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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Remembering H.D. on her 130th birth anniversary

American-born, British citizen by an ill-fated marriage, the modernist writer Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) was wary of nationalism, which she viewed as leading inevitably to either war or imperialism. Admittedly, she felt—as she wrote of one of her characters—“torn between anglo-philia and anglo-phobia,” and like all prominent modernists of her day, her views were probably not as enlightened as ours.

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Is Shakespeare racist?

Just as there were no real women on Shakespeare’s stage, there were no Jews, Africans, Muslims, or Hispanics either. Even Harold Bloom, who praises Shakespeare as ‘the greatest Western poet’ in The Western Canon, and who rages against academic political correctness, regards The Merchant of Venice as antisemitic. In 2014 the satirist Jon Stewart responded to Shakespeare’s ‘stereotypically, grotesquely greedy Jewish money lender’ more bluntly.

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Illuminating Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s clowns and fools [infographic]

Fools, or jesters, would have been known by many of those in Shakespeare’s contemporary audience, as they were often kept by the royal court, and some rich households, to act as entertainers. They were male, as were the actors, and would wear flamboyant clothing and carry a ‘bauble’ or carved stick, to use in their jokes.

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The OWC Podcast: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride encounters prejudice, upward-mobility confronts social disdain, and quick-wittedness challenges sagacity, as misconceptions and hasty judgments lead to heartache and scandal, but eventually to true understanding, self-knowledge, and love. In this supremely satisfying story, Jane Austen balances comedy with seriousness, and witty observation with profound insight. If Elizabeth Bennet returns again and again to her letter from Mr Darcy, readers of the novel are drawn even more irresistibly by its captivating wisdom.

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Fascinating facts about man’s best friend

Dogs have historically performed many roles for humans, such as herding, protection, assisting police, companionship, and aiding the handicapped. The tale of “man’s best friend” is a lengthy and intimate history that has lasted for thousands of years, and transcends modern cultural boundaries. Canines appear as poignant characters with symbolic meaning in mythological stories, famous works of art, and religious texts.

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Oxford Classical Dictionary

Ben-Hur: tracing the iconic novel and films through history

The latest film adaptation of the story of fictional Jewish noble Judah Ben-Hur is premiering in theaters today. You’ve probably seen the 1959 film version starring Charlton Heston, but do you know about the story’s rich history and impact over the last 136 years?

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The life and work of H.G. Wells: a timeline

August 13th marks the 150th birth and the 70th death anniversary of legendary science fiction writer H.G. Wells. A prophet of modern progress, he accurately predicted several historical advancements, from the World War II, nuclear weapons, to Wikipedia.

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Illuminating Shakespeare

Setting Shakespeare to music

Shakespeare has inspired countless and varied performances, works of art and pieces of writing. He has also inspired music. In this 400th year since Shakespeare’s death we asked five composers ‘how did you approach setting the Shakespeare text you chose for your recent work?’

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5 Edinburgh attractions for booklovers [slideshow]

The Edinburgh Fringe is in full swing with over 3,000 arts events coming to the vibrant Scottish capital over the next few weeks. With the International Book Festival kicking off on the 13th, we’ve compiled our favourite bookish spots around the city for you to squeeze into your schedule.

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Remembering Montrell Jackson’s ethic of mutuality

In a poignant post to his Facebook page on 8 July, police officer Montrell Jackson offered a “hug” and “prayer” to those he met as he patrolled the streets of his native Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For those looking to fit life to the patterns of literature, the events of the past weeks have had the unsettling feel of a revenge tragedy.

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Mole and Rat: A chancing friendship

National Friendship Day was originally founded by Hallmark as a promotional campaign to encourage people to send cards, but is now celebrated in countries across the world on the first Sunday in August. This post celebrates the friendship of two of our favorite characters from classic literature, Rat and Mole from The Wind in the Willows.

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Illuminating Shakespeare

Shakespeare and the natural world [infographic]

It is probable that Shakespeare observed, or at least heard about, many natural phenomena that occurred during his time, which may have influenced the many references to nature and science that he makes in his work. Although he was very young at the time, he may have witnessed the blazing Stella Nova in 1572.

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Illuminating Shakespeare

Musical literacy in Shakespeare’s England

It is a commonplace to say that, in Renaissance England, music was everywhere. Yet, however true the statement is, it obscures the fact that music existed in many different forms, with very different functions and very different meanings.

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How A. K. Ramanujan mirrored Aldous Huxley

In the 1950s and 60s a cross-section of psychologists, writers and artists in America, partly inspired by Aldous Huxley’s essay The Doors of Perception published in 1954, experimented with hallucinogenics like LSD, mescaline, mushrooms, and hashish to venture into new realms of experience, seeking the “hidden” reality of the self and the world and probing into the meaning of art to locate their inner vision.

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Best beach classics: the books you should be reading this summer

In a recent article for The Huffington Post, journalist Erin Schumaker advises students not to let their brains waste away over the summer: “you might be better off skipping the beach read this summer in favor of something a little more substantive.” Yet some of us might find the idea of settling down on a sun lounger with War and Peace less than appealing. To help you out, we asked staff at Oxford University Press for a list of summer classics that will help you relax without letting your brain get lazy!

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Illuminating Shakespeare

What would Shakespeare drive?

Like many Elizabethan gentlemen who had business in London but family in the provinces, Shakespeare would have spent a considerable amount of time on horseback. Few of his contemporaries, however, had Shakespeare’s talent for turning the vexations of travel into deathless verse. Sonnet 50 recounts a trip on horseback in which the poet’s reluctance to leave his beloved makes him keenly conscious of his body as a burden that increases the animal’s suffering: “The beast that bears me, tired with my woe, / Plods dully on to bear that weight in me”. According to Galenic medicine, black bile, or melancholy, was considered the heaviest of the four bodily humors.

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