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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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Journal of Social History

A curve in the road to a “Drug-Free America”

Virtually every American over 35 who had access to a television set in the waning years of the Reagan Administration is familiar with the PDFA’s handiwork. The frying pan with a sizzling egg stand-in for “your brain on drugs.” The stern, middle-aged father confronting his son over the boy’s pot stash, only to be told, “I learned it by watching you!”

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From the archives: the top 5 movie scenes set in libraries

Paul Feig’s Ghostbuster’s remake has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic. As the original 1984 film set some significant action in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library, we couldn’t help but indulge in a rifle through the archives of cinematic tributes to libraries.

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Songs of exile: a playlist for Psalm 137

Psalm 137 begins with one of the more lyrical lines in the Hebrew Bible: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” It ends eight lines later with one of the thorniest: “Happy shall he be, who taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” Partly because it deals with music—another famous verse asks, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”—the psalm has been like poetic catnip, a siren song luring musicians and composers.

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Portraying Krishna in X-Men: Apocalypse

Another summer, another season of superhero movies. Big budgets, big muscles, big explosions: Each release only strengthens the genre’s domination of Hollywood—and the sense that comic-book franchises make up a contemporary mythology, and superheroes are its gods. Among this year’s offerings is X-Men: Apocalypse, which opened the last week of May.

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Lady Susan: “the most accomplished Coquette in England”

I congratulate you and Mr. Vernon on being about to receive into your family, the most accomplished Coquette in England. As a very distinguished Flirt, I have been always taught to consider her; but it has lately fallen in my way to hear some particulars of her conduct at Langford, which prove that she does not confine herself to that sort of honest flirtation which satisfies most people, but aspires to the more delicious gratification of making a whole family miserable.

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Come Together: communities and divisions at Eurovision 2016

This week, the 61st Eurovision Song Contest, more affectionately Eurovision, will be broadcast to a global audience (including for the first-time a live telecast in the United States) with 42 countries competing in a series of semi-finals before the final, live show on 14 May. Established in 1956 as part of the then-fledgling European Broadcast Union, the contest has continued to grow in popularity and some would argue in cultural significance.

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Tolstoy in art and on film

The portrait of Tolstoy currently on view at London’s National Portrait Gallery as part of the ‘Russia and the Arts: The Age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky’ exhibition shows the writer sitting at his desk, pen in hand, head bowed. Only six years after Anna Karenina was first published as a complete novel, Tolstoy had already cast aside his career as a professional writer in favour of proselytizing his ethics-based brand of Christianity.

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War and Peace on screen

I’m 15 years old and I have just thrown up in the lavatory at the movie theater. Shaking too hard to reach the paper towels, I need to hide out there for the entire intermission of the third installment of Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic 1967 film adaptation of War and Peace.

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The Poetic Edda, Game of Thrones, and Ragnarök

Season Six of Game of Thrones is about to air. One of the great pleasures of watching the show is the way in which George R. R. Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and the show-producers, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, build their imagined world from the real and imagined structures of medieval history and literature.

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Twenty-first-century Shakespeare

Forever demanding new performers to interpret them for new audiences under new circumstances, and continuing to elicit a rich worldwide profusion of editions, translations, commentaries, adaptations and spin-offs, Shakespeare’s works have never behaved like unchanging monuments about which nothing new remains to be said.

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Bittersweet melodies of Agustín Lara in Güeros

The story of four teenagers on a quest to locate their ailing musical idol requires a mix of nostalgia, myth, apathy and disillusionment. Played out across the vast urban expanse that is the City of Mexico, Güeros is conceived in the alternative deadpan style of Jim Jarmusch’s early films or, perhaps, Wim Wenders’ mid-1970s road movie triology.

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Florence Foster Jenkins: a user’s guide to aging the female voice

In a brief scene in the 1931 Warner Bros. horror film, Svengali, an aging heiress takes voice lessons, falls in love with her teacher, and upon finding her love unrequited and her voice uninspired, throws herself in the river. That the film hastily banishes her for these infractions isn’t much of a surprise, for we don’t tend to remember bad voices, nor do we dwell on older women who would dare possess them. In fact, were it up to Hollywood, we’d hardly dwell on older women at all.

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A reimagined Wonderland, Middle-earth, and material world

Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Philip Pullman are three of the many great writers to come out of Oxford, whose stories are continually reimagined and enjoyed through the use of media and digital technologies. The most obvious example for Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland are the many adaptations in […]

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