Tag Archives: politics

Tolstoy and Climate Change Denial

The denial of the citizens of Moscow as Napoleon approaches the city, described by Tolstoy in “War in Peace,” resembles climate change denialism.

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The GOP Debate & the Ox-Frog Fable

Last night’s GOP debate often reminded me of the fable of the ox and the frog, with people trying to puff themselves up with hardline positions to impress voters. Here’s a Scott Bates version of the fable.

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Trump as Frankenstein’s Monster

What is it about Donald Trump that brings out the literary analogies? First a Salon columnist compared him to Odysseus’s Cyclops, then the New Yorker’s John Cassidy saw him as Gulliver, and most recently Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and others have compared him to Frankenstein’s monster. I’ve written about the Cyclops parallel here, but let’s take […]

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Trump, Lucille Clifton, & Menstruation

Donald Trump assumed that Fox’s Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she aggressively asked him questions. Aside from his sexism, we should listen to Lucille Clifton, who points out how impressively women function even when they are having their periods.

Posted in Clifton (Lucille) | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fox, Like Odysseus, Tries to Gouge Trump

A Salon columnist compares Trump to the Cyclops in “The Odyssey.” He has a point.

Posted in Homer | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Satan: Freedom Fighter Turned Dictator

“Paradise Lost” can function as a lesson in how freedom fighters become dictators. It also shows what we must do to resist this tendency.

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Political Consultants Should Read Lit

Which literary works would you recommend to a political consultant to stay in touch with his or her soul and avoid becoming lost in the dark side? How about Hawthorne, Melville, Shakespeare, Pinter, and Terrence McNally?

Posted in Hawthorne (Nathaniel), McNally (Terrence), Melville (Herman), Pinter (Harold), Shakespeare (William) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ted Cruz’s Starring Role in “The Crucible”

Can you guess what role Ted Cruz played in “The Crucible” when in law school? And what does the play have to do with the color of the dress?

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When American Fantasies Are Dangerous

The denial of reality that has taken over certain segments of the GOP is well described by Neil Gaiman in “American Gods.” America has a long tradition of such fantasizing.

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Is It Time to Bring Out Twain’s War Prayer?

The GOP and Netanyahu are trying to sabotage Obama’s negotiations with Iran. Could Mark Twain’s “War Prayer” knock some sense into them?

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Dickens Understood Resentment Well

When resentment threatens to hijack our politics, we would do well to turn to Dickens’ “Little Dorrit.”

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Hunkering Down in Hard Times

When your side loses in an election, be like Mary Oliver’s blue heron: hunker down, absorb the blows, and keep the fire of hope burning.

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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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American Politics, Dashiell Hammett Style

Dashiell Hammett’s rough and tumble novels catch some of the spirit of today’s political battles.

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Principle or Expedience?

Trollopes “Last Chronicle of Barset” pits principle against expediency in a fascinating struggle.

Posted in Trollope (Anthony) | Also tagged , , , | 1 Comment

GOP Denies a Giant Problem

Faced with climate change denialism, Obama has been forced to take executive action. Jonathan Swift would understand.

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Why Christie Aides Targeted Sokolich

Why did Chris Christie aides target Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and close down access lanes to the George Washington Bridge? Voltaire has the answer.

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Melville and Climate Change Denial

Melville’s “Benito Cereno” perfectly captures Rightwing denial of climate change.

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Race Disagreements amongst Friends

The intricacies of the debate between Chait and Coates on the culture of poverty can be sorted out by applying Aphra Behn’s “Oroonoko.”

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Will Oliver Finally Get Health Care?

Oliver Twist experiences the same ups and downs as Obamacare has. But there’s a happy ending.

Posted in Dickens (Charles) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why GOP Right Is Beating Up on the Poor

Paul Ryan projects upon the poor as Joseph Conrad did upon Africans.

Posted in Conrad (Joseph) | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Ayn Rand Likes Systems, Not Humans

Ayn Rand’s novels appeal to those who prefer systems over people.

Posted in Rand (Ayn) | Also tagged , , , , , , | 46 Comments

Chris Christie as “Boss” Willie Stark

Chris Christie resembles Willie Stark in “All the King’s Men” in more than a few ways.

Posted in Warren (Robert Penn) | Also tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Tom Perkins & America’s Dragon-Like 1%

Tom Perkins complaining about Nazi-like progressives resembles the dragon in “Beowulf.”

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Unhinged Partisanship

Anthony Trollope shows us partisanship at its worst.

Posted in Trollope (Anthony) | Also tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sad Christie Knows Nothing

Chris Christie has resorting to plausible deniability such as that discussed in Shakespeare’s “Richard II” and “Antony and Cleopatra.”

Posted in Eliot (T.S.), Shakespeare (William) | Also tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Looking Back to a Time When Hope Waved

Lucille Clifton’s poem on looks back to a time of hope–before the Kennedy assassination.

Posted in Clifton (Lucille) | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Caution: Don’t Stereotype Immigrants

William Carlos Williams has a poem that prompts us to see beyond immigrant stereotypes.

Posted in Williams (William Carlos) | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Disaster Ahead, No More Fantasizing

Can the Tea Party move beyond fantasies and deal with the world as it really is? Shakespeare and Yeats weigh in.

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Shutdown and Debt Crisis Doggerel

A witty bit of doggerel captures the twists and turns of the debt ceiling and government shutdown conflict.

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A Plague on BOTH Houses? No, Only One

“A plague on both your houses” doesn’t work for Mercutio or for citizens today.

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


  • 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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