Tag Archives: Samuel Johnson

On Rereading During a Pandemic

In three articles on rereading great literature during difficult times, two discuss how it reassures them and the third that literature isn’t meant to reassure.

Posted in Faulkner (William), Johnson (Samuel), Mandel (Emily St. John) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knives Out and the American Dream

The movie “Knives Out” is satisfying but leaves unquestioned the American Dream.

Posted in Fielding (Henry), Johnson (Samuel), Sexton (Anne) | Also tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Old Age Becoming Overrated?

A “New Yorker” article on aging turns to literature to debunk the notion that aging is a good thing.

Posted in Aristotle, Bogan (Louise), Chaucer (Geoffrey), Johnson (Samuel), Plato, Shakespeare (William), Swift (Jonathan), Tennyson (Alfred Lord), Whitman (Walt), Yeats (William Butler) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Anxiety of Harold Bloom

The late Harold Bloom longed to be a Samuel Johnson but never got there.

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Fathers & Sons: He Goes His Way, I Mine

Wednesday The talk with my son that I described in Monday’s post reminded me of talks with my own father where I was sure he was wrong. I’ve since concluded that I was not as right as I thought I was and that our disagreements came down to our different life arcs. Our arguments came […]

Posted in Beckett (Samuel), Johnson (Samuel), Pascal (Blaise), Sartre (Jean Paul), Tennyson (Alfred Lord) | Also tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My “Last Lecture”

I share here my “last lecture” from my retirement ceremony. (But rest assured: I will not be retiring from this blog.)

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Theories about Lit’s Impact

A transcript of a talk given at the University of Ljubljana on “how literature changes lives.”

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Implore His Aid, in His Decisions Rest

The famous passage from Ecclesiastes–“All is vanity”–inspired a great poem by Samuel Johnson. Johnson’s final conclusion is that we can find happiness only in prayer.

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Johnson: The Bard Instructs by Delighting

Although today we are sometimes suspicious when literature seeks to instruct us, Samuel Johnson considered this to be literature’s primary aim. He held up Shakespeare as proof.

Posted in Johnson (Samuel), Shakespeare (William) | Also 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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