Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


Genius loci: war poets of place

It’s curious how intensely some writers, especially poets, respond to place. Wordsworth and the Lake Poets, of course, John Clare at Helpston, and Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. But there are earlier names: William Cowper and Olney, Alexander Pope’s Windsor or Twickenham, Charles Cotton in Derbyshire…

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“There is figures in all things”: Historical revisionism and the Battle of Agincourt

Young Cressingham, one of the witty contrivers of Thomas Middleton’s and John Webster’s comedy Anything for a Quiet Life (1621), faces a financial problem. His father is wasting his inheritance, and his new stepmother – a misogynistic caricature of the wayward, wicked woman – has decided to seize the family’s wealth into her own hands, disinheriting her husband’s children.

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OWC Reading Group

Introducing Martial: Epigrams

Who is ‘Martial’? “Up to this point, Madam, this little book has been written for you. You want to know for whom the bits further in are written? For me.” (3.68) Marcus Valerius Martialis was born some time around AD 40 (we know his birthday, 1st March, but not the year) at Bilbilis in Hispania Tarraconensis, a province of oil- and wine-rich Roman Spain.

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“The Created Agincourt in Literature” extract from Agincourt

In the six hundred year since it was fought the battle of Agincourt has become an exceptionally famous one, which has generated a huge and enduring cultural legacy. Everybody thinks they know what the battle was about but is the Agincourt of popular image the real Agincourt, or is our idea of the battle simply taken from Shakespeare’s famous depiction of it?

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Rediscovering Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

If you’re a student of African American literature or of the nineteenth century in the United States, you may have already heard about Johanna Ortner’s rediscovery of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s first book, Forest Leaves, which has long been assumed lost – perhaps even apocryphal.

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Lady Macbeth on Capitol Hill

Describing her role as the ambitious political wife Claire Underwood in the American TV series House of Cards, Robin Wright recognized she is “Lady Macbeth to [Francis] Underwood’s Macbeth.” At one point in the second series, Claire emboldens her wavering husband: “Trying’s not enough, Francis. I’ve done what I had to do. Now you do what you have to do.”

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In defense of myth

I approach myth from the standpoint of theories of myth, or generalizations about the origin, the function, and the subject matter of myth. There are hundreds of theories. They hail from anthropology, sociology, psychology, politics, literature, philosophy, and religious studies.

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Words from books

October is an important month for book festivals—in Boston, Austin, Madison, Baton Rouge, and of course Frankfurt, Germany, which hosts the world’s oldest book festival. In honor of book festivals, I want to delve a bit into the way that the language of books expanded the English vocabulary.

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Shakespeare on screen [infographic]

Since the advent of film and television production, Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted, re-imagined, and performed on screen hundreds of times. Although many early Shakespeare adaptations remained faithful to his work, over time writers and directors selected only certain characters, plot lines, conflicts, or themes into their films.

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9780199284153 Lindop - Charles Williams

Charles Williams: Oxford’s lost poetry professor

It was strikingly appropriate that Sir Geoffrey Hill should have focused his final lecture as Oxford Professor of Poetry on a quotation from Charles Williams. Not only was the lecture, in May 2015, delivered almost exactly seventy years after Williams’s death; but Williams himself had once hoped to become Professor of Poetry.

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What is your favourite Shakespeare adaptation?

In anticipation of Shakespeare celebrations next year, we asked Oxford University Press and Oxford University staff members to choose their favourite Shakespeare adaptation. From classic to contemporary, the obscure to the infamous, we’ve collected a whole range of faithful and quirky translations from play text to film. Did your favourite film or television programme make the list?

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Who was on Shakespeare’s bookshelf? [infographic]

George Bernard Shaw once remarked on William Shakespeare’s “gift of telling a story (provided some one else told it to him first).” Shakespeare knew the works of many great writers, such as Raphael Holinshed, Ludovico Ariosto, and Geoffrey Chaucer. How did these men, and many others, influence Shakespeare and his work?

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9780198708544 Weiss - Real Traviata

Sex, hygiene, and style in 1840s Paris

The young woman who inspired Dumas’s La Dame aux Camélias and Verdi’s Violetta in La traviata conceived at least once in the course of her 23 years. At the time she was in her late teens. During the five years that followed the birth of her baby, between the ages of 17 and 22, she prospered as the leading courtesan of the most glamorous city in Europe. The word ‘courtesan’ is a euphemism for an upper class prostitute, a paid woman who doubled as a trophy exhibit at the theatre and opera.

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