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Literary Visions

A Sense of Place: Setting and Character In Poetry (#112)

This episode explored how place functions in poetry, and defended poetry as an art that can contain a specific place. It featured dramatizations of poems--including "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning and "Theme For English B" by Langston Hughes--in order to demonstrate place in poetry. Literary critics and poets described poetry as one of the highest forms of expression. Also, poet Maxine Kumin discussed how sense of place was important in her poetry, read from her work, and spoke about her life and work. [28 minutes] Closed Captioning

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

PBS Video

Series Description: This telecourse brings literature to life with dramatizations of individual works and readings of literary passages. This introduction to literature incorporates both contemporary and traditional works in its selection of literary texts. It also places a strong emphasis on writing about literature as a way for students to learn and use advanced compositional techniques. Organized around three major genres of literature -- short fiction, poetry and drama -- the programs exmine literary elements such as character, plot and symbolism. Host Fran Dorn identifies these elements within dramatizations of the representative literary works. Commentary from noted critics contributes the multiple perspectives that would be found in class discussion. Contemporary authors James Dickey, August Wilson, Maxine Hong Kingston and Tillie Olson, among others, discuss their inspiration and the craft of creative writing

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  • First Sight: An Introduction to Literature (#101)

    This episode, "First Sight: An Introduction to Literature," attempted to define literature and discussed its importance in human culture. Writers discused why they wrote and what literature meant to them; and literature professors offered an academic perspective on the significance of literature. The program also contained dramatizations of scenes from a variety of literature. [29 minutes]

  • Ways of Seeing: Responding to Literature (#102)

    This episode explored how the writer, reader, and critic interpret literature. Writers of various genres explained the process of writing, including how and why they wrote, where their ideas came from, writer's block, and the life of the writer. Academics discussed how readers and critics interpret literature. The program also contained dramatizations of scenes from a variety of literary works. [29 minutes]

  • A Personal View: The Art of Essay (#103)

    This program, "The Art of the Essay," explored the history, practice, and mechanics of the essay, one of the most widely used and read writing styles. It began with an examination of the writing styles of Montagne, Bacon, Pain, Emerson, and Martin Luther King, Jr.; and included a segment in which essayist Willie Morris read and discussed his work. [29 minutes]

  • Relected Worlds: The Elements of Short Fiction (#104)

    This program, "Reflected Worlds: The Elemements of Short Fiction," was the first of seven episodes devoted to short fiction. It introduced the basic aspects of short fiction and provided a brief history of the short story. A dramatization of Frank O'Connor's short story, "First Confession," was used to explain some basic elements of short fiction, and writer Ernest Gaines talked about his fiction -- in particular, "The Sky Is Gray," his first short story to gain national attention. [29 minutes]

  • The Story's Blueprint: Plot and Structure In Short Fiction (#105)

    This episode, "The Story's Blueprint: Plot and Structure In Short Fiction," examined plot and structure in short fiction by comparing the predictable plot and structure of pulp fiction to the more complex plot and structure of literature. A dramatization of Stephen Crane's "The Blue Hotel" was used as a backdrop for a discussion by literary critics on the complexity of this short story's plot. This program also featured a segment in which writer Andre Dubus discussed the writing process and the development of plot in his fiction. [29 minutes]

  • Telling Their Tales: Character In Short Fiction (#106)

    This episode, "Telling Their Tales: Character in Short Fiction," explored the roles character and point of view play in short fiction. A dramatization of Tillie Olsen's story "I Stand Here Ironing" was used to examine how character is deployed in short fiction. It also featured commentary in which Tillie Olsen discussed her story and explained her intentions in constructing such a point of view. [29 minutes]

  • In That Time and Place: Setting Character In Short (#107)

    This episode, "In That Time and Place: Setting and Character in Short Fiction," defined the goals of setting as establishing reality and evoking a theme, and used a dramatization of Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers" to explore this theme. It also examined the idea of understanding literature in its historical and cultural context; used newsreels from 1917--the time Glassfell wrote her work--to underscore the importance of the context in which a work is written; and featured commentary by writer Stephen Dixon, in which the author of "All Gone" explained how he created setting in his fiction. [29 minutes]

  • The Author's Voice: Tone and Style In Short Fiction (#108)

    This episode, "The Author's Voice: Tone and Style in Short Fiction," examined the various elements that go into creating an author's voice. It featured excerpts from works of different literary styles to explain this topic; included a dramatization of Joy Williams's "Taking Care" as an example of an author who uses a bare voice of despair; and concluded with comments by writer Maxine Hong Kingston, who spoke of the experiences in her life that had helped shaped her voice. [29 minutes]

  • Suggested Meanings: Symbolism and Allegory In Short (#109)

    This episode explored the use of symbolism and allegory in short fiction and how the idea of myth related to these literary devices. The opening segment introduced these devices by examining how water has been used in literature as a symbol that can convey many different meanings. The use of water as symbol was explored further in a dramatization of D.H. Lawrence's "The Horse Dealer's Daughter." The episode also featured an interview with writer N. Scott Momaday, who explained how his use of symbolism in his story, "The Bear and the Colt," reflected the cultural symbols of Native American culture. [29 minutes]

  • The Sum of Its Parts: Theme In Short Fiction (#110)

    This episode served as a summary of the episodes dealing with fiction and how the elements discussed in these episodes combine to form the theme of the story. The program also used a dramatization of Alice Walker's story, "Everday Use," to explain the use of theme. In addition, Sandra Cisneros discussed theme in relation to her book, The House on Mango Street, and how her Latino heritage helped form these themes. [28 minutes]

  • The Sacred Words: The Elements of Poetry (#111)

    This program, the first of seven episodes devoted to poetry, introduced some basic concepts of this literary form. Critics explored form and meaning in poetry, the oral tradition, and how poetry reflects a people's culture. Poet James Dickey read two of his poems, "The Life Guard" and "Performance," and discussed his life and work. [29 minutes]

  • Tools of the Trade: Words and Images in Poetry (#113)

    This episode explored the different language styles poets use to convey their meaning. It featured recitations from a wide range of poetry to demonstrate the diverse styles contemporary and classic poets use in their art. Poet Lucille Clifton read from her poetry and spoke of her life and work. [28 minutes]

  • Seeing Anew: Rhetorical Figures in Poetry (#114)

    This episode examined the use of figures of speech in poetry. Through a detailed analysis of Anne Bradstreet's "The Author to Her Book," the program identified figures of speech and show how they function. It also featured an interview with poet Gary Soto, who spoke of his life and work. [29 minutes]

  • An Echo to the Sense: Prosody and Form In Poetry (#115)

    This episode explored metrical structure and rhyme in poetry. It also treated the similarities between poetry and music, onomatopoeia, rhythm, free verse, and formal structure. Poet X.J. Kennedy read from his poems and discussed why, in a time when most poets wrote free verse, he preferred to write formal, rhyming poetry. [29 minutes]

  • Distant Voices: Myth, Symbolism and Allusion In Po (#116)

    This episode explored the different ways poets have interpreted the myth of Icarus in their works; showed how cultural myths can function as symbols and allusions in poetry; and featured an interview with Marge Piercy, who read from her work and discussed the significance of myth in her poetry. [28 minutes]

  • Artful Resonance: Theme In Poetry (#117)

    This episode, "Artful Resonance: Theme in Poetry," explored theme as the point at which all elements in a poem converge. Through a dramatization of John Donne's "The Sun Rising," as well as analysis of the ways various poems explored death, the program highlighted the importance of theme. It also featured an interview with Donald Hall, in which the poet spoke of his life and work. [29 minutes]

  • Image of Reality: The Elements of Drama (#118)

    This episode, "Image of Reality: The Elements of Drama," was the first in a series of seven episodes on drama and theater. It provided a brief history of how the concept of the hero in drama had changed over the centuries, and introduced the basic elements and structure of a play. It also featured an interview with August Williams, who spoke of his work and life as a black playwright. [29 minutes]

  • Playing The Part: Characters and Actors In Drama (#119)

    This episode, "Playing the Part: Characters and Actors in Drama," explored the art of creating characters in drama. The program examined how the writer, director and actor all play an integral part in forming the character. It also looked at the history of Shakespeare's Hamlet, including the play, its characters, and some of the actors who have portrayed Hamlet since the work was first performed in 1602. Actor John Vickery discussed Hamlet and explained why he enjoyed playing the title role of this play. [29 minutes]

  • Patterns of Action: Plot and Conflict In Drama (#120)

    This episode, "Patterns of Action: Plot and Conflict in Drama," explored the structure of plot and the nature of confict in plays. Using Sophocles's Oedipus as a model, the program examined the structure of plot by breaking it down into five categories: prologue, complication, crisis, catastrophe, and the final resolution. The program placed particular emphasis on how conflict provides the central force in plot. It also featured an interview with A.R. Gurney, in which the playwright discussed his life, work and why he preferred to write plays rather than fiction. [29 minutes]

  • Perspective On Illusion: Setting and Staging In Dr (#121)

    This episode, "Perspectives on Illusion: Setting and Staging in Drama," examined all the creative components that make up the set of a play. Beginning with the stage itself, it explored the history of the stage, starting with the ancient Greeks and continuing to the present. It also examined set design, and showed how playwrights such as Williams and Ibsen often gave specific directions on how the sets in their plays should be designed. Scenic designer Christopher Barreca discussed the work that goes into creating the set and the interaction that takes place among director, designer and craftsperson. [29 minutes]

  • Speech and Silence: The Language of Drama (#122)

    This episode, "Speech and Silence: The Language of Drama," explored how staging and non-verbal language interact with the words of a play. It examined scenes from Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie to emphasize the importance of pauses, silences and other staging devices, and show how these devices become a language in themselves. Artistic director Michael Kahn discussed the use of pauses and silences in Shakespeare and demonstrated how he instructed actors to use them effectively. Lastly, director and playwright Emily Mann shared her views on staging and how playwrights can offer specific stage directions or no stage directions at all. [29 minutes]

  • The Vision Quest: Myth and Symbolism In Drama (#123)

    This episode explores how myths and symbols in literature transcend both time and culture. It examines Sophocles's Oedipus for myths and symbols that reflect ancient Greek culture and contemporary cultures. It also shows how the myth of Oedipus influenced literature and other areas of thought up to the present day. Also in this program, playwright, director, and artistic designer David Hunsaker discusses his work with Native Americans in Alaska and his theater group, Naa Kahidi. Mr. Hunsaker discusses how ancient Greek myth and Native Alaskan myth have many common themes. [29 minutes]

  • A Frame for Meaning: Theme In Drama (#124)

    This episode examines how all the elements in a play contribute to forming its theme. Playwrights, directors, stage designers, and actors discuss how their collaborative efforts culminate in forming a play's theme. Scenes from Shakespeare's Hamlet illustrate how theme functions. Also featured is a conversation with David Henry Hwang, in which the playwright discusses how his Asian background helped form the themes of his plays, which he describes as works that explore "the mystery of identity." [29 minutes]

  • Casting Long Shadows: The Power of Literature (#125)

    This episode shows how literature can be both foreign and familiar, can transport the reader to other worlds, and can resonate in the reader's own experiences. It examines the different structures of fiction, poems and essays, and includes discussions with writers and critics. [29 minutes]

  • Continuing Vision: The Uses of Literature (#126)

    Using Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jungle, and Roots as examples, this episode shows how literature can influence social change. Critics who appear throughout the series offer personal thoughts on the importance of understanding literature. Also, writing instructors speak of the gratification that comes from writing one's story. The episode pays particular attention to two writing groups: a workshop for homeless women and Writers Club, Inc., a program for inmates in a Maryland prison. The episode ends with the words of William Faulkner's, "The Things Worth Writing About." [29 minutes]

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