Tag Archives: Morality

A White Cross Streaming across the Sky

Today’s Easter poem is Mary Oliver’s “The Swan,” in which everything suddenly becomes clear.

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The Evil I Do Not Want Is What I Do

Spiritual Sunday  In today’s Episcopal service we encounter a passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans that I particularly like, in large part because it captures an internal conflict that we can all relate to. It also reminds me of a passage from Anthony Trollope’s The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867). First, here’s St. […]

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School for Scandal, Image is Everything

Richard Sheridan School for Scandal, which I’m currently teaching, was reportedly George Washington’s favorite play. It remains relevant today. For one thing, it gets at problems with our “image is everything” society. Here’s the plot. Joseph passes himself off as a “man of sentiment” but in actuality is a cunning villain. He has his eyes […]

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For Vice: Novels, Not Stern Lectures

William Hogarth, “The Harlot’s Progress,” plate 4.  Continuing our discussion of whether literature can teach virtue, I present as an interesting case study Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, which I am currently teaching in my 18th Century Couples Comedy class.  I’ve mentioned in a past post that moralist Samuel Johnson attacked Tom Jones for corrupting young people. Furthermore, the Bishop of London accused […]

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Teaching Real Morality, Not Mere Piety

Hansel and Gretel In honor of the film release of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, I’ve been writing about children’s literature, when it’s truly moral and when it’s merely pious. It’s bad enough that the Victorians required their children to recite Issac Watt poems or that Christian fundamentalists rail against In the Night […]

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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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