Welcome to Iowa Public Television! If you are seeing this message, you are using a browser that does not support web standards. This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device. Read more on our technical tips page.

Iowa Public Television


Famous People In Literature

Victor Hugo (#104)

Victor Hugo was not only a great writer, poet and playwright; he was also a political activist. He was not beyond critiquing the French King in his plays. And his support of democratic reforms resulted in he expulsion from France for 14 years. Life’s tragic injustices were made human by the writer in the character of Quasimodo, an ugly and kind-hearted hunchback, in the novel Notre Dame de Paris. [7 minutes] Closed Captioning

This episode has not aired in the past few months on Iowa Public Television.

PBS Video

Series Description: Their titles include novelist, playwright, poet and essayist. But they are also known as social activist, pacifist, reformer, human rights activist and humorist. Famous People in Literature examines literary giants who left a legacy of works that remain required reading in the classroom. Their writings were often a vivid depiction of everyday life and attitudes of the era. Each program in the series explores the most historic developments, significant contributions, important benchmarks and major turning points during these incredible lives.

« Upcoming Episodes

All Episodes

  • Geofrey Chaucer (#101)

    In 14th century England, common people spoke in different forms of English while the nobility used French and Latin for communication. Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to begin using English, both in poetry and prose. The greatest poet of the pre-Shakespearian period, he is rightfully considered “the father of English poetry.” [7 minutes]

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald (#102)

    No other American writer managed to dig into the deep psychology of their compatriots or analyze them so completely, as did Francis Scott Fitzgerald. His life could be compared with a three-act play: the first act started with amazing recognition, followed by long disappointment in the second act, and complete mental and physical exhaustion in the third. [6 minutes]

  • Homer (#103)

    Homer was considered the greatest authority on poetry, morals, religion, and philosophy in his day. Later, he has been considered the founder of classical and European literature. However, it is argued even now whether there actually was a legendary ancient Greek poet named Homer let alone if he is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. [7 minutes]

  • Franz Kafka (#105)

    Franz Kafka lacked confidence and published few of his literary works. However, less than a year after Kafka died, his friend Max Brod broke the writer’s last will that demanded that his manuscripts be destroyed and published everything, including his most private and secret works. Kafka’s books have subsequently been translated into many languages and become films. [7 minutes]

  • Omar Khayyam (#106)

    Omar Khayyam was originally most was widely known as an outstanding mathematician, physicist, and astronomer. But he was also an accomplished poet and philosopher. [7 minutes]

  • John Milton (#107)

    His contemporaries gave a cold shoulder to his works. Even Voltaire, the first translator of Paradise Lost, gave it a negative review. However, John Milton himself, the greatest of the seventeenth century poets used to say, “I am happy to have few readers if only they are worthy of understanding me.” [7 minutes]

  • Robert Louis Stevenson (#108)

    Tortured by lung disease most of his life, Robert Louis Stevenson found creativity in his solitude, which helped write Treasure Island and Jekyll and Hyde. He wrote numerous historical novels too. [7 minutes]

  • Jonathan Swift (#109)

    Government leaders paid attention to his political views and private life. He published almost all his works under fake names. Nevertheless, his style was always recognizable and his reputation as a “general offender” was well known. The real name of this dangerous pamphlet writer, idol of Ireland, and the most talented writer in England is Jonathan Swift. Unfortunately, seventeen years after publishing Gulliver’s Travels, the famous author went out of his mind. During the last three years of his life, he almost never spoke. [7 minutes]

  • Leo Tolstoy (#110)

    Tolstoy was a complicated man. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest Russian writers for his most celebrated novels—War and Peace and Anna Karenina. But he was also a leading religious thinker. He was a nobleman by birth but ultimately eschewed conveniences and lived the life of the common people in a peasant’s hut. [7 minutes]

  • Mark Twain (#111)

    Samuel Langhorne Clemens is known to the whole world as Mark Twain. He grew up in Hannibal, Missouri on the Mississippi River. Later, Mark Twain memorialized his life in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Life on the Mississippi. He is also admired as a philosopher, satirist and humorist. [7 minutes]

  • Oscar Wilde (#112)

    Oscar Wilde showed great promise at an early age for his works in literature, winning scholarships and critical acclaim. In his words “I was the symbol of the art and culture of my age.” Tragically his life ended in disgrace and he died in poverty at an early age. [7 minutes]

« Upcoming Episodes

« Back to Programs A-Z

- display sidebar --->