Tag Archives: Childhood

What Tennis Meant to Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy picked up tennis late in life, even though at one point seeing it as symbolic of bourgeois decadence. A look at the novel “Resurrection” explains why he changed.

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Childhood, Space of Terror & Enchantment

Norman Finkelstein’s wondrous poem “Children’s Realm” (in “The Ratio of Reason to Magic”) examines child’s play spaces and says that the poet also needs play spaces within.

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Fantasy as a Shield against Growing up

Teaching “Peter and Wendy” has given me insights into my father and the uses of fantasy. It can be used to shield one against an intolerable reality.

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Children Lit’s Changing Racial Landscape

My mixed race granddaughters have children’s books with protagonists of color. It’s a far cry from the Dick-Jane-and-Sally books of my childhood and of the reality described by Toni Morrison’s “Bluest Eye.”

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Swimming with the Water Babies

Swimming with my granddaughters put me in mind of Charles Kingsley’s “Water Babies.” Kingsley helped us enter into the rich imaginative lives of children.

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“Is My Son Mad?” Mary Asks

In Thomas Hardy’s version of Mary, she’s a mother wondering whether her son is mad.

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King Looks to Children for Hope

Despite the horrors he describes, Stephen King’s vision is ultimately a hopeful one. The key, as he sees it, is plugging into childhood hopes and imagination.

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Walking Out in the Sun of October

As we enter October, revel in Dylan Thomas’ celebration of the season.

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Angel Infancy

Henry Vaughan’s “The Retreat” believes that children have a special connection with eternity.

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What Rises So Far Above into the Light?

Denise Levertov’s poem about moving amongst tall trees becomes a meditation on life and afterlife.

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Tintin to the Rescue

The new film “Tintin” takes me back to my childhood, when my brothers and I scoured Paris book shops to assemble a complete set of what were early graphic novels.

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March Madness, A Return to Innocence

Sports Saturday March Madness begins this weekend. Actually, to be exact, it begins for the big schools. Division III colleges are in the final week of their tournament. I know because my college was one step away from making the final four. For the first time ever, St. Mary’s College of Maryland sent a team […]

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Tom Sawyer’s “Behavioral Disorders”

Educational experts have long been concerned about the large numbers of underachieving boys in our school systems. My wife, once a public school teacher and now a member of our Education Department, provided me with some of the explanations. She notes that, of the three learning styles—aural, visual, and kinesthetic—the first two tend to get […]

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Toy Story 3: The Great Escape

Film Friday There were no good adult movies in town last weekend so Julia and I went to see Toy Story III. Any superlatives thrown Pixar’s ways are well deserved. Toy Story III is a gem. Like any good children’s story, it articulates a number of basic childhood fears, especially that of being abandoned, and […]

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Subversive Nonsense Poetry

Mother Goose I was highly critical of Stanley Fish last week for attacking those who are “instrumental” about the humanities. My claim that the classics can change your life attributes an instrumental dimension to literature. But when I look at how certain parents have tried to foist preachy moralistic tales on their children, I find […]

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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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