Author Archives: Robin Bates

How to Keep Beauty from Vanishing Away

Gerard Manley Hopkins “The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo” works as a Lenten meditation on the beauty of God’s grace.

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In Support of School Prayer (with a Twist)

A Florida bill allows prayers to be read at assemblies but can designate a particular religion, offering openings very various sects. Scott Bates provides the school children with some possibilities.

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King’s Vision of Environmental Devastation

Stephen King, drawing on William Carlos Williams’ “Paterson,” warns about the destructiveness brought on by America’s acquisitive side.

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Hoping against Hope in the Face of Death

Following philosopher Adrienne Martin, I meditate on what it means to “hope against hope” or to have “unimaginable hope.” The text I use are “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” “Beowulf,” and “Wizard of Earthsea.”

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Unlike Oklahoma, King Wants Real History

The Oklahoma legislature wants to whitewash American history. Stephen King’s horror fiction is all about such whitewashing attempts.

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Motion Picture Industry, It’s You I Love!

Sixty years ago Frank O’Hara captured an ambivalence that we may have experienced during the Oscars last night: he both mocks Hollywood and is enthralled with it.

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Tracking Eliot’s Spiritual Journey for Lent

My Lenten discipline is to better understand T. S. Eliot’s religious poetry.

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Old Lit as a Transformational Experience

The power of a “King Lear” passage is a refutation of Scott Walker’s attempt to redirect higher education to “work force needs.”

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Murphy: Something Funny in Everything

Eddie Murphy, who as a young comedian helped saved Saturday Night, returned for the shows 40th celebration. A Lucille Clifton poem draws an interesting distinction between him and Richard Pryor.

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Teaching Gender Sensitivity at West Point

Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale” is required reading for entering West Point cadets. Good things could happen.

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A Song of Love for Julia

My wife’s beautiful name becomes synonymous with longing in both a Robert Herrick and a John Lennon lyric.

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Pennywise Kills North Carolina Muslims

America’s periodic explosions of violence, most recently in the killing of North Carolina Muslim students, is perhaps best captured by the gothic horror of Stephen King, especially in his novel “It.”

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Learning to Love the Desert

In “Ash Wednesday,” T. S. Eliot turns the despair of “Hollow Men” on its head, seeing it not as the end of hope but as the beginning of faith.

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Spend Valentine’s Day with a Novel

As you look ahead to Valentine’s Day tomorrow, consider which literary character you would most like to pair up with.

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Sarah Palin as Dorothy

Sarah Palin’s attraction in part lay in the way that she seemed to be a reincarnation of MGM’s Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.”

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Wizard of Oz, America’s Greatest Fairy Tale

“The Wizard of Oz” is the quintessential American fairy tale, with roots in a 19th century depression.

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An Ideal Place to Study Lit

A summer institute where one buries oneself in books is my version of James Hilton’s Shangri-La.

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If Beowulf Went to War with ISIS

The Jordanian response to the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot reminds us that Grendel’s Mother is on the loose in the Middle East. Beowulf models how we should respond.

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The Unassailable Thankfulness of Life

In this wonderful poem Robert Barasch steps beyond sterile evolution-creationism debates to insist on the wonder of life.

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Clifton Brings Black History Alive

Lucille Clifton insists on the telling the historical truth, even if it makes whites uncomfortable.

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Pesticides vs. Sweetness and Wings

Monarch butterflies and bees are in grave danger. Poems by Scott Bates and Mary Oliver remind us what we will lose if we don’t move to protect them.

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On Poe & the Paranoia of Anti-Vaxxers

Edgar Allen Poe gives us insight into vaccine truthers. Rather than dispelling shadows, scientific insights are pushing some Americans into repression.

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The Super Bowl, Comic & Tragic Versions

The Patriots miraculously escaped a hanging, the Seahawks did not. It’s the difference between Gay’s “Beggars Opera” and Bierce’s “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.”

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Can Lit Make the Rich More Empathetic?

With growing income disparity comes a decline in empathy. Literature can help rebuild our compassion.

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The Golem, A.I., and God

Stephen Hawking’s concerns about artificial intelligence and his belief there is no god is disputed by the Jewish legend of the golem of Prague.

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The Miraculous Ride of Tom Brady

If they win the Super Bowl, Brady and Belichick will become as legendary in the sports world as that patriot of old, Paul Revere.

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Media Is Like White Queen: Scream First

Lewis Carroll’s White Queen, whose hysteria precedes rather than follows traumatic events, anticipates our modern media.

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No-Name Women vs. Anti-Abortionists

Maxine Hong Kingston’s “No Name Woman” works as a powerful response to those attempting to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate rape.

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The Frolic Architecture of the Snow

Ralph Waldo Emerson sees a snow-storm as a master architect and “fierce artificer.”

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Medicine Incomplete without Poetry

Medical journals are increasingly including poetry within their pages.

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(Limitless Pity Makes All Large & New)

Spiritual Sunday Today’s Old Testament reading is the episode in the Book of Jonah after that conflicted man returns from the whale episode and this time does what God has commanded him to do, which is to prophesy to the people of Nineveh about their wickedness. In the Keith Schlegel poem I have chosen, one […]

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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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