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Edgar Allen Poe: A Concise Biography

His personal history has been the subject of controversy, with rumors of alcoholism and his marriage to a 13 year old cousin sparking the debate but adding to the mystique. His works include The Tell-tale Heart, The Murder in the Rue Morgue and more.
2005; 1996
Clemons (Stacks)

Victor Hugo, Writer, 1802-1885

Traces the life and literary career of the French Romantic writer Victor Hugo, using contemporary drawings, photographic stills and early portraits and other archive material.
Ivy (By Request)

Robert Burns [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This program from the Famous Authors series offers an overview of Robert Burns' life and major works, including occasional poems, reflective poems, dramatic poems, and lyrics. Beginning with a reading of "To a Mouse," the video introduces Burns parents, William and Agnes Burns, who, though poor farmers, supported the writer's education and surrounded him with Scottish folk songs. As he grew older, Burns rebelled against traditional Scottish values of chastity and modesty in both his life and his poetry, and engaged in a debate group with friends. After some personal scandal and the literary success of his first book of poems, Burns moved from the family farm to Edinburgh and used social connections to gain a position as an exciseman and to his literary advantage. His various love aff [...]

F. Scott Fitzgerald [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This overview of the biography and writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald from the Famous Authors series traces Fitzgerald's life and influences from his birth in St. Paul, Minnesota, to his university days at Princeton and literary celebrity and frivolity in New York, to his status as social purveyor of modernists in Paris, and his tumultuous marriage to the talented but troubled Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald and following alcoholic spiral.

Thomas Hardy [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This program from the Famous Authors series offers an overview of the biography and works of Thomas Hardy. The film introduces the writer's hometown of Dorchester, which was a strong part of his identity and the model for the fictional land of Wessex where most of his stories were set. Insights into his lower class upbringing, waning religious conviction, and the major relationships in his life, with his mother Jemima and his wife Emma, cultivate an understanding of his work.

Victor Hugo [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This program from the Famous Authors series provides an overview of the life and writings of Victor Hugo, author of the novels The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables. The video contextualizes Hugo's childhood as the son of an officer in Napoleon's army during the French Revolution. As a schoolboy, Hugo began cultivating his talents as a journalist and poet, and his older brother nurtured these talents and arranged for the publication of his first book of poetry. By his early twenties, he enjoyed much public recognition, and the video illuminates the connections between the tumultuous political developments in France and Hugo's personal life and literary production.

Henrik Ibsen [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This overview of Henrik Ibsen's life and writing from the Famous Authors series contextualizes Ibsen's upbringing in tight-knit, strictly religious communities in isolated Norway. As a young man, he left his family home in a desire to break away from the staid and religious environment, and worked toward university and made friends that supported his talents. While he failed to pass matriculation exams in Oslo, he began to publish plays and continued to meet intellectual friends who supported his work, which led to a job as a theater director in Bergen. Ibsen eventually moved to Rome, where he met his publisher, Frederick Hegel, and began to gain some success, and later moved to Germany. The video discusses the way Ibsen's plays about small communities and everyday human drama, like [...]

Henry James [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This overview of Henry James' life and literature from the Famous Authors series begins with James' comfortable boyhood in New York, during which his father moved James and his brother around and back and forth from Europe frequently for the sake of education. He eventually went to Harvard to study law and began writing, but felt uncomfortable with American culture and left for England, where he spent most of the rest of his life.

James Joyce [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This program from the Famous Authors series traces James Joyce's life from his childhood and university days in Ireland, during which he was strongly religious, through his time in Paris where he denounced Catholicism, studied medicine, and began writing poetry, articles, and book reviews. The film introduces viewers to the city of Dublin, the background of Ulysses, Dubliners, and his other works. Joyce made a spotty living writing and teaching, but often struggled with money and drinking.

Franz Kafka [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This program from the Famous Authors series takes a close look at the life and literature of Franz Kafka. Contextualizing Kafka's upbringing in turn-of the-century Prague, the video illuminates how the politics of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and coming from a Jewish family shaped his life. Young friends Hugo Bergmann and Oskar Pollak were important influences and the first readers for the young writer. The dull but depressing nature of Kafka's office job and the political systems of the time resulted in the themes of surreal loss of individuality that he is so known for in stories like The Metamorphoses.

Eugene O'Neill [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

In this introduction to Eugene O'Neill's life and work from the Famous Authors series, viewers are given a close look at O'Neill's theatrical family and mother who developed a morphine addiction. He struggled with this and his renouncement of Catholicism, a blow to his Irish parents, and escaped into reading voraciously. He went to Princeton, but was unfocused and left for a life of drinking and revelry. Finally he began writing, and eventually took a playwriting class at Harvard, later having his plays performed by the Provincetown Players and leading to his success.

George Orwell [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

In this introduction to George Orwell's life and work from the Famous Authors series, viewers follow Orwell through his privileged education, during which he nurtured his writing talents from an early age. He joined the Burmese military police but grew disillusioned with his role as an oppressor, returned to depression-era England, and committed himself to writing, notwithstanding stints in war. The film connects the politically and economically unstable world of Naziism, fascism, and Stalin around Orwell to the satiric themes prevalent in Animal Farm, 1984, and his other novels.

Marcel Proust [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This program from the Famous Authors series introduces the audience to the high society and cultural advancements of Paris in which Proust lived from childhood on. The film walks through Proust's life while highlighting significant influences, connections to his major novel, The Remembrance of Things Past, and possible models for his characters. This masterpiece draws heavily on the author's life, but the film illuminates how it is essentially different than autobiography.

George Bernard Shaw [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This overview of George Bernard Shaw's life and work from the Famous Authors series starts in Dublin, introducing Shaw's family and his mother's voice teacher and influential family friend, George Vandeleur Lee. The film discusses Shaw's experience as a Protestant in Ireland. Eventually Shaw moved to England, where his mother had started giving singing lessons, and set off writing. There he made a name for himself as a controversial socialist spokesperson, a music and theater critic, and later as a dramatist. The program gives evidence of Shaw's famous wit and character.

W. B. Yeats [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This program from the Famous Authors series begins by contextualizing W.B. Yeats' early life in 19th century Ireland and introducing the Yeats' artistic family and the Irish legends that were so influential in his life and work. Yeats eventually became a ring leader of a group of artists in London called the Tragic Generation. Yeats became known as a political and literary voice of Ireland and an advocate for the performance of Irish drama.

Emile Zola [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

In this program from the Famous Authors series, the audience is offered an overview of the life and work of Emile Zola, starting with an introduction to the writer's parents and his important boyhood friendship with Paul Cezanne. The film discusses Zola's attachment to themes of nature and liberty. Eventually he was hired by the French publisher Hachette and began gaining social and literary success in Paris. The program also discusses the Dreyfus Affair, in which Zola courageously and publicly defended a Jewish military officer wrongly accused of treason.

The Brontë Sisters [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This program from the Famous Authors series introduces the rich imaginative life of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, exposed to the world of literature by their father Patrick Brontë priest, examiner, and writer. The family struggled with poverty, and the family home Haworth and moorland provided inspiration for the daughters. Charlotte and Emily were educated at Cowan Bridge School, later the inspiration for Charlotte's Jane Eyre, until their father could no longer ignore the mistreatment they suffered there. Afterward, the Brontë daughters pursued education at home, where they had access to literature, contemporary art, newspapers, and magazines. When their father got sick, the sisters tried to earn a living, but all the girls struggled with the stifling loss of freedom of being [...]
2011; 2005

Confucius [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This overview of Confucius' biography and philosophy from the Famous Authors series contextualizes Confucius' life during the Zhou Dynasty, relaying the Chinese values of family and ancestor-worship, history and record-keeping, and spirituality. This time saw many intellectual developments and the concepts of morality and peace were emerging, and the video demonstrates the major influence Confucius and his Analects, a collection of epigrams, has had on Chinese culture. He focused on four major issues: helping people to be good, honorable, and responsible members of society; learning and education; filial duty; and ritual and music. The video illuminates many of his epigrams on these topics and distinguishes between Confucianism, which focuses on personal behavior, and other religions [...]
2011; 2008

Charles Dickens [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This overview of Charles Dickens' life and work from the Famous Authors series discusses the author's happy childhood, during which he was close to his father and went to school. However, financial troubles later forced the family to move to London, and Dickens began absorbing the bustling city couched in fog where his novels would be set. Due to his father's debt, he could no longer attend school but rather worked in a factory while his family was in debtor's prison. The contrast between his younger years and this experience of poverty marked his fiction forever. Eventually Dickens was able to return to school and become a law reporter, and he grew to dislike law and satirize it. The success of The Pickwick Papers started his life as a popular, successful public figure, and he proce [...]
2011; 2005

Emily Dickinson [electronic resource]: A Concise Biography

This overview of the life and literature of Emily Dickinson from the Famous Authors series offers an insight into the reclusive author of 1,775 poems and a valuable collection of letters. The video depicts Dickinson's story as that of an individual in a society that smothers individuality and discusses the struggle of a female poet among male contemporaries. She did, however, know of and admire women writers like George Eliot and the Bronte sisters. She read avidly, and the video discusses the strong influence Shakespeare's work had on her. Dickinson lived next door to her closest friends, her brother Austin and his wife Susan Gilbert in the family house, The Homestead, in Amherst, Massachusetts, a place still influenced by the puritanical tradition of practicality, work ethic, and f [...]
2011; 2005