Monthly Archives: June 2019

The Seductive Lure of Power

Monday Pundits are puzzled why respectable people yield to the lure of Donald Trump and join his administration, even though they invariably emerge tainted. I don’t have in mind those grifters like campaign chair Paul Manafort, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, or EPA’s Scott Pruitt, who were corrupt […]

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Gnosticism’s Flight from Earth

Spiritual Sunday I have found myself exploring Gnosticism thanks to a marvelous poetry collection by my best friend from graduate school, Norman Finkelstein (the poet, not the political scientist). Norman has been included in a group of poets labeled “the New Gnostics,” which helps me make sense of From the Files of the Immanent Foundation. […]

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Amelia Bedelia, Working Class Rebel

Friday Here’s a literary comparison I never would have anticipated: Amelia Bedelia as a feminist Bartleby. Reader Donna Raskin alerted me to this New Yorker article by Sarah Blackwood, who came up with the comparison after reading the series to her children. Amelia Bedelia is a maid who gets in trouble because she takes every […]

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Doctor Zhivago vs. Soviet Communism

Thursday A new book explains how and why Boris Pasternak’s Nobel-prize winning Dr. Zhivago played an important role during the Cold War. Peter Finn’s and Petra Couvée’s The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, The CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book makes it sound as though former English majors were running the CIA’s Soviet Russia […]

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I, My Dear, Was Born Today

Wednesday – On My Birthday, June 12 I turn 68 today so I share a birthday poem written by Matthew Prior (1664-1721). In it, he complains about being rejected by Clotilda, a name he plucks from the pastoral tradition. While the poet’s “jolly comrades” are prepared to “bring me music, wreaths, and mirth/And ask to […]

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Couples Fighting: It Must Be Love

Tuesday I read plays all day yesterday with an eye toward an upcoming class on “Battling Couples in Theatre and Film (the Comic Version).” The September course is part of Sewanee’s “Lifelong Learning” series. As the course runs for four weeks, I will teach four plays and four movies, pairing a play with a film […]

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Curious George’s Escape from Hitler

Monday A recent New Yorker article about “Curious George” forces us to rethink the beloved children’s classic. While at first glance, Rivka Galchen points out, it uncomfortably echoes the Middle Passage, it actually grew out of a different atrocity. Authors Hans and Margret Rey were Jews fleeing the Germans as they invaded France. The Reys […]

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Come, Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz uses the occasion of Pentecost to explore the nature of faith in his poem “Veni Creator.” Although the apostles may have been filled with the Holy Spirit, what about those of us who don’t experience tongues of flame? Here’s Luke’s description of moment (Acts 2:1-4): When the […]

Posted in Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Eliot (T. S.), Milosz (Czeslaw) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teach Game Theory through Greek Myths

Friday The other day I stumbled across an American Economist article, written up in JSTOR Daily, arguing that teachers who want their students to retain the fundamentals of game theory should turn to Greek myths. Economist James D. Miller and classicist Debbie Felton explain their reasoning as follows: For professional economists, game theory is about […]

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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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