Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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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Top five hip hop references in poetry

By David Caplan
Hip hop has influenced a generation of poets coming to prominence, poets I call “The Inheritors of Hip Hop.” Signaling how the music serves as a shared experience and inspiration, they mention performers and songs as well as anecdotes from the genre’s development and the artists’ lives, while epigraphs and titles quote songs.

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Money matters

By Valerie Minogue
Money is a tricky subject for a novel, as Zola in 1890 acknowledged: “It’s difficult to write a novel about money. It’s cold, icy, lacking in interest…” But his Rougon-Macquart novels, the “natural and social history” of a family in the Second Empire, were meant to cover every significant aspect of the age, from railways and coal-mines to the first department stores.

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Shakespeare’s 450th birthday quiz

William Shakespeare was born 450 years ago this month, in April 1564, and to celebrate Oxford Scholarly Editions Online is testing your knowledge on Shakespeare quotes. Do you know your sonnets from your speeches? Find out…

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Writing as technology

In honor of the beginning of National Library Week this Sunday, 13 April 2014, we’re sharing this interesting excerpt from Contemporary Fiction: A Very Short Introduction. As technology continues to evolve, the way we access books and information is changing, and libraries are continuously working to keep up-to-date with the latest resources available. In this excerpt, Robert Eaglestone presents the idea of the seemingly simple act of writing as a form of technology.

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Roberto Bolaño and the New York School of poetry

By Andrew Epstein
The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño is of course best-known as a novelist, the author of ambitious, sprawling novels like The Savage Detectives and 2666. But before turning to prose, Bolaño started out as a poet; in fact, he often said he valued poetry more highly than fiction and sometimes claimed he was a better poet than novelist. 

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When science stopped being literature

By Jim Secord
We tend to think of ‘science’ and ‘literature’ in radically different ways.  The distinction isn’t just about genre – since ancient times writing has had a variety of aims and styles, expressed in different generic forms: epics, textbooks, lyrics, recipes, epigraphs, and so forth.

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