Current Event July 12, 2014
In 1855, American poet Walt Whitman published the first edition of “Leaves of Grass.” This poetry collection, which began as twelve poems, was written and re-written by Whitman throughout his life, with the final version containing 400 poems. The free verse poems present Whitman’s philosophy of life, from pleasure to the human mind and nature. Whitman explores and presents humanity through his poetry. Listen to learn why modern poet Rowan Ricardo Phillips recommends the Whitman collection and then interpret the poem “I Hear America Singing” for yourself.
Current Event December 1, 2013
William Faulkner was a private man and a proud Southerner. He is considered by many to be a literary genius. Faulkner wrote frankly about the South, where he lived his entire life. His work brought him acclaim including a Nobel Prize and two Pulitzer Prizes. From 'The Sound and the Fury' to 'As I Lay Dying,' Faulkner took the reader into the mind of his characters by presenting distinct points of view and a stream of consciousness writing style. Learn more about this great American author by exploring his antebellum home in Oxford Mississippi.
Current Event November 26, 2013
From accents to slang to dialect, people who speak English do not always sound the same. The way people speak reflects a lot of different factors in their lives including region, race, class and education. Some slang is reflective of an era. The word “groovy” will forever be linked to hippies, while other pronunciations reflect a longer history of language, colonization and power. Listen to learn how the pronunciation of the word “ask” has changed over time, and how the black community uses code-switching to adapt to their surroundings.
Current Event November 25, 2013
Minimalist author Raymond Carver is known for his simple but powerful short stories of ordinary people. This gritty minimalism both reflects and contradicts the tough and chaotic life of the man himself. Listen to learn more about the life and contradictions of this American author heavily influenced by the work of Anton Chekhov.
Current Event May 15, 2015
The state of Montana is adopting a new approach to maintaining and reviving Native American languages in the state. The state’s new policy, to partially fund native language immersion in public schools, is very different from previous efforts to get rid of Native American language and culture through government boarding schools. Listen to learn more about the policies of the past and present, and why Native Americans in Montana feel strongly about passing their language on to the next generation.
Current Event November 21, 2013
Richard III, the last York King, was the King of England from 1483 to 1485. After his death in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth, the Tudor dynasty began. The Tudors, with the help of William Shakespeare, worked to depict Richard has a hunchbacked villain. But the real story is more complex. In 2012 Richard’s remains were found under a parking lot, the site of a cathedral in the 15th century. They were exhumed and reburied at Leicester Cathedral in 2015. Listen to learn more about this fascinating discovery and the Medieval smear campaign that led to Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III.
Current Event November 15, 2013
The King James Bible has a rich history. King James I, a Scot who became King of England, had the Christian Bible translated for the Church of England in order to legitimize his rule in the early 1600s. The legacy of the King James Bible lives on in the English language. From books to songs and idioms, the King James Bible has become part of English culture and language. Listen to learn more about the King James Bible from 1603 to today.
Current Event November 13, 2013
Jonathan Swift’s 1726 classic “Gulliver’s Travels” is a satirical tale of travels to a long-lost land. A modern-day movie, starring actor Jack Black, takes the centuries old classic and begins the story in modern day New York City. Listen to learn more about the original novel and this new movie adaptation.
Current Event December 4, 2013
Slavery is a horror of history. The capture and transportation of human beings from Africa to North America through the Middle Passage is an experience that is hard to imagine. First-person slave narratives were the first honest account of the experience and were used by the abolitionist movements in Britain and the United States to show the reality of slavery. Listen to learn more about the first-person account of freed slave Olaudah Equiano, shared in his autobiography in 1789.
Current Event November 30, 2013
American poet Sylvia Plath is well known for her work, her life and her death. Plath’s suicide in February 1963 shocked a generation of readers and writers, shining a light on the plight of women and mental illness. These are the topics that Plath had written about in her semi-autobiographical novel “The Bell Jar.” Fifty years after her dramatic death, Plath’s poetry lives on. Listen to learn more about the life of Sylvia Plath and the collection of poetry, “Ariel,” published after her death.
Current Event November 14, 2013
Dante Alighieri finished writing the three part epic poem “Divine Comedy” in 1321. The poem’s three parts, hell, purgatory and heaven follow one man on his journey through all three imaginary places. This great work of Italian literature has survived the ages and remains a classic today. There have been many translations of Dante’s work. This story interviews Clive James, the most recent English translator, about this epic poem and his translated version of “Divine Comedy.”
Current Event December 2, 2013
American poet Emily Dickinson was known as an eccentric recluse throughout her life. Dickinson maintained friendships through letter writing. She wrote poetry privately. Her unusual poetry style wasn’t truly discovered until after her death in 1886 when her sister Lavinia found nearly 1,800 of her sister’s poems. Though Lavinia had promised to destroy her sister’s papers, she instead had the poems published, which led to Emily’s fame as a great American poet. Listen to learn how her poetry continues to be an inspiration today.
Current Event November 29, 2013
On November 19, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln gave a short speech to honor those who had died at the Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought in July of that year. After a two hour speech by politician Edward Everett, Lincoln spoke for just over two minutes. In just 272 words Lincoln explicitly linked human equality and democracy to the Union war effort. This statement of purpose has lived on and remains one of the most famous speeches of the Civil War. Listen to hear the Gettysburg Address and learn more about the historical context in which it was delivered.
Current Event November 19, 2013
William Shakespeare wrote some of the most famous and recognizable love poems of all time, but some historians think that Shakespeare had no intention of publishing these private messages. His sonnets were largely biographical and it is believed they were written to another man. When a collection of these personal sonnets were published by a shady publisher named Thomas Thorpe, Shakespeare tried to stop their distribution. Listen to learn more about Shakespeare’s sonnets and their unwanted publication.
Current Event November 18, 2013
We often think of Shakespeare’s verse as grand, beautiful and proper. The British Library has analyzed the rhyme of Shakespeare’s work and discovered the original pronunciation and dialect of his writings when they were first performed at the Globe Theater. Listen to hear how Shakespeare may have sounded 400 years ago.
Current Event December 20, 2013
In "The Great Gatsby" F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the life of the rich and glamorous during the Roaring Twenties. But what happened to the author when the carefree splendor of the 1920s ended and the nation was plunged into the Great Depression? The 1930s were not kind to Fitzgerald or his wife Zelda. The Fitzgeralds moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where the author continued to look for inspiration in the hopes of making a comeback. Listen to learn more about the fate of this glamorous couple of the Jazz Age after the stock market crash.
Current Event December 8, 2013
In 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' and 'Huckleberry Finn' author Mark Twain wrote about his childhood along the Mississippi River, but he did so as an adult living in Upstate New York. From his vagabond youth to forming a family and beginning to write novels, learn more about Mark Twain’s life and about how and where he wrote his greatest novels.
Current Event April 19, 2014
John Steinbeck’s classic “The Grapes of Wrath” was released more than 75 years ago. The tale of poverty and hope is still frequently read today. The book is the story of the Joad family heading West from Oklahoma to California during the Dust Bowl. The novel’s depiction of poverty shocked readers at the time but remains relevant in America today. Listen to learn how themes of the book reflect the 1930s and the present.
Current Event December 6, 2013
The British legend of King Arthur dates back to the late 5th and early 6th centuries. The details of his life story are populated by folklore and medieval fiction and have been expanded by authors throughout the centuries. The tale of the sword and the stone has resonated through the ages. A young King Arthur learns from sorcerer Merlin with no knowledge of his noble blood. This concept of childhood and the unexpected hero has transcended time and resonates in tales of unlikely heroism today. Listen as modern author Lev Grossman discusses his favorite version of this tale 'The Once And Future King.'
Current Event April 6, 2014
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby” has inspired many adaptations. From film to opera, this story of wealth, love and reinvention in the Jazz Age has stood the test of time. In 2013 the most recent and epic film adaptation was released. It includes scenes in 3D and music from rap artist Jay-Z. Director Baz Luhrmann shaped the film and its production around Fitzgerald’s writing style and contemporary subject matter. Listen to learn more about how F. Scott Fitzgerald’s style shines through in this contemporary retelling.