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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 26

Length: 30 min.

Grade Levels:
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Language Arts and Literature

Video on Demand
Teacher's Guide
Web Resources


Literary Visions

Literary Visions brings students face-to-face with the rich diversity of fiction, poetry, and drama. An introduction to literature and literary analysis, this series lets students hear first-hand the insights of contemporary writers, critics, scholars, and actors on both classic and contemporary writing. Compelling dramatizations and readings of poetry, plays, and short fiction help students focus on basic elements of writing such as characterization and plot, and encourage students to develop their own interpretations. This series is an invaluable resource for teachers who stress critical thinking and writing.

Course Themes

  • Language, literature and written expression provide meaning, understanding and order to experience.
  • Literature and its genres are forms of expression that are a vital part of culture.
  • The study of literature — its creation, texts and interpretation — develops interpretive and analytical skills.
  • A literary text and its reader exist within historical, social and cultural contexts.
  • Becoming a skilled reader and writer motivates a person to read and write further and to enjoy literature.

Episode Guide

1. First Sight: An Introduction to Literature — Introduces the course content and approach.

2. Ways of Seeing: Responding to Literature — Focusing on critical approaches to literature the program previews selected dramatic scenes and author interviews from upcoming highlighted programs.

3. A Personal view: The Art of the Essay — Traces the development of the formal essay and the birth of printing technology and their impact on the growth of political democracy. An interview with essayist Willie Morris focuses on the informal essay.

4. Reflected Worlds: The Elements of Short Fiction — A dramatization of Frank O’Connor’s First Confession and an interview with Ernest Gaines demonstrate the element of fiction.

5. The Story’s Blueprint: Symbolism and Structure in Short Fiction — Stephen Crane’s The Blue Hotel exemplifies the relationship of plot, structure and conflict.

6. Telling Their Tales: Character in Short Fiction — Techniques of characterization and the importance of point of view emphasized in a dramatization of Tillie Olsen’s I Stand Here Ironing.

7. In That Time and Place: Setting and Character in Short Fiction — Setting reveals character in Susan Glaspell’s A Jury of Her Peers while it magnifies meaning for writer Stephen Dixon.

8. The Author’s Voice: Tone and Style in Short Fiction — An interview with Maxine Hong Kingston highlights this examination of the impact of style on meaning.

9. Suggested Meanings: Symbolism and Allegory in Short Fiction — Symbolism is prominent in a dramatization of D. H. Lawrence’s The Horse Dealer’s Daughter, while myth predominates in the work of Native American writer N. Scott Momaday, who is interviewed.

10. The Sum of Its Parts: Theme in Short Fiction — Multiple themes are uncovered in “Everyday Use,” a dramatization of Alice Walker’s short story.

11. The Sacred Words: The Elements of Poetry — Visual essays suggest the role of poetry for the individual and the culture. James Dickey reads and analyzes one of his poems The Performance and The Lifeguard.

12. A Sense of Place: Setting and Character in Poetry — The historical setting of My Last Duchess, Theme for English B, and Dover Beach convey much about the characters and ideas of these poems. The New England landscapes of Maxine Kumin echo the themes of her poetry.

13. Tools of the Trade: Words and Images in Poetry — Poetry readings, visualizations of poems, and an interview with Lucille Clifton, who reads two of her favorite poems, This Morning and Homage to my Hips, reveal the beauty and the working of poetic language and imagery.

14. Seeing Anew: Rhetorical Figures in Poetry — The power of metaphor, simile and other figures of speech through dramatizations of Anne Bradstreet’s The Author to Her Book, Nikki Giovanni’s Woman and Daniel Halpern’s Snapshot of Hue. Gary Soto is interviewed and comments on his poem Oranges.

15. An Echo to the Sense — X.J. Kennedy discusses and demonstrates the importance of rhyme and meter. Dramatic readings of poems by Shakespeare, Dickinson and Hopkins and contemporary poets like Dudley Randall and Leonard Adame are analyzed to show how prosody and form contribute to meaning.

16. Distant Voices: Myth, Symbolism and Allusion in Poetry — Four poetic versions of the Icarus myth—those of Sexton, Spender, Williams, and Field—are dramatized and compared. Marge Piercy discusses the role of myth in her poetry.

17. Artful Resonance: Theme in Poetry — Dramatizations of six poems on the same subject help clarify the difference between subject and theme. Close analysis of poems by John Donne and Donald Hall explore the interrelationship between poetic form and meaning.

18. Images of Reality: The Elements of Drama — Dramatizations of selected scenes from Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, and The Glass Menagerie and an interview introduce the origins, structure and purpose of drama.

19. Playing the Part: Characters and Actors in Drama — The development of dramatic character by playwright and by actor is illustrated through several interpretations of a single scene from Hamlet.

20. Patterns of Action: Plot and Conflict in Drama — Dramatist A.R. Guerney discusses conflict and plot in contemporary American theater. A dramatization of Oedipus Rex demonstrates Classical plot structure.

21. Perspectives on Illusion: Setting and Staging in Drama — An interview with a set designer and a documentary of types of theaters demonstrate the intertwining of text and technique in dramatic setting.

22. Speech and Silence: The Language of Drama — The artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger demonstrates interpretation of dramatic language with actors. Director Emily Mann discusses her work with contemporary texts, particularly a production of The Glass Menagerie.

23. The Vision Quest: Myth and Symbolism in Drama — Alaskan playwright David Hunsaker’s dramatizations of Eskimo myth and his productions of Eskimo translations of Greek tragedies, together with scenes from Oedipus Rex , demonstrate the enduring power and meaning of myth in drama.

24. A Frame for Meaning: Theme in Drama — Dramatist David Hwang discusses the themes and structure of his plays, which include M. Butterfly. Scholars consider thematic interpretations inherent in Hamlet. Conclusion.

25. Casting Long Shadows: The Power of Literature — This summary of major series themes reviews the impact of literature on the individual through excerpts of series dramatizations and interviews.

26. Continuing Vision: The Uses of Literature — Explores the impact of literature on society and culture in the past and present and looks at what forms literature may take in the future and possible influence on society.

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