Tag Archives: politics

Speaker Paul Ryan in Literature

I’ve written a lot about Paul Ryan and his aspiration to be a John Galt figure. Now that he is Speaker of the House, I review other literary parallels I’ve drawn over the years.

Posted in Achebe (Chinua), Carroll (Lewis), Conrad (Joseph), Dickens (Charles), Hardy (Thomas), Milton (John), Rand (Ayn) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jeb! Agonistes: An Unsettling Parallel

Does Jeb Bush resemble at the moment Samson Agonistes? His rivalry with Marco Rubio also resembles any number of Shakespeare tragedies. There’s an Oedipus parallel as well.

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

Cruz as Beowulf? Try Grendel

Thursday Normally I would be delighted with a New York Times article that matched up presidential candidates with works of literature, such as Ted Cruz with Beowulf, Hillary Clinton with Persuasion, and Bernie Sanders with Around the World in 80 Days. This piece, however, strikes me as so uninformative that it’s all but useless. I’ve tried […]

Posted in Austen (Jane), Beowulf Poet, Dickens (Charles), Hardy (Thomas), Twain (Mark), Verne (Jules) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lit vs. the Evils of History–More Debate

While literature can seem helpless in the face of history’s cataclysms, it proves far more durable than the events that seem to overwhelm it.

Posted in Cervantes (Miguel de), Homer | Also tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ryan as John Galt–Elect Him or He Shrugs

Paul Ryan sees himself as Ayn Rand’s John Galt as he puts forth the conditions on which he will accept the Speakership of the House. The problem is that he is dealing with people who also see themselves as John Galt.

Posted in Rand (Ayn) | Also tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Waiting for Biden, Paul Ryan, & Reagan

Some Democrats are waiting for Joe Biden and many Republicans are awaiting the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. Samuel Beckett foresaw in all in “Waiting for Godot.”

Posted in Beckett (Samuel) | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trump, Prince Vasili, and Pure Cynicism

Prince Vasili in “War and Peace” will say anything to come out on top. He’s a lot like Donald Trump.

Posted in Tolstoy (Leo) | Also tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Satanic Fury from the Freedom Caucus

The Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives has been behaving like Satan in “Paradise Lost.” They would be advised to see what happens to Milton’s anti-hero.

Posted in Milton (John) | Also tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hillary before Judges Like Tolstoy’s Pierre

The Congressional Committee to Investigate Benghazi is like the military tribunal in “War and Peace” that questions Pierre. It is interested only in answers to lead to conviction.

Posted in Tolstoy (Leo) | Also tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Misusing Metaphor in the Abortion Debates

Both sides are misusing metaphor in the abortion debates. If we want a deeper vision of reality, we must turn to literature.

Posted in Atwood (Margaret), Clifton (Lucille), Irving (John) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Tolstoy (Leo) | Also tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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 […]

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

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.

Posted in Milton (John) | Also tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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?

Posted in Miller (Arthur) | Also tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

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.”

Posted in Dickens (Charles) | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Oliver (Mary), Shelley (Percy) | Also tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

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.

Posted in Melville (Herman) | Also tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.”

Posted in Behn (Aphra) | Also tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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


  • 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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