Current Event April 27, 2014
Plays and poetry written by William Shakespeare are studied in schools around the world. The British playwright is acknowledged as one of the great literary minds of all time - but not everyone believes that the works attributed to Shakespeare were actually written by him. No existing documents link the William Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon to the famous plays. In addition, Shakespeare’s lack of education makes many question how he knew so much about language and the worlds of the rich that he writes about. Listen to learn more about these doubts over Shakespearean authorship and make up your own mind!
And check out this additional PBS resource on the authorship debate “Much Ado About Something”
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 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.
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 9, 2013
Author Jack London lived a life of adventure and travel. From a childhood of poverty in San Francisco to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897, London took his experiences and transformed them into compelling fiction. 'The Call of the Wild' and 'White Fang' made London the most popular American author of his generation. Literary critics now recognize the talent behind his clearly written adventure tales. Listen to learn more about the extraordinary life of this adventurous, hard working man.
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 December 7, 2013
In 1960, American author John Steinbeck took a 10,000 mile road trip around the United States with his poodle, Charley. They rode in his pickup truck, which he converted to a camper and named Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse. This counterclockwise trip from New York to Maine, to the Pacific Northwest, California, Texas, the Deep South and back to New York inspired Steinbeck’s novel “Travels with Charley” and allowed Steinbeck to see his country and answer the question “What are Americans like today?” A modern day journalist retraced Steinbeck’s journey, using the novel, Steinbeck’s letters and some old-fashioned detective work.
Current Event December 7, 2013
The works of American author Mark Twain are widely studied, but the man behind this famous pen name is less understood. Samuel Clemens was born in a small Missouri town and through challenges, travels and adventures he became and created Mark Twain. This self-educated “border ruffian” became a successful and famous “Connecticut Yankee” by combining his life experiences, sense of humor and renowned writing talents. Listen to learn how the life of Samuel Clemens created the Mark Twain we know and love.
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 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 27, 2013
In life and in math class we use the numerals 0 through 9 every day. They are the basis of our financial system and shape the way we understand value. We have a young Italian mathematician named Leonardo da Pisa, nicknamed Fibonacci, to thank for this. In 1202 he published a book called “Book of Calculation” that introduced these numerals to Europe, replacing Roman numerals and the abacus once and for all. Listen to learn more about the man and concept behind Fibonacci and his numbers.
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 November 22, 2013
St. Cuthbert, an Anglo-Saxon monk, hermit and saint, was known for his ability to heal and revered in Medieval England. During his lifetime he recorded the St. John’s gospel in Latin. This book went with him to the grave and was rediscovered when his body was moved to a new shrine in 1104. The British Library purchased the book, known as the St. Cuthbert Gospel, for $14 million. Listen to learn more about the fascinating history of this medieval book.
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 20, 2013
Davy Crockett lives in the American imagination as a legendary frontiersman and defender of the Alamo. Crockett lived an extraordinary life in the 1830s, but became even more famous in the 1950s when Walt Disney chose Davy Crockett as a character for his new theme park, Disneyland. From the coonskin cap to his death at the Alamo, this story analyzes the reality behind the myth of Davy Crockett’s life.
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 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 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 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.