Monthly Archives: August 2019

God’s Work vs. Religious Dogma

Spiritual Sunday Many of us in today’s world are baffled by evangelical support for Donald Trump, even when his administration is guilty of inhumane practices against refugees. Abraham Verghese’s wonderful novel Cutting for Stone has an episode that shows how basic humanity can restore a true Christian perspective and has me wondering if such a […]

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The Inner Spiritual Life of Tennis

Friday I’ve been riveted by this year’s U.S. Open, which is providing high drama that is unusual for the first week. Last night I was riveted by 15-year-old Coco Gauff’s nail-biting victory over Hungary’s Timea Babos, which followed Taylor Townsend upsetting Wimbledon-winner Simone Halep. The Rumanian usually manages to track down every shot, but Townsend […]

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New Student Advice: Follow Your Own Star

Thursday Recently Sewanee asked me to cover for an ailing professor and teach a section of English 101 (Composition and Literature), one of my favorite courses. I’m therefore suspending my retirement, at least partially. I love this course, which functions in some ways as an “Intro to College” course. For many students, the first semester […]

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Destroying What We Were Given in Trust

Wednesday After defending Brazil strongman Jair Bolsonaro for his assault on Brazil’s rain forests, Donald Trump is now going after our own, with Alaska’s Tongass National Forest the latest natural treasure on the chopping block. When hearing such dispiriting environmental news, I often turn to Wendell Berry, who is sure to articulate my outrage while […]

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When Evil Quotes Dylan Thomas

Tuesday High school English teacher extraordinaire Carl Rosin has several times contributed essays to Better Living through Beowulf, usually writing about his students grappling with ethical issues through a literary lens. (Carl recently served on the National Humanities Center Teacher Advisory Council.) In today’s post we learn about his class exploring what it means for […]

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Amazon Fires and the Fury of Achilles

Monday Few news items have alarmed and depressed me as much as the burning of the Amazon rain forests, often called the “lungs of the world.” As National Geographic reports The Amazon rainforest—home to one in 10 species on Earth—is on fire. As of last week, 9,000 wildfires were raging simultaneously across the vast rainforest […]

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Beauty Reflects the Eternal Orchard

Spiritual Sunday I wrote last Sunday about the “centering prayer” workshops that former Sewanee Chaplain Tom Ward is running at the Ayres Spiritual Center in Sewanee. Centering prayer, Tom told us, is “a way of listening to the texts of Scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and He were suggesting the topics […]

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Lewis Carroll Has Trump’s Number

Friday Reader Jill Carpenter alerted me to a clever blog essay on Lewis Carroll and Donald Trump that I can’t believe I missed when it appeared last November. Time and again I myself have applied Carroll to the American political scene (see the links below) so I’m not surprised to see Philip Ivory having done […]

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Trump vs. Obama, Hook vs. Pan

Thursday I was digging around in James Barrie’s Peter Pan the other day and came across something that caught me by surprise. Captain Hook’s relationship to Peter is a lot like Donald Trump’s relationship to Barack Obama. Both Hook and Trump feel outclassed. As many commentators have pointed out, Trump’s hatred of Obama seems deeply […]

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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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