Topic: Biography

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ELA Middle School

The Cover of Graphic Novel 'Maus'

Biography World War II American Literature Graphic Novels

Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” is a creative and sensitive retelling of one man’s experiences during the Holocaust. As a graphic novel, “Maus” uses comic strips and drawings to help tell its story. The drawing on its cover, however, has been met with controversy in some parts of the world. Featuring a prominent swastika at its center, the cover art has faced objections in places like Russia and Germany. Listen to hear more about how well-intentioned rules around censorship can lead to unintended consequences.

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Seamus heaney

ELA High School

Poet Seamus Heaney

Poetry Biography

Seamus Heaney is considered one of Ireland’s greatest poets. He was prolific, writing 13 collections of poetry along with plays and books, and was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. Heaney grew up in rural Ireland and later wrote about the political and cultural struggles of his country. This audio story remembers the life of Seamus Heaney, who died in 2013. A fellow poet, Robert Pinsky is interviewed and describes Heaney as a generous and decent person along with being a great writer. Listen to hear Pinsky read one of Heaney’s poems and discuss the qualities of his friend.

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Defining and understanding heroism

ELA High School

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Defining and Understanding Heroism

Literature Culture 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 High School

Poet Emily Dickinson, An Eccentric Recluse

Gender Poetry Biography Fiction

American poet Emily Dickinson was known as an eccentric recluse throughout her life. Dickinson maintained many of her friendships through letter writing, while 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.

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Jane austen 1870

ELA High School

Understanding Jane Austen's Life

Literature Gender 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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ELA High School

Herman Melville's Influences for 'Moby-Dick'

Literature US History I Biography Civil War

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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T. s. eliot 1929

ELA High School

Modernist Poet T.S. Eliot

Poetry Biography Arts World War I

Thomas Stearns Eliot OM, best known as T.S. Eliot, was one of the great modernist poets of the 20th century. His work was part of a specific moment in history and art, before and after World War I, when identity, nations and art were fractured. Listen to learn more about the world in which Eliot wrote and why his poem “The Waste Land” remains one of the pillars of the high modernism movement.

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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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Saving literary masterpieces

ELA High School

Saving Literary Masterpieces

Literature Ethics Fiction Biography

Franz Kafka worked at an insurance company and wrote in his spare time. He asked that all his personal papers, including literary manuscripts be burned when he died. After Kafka’s death, his friend and literary executor Max Brod ignored Kafka’s wishes and published many of his manuscripts. "The Trial," a novel about law, justice and the arrest and prosecution of a man for an unknown crime, was one of these manuscripts. Other people face similar decisions around respecting the wishes of an artist or writer by destroying their work. Listen to a conversation with an ethicist as he discusses the implications of this debate through a modern day example.

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Playwright arthur millers life

ELA High School

Setting and Symbolism in Arthur Miller's Life and Work

Literature Biography Drama Writing Process

Playwright Arthur Miller wrote plays that spoke to the common man. From his commentary on the American dream in "Death of a Salesman" to McCarthyism in "The Crucible," Miller wrote hard-hitting personal dramas that also resonated with a wide spectrum of American people, especially the working class. Listen to learn more about Miller’s roots, his writing process, and how his personal background—particularly his house and writing space—compare to backgrounds shared by his characters.

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Current Event February 10, 2015

A New Harper Lee Novel

Literature Civil RIghts Biography

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee has long been considered a classic in American Literature. Its look at race and injustice in the South through the eyes of a young girl known as Scout endures to this day, more than fifty years after its release. Fans of the novel received an amazing surprise last week when it was announced that Harper Lee will be publishing another book. “Go Set A Watchman” features the same world and characters of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Listen to learn the fascinating story behind the new novel and how it inspired the original.

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What is a memoir

ELA High School

What is a Memoir?

Biography Memoir Nonfiction

How accurate are memoirs? This public radio story looks at a scandal involving author James Frey and his memoir “A Million Little Pieces.” Frey was charged with exaggerating, and even lying about, his own life in his memoir. Where should a writer draw the line between fact and fiction in memoirs?

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A friendship between fantasy greats

ELA High School

A Friendship Between Fantasy Writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

Fiction Biography Science Fiction

Two famous authors, C.S. Lewis and J.R..R Tolkien, had a deep friendship. C.S. Lewis helped J.R.R. Tolkien get published, but Tolkien admitted he didn’t even like Lewis’ work, especially "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe," which he thought was terrible. Both were Christians and heavily influenced by Christian ideology. Tolkien says "Lord of the Rings" was a deeply Catholic book, while Lewis was more influenced by writers of the Renaissance who were fascinated by Pagan mythology. Listen as this radio story explores the two authors' friendship and motivations.

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Personal experience reflected in literature

ELA Middle School

Roald Dahl's Motivation for Writing

Fiction Biography Narrative Children's Literature Writing Process

Roald Dahl’s life was plagued by tragedy, and yet he wrote some of the most famous children’s books of our time, including "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach." This public radio story takes you into the life of Dahl, and what motivated his writing. Listen to learn more about his relationship with his wife and children, his special writing hut, and the legacy he left behind.

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Maya angelous life and legacy

ELA Middle School

Maya Angelou's Life and Legacy

Gender Civil RIghts Poetry Biography

Maya Angelou was an author, poet and icon. She grew up during segregation and used her work to empower and give voice to the African American community. Her memoir, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" changed the literary world and opened doors for African American authors and women.

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Harriettubman

Current Event December 20, 2014

Honoring Harriet Tubman

Race US History I Biography

Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in Maryland and then used her freedom and the Underground Railroad to free more than 70 slaves. Known as the “Moses of Her People,” Tubman lived a purposeful life fighting slavery. She also joined the fight for women’s suffrage after the Civil War. Congress has approved the creation of two national historic parks, one in Maryland and the other in New York, to commemorate and honor the life of this pioneering woman.

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Current Event April 27, 2014

Who’s the Real Shakespeare?

Literature Biography Drama

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”

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Jacklondon.sleddogs

Current Event December 9, 2013

Jack London’s Adventurous Life

Literature Biography Fiction

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.

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Marktwain.framedlife

Current Event December 8, 2013

Mark Twain’s Life Framed His Writing

Literature Biography Fiction

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.

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