Anna Karenina and the Givenness of Life

Anna Karenina and the Givenness of Life

I was in a serious slump this February, drowning in a sea of unaccomplished tasks all loudly condemning my laziness and inefficiency. I felt incapable of stirring up my own enthusiasm for life to get my head above water, no matter how well I organized my planner or how early I set my alarm. But now it’s March, and things are looking up! My long and daunting to-do list is finally beginning to shrink...

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Nightlights and Night Watches: The Unifying Experience of Literature

Nightlights and Night Watches: The Unifying Experience of Literature

Two in the morning just might be the loneliest time. The house lies still; only my thoughts run.  Lists of what I have done and what I must do alternately congratulate and accuse me, while instant replays of the previous day’s conversations play on my mind’s screen. Soon enough, I flee my bed for the solace of my living room chair. Here I sit in a pool of light with only Marilynne Robinson for company, and one could do worse to chase away night demons... 

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"God forgive us:" The Cloud of Broken Witnesses

"God forgive us:" The Cloud of Broken Witnesses

In his thrilling novella, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson paints the inescapable tension between good and evil in the human spirit. Frankly, that by itself is a pretty good summary of his theme. But, there is more to be said about what he implies concerning human desires and the remedies we can find for them. He doesn't leave us entirely in the dark when it comes to where salvation lies.

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Great Expectations of the Soul

Great Expectations of the Soul

The first chapter of Charles Dickens’s classic, Great Expectations, deserves its reputation as one of the great openers in literature. The tiny orphan Pip stands at the graveside of his parents, quietly mourning his lonely estate. Suddenly, a fearsome convict, lately escaped from a nearby prison ship, accosts him from the surrounding mists and demands food on pain of death. Pip’s terror in this moment is every bit as palpable as was his grief a moment before... 

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A Reason for the Pain: Dostoevsky's Answer to the Problem of Pain in The Brothers Karamazov

A Reason for the Pain: Dostoevsky's Answer to the Problem of Pain in The Brothers Karamazov

“In sorrow, seek happiness.”  So says Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov, Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky’s literary homage to the problem of pain and suffering.  A murder mystery extraordinaire, this novel traces the history of one Ivan Karamazov, eldest brother of the Karamazovs and an intellectual humanist.  Frustrated by the problem of evil and its implications regarding the nature of God and His posture toward man, Ivan conceives of atheism as a kind of work around.  He reasons that if there is no God, then there is no supreme moral law and no eternity. 

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The In-Between

The In-Between

I’ve been reading a lot of children’s literature recently, due to my role as an Elementary Lit teacher here at CenterForLit. We just finished reading C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and I was struck by the youngest brother, Edmund’s, character development. Not a baby any longer to be coddled by his mother or sister, but not yet mature enough to claim a leader’s role like Peter, Edmund is half-baked, sullen, and in-process...

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The Wind in the Willows and the Wonder of the Everyday

The Wind in the Willows and the Wonder of the Everyday

A dear friend and former teacher of mine* recently wrote of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, “If ever there was a children’s book written for adults, it is this one.” I whole heartedly agree, and not only because of the stunning beauty of Grahame’s prose.  By way of explanation, I’d like to share a passage from Grahame’s story that, I think, aims right at the heart of his project.

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"Tempter, methinks thou art too late:" Grace and Community in The Scarlet Letter

"Tempter, methinks thou art too late:" Grace and Community in The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s legendary novel, The Scarlet Letter, gets a bad rap. It’s set in the Puritan town of Boston, Massachusetts in the 1640s, a time during which the church dictated literally everything about society: not only public policy and government, but also private morality... 

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"Another Golgotha"

"Another Golgotha"

Holding my breath, suffocated by the burning odor of bleach, I took up my sponge against the scarred and yellowed linoleum of my first apartment’s kitchen. The war raged long. Arms weary, knees bruised, I scrubbed like my life depended on it. And when I rinsed the host of suds at the end of a long afternoon…the floor did not look any cleaner. 

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A World Without Books and Other Catastrophes, or Why I Hate the Desert Island Game

A World Without Books and Other Catastrophes, or Why I Hate the Desert Island Game

Recently on our first BiblioFiles podcast, Ian posed the Desert Island Question:  If you were confined to a desert island with only three books, which would you choose? He and the rest of the CenterForLit staff laughed when I struggled to name three. I couldn’t decide. I was paralyzed. How could I possibly narrow it down to a mere three titles? 

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