Retiring Professor of English Robin Bates gave his last lecture on Friday, April 13, titled “Unacknowledged Legislators: How Poets Change History.” The lecture served as a celebration of Bates’ career of 37 years teaching at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM). Professor Bates addressed the role of literature, including Percy Bysshe Shelley and Homer, in influencing the course of history and the ideological influence of literature on society. He addressed perceptions of literature as both expanding possibilities for people’s lives and being used as a mechanism for suppressing it, detailing the ways in which the marriage plot in works like Jane Austen can either be construed as constraining women to one path of life and opening up possibilities for alternative outcomes. Bates concluded with a claim that literature ultimately works to expand the range of human diversity and possibility.
Students, alumni, colleagues, family and friends of Professor Bates, as well as Slovene exchange students whom he hosted in his home participating in the Slovenian exchange program which Bates helped to establish at the College. Professor Bates has been a member of the English faculty at the College since 1981 after earning a Ph.D. in literature at Emory University.