Tag Archives: " sexuality

A Debate about Sex, Pullman vs. Milton

This is the 20th anniversary of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series, which gives me an excuse for once again tilting with the fantasy author and figuring out my own thoughts on our vexed relationship with sexuality and our bodies. Once again I conclude that Milton goes far deeper into these issues than Pullman does.

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Female Freedom Drives Right Crazy

Euripides “The Bacchae” well describes rightwing legislators obsessed with abortion.

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Sex without Love

Sex without love, as Sharon Olds frames it, requires a fascistic narcissism.

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The Meaning of Soldiers and Sex

My father’s tales of soldiers’ sexual experience in World War II remind me of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”

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Sex and the Single Pretty Woman

“Pretty Woman” captures the ideas and the spirit of Helen Gurley Brown, who died Monday.

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King Lear’s Sexual Epithets vs. Women

It’s not only Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher who are use sexual epithets to denigrate women. King Lear does it too.

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Quiz: Identify These Famous Figures

Two wonderfully light poems give readers a chance to test their knowledge of cultural history.

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A Spurned Lover’s Revenge Fantasy

A recent Kinsey study reporting that men prefer cuddling and women prefer sex got me thinking about John Donne’s strange “you’ll be sorry” poem “The Apparition.”

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Chaucer Predicted Hugh Hefner Debacle

It sounds to me that Hefner wasn’t cuckolded only because he wasn’t yet a husband. And while I don’t really care about either of them, I take a Chaucerian satisfaction is seeing a pretentious man outplayed at his own game.

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Date Rape or Cultural Misunderstanding?

Reading “Passage to India” for the first time in decades has given me insights into a date rape that I became involved in years ago involving an Ethiopian and an American student. How much, I wonder, can be attributed to cultural misunderstanding?

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Take Me Out to the Orgasmic Experience

In his poem, Scott Bates fastens on the fact that the baseball diamond and the outfield, in their intersection, resemble a mandorla. An almond-shaped figure of mythic significance, the mandorla has been seen to symbolize “the interactions and interdependence of opposing worlds and forces,” such as spirit and matter or heaven and earth.

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Hell, an Inner Emptiness that Can’t Be Filled

“I think Hell is a fable,” Doctor Faustus tells Mephastophilis at one point in Marlowe’s 1593 tragedy. While many Elizabethans would have disagreed—the play terrified them precisely because they believed in a literal hell—we’re more sympathetic with the notion now. To most of us, fire and brimstone and devils with pitchforks are the stuff of […]

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Purchasing Stockings: A 1950’s Memory

What with Qaddafi slaughtering his people in Libya and workers up in (metaphorical) arms in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio, the world seems a chaotic place at the moment.  Today, for respite, I offer a poem that will take you to a quieter time–quieter, that is, if you remember your childhood as being a quieter time. […]

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A Delicious Poem for Your True Love

My wife was sitting at a stoplight a few years ago when she heard a National Public Radio story about a fifth taste, the other four being sweet, sour, bitter and salty.  Often we know it by the name given it by the Japanese, who first identified it early in the 20th century, although we […]

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Rise Up, My Fair One, and Come Away

Spiritual Sunday St. Valentine, who has evolved into the patron saint of lovers, was beheaded by the Romans for (among other things) marrying Christian couples.  As Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, I turn to that most erotic of books in the Bible, Song of Songs (also know as Song of Solomon).Some, unnerved by its unbridled sensuality, have […]

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A Strange Love: Orgasmic Self Destruction

Film Friday Last Friday I wrote that, in one respect, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is outdated: we no longer talk about our missile gap with the Soviet Union. In too many other respects, however, this filmic masterpiece feels all too contemporary, especially in the […]

Posted in Dr. Strangelove (film) | Also tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

A Champ on the Field, a Thug Elsewhere

Sports Saturday Although it is a downer on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, I can’t help but think of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger through the lens of Joyce Carol Oates’ terrifying short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” This is one reason I will be not be rooting for the […]

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Chaucer and Hugh Hefner’s Wedding

  Here’s a post that has been awaiting a moment when I thought this website could use a comic interlude. I’m not suggesting in any way that Hugh Hefner’s forthcoming marriage (check out Timothy Egan’s horrified response) is as newsworthy as, say, Egypt’s uprising (Monday’s post) or America’s problem with guns (yesterday’s post). But we […]

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Happiness Is a Warm Gun (Shoot, Shoot)

Following the Columbine High School shootings, outrage against permissive gun laws led, not to tougher gun laws, but to pushback by the National Rifle Association.  The NRA went on to help George W. Bush squeak by Albert Gore in the 2000 elections and has since become so bold that the 2006 Congress was afraid to extend […]

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Michael Vick and the Scarlet Letter

Sports Saturday Quarterback Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles continues to be the most interesting story in American sports. After spending two years in jail for participating in dog fighting, against all predictions he has emerged to become one of the most dynamic players in the National Football League. In the last three weeks he […]

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Walt Whitman, William Blake, and Baseball

Film Friday The World Series between the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants gives me an excuse for posting on what is, in my opinion, the greatest movie on baseball. Among the many virtues of Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham are its literary allusions and its literariness. Each year Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) chooses to […]

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Blasphemy + Laughter, Not All Bad

Spiritual Sunday I was teaching Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale on Friday and had a sudden insight: laughter, even blasphemous laughter, is not an enemy to spirituality. In fact, it can be a means of deepening our connection with the divine. I will make my case through Chaucer. The Miller’s Tale is about as bawdy as it […]

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The Bard’s Defense of Midsummer Marriage

Teaching a course in British Fantasy has given me a new perspective on Midsummer Night’s Dream, our first work. The course could be called (borrowing from Bruno Bettelheim) “the uses of enchantment” because our focus is on how and why people turn to fantasy. In our class discussion, we decided that Shakespeare uses his green […]

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A Punch in the Gut of Excessive Sobriety

Punch and Judy Let’s declare another comedy Friday and celebrate again the wit of Henry Fielding.  My first passage is a continuation of the mock epic encomium (expression of praise) to the book’s heroine that I posted yesterday: Reader, perhaps thou hast seen the statue of the Venus de Medicis. Perhaps, too, thou hast seen the gallery […]

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Bawdy Poetry and Male Insecurity

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester  Once again the poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, is proving to be a jolt to my students. I always start my course “Couples Comedy in the Restoration and 18th Century” with this 17th century libertine, and the poetry does not hold back. Rochester freely uses the “f” word, […]

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