Category Archives: Melville (Herman)

Does the GOP Love Big Brother?

Do Congressional Republicans flatter Trump Goneril-like out of convenience or do they “love Big Brother”? Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor may hold the key.

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Trump, Pale Ravener of Horrible Meat

Melville is famous for exploiting and then casting off advisors. Perhaps they resemble the pilot fish in Herman Melville’s “The Maldive Shark.”

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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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Poetry Helped Feed Robert E. Lee Myth

Herman Melville and Julie Ward Howe, although anti-slavery, unfortunately wrote poems which helped mythologize Robert E. Lee, whose statues have become symbols of white supremacy. And indeed, Lee was a white supremacist.

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Bob Dylan, Gifted Storyteller

Bob Dylan, in his Nobel Acceptance Speech, made it clear that literary influences are as big in his song writing as musical influences.

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2016’s Top Story–Trump, Trump, Trump

Looking back of 2016, I choose three posts that stood out to me, all dealing with Trump. One compares him to Satan inspiring the invasion of Earth by Sin and Death in “Paradise Lost.” The other two compare him to Herman Melville’s “Confidence Man” and to the narrator’s son in the Raymond Carver short story “Why, Honey?”

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#TrumpBookReports (in 140 characters)

For laughs, check out #TrumpBookReport on twitter. I’ve gathered some of the best renditions of Trump reviewing the classics.

Also posted in Bemelmans (Ludwig), Bronte (Charlotte), Bronte (Emily), Carroll (Lewis), Cervantes (Miguel de), Dickens (Charles), Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Dr. Seuss, Hawthorne (Nathaniel), Hemingway (Ernest), Homer, Hugo (Victor), Lee (Harper), Lewis (C. S.), Milne (A. A.), Rowling (J. K.), Salinger (J. D.), Shakespeare (William), Silverstein (Shel), Steinbeck (John), Stowe (Harriet Beecher), Styron (William), Tolstoy (Leo) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ahab Obsession and the Clintons

The right wing’s obsession with the Clinton has prompted one pundit to invoke Ahab’s obsession with Moby Dick.

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On Forgetting Old Students

Sometimes as teachers we forget students that we impacted greatly. Thomas Hardy’s Jude learns this when he looks up his old teacher Phillotson.

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Trump as Melville’s Confidence Man

Why, in the words of Nicholas Kristof, do we think of Hillary as “a slippery, compulsive liar” and Donald Trump as “a gutsy truth-teller.” Herman Melville gives us a compelling explanation in “The Confidence Man.”

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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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Political Consultants Should Read Lit

Which literary works would you recommend to a political consultant to stay in touch with his or her soul and avoid becoming lost in the dark side? How about Hawthorne, Melville, Shakespeare, Pinter, and Terrence McNally?

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Whitman, Melville & Abolitionism

Walt Whitman and Herman Melville’s revolutionary visions of egalitarian societies shaped how Abolitionists thought about America’s potential.

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An Ideal Place to Study Lit

A summer institute where one buries oneself in books is my version of James Hilton’s Shangri-La.

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Benito Cereno on War, Racism

A story of two students who found themselves using “Benito Cereno” to sort through two of the biggest issues that Americans face.

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Chris Andersen as Queequeg

The Miami Heat’s Chris Andersen is an existentialist enigma that could come straight out of “Moby Dick.”

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Melville and Climate Change Denial

Melville’s “Benito Cereno” perfectly captures Rightwing denial of climate change.

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Melville’s Parable of American Denial

Melville’s “Benito Cereno” captures the contradictions of today’s conservative extremists.

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Beards Win Big–Melville Would Approve

Herman Melville would have approved of the Boston Red Sox and the beards.

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Lit’s Ten Most Sensitive Guys

To match my 10 strongest literary women characters, here are my 10 most sensitive male characters.

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Does Moby Dick Await Us?

Is America headed for the same fate as the Pequod?

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No More Privacy–And We Don’t Care

We no longer fiercely guide our privacy, as did the worlds of Austen, Trollope, Thoreau, and Melville.

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Lamentation and Weeping in Newtown

The Sandy Hook killings recall the Biblical massacre of the innocents, referenced in “Moby Dick.”

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Defeating the White Whale of Race Hatred

With a little imagination, “Moby Dick” can be dramatized as a story about race relations.

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Campaign 2012: Assorted Lit Allusions

Literary allusions are flying fast and free in this primary season.

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Bartleby, A Story of (Occupy) Wall Street

Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” has been adopted by a number of the Occupy Wall Street protesters but, according to one commentator, the story works as an ironic commentary on the movement.

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Captain Ahab, a Tyrant for All Seasons

Nathaniel Philbrick describes “Moby Dick” as a “metaphysical survival manual” which helps us understand the nature of tyrants.

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Mold Causing Problems? Bring in a Ship

Our students, displaced by mold, are being housed in a cruise ship. A campus production of “As You Like It” may have given administrators the idea.

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Bartleby and the Missing Professor

One of the strangest reading stories I have ever encountered involves an English professor who mysteriously disappeared and Melville’s novella Bartleby the Scrivener.

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Peyton Manning as Moby Dick?!

Sports Saturday In anticipation of football’s “Wild Card Weekend,” which begins today, I see that a sports writer has invoked Herman Melville’s masterpiece. Dan Graziano believes that Indianapolis Colt quarterback Peyton Manning has become Rex Ryan’s Moby Dick. He has beaten the New York Jets coach so many times that Ryan has become obsessed with […]

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Barack and Huck, Babo, Hamlet, etc.

I’m fascinated by the way that literature has helped shape and guide different American president, a subject I’ve written about in the past. Thus I was thrilled to stumble across a Barack Obama reading list compiled shortly after his inauguration. I don’t know how I missed it. According to the website The Curious Autodidact (great […]

Also posted in Augustine, Bible, Doctorow (E. L.), Hughes (Langston), Jefferson (Thomas), Malcolm X, Nietzsche (Friedrich), Twain (Mark), Uris (Leon), Warren (Robert Penn) | Tagged , , | Comments closed


  • 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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