Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Five questions for Rebecca Mead

On Tuesday 8 July 2014, Rebecca Mead, author of My Life in Middlemarch, leads a discussion on George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Each summer, Oxford University Press USA and Bryant Park in New York City partner for their summer reading series Word for Word Book Club.

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Rhetorical fireworks for the Fourth of July

By Russ Castronovo
Ever since 4 July 1777 when citizens of Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary of American independence with a fireworks display, the “rockets’ red glare” has lent a military tinge to this national holiday. But the explosive aspect of the patriots’ resistance was the incendiary propaganda that they spread across the thirteen colonies.

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A Canada Day reading list

By Tara Kahn
This Canada Day, we thought this would be an excellent opportunity to look back on some historical and fundamental books from the Canadian literary corpus.

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On Great Expectations

By Maura Kelly
Great Expectations is arguably Charles Dickens’s finest novel – it has a more cogent, concise plot and a more authentic narrator than the other contender for that title, the sprawling masterpiece Bleak House. It may also enjoy another special distinction – Best Title for Any Novel Ever. Certainly, it might have served as the name for any of Dickens’s other novels, as the critic G. K. Chesterson has noted before me.

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How much do you know about The Three Musketeers ?

The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas, celebrates its 170th birthday this year. The classic story of friendship and adventure has been read and enjoyed by many generations all over the world, and there have been dozens of adaptations, including the classic silent 1921 film, directed by Fred Niblo, and the recent BBC series. Take our quiz to find out how much you know about the book, its author, and the time at which it was written.

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A thought on poets, death, and Clive James. And heroism.

By Andrew Taylor
Whatever else we think of poets, we don’t tend to see them as heroes. There are exceptions, of course – Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon famously won the Military Cross, and some three hundred years earlier, Sir Philip Sidney was praised for his dash and gallantry at the Battle of Zutphen.

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Life in occupied Paris during World War II

By David Ball
If you were a fifty-year-old intellectual, a well-known writer of left-wing articles and literary essays, and your country was occupied by the Nazis and its more-or-less legal government collaborated with them — and now the editor of the leading literary magazine of the time pressed you to contribute an essay to his review, would you do so?

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How well do you know short stories?

By Maggie Belnap
Short stories populate many childhoods, trying to instill morals and virtues in undeveloped and wandering minds. Whether it’s the tale of Rumpelstiltskin or the boy who cried wolf, these tales make a powerful impression. Check out the short story quiz and see if you really know your short stories.

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Virgil in Russia

By Zara Martirosova Torlone
In 1979 one of the most prominent Russian classical scholars of the later part of the twentienth century, Mikhail Gasparov stated: “Virgil did not have much luck in Russia: they neither knew nor loved him . . .”. This lack of interest in Virgil on Russian soil Gasparov mostly blamed on the absence of canonical Russian translations of Virgil, especially the Aeneid.

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A tale of two fables: Aesop vs. La Fontaine

Jean de La Fontaine’s verse fables turned traditional folktales into some of the greatest, and best-loved, poetic works in the French language. His versions of stories such as The Shepherd and the Sea” and “The Hen that Laid the Eggs of Gold” are witty and sophisticated, satirizing human nature in miniature dramas in which the outcome is unpredictable. Here we compare La Fontaine’s versions of the popular tales, to the enduring tradition of Aesop’s fables from the Oxford World’s Classics edition.

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Why literary genres matter

By William Allan
One of the most striking aspects of classical literature is its highly developed sense of genre. Of course, a literary work’s genre remains an important factor today: we too distinguish broad categories of poetry, prose, and drama, but also sub-genres (especially within the novel, now the most popular literary form) such as crime, romantic or historical fiction. And we do the same in other creative media, such as film, with thrillers, horrors, westerns, and so on. But classical authors were arguably even more aware than writers of genre fiction are today what forms and conventions applied to the genre they were writing in.

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Getting to know Sir Philip Sidney

By Roger Kuin
What does Sir Philip Sidney’s correspondence teach us about the man and his world? You have to realise what letters were, what they were like, and what they were for. Some of them were like our e-mails: brief and to the point. Other letters are long and more like a personal form of news media: meant to inform the recipient (often Sidney himself) about what is happening in the world of politics.

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How to write a classic

By Mark Davie
Torquato Tasso desperately wanted to write a classic. The son of a successful court poet who had been brought up on the Latin classics, he had a lifelong ambition to write the epic poem which would do for counter-reformation Italy what Virgil’s Aeneid had done for imperial Rome.

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The Compleat Earth Day

First published by Izaak Walton in 1653, The Compleat Angler remains one of the most original and influential books about the environment ever written in the English language. Walton’s narrative depicts a group of urbanites whose appreciation of the natural world deepens as they go fishing in the countryside north of London. In honor of Earth Day, here are some interesting facts about The Compleat Angler as an environmental text.

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