Monthly Archives: September 2010

Beatrix Potter: How to Be a Naturalist

In a departure from custom, today’s post focuses on journal writing.  Beatrix Potter may best be known as the author and illustrator of Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and other classics, but she was also a world-class naturalist who kept a fascinating journal. My colleague Kate Chandler, who teaches many of our college’s “ecoliterature” […]

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Internet Nastiness: Crying to Be Heard

There has been a lot of complaining in recent years about the lack of civility in social discourse.  The breakdown of common courtesy and mutual respect in town hall meetings, Congress, and other venues threatens (some believe) the very foundations of our society. In his article this week, Jason Blake talks about how the internet […]

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A Poem about the Stoning of Women

My colleague Jeff Coleman recently wrote the following poem about the stoning of women in places like Somalia, Iran, and Taliban-controlled regions of Afghanistan. He tells me the poem was triggered by an article in the New York Times about Iranian executions, but for me it brought to mind the Somalian stoning two years ago […]

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Who Owns the American Revolution?

Ever since Barack Obama was elected, we’ve been hearing claims that his presidency is illegitimate. Any number of people—including some who should know better—are draping themselves in revolutionary garb. This includes those responsible for the Republicans’ recent Pledge to America, where the authors declare “the governed do not consent.” The reference, of course, is to the […]

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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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Michael Vick, Escape Artist Extraordinaire

Why do I find myself rooting for someone guilty of an abominable crime? And yet this Sunday, when the Philadelphia Eagles play the Jacksonville Jaguars, I will find myself cheering for Michael Vick. The stories of the dog fighting ring run by Vick will turn any stomach. He went to jail for it and now […]

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Clooney Is Clark Gable + Cary Grant

Film Friday I’ve spent many hours talking about film with my friend Jim Bershon, a retired dentist who loves movies. When my life became too busy a couple of years ago, Jim took over a monthly film series at a local senior center that I had started. He sent along the following introduction to his […]

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When You’re Sick, Call the Musketeers

I seldom get sick but, when I do, I become a wimp. Generally my illnesses take the form of stabbing sinus pain, and I retreat into a cocoon of misery and imagine myself about to die. As is appropriate for my melodramatic self pity, my mind invariably fixates upon a literary scene composed during France’s […]

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A Poem for Those Who Love to Read

  My father is a master of light comic verse, a genre often not taken seriously by literature departments. The ability to lift the spirits, however, is a precious gift that should not be underestimated. The following poem, about a lover of reading, is a reference to Jesus’s instructions (in Mark 4:21-22) that we not […]

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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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