From the very beginning, algebraic topology has developed under the influ- ence of the problems posed by trying to understand the topological properties of complex algebraic varieties (e.g., the pioneering work by Poincare and Lefschetz). Especially in the work of Lefschetz [Lf2], the idea is made explicit that singularities are important in the study of the topology even in the case of smooth varieties. What is kwn wadays about the topology of smooth and singular vari- eties is quite impressive. The many existing results may be roughly divided into two classes as follows: (i) very general results or theories, like stratified Morse theory and (mixed) Hodge theory, see, for instance, Goresky-MacPherson [GM], Deligne [Del], and Steenbrink [S6]; and (ii) specific topics of great subtlety and beauty, like the study of the funda- mental group of the complement in [p>2 of a singular plane curve initiated by Zariski or Griffiths' theory relating the rational differential forms to the Hodge filtration on the middle cohomology group of a smooth projec- tive hypersurface. The aim of this book is precisely to introduce the reader to some topics in this latter class. Most of the results to be discussed, as well as the related tions, are at least two decades old, and specialists use them intensively and freely in their work. Nevertheless, it is impossible to find an adequate intro- duction to this subject, which gives a good feeling for its relations with other parts of algebraic geometry and topology.