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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Arts & Humanities


Distinctive dress: Martial’s index to life in a crammed metropolis

His books are famous around the world, but their author struggles to get by – two themes that quickly become familiar to any reader. Martial has an eye for fabric. He habitually ranks himself and judges others by the price and quality of their clothing and accessories (e.g. 2.29, 2.57), a quick index in the face-to-face street life of the crammed metropolis.

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Spectre and Bond do the damage

The durable Bond is back once more in Spectre. Little has changed and there has even been reversion. M has back-morphed into a man, Judi Dench giving way to Ralph Fiennes. 007 still works miracles, and not the least of these is financial – Pinewood Studios hope for another blockbuster movie. Hollywood roll over and die.

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The literary fortunes of the Gunpowder Plot

The conspirators in what we now know as the Gunpowder Plot failed in their aspiration to blow up the House of Lords on the occasion of the state opening of parliament in the hope of killing the King and a multitude of peers. Why do we continue to remember the plot? The bonfires no longer articulate anti-Roman Catholicism, though this attitude formally survived until 2013 in the prohibition against the monarch or the heir to the throne marrying a Catholic.

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Ten fun facts about bagpipes

Depending on your tastes, bagpipes are primal and evocative, or crude and abrasive. Adore or despise them, they are ubiquitous across the city centers of Scotland (for tourists or locals?). In anticipation of St Andrews Day, and your Robert Burns poetry readings with a certain woodwind accompaniment, here are 10 facts you may not have known about the history of the bagpipes.

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“Challenging change” – extract from A Foot in the River

We are a weird species. Like other species, we have a culture. But by comparison with other species, we are strangely unstable: human cultures self-transform, diverge, and multiply with bewildering speed. They vary, radically and rapidly, from time to time and place to place. And the way we live – our manners, morals, habits, experiences, relationships, technology, values – seems to be changing at an ever accelerating pace. The effects can be dislocating, baffling, sometimes terrifying. Why is this?

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How much do you know about Mormon feminists?

No issue in Mormonism has made more headlines than the faith’s distinctive approach to sex and gender. From its polygamous nineteenth-century past to its twentieth-century stand against the Equal Rights Amendment and its twenty-first-century fight against same-sex marriage, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has consistently positioned itself on the frontlines of battles over gender-related identities, roles, and rights.

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The future of married priests

“Western clerical celibacy is in an unprecedented crisis,” says the conservative Catholic canon lawyer Edward Peters. The reason? Since the 1960s, the Catholic Church has permitted married men to be ordained as deacons, an order of clergy just below that of priests; and in the past 35 years about 100 married converts, all former Episcopal priests, have been ordained to the Catholic priesthood.”

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Shakespeare and the suffragettes

The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were famously the age of “Bardolatry,” Shakespeare-worship that permeated artistic, social, civic, and political life. As Victorian scientific advances including Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, published in On the Origin of Species (1859), destabilised Christianity as ultimate arbiter of truth, rhetoricians invoked Shakespeare’s plots and characters to support their arguments.

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Seders, symposiums, and drinking parties

The symposium is a familiar feature of academic life today: a scholarly gathering where work on a given topic or theme is presented and discussed. While the event may be followed by a dinner and drinks, the consumption of alcohol is in no way essential to the business of the gathering.

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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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Marketing Mozart

If you’re a parent, or soon to be one, you’ll know that the imminent arrival of a newborn generates above all else a mile-long shopping list. Up there with the organic cotton onesies, on many parents’ list is a CD entitled The Mozart Effect.

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A Very Short (and spooky) Introduction to Halloween

It’s that time of year when pumpkin sales go soaring, horror specials sell out at the cinema, and everyone is seemingly dressed up as a vampire or a zombie. To mark the spookiest time of year, we wanted to give you a Very Short Introduction to some of our favourite Halloween themes with free chapters from VSI Online.

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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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