Category Archives: Uncategorized

Most Impactful Books for Every Country

For fun, someone has created a map in which the most impactful works of literature are shown for almost every country in the world. Many of the selections are debatable but the map is good for starting conversations.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lit, An Antidote to Authoritarianism

Literature’s universalism functions as an antidote to the exclusionary politics of figures like Donald Trump and Marine LePen.

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

Freikorps Fantasies and Trump’s Policies

David Brooks of “The New York Times” wonders whether Donald Trump’s policy preferences all come down to a preference for masculine hard over feminine soft. Klaus Theweleit’s study of fascist fantasies in the 1920’s describes such tendencies.

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

Not a Reader (and Proud of It)

What do a president’s reading habits say about his/her vision of America? Obama’s celebration of a diverse America is the vision of a voracious reader. Trump’s shallow narrative is the vision of one who doesn’t read.

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

Obama Calls Upon Us To Be Wiglaf

Putting the president’s farewell address last night in terms of Beowulf, Obama was calling upon us to be Wiglaf. Wiglaf is Beowulf’s nephew who, after having lived a comfortable life during Beowulf’s reign, realizes that Beowulf can’t solve all his problems. He must step up himself to save the country from the dragon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

My Next Project: How Lit Changed History

I lay out the parameters of my current book project, “How Literature Changed Western History.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For the Final, We Shall Be Tested on Love

Thomas Centolella applies the language of testing to love in this witty and moving poem.

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

Good Readers Make Good Presidents

Continuing with the favorite literature of our presidents, here is Eisenhower through Obama.

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

Looking Back: Trump & Clinton in Lit

I look back at all the literary comparisons I’ve made for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over the past year and bring you the list.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nobel Laureate Wrote Archetypal Ballads

Among Nobel laureate Bob Dylan’s notable accomplishments is the ability to write archetypal ballads like “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A Pure Heart To Speak without Fear

Spiritual Sunday, Anticipating Yom Kippur I have been reading up on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement when Jews gather to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. Yesterday I came across Avodah: Ancient Poems for Yom Kippur. “Avodah” is the name of the Yom Kippur service. According to editors and translators Michael D. Swartz […]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Selling Your Child on Idealism

Should parents, knowing what the world is like, encourage their children’s idealism. Maggie Smith takes on this question in an entertaining poem.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Is Your City Dying? Bring in Poets

James Fallows of “The Atlantic,” visiting decaying cities that have turned themselves around, discovered that the arts, including literature, have played a key role in the transformations.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Powerful Stories Change Lives

The Bible is powerful in large part because of its gripping stories. Sir Philip in his “Defense of Poesy” uses the story of King David and the Prophet Nathan to argue for “poetical invention.” There is a truth that goes deeper than factual truth.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Simple Creed: Man’s Duty to Man

This poem about the Good Samaritan by Australian working class author Henry Lawson depicts the Samaritan as a figure from the outback.

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

Envy, the Sin That Blinds

In this week’s poker essay by novelist Rachel Kranz, envy is described as the one deadly sin that gives no pleasure at all.

Also posted in Kranz (Rachel) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Push a Button, Get a Free Short Story

Grenoble, France now has vending machines that dispense free short stories.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Diana Wynne Jones’s Feminist Fantasy

Diana Wynne Jones’s “Fire and Hemlock” draws on the Tam Lin story to give women a model for heroism that counters the role assigned to them in traditional fairy tales.

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

Fantasy Lit Changes How We Behave

A fascinating conference essay on “The Fantasy Reader: An Empirical Sociological Approach” looked at the different ways that fantasy literature can tangibly impact our lives.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Bernie Is Peter Pan, Hillary Is Wendy

Bernie Sanders is the adventurous Peter Pan, Hillary Clinton is the cautious and pragmatic Wendy. Which candidate you prefer may be related to which character you like better.

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

I Will Survive…by Reading Novels

Fiction is a survival tool according to an article in “The Chronicle of Higher Education.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Literature and Climate Change

Thoughts about the genre label “cli-fi” and an annotated list of past posts about literature and climate change.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Lit Is Aristotelian Road to Happiness

Psychologists say that a strong sense of narrative identity can lead to the profound sense of happiness described by Aristotle. Literature helps us make sure we have available to us the best narratives.

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

Lit, an Antidote to Dehumanizing Media

The mass media, Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard complains, creates a remoteness from reality. Literature overcomes this remoteness by dissolving the distance between author and reader.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

For a Rich Life, Read Widely and Freely

Literature impacts our lives but the influence is best if we read a wide variety of works. Limiting ourselves to just a few authors can warp us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Literature as a Basis for Social Change

Italian activist Antonio Gramsci believed that the common people have an unconscious philosophy that, if harnessed, can become the basis for social change. I argue that they also have unconscious literary taste that can also be harnessed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Lit Classics, Our Most Valuable Friends

Wayne Booth compares our relationship with books to our relationships with friends. Just as we can judge whether a friendship is good for us, so can we do so with a literary work.

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

Does Studying Lit Truly Change Things?

Some claims for literature’s power have been inflated, such as those of F. R. Leavis, and sometimes lit has failed to change bad people. Still, it can play an important role in our lives.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Aslan and Cecil the Lion’s Death

The death of Cecil the Lion conjures up images of Aslan in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and of the lion in Ernest Hemingway’s “Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”

Also posted in Hemingway (Ernest), Lewis (C. S.) | 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 Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poetry Comforts the Mentally Disabled

This “New York Times” article describes how poetry came to the aid of a man with schizoaffective disorder. It also aided his therapist.

Posted in Uncategorized | 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