Author Archives: Robin Bates

Left Behind Evangelicals and Jerusalem

Trump’s disastrous Jerusalem decision may well trace back to the “Left Behind” series, which is popular with his diehard Christian base.

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Robert Mueller as a Savior Ent?

The Russian trolls that interfered with the 2016 election resemble the Orcs attacking Helm’s Deep in “Lord of the Rings.” Do we have a version of the Ents in Robert Mueller to save us?

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Like the Crocus Budding through the Snow

Melville’s “Clarel” wrestles with faith and doubt and whether science can be reconciled with religion. In the end, the poet tells us to look to the heart, a good Advent message.

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Studying for Exams, Risks & Rewards

For all those cramming madly for exams, this “Tom Sawyer” episode is for you.

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Derealized or Appareled in Celestial Light?

Wordsworth arrived at the underlying idea of “Intimations of Immortality” from a childhood experience that sounds like what psychology now calls depersonalization-derealization disorder.

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Euripides’s Attack on Authoritarianism

It’s possible to read “The Bacchae” as a critique of the autocrats who hijacked Athenian democracy and were running Athens into the ground.

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Nature Lit Has Healed for Centuries

For years my Intro to Lit class has had a nature theme.

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GOP Tax Plan and the Invisible Man

If the GOP tax plan panders to the wealthiest Americans, maybe it’s because they are like H.G. Wells’s Invisible Man and believe they can act with impunity.

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Margaret Atwood’s Green Christians

Margaret Atwood imagines a cult of green Christians in “Year of the Flood.”

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Why Streetcar Didn’t Impress Women

When “Streetcar Named Desire” was first staged, male reviewers thrilled to the way Stanley dominated Blanche. Reviewer Mary McCarthy was less impressed.

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Dorian Gray Was Social Dynamite

Oscar Wilde’s accusers but him in jail, but they were right about one thing: “Picture of Dorian Gray” is social dynamite.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder, Trump Supporter

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s romance with the west turned dark during the Great Depression, anticipating many of today’s Trump voters.

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Literature That Caused a Commotion

I list my student Senior Seminar projects, which examine literary works that caused a stir and try to figure out why.

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Robert Mueller, the Eye of Sauron

Comedian Seth Meyers recently compared Robert Mueller’s gaze to the eye of Sauron. No wonder there is panic in the White House.

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Moliere and Religious Hypocrites

Moliere’s “Tartuffe” is a great satire of religious hypocrisy. It also shook up the 17th century French church in other ways and was banned.

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Shakespeare & Sexual Assault Politics

As he demonstrates in “Measure for Measure,” Shakespeare would understand the ins and outs of modern sexual assault politics.

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A Time for Laughter & Sharing of Pleasures

Kahlil Gibran’s “Friendship” makes for a great Thanksgiving poem.

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Note to Men: Face Your Inner Violence

To grapple with the fact of male sexual assault, it helps to have powerful literary explorations. Murakami provides one in “Kafka on the Shore.”

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Chaucer’s Solution for Sexual Assault

What are we to do about all of our sexual assaulters, given that they probably number in the thousands? Chaucer’s Wife of Bath has an answer.

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The Assault on Rand Paul, a Theory

Why did Sen. Rand Paul’s neighbor attack him. Novelist Thomas Berger’s “Neighbors” provides a possible explanation: “sinister banality.”

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The Evangelical Rose Is Sick

Many rightwing evangelicals are selling their souls for Trumpism. William Blake would have something to say about that.

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Brecht Quatrains for Challenging Times

During World War II Bertolt Brecht wrote quatrains that speak powerfully to our own political times.

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A Teacher, Lit, & a Jailed Student

In “Reading with Patrick,” English teacher Michelle Kuo works with a student in 8th grade and then later after he has killed a man. The story brings up questions about lit’s impact.

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Fall, Season for Beautiful Depression

Those suffering from depression will find a kindred spirit in this gorgeous St. Vincent Millay poem about autumn.

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Tess, More Relevant Than Ever

Students find Hardy’s “Tess” to be only too relevant In the age of Trump, Weinstein, and Roy Moore.

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Roy Moore’s Obsession with Lolitas

To understand Judge Roy Moore’s predilection for teenage girls, read “Lolita.” Like Humbert Humbert, Moore is obsessed with purity.

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God’s Prayer to Us: Live Kindly, Live

James Richardson’s poem “Evening Prayer” urges us not to narrowly constrain God within rules but to see God as something greater.

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Twitter: Shorter Is Sweeter

Responses to Twitter increasing its character limit to 240 have often been quite humorous, including some limericks. And speaking of limericks and twitter…

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Hardy Understood Sexual Predators Well

“Tess of the d’Urbervilles” is a prescient account of how sexual predators operate. It is no less relevant today in the age of Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein than it was in 1892.

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Murakami on Ideology’s Hollowness

Murakami’s diatribe against rigid ideologues in “Kafka on the Shore” applies only to well to figures on the American right.

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Lit Encourages World Citizenship

Political identity arguments that demographic groups should stay in their own lanes fail to acknowledge the power of literature to “cross group boundaries,” according to philosopher Martha Nussbaum.

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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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