Author Archives: Robin Bates

Ebola as a Stephen King Nightmare

The Ebola outbreak brings to mind Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Fortunately, it is not quite so infectious as the weaponized flu that King describes.

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Imagine Austen vs. War on Women

Rightwing attacks on reproductive rights have their antecedents in the moralistic judgments of Mr. Collins and Mary Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice.”

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Sir Gawain & the ISIS Beheadings

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” helps us understand the horror we feel at the ISIS beheadings.

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Children Wrestling with Faith & Doubt

Alice Munro’s “Age of Faith” is a powerful portrait of how children turn to God–and also why they turn away.

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Longing for Grace in the Face of Chaos

Howard Nemerov’s 1975 ambivalence about televised football anticipates our own mixed feelings today.

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Test Your Knowledge of Jane Austen

A quiz to test your knowledge of Jane Austen novels.

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Happy Birthday, Phoebe Strehlow Bates

My mother’s birthday is today–and because 89 is the new 75, here’s a Robert Service poem on his 75th birthday.

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Marc Antony for the Prosecution

Federal court judge Thomas Thrash, Jr., drawing on years of experience as a trial lawyer, explains why Marc Antony makes a better case than Brutus does.

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The Violins of Autumn

I still remember memorizing, as a child in a French school, Paul Verlaine’s deliciously sad “Chanson d’automne.”

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Gillibrand & Montagu vs. Senate Sexism

How should Kirsten Gillibrand have responded to sexual harassment by fellow senators? Lady Mary Wortley Montagu provides a good model.

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Rosh Hashanah: Weave Real Connections

Marge Piercy poem about gardens functions as a reflection upon how we spend out time and work. It’s appropriate, in other words, for Rosh Hashanah.

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Peterson and Literary Child Thrashings

Adrian Peterson’s mistreatment of his four-year-old son has echoes of the caning described by Rudyard Kipling.

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Sweet Tea, A Sign of God’s Love

John Lane’s poem “Sweet Tea” is an encomium on southern hospitality.

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Marianne’s Passion for Dead Leaves

In “Sense and Sensibility,” Austen gets us to reflect on the attractions and dangers of Nature.

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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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  • 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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