Category: literature

The number of all the atoms that compose the world is immense but finite, and as such only capable of a finite (though also immense) number of permutations. In an infinite stretch of time, the number of possible permutations must be run through, and the universe has to repeat itself. Once again you will be born from a belly, once again your skeleton will grow, once again this same page will reach your identical hands, once again you will follow the course of all the hours of your life until that of your incredible death.

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One of the most amazing things about poetry is its seemingly infinite capacity for interpretation. To illustrate that fact, TED-Ed launched a great poetic experiment. We gave one Walt Whitman poem to three of our in-house animators, and asked them to interpret it using three different styles of animation. They were each given a recording of the text to work from, which was supplied by three local poets who also interpreted the text using their voices. The result? A stunning video that breathes three very different lives into Walt Whitman’s timeless poem, “A Noiseless Patient Spider.” 

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Interpretation #1 by Jeremiah Dickey

Medium: Paint on Glass

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Interpretation #2 by Biljana Labovic

Medium: Video

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Interpretation #3 by Lisa LaBracio

Medium: Scratchboard

Watch all of the interpretations here: A poetic experiment: Walt Whitman, interpreted by three animators – Justin Moore

Happy Birthday to Walt Whitman today!

Today, we celebrate Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday!
Happy birthday, Walt!!

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost:

Today, we celebrate Robert Frost’s birthday.

We are excited to start our day with an animation of his poem “The Road Not Taken” from our recent animated poetry series.

For an analysis of the poem, check out this video and for more animated poetry, check out this series.

Animation directed by Ellen Su.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost:

Today, we celebrate Robert Frost’s birthday.

We are excited to start our day with an animation of his poem “The Road Not Taken” from our recent animated poetry series.

For an analysis of the poem, check out this video and for more animated poetry, check out this series.

Animation directed by Ellen Su.

Octavia Butler was a visionary storyteller who upended science fiction, built stunning worlds throughout her work, and explored dilemmas that keep us awake at night.

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Born in 1947, Octavia Butler grew up shy and introvertedin Pasadena, California. She dreamt up stories from an early age, and was soon scribbling these scenarios on paper. At twelve, she begged her mother for a typewriter after enduring a campy science fiction film called Devil Girl From Mars. Unimpressed with what she saw, Butler knew she could tell a better story.

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Much science fiction features white male heroes who blast aliens or become saviors of brown people. Butler wanted to write diverse characters for diverse audiences. She brought nuance and depth to the representation of their experiences.  

For Butler, imagination was not only for planting the seeds of science fiction – but also a strategy for surviving an unjust world on one’s own terms. Her work often takes troubling features of the world such as discrimination on the basis of race, gender, class, or ability, and invites the reader to contemplate them in new contexts.

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One of her most beloved novels, the Parable of the Sower, follows this pattern. It tells the story of Lauren Oya Olamina as she makes her way through a near future California ruined by corporate greed, inequality, and environmental destruction. As she struggles with hyperempathy, or a condition in the novel that causes her to feel others’ pain and less often their pleasure, Lauren embarks on a quest with a group of refugees to find a place to thrive. 

Lauren’s quest had roots in a real life event – California Prop 187, which attempted to deny undocumented immigrants fundamental human rights, before it was deemed unconstitutional. Butler frequently incorporated contemporary news into her writing. In her 1998 sequel to The Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, she wrote of a presidential candidate who controls Americans with virtual reality and “shock collars.” His slogan? “Make America great again.”

While people have noted her prescience, Butler was also interested in re-examining history. For instance, Kindred tells the story of a woman who is repeatedly pulled back in time to the Maryland plantation of her ancestors. Early on, she learns that her mission is to save the life of the white man who will rape her great grandmother. If she doesn’t save him, she herself will cease to exist. This grim dilemma forces Dana to confront the ongoing trauma of slavery and sexual violence against Black women.

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With her stories of women founding new societies, time travelers overcoming historical strife, and interspecies bonding, Butler had a profound influence on the growing popularity of Afrofuturism. That’s a cultural movement where Black writers and artists who are inspired by the past, present, and future produce works that incorporate magic, history, technology and much more.

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And today, Butler’s work remains a powerful reminder that imagination can be a tool for real change – as well as a rallying call for those who seek other ways to live in the world.

This month, TED-Ed is celebrating Black History Month, or National African American History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why should you read sci-fi superstar Octavia E. Butler? – Ayana Jamieson and Moya Bailey

Animation by Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat

Octavia Butler was a visionary storyteller who upended science fiction, built stunning worlds throughout her work, and explored dilemmas that keep us awake at night.

image

Born in 1947, Octavia Butler grew up shy and introvertedin Pasadena, California. She dreamt up stories from an early age, and was soon scribbling these scenarios on paper. At twelve, she begged her mother for a typewriter after enduring a campy science fiction film called Devil Girl From Mars. Unimpressed with what she saw, Butler knew she could tell a better story.

image

Much science fiction features white male heroes who blast aliens or become saviors of brown people. Butler wanted to write diverse characters for diverse audiences. She brought nuance and depth to the representation of their experiences.  

For Butler, imagination was not only for planting the seeds of science fiction – but also a strategy for surviving an unjust world on one’s own terms. Her work often takes troubling features of the world such as discrimination on the basis of race, gender, class, or ability, and invites the reader to contemplate them in new contexts.

image

One of her most beloved novels, the Parable of the Sower, follows this pattern. It tells the story of Lauren Oya Olamina as she makes her way through a near future California ruined by corporate greed, inequality, and environmental destruction. As she struggles with hyperempathy, or a condition in the novel that causes her to feel others’ pain and less often their pleasure, Lauren embarks on a quest with a group of refugees to find a place to thrive. 

Lauren’s quest had roots in a real life event – California Prop 187, which attempted to deny undocumented immigrants fundamental human rights, before it was deemed unconstitutional. Butler frequently incorporated contemporary news into her writing. In her 1998 sequel to The Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, she wrote of a presidential candidate who controls Americans with virtual reality and “shock collars.” His slogan? “Make America great again.”

While people have noted her prescience, Butler was also interested in re-examining history. For instance, Kindred tells the story of a woman who is repeatedly pulled back in time to the Maryland plantation of her ancestors. Early on, she learns that her mission is to save the life of the white man who will rape her great grandmother. If she doesn’t save him, she herself will cease to exist. This grim dilemma forces Dana to confront the ongoing trauma of slavery and sexual violence against Black women.

image

With her stories of women founding new societies, time travelers overcoming historical strife, and interspecies bonding, Butler had a profound influence on the growing popularity of Afrofuturism. That’s a cultural movement where Black writers and artists who are inspired by the past, present, and future produce works that incorporate magic, history, technology and much more.

image

And today, Butler’s work remains a powerful reminder that imagination can be a tool for real change – as well as a rallying call for those who seek other ways to live in the world.

This month, TED-Ed is celebrating Black History Month, or National African American History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why should you read sci-fi superstar Octavia E. Butler? – Ayana Jamieson and Moya Bailey

Animation by Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat

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Over the course of the 1960s, the FBI amassed almost two thousand documents in an investigation into one of America’s most celebrated minds. The subject of this inquiry was a writer named James Baldwin. At the time, the FBI investigated many artists and thinkers, but most of their files were a fraction the size of Baldwin’s. During the years when the FBI hounded him, he became one of the best-selling Black authors in the world. So what made James Baldwin loom so large in the imaginations of both the public and the authorities?

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Born in Harlem in 1924, he was the oldest of nine children. At age fourteen, he began to work as a preacher. By delivering sermons, he developed his voice as a writer, but also grew conflicted about the Church’s stance on racial inequality and homosexuality.

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After high school, he began writing novels and essays while taking a series of odd jobs. But the issues that had driven him away from the Church were still inescapable in his daily life. Constantly confronted with racism and homophobia, he was angry and disillusioned, and yearned for a less restricted life. So in 1948, at the age of 24, he moved to Paris on a writing fellowship.

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From France, he published his first novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain, in 1953. Set in Harlem, the book explores the Church as a source of both repression and hope. It was popular with both black and white readers. As he earned acclaim for his fiction, Baldwin gathered his thoughts on race, class, culture and exile in his 1955 extended essay, Notes of a Native Son.

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Meanwhile, the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum in America. Black Americans were making incremental gains at registering to vote and voting, but were still denied basic dignities in schools, on buses, in the work force, and in the armed services. Though he lived primarily in France for the rest of his life, Baldwin was deeply invested in the movement, and keenly aware of his country’s unfulfilled promise. 

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He had seen family, friends, and neighbors spiral into addiction, incarceration and suicide.He believed their fates originated from the constraints of a segregated society.In 1963, he published The Fire Next Time, an arresting portrait of racial strife in which he held white America accountable, but he also went further, arguing that racism hurt white people too.In his view, everyone was inextricably enmeshed in the same social fabric. He had long believedthat “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”

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Baldwin’s role in the Civil Rights movement went beyond observing and reporting. He also traveled through the American South attending rallies giving lectures of his own.   He debated both white politicians and black activists, including Malcolm X, and served as a liaison between black activists and intellectuals and white establishment leaders like Robert Kennedy. 

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Because of Baldwin’s unique ability to articulate the causes of social turbulence in a way that white audiences were willing to hear, Kennedy and others tended to see him as an ambassador for black Americans—a label Baldwin rejected. And at the same time, his faculty with words led the FBI to view him as a threat. Even within the Civil Rights movement, Baldwin could sometimes feel like an outsider for his choice to live abroadas well as his sexuality, which he explored openly in his writing at a time when homophobia ran rampant.

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Throughout his life, Baldwin considered it his role to bear witness. Unlike many of his peers, he lived to see some of the victories of the Civil Rights movement, but the continuing racial inequalities in the United States weighed heavily on him. 

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Though he may have felt trapped in his moment in history, his words have made generations of people feel known, while guiding them toward a more nuanced understanding of society’s most complex issues.

This month, TED-Ed is celebrating Black History Month, or National African American History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Notes of a native son: the world according to James Baldwin – Christina Greer

Animation by Gibbons Studio

image

Over the course of the 1960s, the FBI amassed almost two thousand documents in an investigation into one of America’s most celebrated minds. The subject of this inquiry was a writer named James Baldwin. At the time, the FBI investigated many artists and thinkers, but most of their files were a fraction the size of Baldwin’s. During the years when the FBI hounded him, he became one of the best-selling Black authors in the world. So what made James Baldwin loom so large in the imaginations of both the public and the authorities?

image

Born in Harlem in 1924, he was the oldest of nine children. At age fourteen, he began to work as a preacher. By delivering sermons, he developed his voice as a writer, but also grew conflicted about the Church’s stance on racial inequality and homosexuality.

image

After high school, he began writing novels and essays while taking a series of odd jobs. But the issues that had driven him away from the Church were still inescapable in his daily life. Constantly confronted with racism and homophobia, he was angry and disillusioned, and yearned for a less restricted life. So in 1948, at the age of 24, he moved to Paris on a writing fellowship.

image

From France, he published his first novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain, in 1953. Set in Harlem, the book explores the Church as a source of both repression and hope. It was popular with both black and white readers. As he earned acclaim for his fiction, Baldwin gathered his thoughts on race, class, culture and exile in his 1955 extended essay, Notes of a Native Son.

image

Meanwhile, the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum in America. Black Americans were making incremental gains at registering to vote and voting, but were still denied basic dignities in schools, on buses, in the work force, and in the armed services. Though he lived primarily in France for the rest of his life, Baldwin was deeply invested in the movement, and keenly aware of his country’s unfulfilled promise. 

image

He had seen family, friends, and neighbors spiral into addiction, incarceration and suicide.He believed their fates originated from the constraints of a segregated society.In 1963, he published The Fire Next Time, an arresting portrait of racial strife in which he held white America accountable, but he also went further, arguing that racism hurt white people too.In his view, everyone was inextricably enmeshed in the same social fabric. He had long believedthat “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”

image

Baldwin’s role in the Civil Rights movement went beyond observing and reporting. He also traveled through the American South attending rallies giving lectures of his own.   He debated both white politicians and black activists, including Malcolm X, and served as a liaison between black activists and intellectuals and white establishment leaders like Robert Kennedy. 

image

Because of Baldwin’s unique ability to articulate the causes of social turbulence in a way that white audiences were willing to hear, Kennedy and others tended to see him as an ambassador for black Americans—a label Baldwin rejected. And at the same time, his faculty with words led the FBI to view him as a threat. Even within the Civil Rights movement, Baldwin could sometimes feel like an outsider for his choice to live abroadas well as his sexuality, which he explored openly in his writing at a time when homophobia ran rampant.

image

Throughout his life, Baldwin considered it his role to bear witness. Unlike many of his peers, he lived to see some of the victories of the Civil Rights movement, but the continuing racial inequalities in the United States weighed heavily on him. 

image

Though he may have felt trapped in his moment in history, his words have made generations of people feel known, while guiding them toward a more nuanced understanding of society’s most complex issues.

This month, TED-Ed is celebrating Black History Month, or National African American History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Notes of a native son: the world according to James Baldwin – Christina Greer

Animation by Gibbons Studio

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Happy Birthday to Virginia Woolf! 

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why should you read Virginia Woolf? – Iseult Gillespie

Animation by Sarah Saidan

We’re wishing Edgar Allan Poe the Happiest of Birthdays he can muster up.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why should you read Edgar Allan Poe? – Scott Peeples

Animation by Compote Collective