Monthly Archives: May 2010

Young People Fighting Old People’s Wars

Memorial Day Today we honor our soldiers killed in the line of duty.  Many of them were idealistic, most of them were young.  I offer up today an enigmatic poem by A.E. Housman that captures, in an understated way, the tragedy of their deaths.  The poem is unusual in that it talks about soldiers having a choice. […]

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A Physicist and a Metaphysical Poet

The gifted nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer knew that his brilliance was not leading him to inner peace. Perhaps he appreciated George Herbert’s poem “The Pulley” for voicing his condition and was soothed by the poet’s vision of final rest.

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Suffocated by Hockey–and Loving It

Sports Saturday  As two championship-starved hockey-rich cities prepare to square off in the Stanley Cup finals (Chicago and Philadelphia), Ljubljana English Department’s Jason Blake once again reflects upon the meaning of hockey for Canadians—and upon the omnipresence of stereotypes about Canadians playing hockey.  While he was distraught at seeing the last Canadian team (the Montreal […]

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Preparing a Gateway for the Dead

Film Friday Two weeks ago our Friday night film group watched Yojiro Takita’s Departures, the Japanese film that won the 2008 Best Foreign Film Oscar.  Given our society’s discomfort with death, it is a film that people must see. (Caution: In the following reflection I’ll be revealing the ending.) Departures is about a young Japanese […]

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After the Mess, Can Obama Be Fortinbras?

I’ve been thinking recently about how every Shakespearean tragedy concludes with a restoration of order.  The stage may be strewn with corpses and the spectator’s heart may have broken into a thousand little pieces, but (as though to provide some reassurance) someone steps forward at the end to set things straight. In Hamlet it is […]

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Interpreting Lit Makes for Better Citizens

Eugene Robinson        Our Commencement speaker two weeks ago was the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner and one of my favorite columnists.  He delivered a message to our graduates with which I fervently agree:  THINK! Robinson told us that he is tired of seeing politics conducted with bumper sticker simplicity.  The real problems […]

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Lies Reveal Who We Wish We Were

Pierre Corneille        I’ve been thinking about lying recently.  One reason is because I recently saw a David Ives adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s 17th century comedy The Liar at the Washington Shakespeare Theater.  Another is because of Maureen Dowd’s interesting NYT column Sunday about politicians who lie when they don’t have to. Dowd is writing about Richard […]

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The Insidious Novels of Ayn Rand

When I first started hearing the name Rand Paul, I thought that it was a political pundit’s joke. I thought the talk was about his father, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, not the man who last week became Kentucky’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. Since Ron Paul espouses certain libertarian principles, I assumed that people were […]

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Life Storming Out of the Darkness

Spiritual Sunday Today Western Christians observe Pentecost, the day 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection and 10 days after his ascension into heaven.  Pentecost celebrates the moment when the disciplines saw themselves surrounded by tongues of fire and felt lifted up by the Holy Spirit.  In the Book of John (14:16) Jesus is reported to have promised the […]

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  • 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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