Author Archives: Robin Bates

The Dark Jinn Invade America

Salman Rushdie’s “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” helps explain how Trump came to power. Blame it on a longing for dark fantasy.

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My “Last Lecture”

I share here my “last lecture” from my retirement ceremony. (But rest assured: I will not be retiring from this blog.)

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When Science Clips an Angel’s Wings

Scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins disagrees with Keats and Poe in their attacks on science. I think he loses the argument.

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Senior Projects and Alice’s Rabbit Hole

I compare senior theses to Alice falling down a rabbit hole. But not in the way you think.

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Literature Has Paul Ryan’s Number

Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Chinua Achebe, John Milton, and Thomas Hardy see through men like departing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

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Ferreting Out White House Corruption

Salman Rushdie’s fantasy about genii attacking the earth contains a fantasy that is very topical: a “storm baby” who can root out graft.

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The Stories We Tell Our Robots

My sons have a podcast–“The Stories We Tell Our Robots”–which links literature with such developments as bitcoin, chatbots, airline pricing, and the like. Their rating system ranges from utopia to apocalypse.

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Reading, Better than Juvie

When high school vandals defaced a historic black church, an enlightened judge ordered them to read books and report on them.

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A Vast Unfolding Design Lit by a Risen Sun

Denise Levertov’s magnificent poem about Doubting Thomas graphically describes the doubts, making the final revelation all the more powerful.

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Weather Report: Death’s Untimely Frost

Having winter intrude upon our spring has me quoting Burns and Shakespeare.

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Can a Dream Hold Us Together?

In “Midnight’s Children,” Rushdie shows the forces destroying India’s dream of national unity. Americans will find it familiar.

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Inspired by MLK and Lucille Clifton

To honor Martin Luther King, I share a hard-hitting but hopeful Lucille Clifton essay by a first-year African-American student who is fulfilling his dream.

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Happiness Based on Another’s Oppression

To understand why the race card is so politically effective, reading Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

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Roy Cohn, Trump’s Mentor

A revival of “Angels in America” reminds us of the vicious lawyer who mentored Donald Trump. Yet the play is optimistic for all that.

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Love, the Lesson which the Lord Us Taught

Edmund Spenser joyfully welcomes in Easter, proclaiming “Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.”

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The Bloody Flesh Our Only Food

I share a Good Friday poem by T. S. Eliot and a Passover poem by Norman Finkelstein.

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The Origins of Crazy U.S. Work Ethic

New interpretation of “Robinson Crusoe” suggests that maybe Puritans not quite so much to blame for America’s insane work ethic as once thought.

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Battered by a Raging Stormy

Stormy Daniels’s power over Donald Trump brings to mind various literary storms, such as Lear’s and those described by Mary Oliver and H.D.

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Bolton’s Preventive War, Greek Style

Incoming national security advisor John Bolton favors preventive war. Euripides describes an egregious act of prevention in the killing of Hector’s child in “The Trojan Women.”

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Children Leading the Way on Gun Control

The young people helping America rediscover decency concerning guns resemble Mary and Colin in “The Secret Garden.”

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Harry’s Lenten Message: Love over Death

Rowling’s “The Deathly Hallows” can be read as a Lenten meditation.

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In Support of Today’s Anti-NRA Marchers

In support of today’s march against the NRA and in support of sensible gun control, I post a powerful anti-NRA poem by Scott Bates.

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Read Your Children Poetry

A middle school teacher describes how he starts every class with a poem. Also, a note on school shootings, this one at a local high school.

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Dead or Alive? Bureaucracy Decides

A Romanian man, presumed dead and unable to convince the authorities otherwise, recalls Doc Daneeka in “Catch 22.”

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When the World Is Mud-Luscious

e. e. cummings ushers in spring with a joyous celebration.

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Trump on a Hot Tin Roof

Trump’s lawyer as compared the FBI to the mendacity that pervades “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” The play applies, all right, but to Trump and Dowd themselves.

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Female Intimacy in Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf may have used “To the Lighthouse” to explore the possibilities of human intimacy.

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Filled with Some Other Power

Denise Levertov’s beautiful poem “The Well” works as a commentary on John’s gospel account of the Samaritan woman at the well.

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Believing in the Great White Race

Teaching Langston Hughes’s “Ku Klux” in Ljubljana prompted the students to think of Europes neo-fascists.

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Grieving for a Loved One

Someone I love very dearly has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I turn to “Sonny’s Blues” and “King Lear” to find adequate words.

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Corruption Starts at the Top

The spread of Trumpian corruption is an instance of the fish rotting from the top. “King Lear” shows this process at work.

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