Author Archives: Robin Bates

A Writer Walks into a Starbucks…

Literary Starbucks is an entertain blog that imagines different authors and characters ordering coffee.

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What Defoe Would Say about Ebola

Daniel Defoe’s “Journal of the Plague Year” has good advice for dealing with outbreaks, such as not to react with overly harsh and fearful measures.

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Making the Invisible Visible

Tuajuanda Jordan, our college’s newest president, turned to Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” to articulate her vision for the future.

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Enthralled by Anglicanism’s Theatricality

Spiritual Sunday Last month I posted on a wonderful Alice Munro short story, “The Age of Faith,” about a girl wrestling with issues of faith. In today’s post I look specifically at the protagonist’s experience with the town’s Anglican church since I myself am Anglican (or, as we call it in America, Episcopalian). Most of […]

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KC Royals Storm into World Series

The way the Kansas City Royals upended conventional wisdom in making it to the World Series is not unlike the chaos caused by Ariel in “The Tempest” to restore another royal to power.

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And a Woman Said, “Tell Us of Pain”

Is Kahlil Gibran right in seeing pain as a road to enlightenment. Or is this just wish fulfillment?

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Finding Hope in a Captured Fish

Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish” works as a powerful meditation on hope.

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What Does It Mean to Hope against Hope?

What does it mean to hope against hope? Emily Dickinson and an analytic philosopher weigh in.

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How Do You LIke to Go Up in a Swing?

In “Child’s Garden of Verses,” Stevenson captures the complex inner lives of children.

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Krauss’ Book about Imaginary Books

Books that describe imaginary books seem to offer us special portals to magical worlds.

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Celebrating the Golden Calf

In Rabbi Jacob Staub’s vision, the early Israelites’ worship of the Golden Calf was liberating.

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Tom Brady Channels Medea’s Fury

Lack of respect can lead to fury and destruction. As it was with Medea, so it was last week with Tom Brady.

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You Don’t Have to Read between the Lines

To teach poetry successfully, focus initially on what is being said and why people care about it. The form of the poem should come last.

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Eclipses in Literature

Yesterday’s lunar eclipse brought to mind a couple of books that mention eclipses.

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Comedy & Sentiment, a Potent Mixture

Literature that moves the heart seems opposed to comedy, but sometimes they work together.

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Kingsolver Tries to Save the Planet

I’m not entirely sure what to make of Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior (2012), which I’m currently teaching in my Introduction to Literature class. It fits well with my theme, which is “Humans in Nature,” and I certainly agree with Kingsolver’s point that climate change is one of the greatest dangers facing humankind. I just have […]

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Literature as a Social Activity

Literature becomes especially interesting when it enters social situations.

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Rich Reflects on Yom Kippur & Conflict

Adrienne Rich’s meditates on the meaning of Yom Kippur in light of America’s divisions and her own longing for solitude.

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Player vs. Player on a Simple Field

A poem to celebrate the baseball playoffs.

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Walking Out in the Sun of October

As we enter October, revel in Dylan Thomas’ celebration of the season.

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“Queer and Marxist Readings of Beowulf”

A Buzzfeed post uses as proof of English majors’ superiority the fact that they can execute queer and Marxist interpretations of “Beowulf.” We explore what such interpretations would entail.

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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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  • 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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