Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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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.

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I Will Survive…by Reading Novels

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

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Literature and Climate Change

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Poetry that Reclaims Women’s Bodies

A former student, in her senior project, used feminist poems as the basis for art workshops designed to help women feel better about their bodies.

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Does Lit Blind As Well as Enlighten?

Novelist Rachel Kranz argues that great literature does not only enlighten. It can also keep us from seeing certain possibilities.

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The Journey of the Reader Hero

Reading literature can be compared to Joseph Campbell’s “Journey of the Hero.”

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The Cross Recounts the Crucifixion

“Dream of the Rood” tells the story of the crucifixion from the cross’ point of view.

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Spend Valentine’s Day with a Novel

As you look ahead to Valentine’s Day tomorrow, consider which literary character you would most like to pair up with.

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Can Lit Make the Rich More Empathetic?

With growing income disparity comes a decline in empathy. Literature can help rebuild our compassion.

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And God Said, “That’s Good”

James Weldon Johnson’s version of the Genesis creation story accords with some contemporary theological theories of God.

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Sports Saturday has been suspended. I will continue to blog from time to time on sports and sports-related issues  but there will no longer be a special Saturday feature.

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The Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge

The Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge is attracting some of my students.

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Belichick Ranks with Lit’s Great Plotters

Coach Bill Belichick resembles the nefarious plotters in such works as “Portrait of a Lady” and “Liaisons Dangereuses.”

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Often Goes Christ in a Stranger’s Guise

Here’s an old Gaelic poem that captures the spirit of the president’s recent decision to grant relief to the undocumented parents of American citizens.

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A Writer Walks into a Starbucks…

Literary Starbucks is an entertain blog that imagines different authors and characters ordering coffee.

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Using Kipling to Voice Despair

Roger Cohen of the New York Times turns to a Kipling poem to express his despair about the world.

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Are College Students Sheep?

William Deresiewicz’s recent book “Excellent Sheep” may make the same mistake as other books about college: generalize about students.

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Is Poetry in Decline? Nope

A New York Times columnist laments the decline of poetry. Here’s why he’s full of it.

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How to Compile a Summer Reading List

Any reading list will be to some extent arbitrary. Here are some thoughts about compiling such a list.

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Haikus Make Econ Less Dismal

Haiku competitions in economics classes can get students engaged in the otherwise dry subject matter.

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Websites for Literature Lovers

I’m currently inundated with students essays and so am not posting an essay today, referring you instead to Flavor Wire’s “25 Best Websites for Literature Lovers.” (Thanks to Rachel Kranz for alerting me to it.) Some of these websites I visit regularly (like the New Yorker’s “Page Turner”) and some I’m learning about for the […]

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In Defense of Arcane Scholarship

Disciplines may engage in arcane language but they provide the foundation out of which exciting insights emerge.

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How Is Lit Useful? Let Me Count the Ways

A recent issue of “New Literary History” explores a number of ways that literature is useful.

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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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