Author Archives: Robin Bates

Hydrocarbons Unleash an Angry God

Euripides’ “The Bacchae” can be read as a parable of climate change denialism.

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Using Kipling to Voice Despair

Roger Cohen of the New York Times turns to a Kipling poem to express his despair about the world.

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How Capitalism Threatens Art

The Frankfurt School studied how culture gets subsumed by capitalism. We need to start reading Adorno and Benjamin again.

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Forgive 77 Times–and Don’t Stop There

Emily Bronte explores Jesus’s injunction to forgive seventy seven times.

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Can Raillery Defuse NFL Anger?

Aphra Behn wrestles with novel ways to deal with potential abuse in her play “The Rover.”

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Literature as a Social Experience

Sharing newspaper clipping about Shakespeare is one way to share one’s love for the Bard.

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Ray Rice, John Wilmot, & Macho Culture

Ray Rice’s fury at his fiancé, like John Wilmot’s distrust of women, shows his inability to move from the world of men to that of women.

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The Secret Ecstasy of Reading

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Aurora Leigh” captures my own relationship with books.

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Scotland’s Vote: Victory or Gory Bed?

Many have been quoting Robert Burns’ “Scots Wha Hae” as Scotland’s referendum on independence approaches.

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Why Do We Laugh? Various Theories

Whether you see laughter as benign or hostile may come down to what kind of person you are.

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God Dreams Us, Not Vice Versa

C. S. Lewis has a poem that addresses our frustrations that God isn’t listening to our prayers.

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The Seahawks: Prepared to Swoop & Kill

The Seattle Seahawks look prepared, once again, to unleash havoc on the other teams in the NFL–like the hawk in a Robert Cording poem.

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Estonia Calls, Obama Answers

Obama seemed to be responding to an Estonian poet in his NATO speech.

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How Disney Appropriated Mary Poppins

“Saving Mr. Banks” doesn’t admit just how thoroughly Disney stole Mary Poppins from author P.L. Travers.

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Thoreau To Obama: Play More Golf

Thoreau would criticize contemporary Americans for working too hard.

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What College Clothing Choices Mean

Jeffrey Eugenides captures college sartorial choices, and the reasons for them, in “The Marriage Plot.”

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Pledge Your Intellect to Freedom

Brecht’s poem to students of workers and peasants reminds them that they are being educated thanks to the bloody struggles of those who came before.

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War in the Name of Religion

Denise Levertov, who called out Jewish complicity in the 1982 massacres by Lebanese Christians, might do the same today with Gaza.

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Austen, Moral Equivocation, and the NFL

My love of the NFL runs me up against some real moral quandaries. Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte would understand.

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The Race Projection behind the Killings

Projection helps explain many of the killings of unarmed young black men. Ralph Ellison is an expert on how projection works.

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Are College Students Sheep?

William Deresiewicz’s recent book “Excellent Sheep” may make the same mistake as other books about college: generalize about students.

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Into the Depths with Smollett (Don’t Ask)

My upcoming colonoscopy has me thinking about Tobias Smollett’s “Humphry Clinker.”

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Are Liberals Killing the Arts? Uh, No

A “New Republic” article attacks liberals for killing the arts. I disagree.

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A Message from the Mower in the Dew

Robert Frost’s “Tuft of Flowers” helped me grieve for my son in ways I am only beginning to understand.

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Coming Home Like a Lamb to the Fold

Ruth Pitter’s “Estuary” works as a response to Matthew Arnold’s crisis of faith in “Dover Beach.”

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Can Fed Keep Going? The Bard Weighs In

I fear that, in the upcoming U.S. Open, Roger Federer will be like Gremio in “Taming of the Shrew.”

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Munro’s Strategies for Emotional Survivial

Alice Munro’s wondrous fiction looks at how we both cling to and feel suffocated by monotony.

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Mass Extinctions Followed by Life

Richard Shelton’s poem “Death” reminds us that we are part of the world that we are destroying.

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Fighting Back against the Program

In this Scott Bates parable, one can get pushed around only so much before turning to rebellion.

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Flannery O’Connor’s Dislike of Ayn Rand

Flannery O’Connor couldn’t stand Ayn Rand. With good reason.

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What Frightens the Ferguson Police

A James Baldwin short story helps explain some of the fears that led to police overreaction in Ferguson, Missouri.

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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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