Author Archives: Robin Bates

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.

Posted in Chaucer (Geoffrey) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Swift Predicted Trump’s Lies

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

Posted in Milton (John), Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

White House Assaulters & Goblin Market

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

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

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.

Posted in Burt (John) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Morrison (Toni) | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Salinger (J. D.), Tolkien (J.R.R.) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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?

Posted in Doyle (Arthur Conan) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eagles’ Win Was Like a Thunderbolt

A Tennyson poem to toast the Super Bowl champs.

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

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.

Posted in Rushdie (Salman) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

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.

Posted in Garcia Marquez (Gabriel) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Dickinson (Emily), Szymborska (Wislawa) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Atwood (Margaret) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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 […]

Posted in Dante, Diaz (Junot), Morrison (Toni) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Find a Paradise Within, Happier Far

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

Posted in Milton (John) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wordsworth Changed How We See Nature

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

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

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.

Posted in Garcia Marquez (Gabriel) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in LeGuin (Ursula K.) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How Atwood Rescued This Single Mom

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

Posted in Atwood (Margaret) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Shafak (Elif) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Always Overflowing Sea

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

Posted in Neruda (Pablo) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frodo as Newly Minted PhD

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

Posted in Tolkien (J.R.R.) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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


  • 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