Author Archives: Robin Bates

A Sense of Wonder at the Zoo

Taking my son to the National Zoo recalled A. A. Milne’s “At the Zoo.” As with Christopher Robin, the elephants were the star attraction.

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Milton Cautions vs. Scientific Arrogance

One of my science students found a way to examine her frustrations at her limited knowledge by looking at Satan and Eve in “Paradise Lost.”

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Kafka’s K Would Feel at Home with FISA

A “Washington Post” quiz comparing Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” with the United Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court comes up with some disturbing resemblances.

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Vacations Must Be More than Photographs

Wendell Berry warns that photographs can come between us and a profound vacation experience. I’ll keep that in mind in my upcoming trip to Machu Picchu.

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Soldier, Rest, Thy Warfare O’er

In “Soldier Rest,” Sir Walter Scott captures how inviting death can look to those caught up in battle’s throes.

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To See God, the Eye Must Catch Fire

Blake’s poem “Pentecost” explains what is necessary to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.

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Stephen King & the War for America’s Soul

In “The Stand,” Stephen King sees the dark and the light fighting for control of America’s soul. His book had the Vietnam War in mind but it is also applicable to future policy in the Middle East.

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Liberals Must Reclaim Harrison Bergeron

Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” has been adopted by the rightwing in their opposition to governmental regulations. It’s actually a fairly liberal story.

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Is Don Draper a Modern Faustus?

In the finale of “Mad Men,” Draper may enter into yet another Faustian bargain, trading a vision of peace for a catchy Coca-Cola jingle.

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10 Memorable Poetic Pick-Up Lines

10 memorable pick-up lines from poetic greats. Try them at a bar near you.

Posted in Austen (Jane), Behn (Aphra), Donne (John), Herrick (Robert), Marvell (Andrew), Montagu (Lady Mary Wortley), Rostand (Edmond de), Shakespeare (William), Wilmot (John) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hamlet Instructs the Class of 2015

Our commencement ceremonies included a reading of Hamlet’s advice to the players.

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Scorn No Vision That a Dewdrop Holds

Eva Gore-Booth finds divinity with a dewdrop here, and twilight hour there. The “One” can be found in “the gentle Light that shines behind the storm.”

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Obama Tells Black Graduates to Soar

Michelle Obama used images of flight in a recent commencement speech at Tuskegee University. It was reminiscent of the way Toni Morrison uses flight in “Song of Solomon.”

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The Real Victims of Deflategate

Two characters from “Hamlet” have been invoked in Tom Brady’s deflategate scandal. Can you guess which ones?

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Poetry that Reclaims Women’s Bodies

A former student, in her senior project, used feminist poems as the basis for art workshops designed to help women feel better about their bodies.

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Toppling Shakespeare from His Pedestal

“Bardolatry,” the worship of William Shakespeare, can get in the way of truly appreciating him.

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Does Lit Blind As Well as Enlighten?

Novelist Rachel Kranz argues that great literature does not only enlighten. It can also keep us from seeing certain possibilities.

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“Is My Son Mad?” Mary Asks

In Thomas Hardy’s version of Mary, she’s a mother wondering whether her son is mad.

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A “Greatest Generation” Vet Reflects

In the reminiscence about his World War II experiences, my father finds it difficult to capture what it was really like

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Lear: Finding Love in Adversity

Both “Doctor Faustus” and “King Lear” teach us the silver lining in adversity, “Faustus” in a negative way, “Lear” in a positive.

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Why Baltimore Blacks Are Down and Out

Black poverty in Baltimore has racial causes that are invisible to most people. Dickens would understand.

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Chaucer’s Squire Meets Tennyson’s May Queen

Love is in the May air. As I look at the College students hand in hand, I think of the men as Chaucerian squires, the women as Tennysonian May queens.

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What Happens to a Dream Deferred?

Langston Hughes puts his finger on Baltimore’s black anger in “Justice” and “Harlem.”

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Political Consultants Should Read Lit

Which literary works would you recommend to a political consultant to stay in touch with his or her soul and avoid becoming lost in the dark side? How about Hawthorne, Melville, Shakespeare, Pinter, and Terrence McNally?

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Jesus as the New Dionysus

Parallels between Dionysus and Christ as clearly drawn in Michael Cacoyannis’s translation of “The Bacchae.”

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Whitman, Melville & Abolitionism

Walt Whitman and Herman Melville’s revolutionary visions of egalitarian societies shaped how Abolitionists thought about America’s potential.

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Mourning Lincoln, Mourning My Son

Whitman’s mourning of Lincoln in “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” also captures what it feels like to lose a child.

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Protesting Baltimore’s Racial Divide

The racial divide we are currently seeing in Baltimore was noted by Countee Cullen in 1925.

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In April, Frogs Shout Their Desire

In this Mary Oliver poem, frogs shout their desire and people aren’t far behind.

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The Journey of the Reader Hero

Reading literature can be compared to Joseph Campbell’s “Journey of the Hero.”

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The God of Love My Shepherd Is

George Herbert rewrites the 23rd psalm in subtle ways, turning the Lord in the “God of Love” and filling the cup with the eucharist.

Posted in Herbert (George) | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

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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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