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Knowing Poe

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The inventor of the detective story. A pioneer of science fiction. The father of the modern American short story. Oh, and that guy who wrote "The Raven." If your grasp of Edgar Allen Poe is limited to parroting the word "Nevermore," Knowing Poe can give you an impressive online introduction to one of America's great literary figures.

Created primarily for middle and high school classrooms by Maryland Public Television's LearningWorks, Knowing Poe offers a series of interactive presentations, each accompanied by a RealVideo introduction given by Poe himself (as played by actor John Astin). An opening animation sets the scene with references to two of the writer's best known works: "The Raven" and "The Telltale Heart," both familiar to the current generation largely thanks to "The Simpsons". It concludes by tossing a pair of documents onto a virtual writer's desk while making various other objects on said desk "active." (You'll need to have JavaScript on for the visit.)

The first document, "The Bells," nicely illustrates the site's interactive approach, as it demonstrates the advantages of hearing a poem as opposed to simply reading it. Visitors are invited to play various audio versions of the piece (male or female voice, with or without emotion) while manipulating such atmospheric variables as background music and sound effects.

The second document leads to a second-person (yes, this means you) investigation into Poe's appropriately mysterious death. (Both these features can also be found within the main body of the site - and the other active objects on the desktop are also mirrored in the three main categories available through an index on the left of each page.)

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