Author Archives: Robin Bates

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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War in the Name of Religion

Denise Levertov, who called out Jewish complicity in the 1982 massacres by Lebanese Christians, might do the same today with Gaza.

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Austen, Moral Equivocation, and the NFL

My love of the NFL runs me up against some real moral quandaries. Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte would understand.

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The Race Projection behind the Killings

Projection helps explain many of the killings of unarmed young black men. Ralph Ellison is an expert on how projection works.

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Are College Students Sheep?

William Deresiewicz’s recent book “Excellent Sheep” may make the same mistake as other books about college: generalize about students.

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Into the Depths with Smollett (Don’t Ask)

My upcoming colonoscopy has me thinking about Tobias Smollett’s “Humphry Clinker.”

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Are Liberals Killing the Arts? Uh, No

A “New Republic” article attacks liberals for killing the arts. I disagree.

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A Message from the Mower in the Dew

Robert Frost’s “Tuft of Flowers” helped me grieve for my son in ways I am only beginning to understand.

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Coming Home Like a Lamb to the Fold

Ruth Pitter’s “Estuary” works as a response to Matthew Arnold’s crisis of faith in “Dover Beach.”

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Can Fed Keep Going? The Bard Weighs In

I fear that, in the upcoming U.S. Open, Roger Federer will be like Gremio in “Taming of the Shrew.”

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Munro’s Strategies for Emotional Survivial

Alice Munro’s wondrous fiction looks at how we both cling to and feel suffocated by monotony.

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Mass Extinctions Followed by Life

Richard Shelton’s poem “Death” reminds us that we are part of the world that we are destroying.

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Fighting Back against the Program

In this Scott Bates parable, one can get pushed around only so much before turning to rebellion.

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Flannery O’Connor’s Dislike of Ayn Rand

Flannery O’Connor couldn’t stand Ayn Rand. With good reason.

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What Frightens the Ferguson Police

A James Baldwin short story helps explain some of the fears that led to police overreaction in Ferguson, Missouri.

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Angel Infancy

Henry Vaughan’s “The Retreat” believes that children have a special connection with eternity.

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An O’Neillian NASCAR Tragedy

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart killing fellow driver Kevin Ward is like something out of a Eugene O’Neill play.

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René Magritte and Edgar Allan Poe

Knowing that surrealist painter René Magritte loved Edgar Allan Poe explains a lot about his work.

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Robin Williams Made Poetry Cool

Robin Williams gave us one of cinema’s greatest depictions of a literature teacher.

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American Politics, Dashiell Hammett Style

Dashiell Hammett’s rough and tumble novels catch some of the spirit of today’s political battles.

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Pantry Moths in the Howling Storm

Faced with an infestation of pantry moths, my mind turned to Blake’s “The Sick Rose.”

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Whitman’s Blast of Green Grace

Scott Bates’ homage to Walt Whitman tells of amorous encounters from the grass’s point of view.

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Something Different Crosses the Threshold

Mary Oliver gives a powerful reading of Jesus calming the storm.

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Wonder in an Old Leather Mitt

Emilio DeGrazia’s poems about an old leather mitt is a wonderful meditation on aging.

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Headed for the City of Big Shoulders

I use a vacation visit to Chicago as an excuse to revisit Sandburg’s famous poem.

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A Large Pig Haunts the University

A visit to Iowa has be revisiting Jane Smiley’s “Moo,” set in a disguised Iowa State University.

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A New Sun Blots Vesuvius

Richard Tillinghast’s powerful poem about Hiroshima sees a world of stunted promise.

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Poetry Changed during World War I

The horrors of World War I created some great poetry. But not in its early days.

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Keeping Environmental Hope Alive

In the face of horrific environmental devastation, Scott Bates dreams of “the jungle above the sun.”

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Wrestling with (My God!) My God

The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel finds powerful expression in Gerard Manley’s Hopkins’ “Carrion Comfort.”

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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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