Category Archives: Beowulf Poet

Beowulf Transcends Tolkien’s Racism

“Beowulf” and “Lord of the Rings” have blind spots but they are transcendent works for all that.

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“Beowulf” Understands U.S. Violence

 Thursday When I launched this blog over 10 years ago, I called it Better Living through Beowulf because Beowulf is the starting text for those of us specializing in British Literature. I used Beowulf to represent all of literature and felt free to write about any literary work that provides insight into the life we […]

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Fantasy and the Problem of Violence

Thursday Today I will be delivering the following talk as part of Sewanee’s Lifelong Learning series, delivered in a venue that used to be my high school and where I spoke 50 years ago. It may sound strange to some of you that a literary scholar such as myself would talk about fantasy. Aren’t we […]

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Grendel’s Mother, Archetype of Grief

Thursday I report today on a memorable encounter I had with an African American alum upon my first post-retirement return to St. Mary’s College of Maryland. I was talking with a former colleague when Candace looked in and began reminiscing. I didn’t recognize her, even after she told me her name, but something clicked when […]

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When Great Souls Die

Tuesday Today is the 19th anniversary of my oldest son’s death. When Justin died in a freak drowning accident in 2000, our world turned upside down. He was 21 at the time and would have been 40 this year. In “When Great Trees Fall,” Maya Angelou captures much of what I experienced. I’m struck by […]

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Grendel Violence in Sri Lanka

Monday Often, following mass killings such as occurred yesterday in Sri Lanka, I turn to Beowulf since few works understand the horrors of internecine violence so well. Beowulf was already on my mind as friends have been sending me word of new discoveries about the poem, and now we see killer trolls once again on […]

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How I Make Literary Connections

Wednesday A friend the other day asked where my ideas come from, especially when I apply a passage from one century to incidents in another. Yesterday, for instance, I said that Trump confidant Roger Stone reminded me of a passage in Herman Melville’s Confidence Man. So how did that enter my head? To answer, let […]

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Pelosi, Mueller vs. Grendel Trump

Monday John Stoehr, who edits The Editorial Board, had a provocative column recently that is worth contemplating on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Stoehr argues that sadism is the animating principle of the Republican Party, with Donald Trump being its purest expression. Whether this is in fact true of most Republicans, Trump himself is certainly […]

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Read to Resist: An Introduction

Thursday I share today the introduction to my upcoming book, which is still in draft form and whose title I keep changing. Latest title: Read to Resist: Classic Lit Provides Tools for Battling Trump and Trumpism. I’m still not entirely satisfied with that and so will keep tinkering. In any event, here’s my first attempt […]

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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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