Monthly Archives: January 2011

Egypt’s Mubarak, Colossal Wreck

As Egypt, following the lead of Tunisia (see my post here), teeters on the verge of revolution, everyone seems to be looking to different historical pasts to predict the future. My former Carleton classmate Kai Bird fears that Barack Obama will repeat the mistakes that Jimmy Carter made with the Shaw of Iran but adds […]

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No Coward Soul Is Mine

  Here is a resolute poem of faith in the face of death by Emily Bronte, who I wrote on this past week.  When she died three years after composing it, she did so with a fortitude that showed that she wasn’t just spinning words.  Perhaps it can fortify others going through tragedy and loss. […]

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The Lord of Death Shows Us How to Live

Sports Saturday Today’s post is on the sport of hunting (I’ll get to the Super Bowl next week). I should warn you that some of the passages you will encounter will be graphic. They are taken from the 14th century romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I am teaching at the moment. As […]

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Kane: Sunny Pleasure Dome, Caves of Ice

Film Friday I’m teaching Citizen Kane currently in my American Film class and am struck, once again, by the influence that Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” had on the movie. My father and I tried to make this case in an article that we wrote on Citizen Kane a number of years back (described here), and while the editors […]

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It’s the End of the Book as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

I crossed the great divide this Christmas and bought my wife a Kindle e-book.  I have to admit that convenience played a role in my decision.  Does it make it any more excusable that the first book she downloaded was a classic (The Brothers Karamazov)?  I didn’t think so. And here’s a problem I can report. […]

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Alyosha Karamazov’s Plea for Straight Talk

Is it just because I’m an Obama supporter or has political rhetoric reached new levels of inanity? And the rhetoric I have in mind is not that of Tea Party supporters, which is not new. I saw such self-indulgent calls for revolution coming from the left in the early 1970’s. No, I’m thinking of the […]

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Living a Balanced Life, Gawain Style

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I am about to start teaching, we learn that Gawain has a shield bearing a pentangle or five-pointed star. The star is the symbol of a balanced life, and we can continue to use it today. The Middle Ages loved numerology, and the poem details the significance […]

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A True Poem about the End of Grieving

In addition to my regular classes, I am also teaching a course on novels by Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Bronte at a local retirement center. The class has 15 students, all of them women, and I began it with several poems by Emily Bronte, the best poet of the sisters. A lyric about grieving hit […]

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Lost Paradise Syndrome in Tucson

Spiritual Sunday As I teach Beowulf for the umpteenth time, I am struck once again by its beautiful rendition of the Genesis creation story. I’m also struck by how the invocation of that beauty calls forth human horror. Exploring the linkage provides some insight into the mass killings we have almost come to expect. 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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