Category Archives: Sophocles

Mueller Is Our Delphic Oracle

Thursday Robert Mueller resembles an oracle more and more with each passing day. By this I mean he makes elliptical pronouncements that frustrate people desiring a clearer statement. Trump critics hoped Mueller would forthrightly state that (a) yes, the president and his campaign encouraged and applauded Russia’s 2016 election attack and (b) that Trump has […]

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Cataract Surgery: See Better, Lear

Thursday I am undergoing a second cataract surgery today and so am reposting the essay I wrote following my first (successful) surgery. I don’t expect to re-experience the same mixed feelings that I described two years ago, but dramas that feature sharp objects poked into people’s eyes still seem relevant. This essay is not for […]

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Will Odysseus Shape 2020 Election?

Monday I won’t take credit for this but Washington Post’s Molly Roberts recently penned a very Better-Living-with Beowulf type column where she contrasted two Democratic presidential candidates by examining which version of the Odysseus/Ulysses story they prefer. Her piece gives me an excuse to apply other versions of the story to various 2020 contenders. Roberts […]

Also posted in Homer, Joyce (James), Tennyson (Alfred Lord), Virgil | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Through Lit, We Learn Compassion

Tuesday My brother Sam, an enthusiastic Unitarian Universalist, gave me Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life for Christmas, and I was pleased that the author sees literature playing a major role. In today’s post I share how she draws on the ancient Greeks. Armstrong writes, “All faiths insist that compassion is the test […]

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The Stories We Tell Our Robots

My sons have a podcast–“The Stories We Tell Our Robots”–which links literature with such developments as bitcoin, chatbots, airline pricing, and the like. Their rating system ranges from utopia to apocalypse.

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Act in All Things as Love Will Prompt

My lectures on Flannery O’Connor, James Baldwin, Shakespeare and Sophocles all seem to track back to Lent these days.

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My Dinner with Mladen

An account of a dinner with an old Slovenian friend and intellectual.

Also posted in Beckett (Samuel), Marivaux (Pierre de), Plato, Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anger in Ancient Greek Works

A new book looks at how the ancient Greeks approached the issue of anger in works such as “Iliad,” “Ajax,” and “Hecuba.

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Lit Comforts an ALS Sufferer

This past March an ALS sufferer spoke eloquently, shortly before her death, about how she turned to Sophocles, Kafka, and Shakespeare for comfort.

Also posted in Kafka (Franz), Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


  • 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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