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American Literature — 20th Century
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Eminent Scholar/Teachers: Modern American Novel

George P. Garrett provides an overview of American fiction, from 1910 to 1950, identifying more than sixty prominent novelists and commenting on their work.
Ivy (By Request)

My Jack London [electronic resource]: A Daughter Remembers

This program helps us to understand the author of those well-loved action stories whose rugged example and realist style influenced writers from Hemingway to Orwell. His daughter traces her father's life through personal reminiscence, archival family photos, and rare film footage.

Bill Moyers Journal [electronic resource]: Actor John Lithgow / Poetry Festival

He's played heroes, villains, saints, sinners, a ballet-dancing elephant, and a space alien. In this edition of the Journal, multifaceted actor and children's author John Lithgow joins Bill Moyers to share yet another side of himself: poetry lover. The award-winning stage and screen star talks about his favorite poems, insights into acting, and thoughts on the enduring power of art. The program also offers a tribute to the incomparable biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival with archival clips of Coleman Barks, W. S. Merwin, Sharon Olds, Kurtis Lamkin, and others reciting some of their deeply moving works.

Moyers & Company [electronic resource]: Poet Christian Wiman on Love, Faith, and Cancer

In this edition of Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers talks with acclaimed poet and Poetry Magazine editor Christian Wiman about how finding true love and being diagnosed with a rare and incurable blood cancer reignited his religious passion as well as his creative expression. "When we think of our memories, they're moments of intensity," Wiman tells Moyers. "Whether they were sorrowful or happy, moments of great loneliness or moments of great communion - we live for these moments in our life. And I do think poetry is a way of recognizing the moments in your life. But also a way of preserving them."

Moyers & Company [electronic resource]: Rita Dove-Decoding the Language of Poetry

In this edition of Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers welcomes former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, who received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama. Dove served two terms as Poet Laureate, the youngest and the first African-American to be named to that prestigious position. Through an intimate conversation and select readings, Moyers and Dove explore American history, language, culture, and ideas. They also talk about the responsibility and controversy that comes with editing a prestigious anthology, as Dove was recently tasked for The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry.

Saul Bellow [electronic resource]

Saul Bellow is arguably the premier literary figure in the U.S. in the final decades of the 20th century. Erudite and entertaining, a novelist whose work booksellers and librarians shelve not under fiction, but under literature, Bellow has seen his work both transformed to the popular silver screen and graced with the Nobel Prize for Literature. In this program, he talks about himself and his characters; his childhood, parents, and education; how he came to be a writer; his views of the world and the people who inhabit it; and the role of ideas in literature.

John Wideman [electronic resource]

This program focuses on the author of Sent for You Yesterday, Damballah, and Hiding Place, the man who, perhaps better than any other, epitomizes the painful split between middle-class blacks and the black urban underclass. In discussing his Brothers and Keepers-his memoir of a brother now serving a life term in prison-Wideman explores the factors that condemn one man to imprisonment, while another is able to transform a Pittsburgh ghetto, where both were raised, into a mythic place in the American literary imagination.

Charles Johnson [electronic resource]

This program shows how Charles Johnson, a quintessential multicultural novelist, blends black folk tales, Zen parables, 18th-century picaresque novels, and 20th-century philosophy into storytelling of remarkable vitality. Here, Johnson explains that he explores metaphysical questions against the backdrop of black American life. Oxherding Tales and Middle Passage are odysseys in search of individual identity and common values among conflicting cultures. Johnson concludes, "I am looking for the universal in particulars of black experience. We are cultural variations on one world experience.

Edna St. Vincent Millay [electronic resource]: Renascence

Burning the candle at both ends, Edna St. Vincent Millay exemplified the rebirth of American letters after World War I. Writing as an independent woman who interacted equally with her male contemporaries, she helped shape the poetic ethos of the 1920s. Largely in her own words and using family and period photos, this portrait traces her poetic development from her Maine roots, through her Greenwich Village years, to her European travels and her growing social and political activism.

Greenwich Village Writers [electronic resource]: The Bohemian Legacy

For more than a century, New York's Greenwich Village was home, playground, and inspiration to many of America's leading writers and artists-Henry James, Edith Wharton, Eugene O'Neill, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Willa Cather, e.e. cummings, Allen Ginsberg, and Bob Dylan, among many others. How these writers used and were shaped by the Village is the subject of this lively history, which includes readings and commentary by today's Village authors E. L. Doctorow, Galway Kinnell, Grace Paley, and Louis Auchincloss.

Thomas Wolfe [electronic resource]: Look Homeward, Angel

An examination of Wolfe's Asheville roots-the sights and formative sounds to which he looked back in his first great novel, Look Homeward, Angel, but to which he could not go home again.

Isaac Asimov [electronic resource]

Isaac Asimov's works cover an enormous spectrum: from science fiction and science fact, to children's books. Hailed by some as "the greatest explainer of our age," Asimov discusses evolution and the correlation between science and religion, in the first part of this program. In the second part, he addresses the future of education itself. Asimov was famous for thinking globally and rationally. In this program with Bill Moyers, he explains why we all must think similarly if we want to survive, and why we can't wait for the start of the next century.

TEDTalks [electronic resource]: Scott McCloud - Understanding Comics

If not for Scott McCloud, graphic novels and webcomics might be enjoying a more modest Renaissance. The flourishing of cartooning in the '90s and '00s, particularly comic-smithing on the Web, can be traced back to his major writings on the comics form. His book Understanding Comics, a comic book about comics, has been translated into 13 languages and has made him an evangelist for comics as a valid literary form. McCloud coined the term "infinite canvas" for the new comics medium made possible with Web browsers. In this fun TEDTalk, McCloud bends the presentation format into a cartoon-like experience, where colorful diversions whiz through childhood fascinations and imagined futures. This captivating look at the magic of comics will prove to viewers why McCloud's admiring fans includ [...]

Isaac Bashevis Singer [electronic resource]

A portrait of one of America's foremost writers - who, in keeping with the new American multicultural mosaic, did not write in English. In this program, made shortly before he died, the Nobelist discusses his literature and psychological sources in the folklore and daily life of the Eastern European ghetto from which he and his work both sprang, whose surreal visions of life transmogrified in the liberating air of American experience.

Moyers & Company [electronic resource]: Issues of Art and Heart

In this edition of Moyers Company, Bill is joined by poet and former publishing executive James Autry to talk about issues of art and heart. He shares six poignant poems - "On Firing a Salesman," "Disconnected," "Reminiscence at Toul," "New Birth for Sally, Spring 1984," "Patience," and "A Sentimental Poem" - and discusses his and his wife's challenging yet inspiring experience raising a child with autism.
2012; 2013

A Matter of Principle [electronic resource]

Scrooge may be alive and well and living in West Virginia in the person of Flagg Purdy. He won't pay the county phone tax, and he won't allow his wife and 11 children to celebrate any holiday. He rules his life, and theirs, by his "principles." But something has just happened to his well-ordered universe. Flagg's favorite daughter has decided to get married and to celebrate a certain winter holiday, complete with a tree and presents. Christmas is coming to the Purdy household. The serious, and often hilarious, family confrontations that follow sow the seed of women's liberation and confront Purdy with the question of whether love is more important than pride.

Moyers & Company [electronic resource]: Rewriting the Story of America

The life and work of Junot Díaz contains many worlds. His books - including National Book Award finalist This Is How You Lose Her and Pulitzer Prize winner The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - journey between the old and the new and between the America that was and the America we're becoming. Born in the Dominican Republic but raised in New Jersey and American to the core, Junot Díaz is a spotter of the future, a curator of the past, a man of the here and now. In this edition of Moyers & Company, Díaz joins Bill to discuss the evolution of the great American story while offering funny and perceptive insights into his own work (as well as Star Wars and Moby Dick) and America's inevitable shift to a majority-minority country.
2012; 2013

Moyers & Company [electronic resource]: Examining Life Through Verse

A one-time lawyer and advocate, award-winning poet Martín Espada has published more than 15 books of poems, translations, and essays, including his latest poetry collection, The Trouble Ball. In this edition of Moyers & Company, Espada joins Bill to examine life through verse, using "Litany at the Tomb of Frederick Douglass" as a springboard.

James Baldwin [electronic resource]: The Price of the Ticket

James Baldwin was at once a major 20th-century American author, a civil rights activist, and a prophetic voice calling Americans, black and white both, to confront their shared racial tragedy. This film biography of Baldwin's life captures the passion of his beliefs with stirring excerpts from his novels and striking archival footage dating from the Harlem Renaissance through to the author's commentary on civil rights to his writing retreats in Istanbul and Europe. Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, and William Styron provide insight as the program skillfully links excerpts from Baldwin's major works to different historical stages in black/white dialogue.