Monthly Archives: August 2010

Growing Past Gothic Fantasies

Mysteries of Udolpho On Friday I made the claim that zombie movies provide young people with a way to react against the numerous stratagems that our society uses to manipulate them, whether through advertising or celebrity hype or political appeals. What I said about zombie movies could also be applied to Twilight and Harry Potter and other […]

Posted in Austen (Jane) | Comments closed

Yes, Doubters, Lit Packs a Punch

Last week a couple of readers questioned, quite rightly, my sympathetic posting of the following quotation by Polish poet and essayist Zbigniew Herbert: History does not know a single example of art or an artist anywhere ever exerting a direct influence on the world’s destiny – and from this sad truth follows the conclusion that […]

Posted in Herbert (Zbigniew), Kranz (Rachel) | Comments closed

Hear the Words under the Words

  Spiritual Sunday I’m trying not to overreact to the anti-Muslim sentiment blowing through the United States at the moment. I keep telling myself that there is a core decency to Americans and that most are not stampeded into hysterical hatred by demagogic political and religious leaders. Although the United States has not always welcomed […]

Posted in Nye (Naomi Shihab) | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Never Favre from the Madding Crowd

Sports Saturday He’s baaaak!  The fabled quarterback who has played more consecutive games than anyone in the history of football, the prima donna who each offseason plays maddening games with the football world about whether or not he’s retiring, the holder of virtually every scoring record who last year had his best season ever, the […]

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Thru Zombie Flix, Our Kids Fight Back

Night of the Living Dead  Film Friday Many of my students are fans of zombie movies (of all things). The genre has, in fact, taken off in recent years—a sure sign that one can never predict which symbol systems are going to grip our minds from one moment to the next (and why movie making […]

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Barack and Huck, Babo, Hamlet, etc.

I’m fascinated by the way that literature has helped shape and guide different American president, a subject I’ve written about in the past. Thus I was thrilled to stumble across a Barack Obama reading list compiled shortly after his inauguration. I don’t know how I missed it. According to the website The Curious Autodidact (great […]

Posted in Augustine, Bible, Doctorow (E. L.), Hughes (Langston), Jefferson (Thomas), Malcolm X, Melville (Herman), Nietzsche (Friedrich), Twain (Mark), Uris (Leon), Warren (Robert Penn) | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Back in the Day, We Parsed Sentences

Time was when grammar was king in the public schools. It didn’t seem to matter whether a student’s writing was interesting but whether it was correct. Then came the “process writing movement” and (in the lower grades) the “creative spelling movement.” The design was to unlock the writing energies that were being stifled by an […]

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Art Has “No Direct Influence” on Destiny

Polish poet, essayist Zbigniew Herbert I was channel surfing last night and saw an old C-Span episode (from 2003, I believe) discussing William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner. The author was present (he died in 2006), and I was interested in his contention that his book was all but banned by African American Studies programs […]

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Christian Nazis Seeking to Be Cleansed

I learned this past summer how, following the Holocaust, a number of former Nazis were able to embrace Christianity without their churches expecting them to repent. It sounds as though some of these men were able to feel cleansed of their sins without doing much in the way of serious soul searching. The issue raises […]

Posted in Hopkins (Gerard Manley) | Tagged , , , | Comments closed


  • 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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