Category Archives: Sir Gawain Poet

How Fantasy Saves Our Souls

Great fantasy can always be seen as oppositional, pushing against prevailing modes of thought and opening up portals into new human possibilities.

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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.”

Also posted in Beowulf Poet, LeGuin (Ursula K.) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Peace of Wild Things

My Intro to Literature class explored how a disconnect from nature leads to existential anguish while opening themselves up to nature provides spiritual nourishment.

Also posted in Berry (Wendell), Clifton (Lucille), Coleridge (Samuel Taylor), Euripides, Kingsolver (Barbara), McCarthy (Cormac), Oliver (Mary), Shakespeare (William), Silko (Leslie Marmon), Wordsworth (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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10 Famous Fetish Objects in Lit

Literature is filled with fetish objects that take on outsized significance to various characters.

Also posted in Dickens (Charles), Fielding (Henry), Poe (Edgar Allan), Pope (Alexander), Proust (Marcel), Rushdie (Salman), Shakespeare (William), Wycherley (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sexual Misconduct in the Classics

A sexual misconduct course required of all employees got me thinking of problematic situations in the books that I teach.

Also posted in Austen (Jane), Behn (Aphra), Bronte (Charlotte), Burney (Fanny), Euripides, Fielding (Henry), Montagu (Lady Mary Wortley), Wilmot (John) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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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Warning Labels for the Classics

Suggestions that certain classics come with “trigger warnings” leads of the following reflection.

Also posted in Chaucer (Geoffrey), Homer, Milton (John), Sophocles, Wilde (Oscar) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

An Afghan Vet’s Green Knight Encounter

An Afghan vet found his war experience captured by “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”

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Is Peyton Manning Pitted against Puck?

Tomorrow’s Super Bowl drama may be forces of order vs. forces of chaos. Or it may involve Denver trying to outwit a trickster Puck-like team.

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Green Knight’s Lessons on Death & Dying

My next book will be on what “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” teaches us about death and dying.

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Prevent Sexual Assault with Literature

If men are to overcome their predatory natures, they must become gentle-men. Literature can help.

Also posted in Beowulf Poet, De Troye (Chretien) | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Meaning of Soldiers and Sex

My father’s tales of soldiers’ sexual experience in World War II remind me of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”

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Don’t Underestimate Midsummer Madness

The summer solstice and Shakespeare’s famous play appear sentimental to us today. They were not always so.

Also posted in Byatt (A.S.), Chaucer (Geoffrey), Kipling (Rudyard), Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Life in the Face of Death

Comparing the Japanese film “Departures” with “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” give special insight into the meaning of Christmas.

Also posted in Departures (film) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

In a Fairy Castle, an Invitation to Life

On Saturday I wrote about how Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the 14th century Arthurian romance, demonstrates that our fear of death keeps us from living as fully as we could. The Green Knight’s promise to us is that, if we change the way we approach death, we will live life with heightened intensity […]

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The Lord of Death Shows Us How to Live

Sports Saturday Today’s post is on the sport of hunting (I’ll get to the Super Bowl next week). I should warn you that some of the passages you will encounter will be graphic. They are taken from the 14th century romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I am teaching at the moment. As […]

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Living a Balanced Life, Gawain Style

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I am about to start teaching, we learn that Gawain has a shield bearing a pentangle or five-pointed star. The star is the symbol of a balanced life, and we can continue to use it today. The Middle Ages loved numerology, and the poem details the significance […]

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What Fictional Fantasy Means

Having taught British Fantasy Literature for the first time last semester, I need to think back on it before it becomes a distant memory.    By reflecting publicly, I can share some of the insights I gained from the course. Two major things I learned are that (1) fantasy is an oppositional genre—by which I […]

Also posted in Andersen (Hans Christian), Barrie (J. M.), Carroll (Lewis), Chaucer (Geoffrey), Coleridge (Samuel Taylor), Dickens (Charles), Grahame (Kenneth), Grimm Brothers, Haggard (Rider), Keats (John), Kipling (Rudyard), Rossetti (Christina), Shakespeare (William), Tennyson (Alfred Lord), Tolkien (J.R.R.) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

So You Screwed Up–No Big Deal

Ten members of the Scott Bates clan have gathered in my parents’ Tennessee house, and two more, along with two beagles (Kipling and Beckett), are on their way. While the Christmas festivities have for the most part been joyous, we have had one moment of friction. Luckily, literature came to our aid. I keep the […]

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Sir Gawain through the Eyes of a Marine

One of the most interesting essays I received in my just completed early British Literature survey came from a young Marine. Jon Gott was fascinated by what he calls Camelot’s “band of brothers.” His essay was about how Gawain handles the tests that he is subjected to in the 14th century romance Sir Gawain and […]

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Expressing Gratitude for Nature’s Feast

  Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday because it involves holding a feast in the face of on-coming winter.  I read this as a sign that we believe the harvest bounty can carry us through the hard times. To accentuate the symbolism, I like my Thanksgivings to be cold and even a bit wet. Sir Gawain […]

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Responding to Intruder Death

As we do every week, Julia and I visited our friends Alan and Jackie this past Sunday evening, Julia to administer Reiki massage and I to talk. Alan was tired from his chemotherapy treatments and in pain from a cracked rib (he doesn’t know how that happened). Nevertheless we talked about literature, including Sir Gawain […]

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Sir Gawain and a Friend’s Cancer

Just as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight supported me as I grieved for my son, so is it supporting me now as I interact with a close friend, a philosophy professor, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Alan’s tumors began in his neck and eyelid and have now migrated down to his lungs. […]

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On Accepting Death and Living Life

The German philosopher Heidegger argues that, by refusing to face up to the fact that we are going to die, we human beings cut ourselves off from life as well. Essentially, by seeing death as a horrible thing, we deny that we are natural beings in a natural world. In so doing, Heidegger goes on […]

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Gawain’s Castle of Life and Death

In the weeks following my son Justin’s death, after the funeral and the memorial service and the departure of friends and relatives, I retreated into my study (it was summer vacation). I had to do something so I returned to a book I had begun writing on “how classic British literature can change your life.” […]

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A Camelot Knight with One Year to Live

Before talking about how Sir Gawain and the Green Knight came to my aid following Justin’s death, let me go through it (for those of you haven’t read it or haven’t read it recently), focusing especially on the way it handles the topic of death. The poem is in the top five of my “favorite […]

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The Death of My Oldest Son

I am devoting this week to a work that came to my aid when I was dealing with the death of my oldest son nine years ago. I will introduce you to Justin and then describe how a medieval romance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, helped give me images and a framework for the […]

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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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