Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

September 2012

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Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age camel

On 24 September 1896, F. Scott Fitzgerald was born. While remembered today for his masterpiece The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald made his living off short stories. He chronicled life of the 1920s and 30s with unparalleled versatility, whether as parody, tragedy, fantasy, or romance. His attitude to the charisma and vices of America’s privileged was complex and often ambivalent. This dichotomy is reflected in the following from “The Camel’s Back.”

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Immigration policy debates in the 2012 election

By Louis Desipio
Popular concern about US immigration policy has increased dramatically over the past two decades. During this period, the resources and technologies for enforcement of immigration law have also increased considerably. The remainder of US immigration policy — particularly questions of how many immigrants the United States should admit, who should be eligible to immigrate, and what should be done about immigrants resident in the United States who reside in the country without legal status — see much less consensus.

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Here’s to a wet New Orleans

By Christopher Morris
In the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, Jack Payne of Delacroix, which is a tiny fishing village in the wetlands of the Mississippi delta below New Orleans, explained to Bob Marshall of the Times-Picayune, that “Everything I rebuild will either be on pilings or wheels. It’s gotta be higher than storm surge, or something I can pull outta here. This is our future, man. We know it’s gonna happen again and again — and just get worse.”

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What’s in a literary name?

By Alastair Fowler
Names and naming are topics of perennial interest, but until recently there were few general discussions of names as a literary feature. This is strange, since questions about names keep coming up in criticism. How are character names chosen? Are literary names always meaningful, or are some characters named quite casually? Does each genre have a list of first names available only for that sort of writing?

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Remembering Dogen’s death

By Steven Heine
As the founder of Soto Zen, one of the major Buddhist sects in Japan, the birth and death anniversaries of Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) are celebrated every fifty years. It was amply demonstrated at the beginning of the millennium through the outpouring of new publications and media productions, including a kabuki play and TV show as well as manga versions of his biography, that these events help to disseminate the master’s teachings to a worldwide audience yet also turn him into a commercial commodity that is somewhat misrepresented.

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Oktoberfest

Today the tents will open at the most famous beer festival in the world: Oktoberfest. That’s right, it starts in September. For those of us who can’t make it to a Munich beer tent between now and the end of the festival on October 6th, here’s the Oktoberfest entry by Conrad Seidl in The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Garrett Oliver.

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5 things we should know about the Libyan and Egyptian demonstrations

By Tariq Ramadan
1.        We must start first by condemning the violence and killing of diplomats and civilian people. Whatever we may feel, however we may be hurt by the video, it cannot justify in any way the killing of people. Such actions are simply anti-Islamic and against Muslim values. The demonstrations were in fact first organised by a tiny group of Salafi literalists who were attempting to direct popular emotions against the United States and the West in order to gain for themselves a central religious and political role.

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Tariq Ramadan on the Arab Spring

News broke of the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya followed by numerous protests throughout the Arab World while Tariq Ramadan was in the United States to discuss one of the most important developments in the modern history of the Middle East, the so-called Arab Spring. One of the world’s leading Islamic thinkers, Tariq Ramadan, he has won global renown for his reflections on Islam and the contemporary challenges in both the Muslim majority societies and the West.

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How the social brain creates identity

Who we are is a story of our self–a narrative that our brain creates. Like the science fiction movie, we are living in a matrix that is our mind. But though the self is an illusion, it is an illusion we must continue to embrace to live happily in human society. In The Self Illusion, Bruce Hood reveals how the self emerges during childhood and how the architecture of the developing brain enables us to become social animals dependent on each other.

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The sustainability of civil engineering

By David Muir Wood
The definition of civil engineering is a historical curiosity. Originally so called to distinguish it from military engineering, it was particularly concerned (in the 18th century, for example) with the provision of infrastructure for transport – hence the French emphasis on ponts et chaussées in their organisation of education and professional activity. But there is really no difference in the nature of the engineering performed by civil engineers and military engineers…

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Why are reference works still important?

Looking at the growing use of our online products, we know that many still choose to reach beyond first impressions on the web to delve further in a reference work from Oxford. Why is it still so important to do so?

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Five things you should know about Grove

By Jessica Barbour
There is a reference work on the subject of music to which English-speaking music students are referred every day. It has been around, in various editions, for over 130 years, and in its current online form it includes more than 40,000 full articles. As a 1955 article in Time put it, “For three-quarters of a century, the sun never set on Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians.”

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Do birds and fowls fly?

By Anatoly Liberman
An etymologist is constantly on the lookout for so-called motivation. Why is a cat called cat, and why do English speakers say tree if the Romans called the same object arbor? As everybody knows, the “ultimate truth” usually escapes us. Once upon a time (about five thousand or even more years ago?) in a hotly debated locality there lived the early Indo-Europeans, and we still use words going back to their partly unpronounceable sound complexes.

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Karl Lagerfeld

By Emily Ardizzone
Karl Lagerfeld: a name synonymous with high fashion and discerning taste, a name that also sends shivers down the spines of those that fall victim to his quick wit and cutting criticism. In the midst of Fashion Week chaos, Lagerfeld celebrated his 79th birthday on September 10th. As he nears the end of his seventieth decade, 2013 will be a year to remember for one of the most iconic and important men in contemporary fashion.

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