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Ch 11: Literature of the Contemporary Period

About This Chapter

Watch online video lessons on contemporary American literature to learn about poetry and prose by authors like Maya Angelou, Arthur Miller and J.D. Salinger. Each lesson is accompanied by a short multiple-choice quiz you can use to check your understanding of their works.

Literature of the Contemporary Period

Use our video presentations to study the contemporary literary movement. Watch lessons that introduce the period and explain how to identify the characteristics of contemporary literary works. You'll learn about Beat poets and the Beat movement with a heavy focus on Allen Ginsberg's poem 'Howl'.

These in-depth lessons cover some of the most famous authors and works of this time, including J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. You'll become more familiar with authors, such as William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Ralph Ellison by studying their work, personal histories and styles. Lessons will also cover Richard Wright and his influential work on the portrayal of African Americans in literature. Watch a lesson that covers Maya Angelou and discover the autobiographical nature of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Additional in-depth lessons will cover Arthur Miller. You'll get to learn about his background and major plays. Specifically, watch lessons that cover The Crucible and Death of a Salesman. Analyze each piece to gain a deeper understanding of what Miller was trying to convey and what these pieces have to say about him and his style of writing.

You'll also get a chance to study Tennessee Williams. Find out who he was and what his life was like. Learn about what influenced his work and writing style. Watch lessons on A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie and study both pieces in-depth by analyzing meanings, themes and symbolism. Thanks for watching!

17 Lessons in Chapter 11: Literature of the Contemporary Period
The Contemporary Period in American Literature

1. The Contemporary Period in American Literature

Learn about how Contemporary literature developed and understand its fundamental characteristics. Find out how American history and cultural norms really defined and developed the Contemporary period in American literature.

Contemporary American Literature: Authors and Major Works

2. Contemporary American Literature: Authors and Major Works

This lesson helps you decipher pieces of contemporary American literature by looking at famous examples from some of the greatest authors of the time.

Tennessee Williams: Biography, Works, and Style

3. Tennessee Williams: Biography, Works, and Style

This lesson provides insight into the life, work and style of one of the most influential playwrights of our time, Tennessee Williams. His major works include 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.'

A Streetcar Named Desire: Summary and Analysis

4. A Streetcar Named Desire: Summary and Analysis

Learn about the controversial play 'A Streetcar Named Desire,' why it was so controversial, and why it is still considered a classic piece of American literature.

The Glass Menagerie: Summary and Analysis

5. The Glass Menagerie: Summary and Analysis

Tennessee Williams' first big hit, 'The Glass Menagerie,' known as the memory play, fascinated audiences for its presentation of one man's vision of his past. This lesson will go into the basic plot of this story, as well as explore the major symbols and elements of style in the play.

Arthur Miller: Biography and Major Plays

6. Arthur Miller: Biography and Major Plays

In this lesson, we will talk about the life of one of America's greatest playwrights, Arthur Miller. We will take a close look at his role in the American political scene of the 1950s and give insight into some of his most influential works.

Arthur Miller's The Crucible: Summary and Quotes

7. Arthur Miller's The Crucible: Summary and Quotes

What's Arthur Miller's play 'The Crucible' all about? Witches! Communists! Allegories! It's the Red Scare of the McCarthy era as told through the metaphor of the Salem witch trials of colonial America.

Miller's Death of a Salesman: Summary and Analysis

8. Miller's Death of a Salesman: Summary and Analysis

In 'Death of a Salesman,' Willy Loman just can't catch a break. And if the title is an indicator, things won't end well. In this lesson, we'll look at Arthur Miller's 1949 masterpiece about a salesman and his family.

Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man Summary and Analysis

9. Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man Summary and Analysis

If people only see you as a part of a race, and not as an individual, are you still a person? In this lesson, we'll analyze Ralph Ellison's important and critically acclaimed novel, 'Invisible Man.'

Richard Wright's Black Boy: Summary and Analysis

10. Richard Wright's Black Boy: Summary and Analysis

After his fiction masterpiece 'Native Son,' Richard Wright wrote a deeply personal and moving autobiography, covering his childhood in the South and his life as an adult in Chicago. In this lesson, we'll explore 'Black Boy.'

J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye: Summary and Analysis

11. J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye: Summary and Analysis

J.D. Salinger's novel tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a literary figure you'll either love or hate. Watch this video to find out which camp you fall into!

The Beat Generation: Characteristics of Beat Poetry

12. The Beat Generation: Characteristics of Beat Poetry

It's a movement that began with a howl, and it had a major impact on both poetry and culture in America. In this lesson, we'll cover the Beat Generation and review the defining characteristics of their style.

Jack Kerouac: On the Road and Other Works

13. Jack Kerouac: On the Road and Other Works

Jack Kerouac didn't just name the Beat Generation, for many people, he defines it. In this lesson, we'll explore 'On the Road, his seminal work, while also reviewing his biography and other notable novels.

William S. Burroughs: Biography, Writings, and Style of a Beat

14. William S. Burroughs: Biography, Writings, and Style of a Beat

Writer, traveler, collaborator, painter, addict, icon...the labels that describe William S. Burroughs never stop. In this lesson, we'll look at the life and writings of the member of the Beat generation who gave us 'Naked Lunch' and much more.

Edward Albee: The Zoo Story & Theatre of the Absurd

15. Edward Albee: The Zoo Story & Theatre of the Absurd

Edward Albee's 'The Zoo Story' may not have a zoo, but there's definitely a story, at least a story of sorts. In this lesson, we'll explore this example of the Theatre of the Absurd.

Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Poetry

16. Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Poetry

'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' is the autobiography of American poet Maya Angelou. While the story is often difficult to read, it shows how a strong person can overcome difficult obstacles and achieve great things. Learn more about the inspiring life story of one of the country's greatest writers.

Sandra Cisneros: The House on Mango Street Summary and Analysis

17. Sandra Cisneros: The House on Mango Street Summary and Analysis

What is life like for a young Chicana girl growing up in a patriarchal Latino neighborhood in Chicago? Find out in this exploration of Sandra Cisneros' 1984 novel, 'The House on Mango Street.'

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