Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Shakespeare Would Support Transgenders

As Donald Trump rolls back transgender protections, it’s worth going back to Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which honors the sense that many have (not just transgender individuals) that they have the other gender hidden away beneath their exteriors.

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Ugliness of Racial Resentment

“The Merchant of Venice” is a story of resentment and thus is only too relevant in today’s political landscape of inflamed passion. Those who have been victimized–or who feel that they have been victimized–are only too ready to stick it to others when they are in power.

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fundamentalists Send Readers to Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale” is topping bestseller lists at the moment. The reason is probably because of the GOP’s prospect of success in curbing reproductive freedom.

Posted in Atwood (Margaret) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Chaucer’s Wife, an Early Gaslighter

Donald Trump’s non-ending falsehoods have sometimes been described as “gaslighting,” after the old Charles Boyer-Ingrid Bergman film. An early literary example of a gaslighter is Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, although her use of the tactic is far more justifiable.

Posted in Chaucer (Geoffrey) | Also tagged , | Leave a comment

Trump’s Faustian Emptiness

Donald Trump has a lot in common with Doctor Faustus: both are narcissists who create hells for themselves by being unable to reach out beyond themselves.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher) | Also tagged , | Leave a comment

Teaching Euripides in the Age of Title IX

Recently a student reported me for using sexist language in the classroom. (This while teaching a Kingsolver novel and Euripides’s “The Bacchae.”) The language did not reflect my own views, but the complaint made me realize that I need to be more careful with this generation of students.

Posted in Euripides, Gay (John), Kingsolver (Barbara), Kingston (Maxine Hong), Pope (Alexander) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hughes Dreams the Real American Dream

Langston Hughes’s “Let America Be America Again” is a powerful riposte to President Steven Bannon and Co.’s “Make America Great Again.” Poems like this one can play an important role in resistance against the Trump administration.

Posted in Hughes (Langston) | Also tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poetry & the Sea Liberate the Imprisoned

For Pablo Neruda’s, the “poet’s obligation” is to speak for freedom–which makes poetry vital important in our time.

Posted in Neruda (Pablo) | Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

Our Version of Plague Maddened Villagers

Donald Trump’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act and on immigrants could well end up hurting many of his supporters. A similar irony is described in Geraldine Brooks’s “Year of Wonders,” where 17th century villagers, maddened by the plague, kill two midwives.

Posted in Brooks (Geraldine) | Also tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poetry as a Check against Tyranny

African American poet Rita Dove talks about the importance of poetry in resisting tyranny, especially its attack on language. In “American Smooth,” she expresses a foundational optimism about America.

Posted in Dove (Rita) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The GOP’s Faustian Bargain with Trump

New York Times columnist David Brooks says that the GOP is striking a Faustian bargain by collaborating with Donald Trump. Christopher Marlowe shows the price that is paid for dealing with the devil and also tells us how one can get one’s soul back.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher) | Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s Crusoe Wall Goes Up in Airports

This past weekend so a flurry of illegal and unconstitutional executive orders that created chaos in airports and elsewhere as travelers from certain countries found themselves in detention. Defoe captures versions of such dramas in “Robinson Crusoe.”

Posted in Defoe (Daniel) | Also tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The World’s One Hope: Compassion

Bertolt Brecht’s “”The World One Hope” addresses the problem of growing callousness but then points to how we can break through to compassion.

Posted in Brecht (Bertolt) | Also tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump to Torture’s Opponents: Drop Dead

Donald Trump wants to bring back torture, specifically waterboarding. Like the colonel in Carolyn Forché’s poem by that name, he is a showman who seeks to intimidate.

Posted in Forché (Carolyn) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

1984 Explains Why Trump Keeps Lying

“1984” gives us new insight into Donald Trump’s incessant lying. We are not supposed to apply logic to contentions that Trump’s inauguration crowd was bigger than Obama’s. We are supposed to submit to power. The more outrageous the lie, the more Trump demonstrates his power when people go along.

Posted in Orwell (George) | Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

Can Poetry Stop This Man?

Poetry may not have been able to stop Donald Trump, but it has its ways of mounting resistance. Poems by Tennyson, Auden, and Yeats explain how.

Posted in Auden (W. H.), Tennyson (Alfred Lord), Yeats (William Butler) | Also tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Empty but for Pain: How Faith Is Perverted

During Inauguration activities on Friday, we saw two dramatically different versions of Christianity, with one pastor finding scriptural backing for Donald Trump’s wall and another presenting him with the Sermon on the Mount.

Posted in Erdrich (Louise) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How Will the Future Judge Us for Trump?

Jane Hirshfield’s poem “What Will They Say” was reprinted by the National Academy of Poets to coincide with the inauguration of Donald Trump. Imagining what future generations will say of us, she urges them to understand us. Which is not to let us off lightly.

Posted in Hirshfield (Jane) | Also tagged , | Leave a comment

The Good Ol’ Boy That Conned America

Flannery O’Connor “Good Country People” may help us understand why America got taken in by the man getting sworn in as president today: Donald Trump conned people whenever he caught them feeling superior to him.

Posted in O'Connor (Flannery) | Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

Jonathan Swift, Master of Fake News

Fake news, which played a role in the 2016 election, may have become particularly sophisticated, but satirists have been creating fake news since at least the days of Jonathan Swift. Take, for instance, Swift’s “The Last Speech and Dying Words of Ebenezer Elliston,” which supposedly lowered the crime rate but which, for that reason, is problematic.

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Trump as Browning’s Pied Piper

Charlie Pierce of “Esquire” makes good use of Robert Browning’s “Pied Piper of Hamelin” to describe Donald Trump’s con job. Then he imagines the tables turned and Trump as the deceitful major who stiffs his employee.

Posted in Browning (Robert) | Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s Problematic Allusion to Atticus

In his farewell speech, Obama quoted Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In light of the white backlash against having had a black president, however, the Atticus Finch of “Go Set a Watchman comes to mind, making Obama’s allusion seem a bit weak.

Posted in Lee (Harper) | Also 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 | Also tagged , , | 1 Comment

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?”

Posted in Carver (Raymond), Melville (Herman), Milton (John) | Also tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can Art Thwart Trump? A Debate

In which I argue with a writer who claims that art and artists have an inflated sense of their power and that they are irrelevant in the battle against Donald Trump.

Posted in Steinbeck (John), Stowe (Harriet Beecher) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Did Western Liberalism Give Us Trump?

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat suggests that, to understand Trump’s rise, we look not to novels like Sinclair’s “It Can Happen Here” and Roth’s “Plot against America” and instead turn to works by French novelist Michel Houellebecq. These helps us understand the crisis of Western liberalism, which Douthat sees as the major culprit.

Posted in Houellebecq (Michel), Roth (Philip K.), Sinclair (Upton) | Also tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Decline & Fall of the American Republic?

Trump’s victory may signal the decline of the American republic, just as the rise of the Caesar signaled the end of the Roman republic. Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” is only too relevant to today’s politics.

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Also tagged , | 2 Comments

Murakami: Don’t Be a Sheep

Murakami’s “Wild Sheep Chase” is a modern parable that has important lessons for confronting authoritarian regimes. That’s the lesson one of my Bernie supporters took from it. Another student used it to support his decision to come out.

Posted in Murakami (Haruki) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Must Dreamers “Hibernate” Again?

Ellison’s Invisible Man must retreat to a hole–or, as he calls it, hibernate–after getting banged around by reality. With Trump as president, will the Dreamers and others who benefitted from Obama’s prosecutorial discretion have to hibernate as well, returning back to the shadows?

Posted in Ellison (Ralph) | Also tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Neil Gaiman and the Pipeline Protests

In “American Gods,” Neil Gaiman warns that Americans are doomed if we don’t make spiritual connection with the land. The protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline are making the same argument.

Posted in Gaiman (Neil) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

McConnell as Moriarty, Trump as Figaro

Mitch McConnell is proving himself to be a veritable Moriarty in his ability to weave devious plots to get his way. Trump, by contrast, is more a trickster figure a la Figaro or Mac the Knife.

Posted in Beaumarchais (Caron de), Doyle (Arthur Conan), Gay (John) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

  • 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