorian marriages, Anthony Trollope exposes the pathologies that came with them.

Posted in Trollope (Anthony) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Please Go Gentle into That Good Night

Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle” can be read as a narcissistic desire by young people that their elders will go out on young people’s terms.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher), Thomas (Dylan), Tolstoy (Leo) | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

ISIS and the Grand Inquisitor

Dostoevsky may provide a compelling explanation for the recruiting success of ISIS: young people want to escape from freedom.

Posted in Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Houellebecq (Michel) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Herbert & Bronte on Spiritual Restlessness

St. Augustine, George Herbert, and Charlotte Bronte all write about spiritual restlessness.

Posted in Augustine, Bronte (Charlotte), Herbert (George) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump, Lucille Clifton, & Menstruation

Donald Trump assumed that Fox’s Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she aggressively asked him questions. Aside from his sexism, we should listen to Lucille Clifton, who points out how impressively women function even when they are having their periods.

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

A Tolstoy Fable about Radical Empathy

Tolstoy’s story “Esarhaddon” captures a common wish fulfillment of the powerless–that the oppressor see the world through the eyes of the oppressed.

Posted in Tolstoy (Leo) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Attn: English Majors–Business Needs You

Increasingly businesses are discovering that they need employees who have majored in English and the humanities.

Posted in Wallace (David Foster) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fox, Like Odysseus, Tries to Gouge Trump

A Salon columnist compares Trump to the Cyclops in “The Odyssey.” He has a point.

Posted in Homer | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dying and a Night Powdered with Stars

Oliver Sacks, as he is dying, shares Milton’s wonder at a night sky “powdered with stars.”

Posted in Milton (John) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Inner City: Stay or Leave?

How do we get young people to stay in the inner city and make it a better place? Baldwin’s “Sonny Blues” gives us a sense of what is possible.

Posted in Baldwin (James) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Weed’s Zen Acceptance of Fate

If you’re hostile towards garden weeds these days, here’s a very Zen-like Scott Bates poem from a weed’s point of view. Or maybe it’s an existentialist parable about free will.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Read Poems for Life w/o Boundaries

U. S. Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, in “Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings,” holds up poetry as far superior to consumer society. A poem is “a way to attain a life without boundaries.”

Posted in Herrera (Juan Felipe) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mood Swings: Inside Out, Rape of the Lock

“Inside Out” has a lot in common with Pope’s “Rape of the Lock.” Both show us the interior drama of their heroines. In both works, the heroines lose touch with their upbeat helpers.

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

Look Down on Us Who Journey by Night

Alfred Noyes’s “Night Journey” looks to God to find hope in the night.

Posted in Noyes (Alfred) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s Eulogy & Beloved’s Baby Suggs

Commentator Melissa Harris-Perry quoted from “Beloved” following Obama’s Charleston eulogy. The passage she chose helps explain the power of the speech.

Posted in Morrison (Toni) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Plato Anxious about Lit’s Pyschic Impact

Plato’s complaints about literature show up in censorship battles today. They testify to power of literature to invite imitation.

Posted in Aeschylus, Hesiod, Homer, Plato | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wicked Witch, Disillusioned Dreamer

Gregory Maguire’s novel “Wicked,” like versions of the Oz story before it, wrestles with the death of the American Dream.

Posted in Gregory Maguire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Justice Scalia, Blind Like Pentheus

Scalia attacking his fellow SCOTUS justices sounds like Pentheus excoriating Teiresias and Cadmus in “The Bacchae.” Unlike Scalia’s fellow justices, Teiresias gives as good as he gets.

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

The Bard Endorsed Same Sex Marriage

In “Twelfth Night,” 400 years before Obergefell v. Hodges, Shakespeare dreamed of same sex marriage. He would have been celebrating Friday after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage.

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

No Room in This House for Two “I”s

A Rumi parable speaks to the recent killings in Kuwait City and Charleston. It shares certain themes with Barack Obama’s Friday eulogy to Reverend Pinckney.

Posted in Rumi | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Poetry Enlarges the Moral Imagination

Shelley’s “Defence of Poetry” makes one of the strongest cases in history for how poetry changes the world.

Posted in Shelley (Percy) | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Plato’s Warning: Beware of Poets

While Plato advocated banning poets from the ideal republic, his censure works as an indirect testimony to literature’s power.

Posted in Plato | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fear of Not Reading All We Should

Many readers have they anxiety that they haven’t read all the books they should have. Bibliotherapists claim that they can offer relief.

Posted in Woolf (Virginia) | 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