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US Independence Day author Q&A: part two

In honor of Independence Day in the United States, we asked some of our influential American history and politics VSI authors to ask each other some pointed questions related to significant matters in America. Their passionate responses have inspired a four day series leading up to America’s 237th birthday. Today Donald A. Ritchie, author of The US Congress: A Very Short Introduction shares his answers.

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Journalism Past and Present

Until the age of 50, Mencken was called “America’s Foremost Bachelor,” praised for being the patron saint of single men. When H. L. Mencken married Sara Powell Haardt in 1930, the press concluded that the author of “In Defense of Women” was probably in the most embarassing position of any fiancee in recent years. They were bent in trotting out the old quotes. How, reporters insisted with glee, will Mencken explain that he had once said “A man may be a fool and not know it –but not if he’s married.” Long before, he had defined love as “the delusion that one woman differs from another.” To these queries Mencken replied; “I formerly was not as wise as I am now….the wise man frequently revises his opinions. The fool, never.”

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AHA 2014: You’ve been to Washington before, but…

The American Historical Association’s 128th Annual Meeting is being held in Washington, D.C., 2-5 January 2014. For those of you attending, we’ve gathered advice about what to see and do in the Capital from author and DC resident Don Ritchie as well as members of Oxford University Press staff. And be sure to stop by Oxford’s booth #901-907.

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US Independence Day author Q&A: part four

Happy Independence Day to our American readers! In honor of Independence Day in the United States, we asked some of our influential American history and politics VSI authors to ask each other some pointed questions related to significant matters in America. Their passionate responses inspired a four day series leading up to America’s 237th birthday today.

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The Much Maligned Twentieth Amendment

By Donald A. Ritchie

The 111th Congress began in January 2009 amid complaints about the long wait for the inauguration of the new president, and ended amid complaints about the long the lame duck session at its tail. Critics, who lament that transitions in the American government do not move as efficiently as in a parliamentary system, have declared the Twentieth Amendment a failure. While it is true that the U.S. Constitution set up a system that is anything but speedy, the Twentieth Amendment was actually a reform that reset the calendar and moved up the clock.

Hang on because this gets complicated: Back in 1788, after enough states had ratified the Constitution, the outgoing Congress under the Articles of Confederation set the first Wednesday in January as the date for the first presidential election.

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US Independence Day author Q&A: part three

In honor of Independence Day in the United States, we asked some of our influential American history and politics VSI authors to ask each other some pointed questions related to significant matters in America. Their passionate responses have inspired a four day series leading up to America’s 237th birthday.

Read More
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Don’t you like the castle?

A remote village covered almost permanently in snow and dominated by a castle and its staff of dictatorial, sexually predatory bureaucrats — this is the setting for Kafka’s story about a man seeking both acceptance in the village and access to the castle. In The Castle, Kafka explores the relationship between the individual and power, as the protagonist K. asks why the villagers so readily submit to an authority which may exist only in their collective imagination. In the following excerpt from the new Oxford World’s Classics edition, K. first encounters the castle and the strange power it holds over the village.

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Innocence and Experience: Childhood in Kafka

By Ritchie Robertson
Some of the great modernists have written evocatively about childhood. At first glance, Kafka may not seem to be among them. The minutely detailed recollection of childhood that Proust provides in Swann’s Way, or Thomas Mann’s account of a school day in the life of young Hanno Buddenbrook, lack counterparts in Kafka. His world-famous and compelling fantasies are about inscrutable authorities, such as the Court and the Castle, and their victims are doomed at worst to inexplicable punishment, at best to frustration. Kafka would seem to deal with experience rather than innocence.

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