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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The Magic Fix: De Quincey’s portrait of the artist as addict

Thomas De Quincey produced two versions of his most famous work, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. He launched himself to fame with the first version, which appeared in two instalments in the London Magazine for September and October 1821, and which created such a sensation that the London’s editors issued it again the following year in book form.

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Gérard Depardieu, an unlikely poster boy for French ambitions

There is no one more acutely aware of the damage done to his reputation in recent years than Gérard Depardieu himself. “When I travel the world” he admitted to Léa Salamé in a recent interview for France Inter radio “what people remember above all else is that I pissed in a plane, I’m Russian, and that I wrote a letter of protest to the Prime Minister.”

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Media policy and political polarization

Does media policy impact the rising political polarization in the United States? The US Congress passed The Telecommunications Act of 1996 that comprehensively overhauled US media policy for the first time since 1934, resulting in relaxed ownership regulations intended to spur competition between cable and telephone telecommunications systems.

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Open Access Week – continuing on the journey

That time of the year is upon us again – Strictly Come Dancing is on the telly, Starbucks is selling spiced pumpkin lattes, and the kids are getting ready for a night of trick-or-treating. It can mean only one thing: Open Access Week is upon us.

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Five years of discovery

The librarians at Bates College became interested in Oxford Bibliographies a little over five years ago. We believed there was great promise for a new resource OUP was developing, in which scholars around the world would be contributing their expertise by selecting citations, commenting on them, and placing them in context for end users.

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Technology and the evolving portrait of the composer

It’s a cartoon image from my childhood: a man with wild hair, wearing a topcoat, and frantically waving a baton with a deranged look on his face. In fact, this caricature of what a composer should look like was probably inspired by the popular image of Beethoven: moody, distant, a loner… a genius lost in his own world.

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Tips from a journal editor: being a good reviewer

Peer review is one of the foundations of science. To have research scrutinized, criticized, and evaluated by other experts in the field helps to make sure that a study is well-designed, appropriately analyzed, and well-documented. It helps to make sure that other scholars can readily understand, appreciate, and build upon that work.

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Selfies in black abayas

Today, when worlds collide with equal force and consequence as speeding cars on a California highway, can we imagine escaping the impact of even a single collision? Is the option of being miraculously air-lifted out of the interminable traffic log-jams available for us, even if we are spared physical injury? Just as avoiding California highways is an impossibility (given the systemic destruction of public transportation system), meeting head-on forces of neoliberal globalization with its unique technological, financial, and ideological structures is an inevitability.

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Devising data structures for scholarly works

For over 100 years, Oxford University Press has been publishing scholarly editions of major works. Prominent scholars reviewed and delivered authoritative versions of authors’ work with notes on citations, textual variations, references, and commentary added line by line—from alternate titles for John Donne’s poetry to biographical information on recipients of Adam Smith’s correspondence.

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Rihanna, the Court of Appeal, and a Topshop t-shirt

Can a fashion retailer take a photograph of a celebrity, print it on a t-shirt and sell it without the celebrity’s approval? Yes, but sometimes no – not when the retailer has previously gone out of its way to draw a connection between its products and that celebrity, in this case Robyn Fenty, aka Rihanna. How did this begin?

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What marriage (equality) means

Like many, I’m still digesting the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision—not just its text, but its personal and social significance. When I wrote Debating Same-Sex Marriage with Maggie Gallagher (Oxford University Press, 2012), only a handful of states permitted same-sex couples to marry. In the three years since, that handful grew to dozens; last Friday’s decision grows it to all 50. One striking thing about the decision itself is the importance of the definitional question: What is marriage?

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“Deflategate,” Fox News, and frats: this year in public apologies

Since publishing Sorry About That a year ago, I’ve been trying to keep track of apologies in the news. Google sends me a handful of news items every day. Some are curious (“J.K. Rowling issues apology over slain ‘Harry Potter’ character”), some are cute (“Blizzard 2015: Meteorologist apologizes for ‘big forecast miss’”), and some are sad (“An open apology to my kids on the subject of my divorce”).

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The real world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Some reviewers of the first episodes of the current BBC1 adaptation have dismissed it is over-blown fantasy, even childish, yet Clarke’s characters are only once removed from the very real magical world of early nineteenth-century England. What few readers or viewers realise is that there were magicians similar to Strange and Norrell at the time: there really were ‘Friends of English Magic’, to whom the novel’s Mr Segundus appealed in a letter to The Times.

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How can we reconstruct history on the silver screen?

A perpetual lament of historians is that so many people get their historical knowledge from either Hollywood or the BBC. The controversies that surrounded Lincoln and Selma will no doubt reappear, in other guises, with the release of Wolf Hall, based on Hilary Mantel’s popular historical novel. Historical films play an outsize role in collective historical knowledge, and historians rightly bemoan the inaccuracies and misleading emphases of popular film and television: no doubt a generation of viewers believe that the Roman Republic was restored by a dying gladiator.

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