Category Archives: Uncategorized

Good Readers Make Good Presidents

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

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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.

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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.”

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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 […]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Push a Button, Get a Free Short Story

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

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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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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.

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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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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.

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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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  • 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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