Author Archives: Robin Bates

Connecting Art to Life

In a lovely introduction to a reading I gave the other night, my son Toby examined the value of the liberal arts.

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Inviting Jane into Your Life

Once again Jane Austen has stepped into the lives of my students and enriched their lives immeasurably.

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The CIA’s Heart of Darkness

Published details about the CIA’s torture program reveal that America descended into a Conradian heart of darkness.

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Waiting for the Messiah to Knock

Steven Schneider’s Hanukkah celebration occurs in a place the old patriarchs never could have imagined.

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This Isn’t a Football, It’s a Shoe

In this surrealistic poem about football, a quarterback holds on to the ball too long but does so for understandable reasons.

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The Quest of the Marvelous Tree

In this mystical Scott Bates poem, the Christmas tree becomes a magical key that unlocks the darkness.

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The Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge

The Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge is attracting some of my students.

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Toni Morrison: Stand Up & Breathe

“I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry for Black protesters. Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” shows powerfully what it feels like to breathe again.

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Falling Out of Love with Tom Jones

I have fallen out of love with “Tom Jones.” One reason may be because of the author’s sense of entitlement.

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Wheezles and Sneezles

Like my literary namesake, I’ve had wheezles and sneezles for the past five days.

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The Animals Are Trying to Warn Us

Scott Bates invokes “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in this Nativity poem.

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A Poem for Monday Morning QB’s

Ogden Nash’s celebration of football also points to its violence.

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Clean Air Is Bad for the Nation?!

Republicans complaining about clean air regulations recall the Coketown mill owners in Dickens’ “Hard Times.”

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Portrait of the Lesbian as a Young Artist

Proust and James Joyce were particularly important in helping Alison Bechdel negotiate her complex relations with her father.

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Bechdel Uses Lit to Understand Her Life

Alison’s Bechdel time and again turns to literature in her memoir to understand her upbringing.

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Open Season on Young Black Men

Hilaire Belloc satirically advocates dire punishment for childish misbehavior except when it comes to guns. The NRA would approve.

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Banishing Fear by Standing Tall

Police officer Darren Wilson, whom a Ferguson Grand Jury refused to indict last week for shooting Michael Brown, is the latest in a long line of police and vigilantes who have gone free after killing unarmed black men. Upon hearing the decision, one National Public Radio columnist turned to an Audre Lorde poem for comfort. […]

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Advent and Horror at the Void

Donald Hall’s “Advent” captures the darkness of the season, linking death with birth.

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Belichick Ranks with Lit’s Great Plotters

Coach Bill Belichick resembles the nefarious plotters in such works as “Portrait of a Lady” and “Liaisons Dangereuses.”

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Black Friday: Don’t Just Shop

Black Friday’s shopping frenzy can prompt us to forget the spiritual origins of gift-giving. Leslie Marmon Silko helps us see beyond the glitter.

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America’s Obsession with Pie

Hilaire Belloc’s hilarious complaint about the world’s eating tastes would not treat Thanksgiving well.

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Singing a Lullaby to a Dead Child

I write about the lullaby I sang to my dead son and a Eugene Field poem it reminds me of.

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Climate Change: Signs of Witchery

Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko warns of ecological disaster if we don’t change our relationship to the earth.

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Invisible Men (and Women) No Longer

Immigrants coming out of the shadows recall Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, who also emerges from darkness.

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Often Goes Christ in a Stranger’s Guise

Here’s an old Gaelic poem that captures the spirit of the president’s recent decision to grant relief to the undocumented parents of American citizens.

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Protecting Players in the NFL “Jungle”

Upton Sinclair uses a football analogy as he makes a case for workers needing workplace protections.

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Books Protect Us from Madness

Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief” shows both the power and the danger of stories.

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Behn’s Comedy Masks Feminist Protest

Aphra Behn’s 1677 play “The Rover” hides its feminist protest within a comic form.

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Who is the Worst Rake in Jane Austen?

A ranking of jane Austen’s rakes. Who is the most objectionable?

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Dr. Seuss: We Can Do Better Than This

Scott Bates’ homage do Dr. Seuss tell us to draw on the power of the imagination and buck up.

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A Play for the Painfully Shy

Oliver Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” is balm for the painfully shy

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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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