Topic: Literature

ELA

The Price of Combat and ‘The Red Badge of Courage’

Literature Civil War Coming of Age

When “The Red Badge of Courage” was published in the 1890s, 30 years after the U.S. Civil War, it was one of the first novels to address the psychological effects of combat. The book’s central character is Henry Fleming, a teenager who joins the Union Army with high hopes of glory and adventure. The realities of war soon hit, and Henry must juggle the conflicting emotions of fear, pity, envy, pride, outrage, and eventually, courage. Listen to learn more about a book many consider a coming-of-age novel, while others question whether war is the best way to turn a boy into a man.

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Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote:’ The First Modern Novel

Literature European Literature

During Miguel de Cervantes’ life, Spain was at a critical place: It was both at its peak of power and also on the verge of toppling over. At the same time, people began to look inward, to think about who they were as people, and they began to realize that their choices shaped the world around them. “Don Quixote” is a story of two kinds of journeys: the physical journey of Don Quixote and Sancho, but also a psychological journey in which both friends begin to question and learn about themselves as human beings. Listen to hear why “Don Quixote” was such a groundbreaking novel, and why it will continue to influence readers for generations to come.

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ELA

Proust, Memory and Our Experience of Time

Literature Philosophy

In the early 20th century, a French novelist named Marcel Proust wrote a massive, seven-part novel called “Remembrance of Things Past,” that attempted to capture the strange and subjective nature of time and memory. It is considered by many to be one of history’s greatest novels and Proust’s greatest literary achievement. In this audio story, an author and a philosopher discusses the concepts of time and memory in Proust’s work. Listen to learn about Proust’s ideas about time and memory, and what those ideas might have to teach us today.

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Origins and Relevance of "The Feminine Mystique"

Culture Gender Literature

Betty Friedan’s 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, remains one of the landmark works of feminist literature. At a time in American history when most women were expected to find fulfillment as housewives and mothers, Friedan’s book challenged the male-dominated post-WWII culture and helped pave the way for the “Women’s Liberation Movement" of the 1960s and 1970s. This audio story looks at The Feminine Mystique on the 50th anniversary of its publication, featuring three women discussing their relationship with the groundbreaking book. Listen to learn more about the origins of The Feminine Mystique and what relevance it may still hold to the gender politics of today.

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ELA

John Irving Inspired by Dickens

Literature American Literature British Literature

When American author John Irving was 14 years old, he read "Great Expectations," by Charles Dickens and it changed his life forever. That book played a pivotal role in shaping Irving’s success as a writer. Now the author of more than a dozen narratives and an Academy Award-winning screenwriter, Irving continues to base his works on similar themes and ideas found throughout the novels of his literary mentor. Listen to the audio story as Irving explains the ways that Dickens impacted his accomplishments and which one book remains for Irving to read when he can no longer write.

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ELA

Toni Morrison’s Writing Inspired by Ghosts

Literature Slavery Civil RIghts

American novelist Toni Morrison is best known for her novels exploring the experiences of African Americans. When she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, she said at the ceremony that she was “pleasantly haunted by ghosts.” In this interview, Morrison discussed the ghosts inhabiting her writing. The novel Beloved has a ghost as a central character in a story about two slaves who fell in love. The novel Jazz recalls Harlem in the 1920’s and explores the themes of purgatory and jazz music. Listen to this story to learn what sparked Morrison’s creativity.

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ELA

Does ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Still Resonate?

Culture Literature Fiction American Literature Classics Young Adult Literature Censorship Realistic Fiction

J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel “The Catcher in the Rye” has long been a staple of high school reading lists, though it has also frequently been banned from them. The story is told by Holden Caulfield, a rebellious 17-year old who has just been expelled from prep school. The novel is considered a classic of American literature, and Holden is thought to be a character every teenager can relate to—but is this still true today? Listen to hear about how this novel earned its status as a classic and the arguments in the debate about whether it should still be required reading for high school students.

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Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe

Literature World History II Imperialism World Literature

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe published the novel "Things Fall Apart" in 1958. His story of a Nigerian man whose village and culture are overtaken by British colonial forces in the 1890s sold millions of copies and was translated into 50 languages. The novel was one of the first bestsellers written by an African author as African nations gained independence from European rulers. It was also one of the first works to tell the story of colonialism from an African perspective. Listen to this radio story to hear about the author’s lasting influence on writers and literature.

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Current Event August 14, 2015

John Green and the Teenage Experience

Literature Fiction Writing

Author John Green is called the Teen Whisperer. His novel, 'The Fault in our Stars,' has sold over a million copies and his young adult novels have huge numbers of fans. Green’s 2009 novel, 'Paper Town,' also focuses on the lives of teenagers and has been made into a movie. Listen to John Green and find out why he sees teenagers as inspirational.

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ELA

Defining and Understanding Heroism

Culture Literature Biography Storytelling

What is heroism? Explore this question through a discussion with author Conn Iggulden who wrote a book about heroes throughout time. From Florence Nightingale to Harry Houdini, and the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, the author analyzes the moments and patterns of courage and bravery that make ordinary people heroes.

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ELA

Translations of Dante's 'Divine Comedy'

Religion Literature Poetry World History I

Dante Alighieri finished writing the three-part epic poem “Divine Comedy” in 1321. The poem is written in three parts: hell, purgatory, and heaven. It follows one man on his journey through all three 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, as he talks about this epic poem and his translated version of “Divine Comedy.”

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Herman Melville's Influences for 'Moby-Dick'

Literature US History I Civil War Biography

Herman Melville’s classic American novel “Moby-Dick” tells the story of whaling captain Ahab’s quest to kill the white whale Moby-Dick. This somewhat simplistic plot retelling misses the thematic and historical undertones of this massive novel. The novel was a critical and commercial failure when it was released in 1851 but experienced a resurgence after World War I. Listen to learn about the writing of “Moby-Dick” and how Melville was influenced by the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Shakespeare, as well as the tensions of pre-Civil War America.

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ELA

Understanding Jane Austen's Life

Gender Literature Biography Writing

Author Jane Austen is well known for her novels that reflect on romance and the familial and cultural standards of late 18th century England. Some paint Austen as a drab spinster, but a new biography by Paula Byrne explores the real Austen through objects that were important to her in her life and literature. This portrait of an opinionated, fun loving Austen will help you understand her life, family and themes she revisits in her works.

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Current Event May 29, 2015

Jane Eyre Reimagined

Literature Gender Fiction

Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” is a classic coming of age tale of orphan Jane Eyre’s growth and morality. The original novel was published in England in 1847 and reflected the culture and standards of the time. A new novel by author Patricia Park, “Re Jane,” reimagines the tale, placing it in modern Korean American culture. Listen to hear from the author about how she was influenced by Jane Eyre and how the story resonates with her own culture and experience.

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ELA

"Other Than Honorable Discharge" from Military has Similarities to the 'Scarlet Letter'

Literature Psychology Ethics war Classics

In 'The Scarlet Letter' Nathaniel Hawthorne explores inclusion and exclusion in Puritan Boston. Hester Prynne is exposed to public humiliation and exclusion for breaking societal standards and having a child out of wedlock. Veterans experience similar exclusion and dishonor. When they are discharged with the label of "Other Than Honorable," they are marked with a figurative Scarlet Letter, ashamed and unable to gain veterans' benefits.

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Current Event May 7, 2015

Women in Shakespeare

Gender Literature Drama

William Shakespeare is one of the most well-known playwrights in history. His stories of love, tragedy, comedy and history written in the late 1500s have transcended the centuries thanks to their timeless themes and complex characters. Author Tina Packer has tracked the development of Shakespeare’s female characters through his writing career and suggests that from “Romeo and Juliet” on, Shakespeare wrote unusually complex women for his time and should be considered a proto-feminist. Listen to learn more about the development of these female characters over his career.

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ELA

Steinbeck and ‘The Grapes of Wrath’

Literature US History II Great Depression American Literature

American author John Steinbeck published his epic novel “The Grapes of Wrath” in 1939, but his journey writing the novel was much longer. The novel tells the story of Oklahoma migrants fleeing the Dust Bowl for work in California’s migrant worker camps. Steinbeck did months of research and spent much of mid-to-late 1930s with migrants in camps for a series of articles in the San Francisco News. As a result, “The Grapes of Wrath” spoke to the working class during the Depression era, and continues to resonate today with its themes of struggle, redemption, greed and goodness. Listen to learn more about this great American novel.

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Current Event April 17, 2015

The Legacy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Literature Biography

One year ago today, a Latin American literary icon died. Gabriel Garcia Marquez introduced magical realism and Latin American history to the literary canon in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” His use of fantasy and symbolism to describe the history of his native Colombia struck a chord in Latin America and around the world. Garcia Marquez won a Nobel Prize and led a boom in Latin American literature. Listen to learn more about the life, literature and legacy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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ELA

Ernest Hemingway's Writing Style

Literature Writing American Literature Classics Writing Process

American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway exemplified his literary style with novels like, “The Sun Also Rises,” “A Farewell to Arms,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea.” Hemingway’s adventurous life inspired these stories. From running with the bulls in Spain to fighting in World War II, Hemingway was a larger than life celebrity known for his machismo and literary skill. Hemingway’s talent was recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. His writing style, which consists of short sentences that describe the external world, changed American literature forever.

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ELA

Editing Jane Austen

Gender Literature Fiction Classics Narrative Writing Process

Jane Austen wrote a new type of female character. Emma Woodhouse of "Emma" and Elizabeth Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice" are two memorable characters. They were charming but normal, flawed but winning. The legend of Austen is that she wrote her novels exactly as they were published, but the release of her original manuscripts suggests she had an active editor. Does it matter that an editor helped clean up Austen’s prose or is it her genius that shines through?

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