Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The great Oxford World’s Classics debate

By Kirsty Doole
Last week the Oxford World’s Classics team were at Blackwell Bookshop in Oxford to witness the first Oxford World’s Classics debate. Over three days we invited seven academics who had each edited and written introductions and notes for books in the series to given a short, free talk in the shop. This then culminated in an evening event in Blackwell’s famous Norrington Room where we held a balloon debated, chaired by writer and academic Alexandra Harris.

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The Black Book: Phillis Wheatley and the information revolution

By Richard Newman
The noble ideal of Black History Month is that by extracting and examining key people and moments in the African American grain, we learn much about black achievement. But it is equally powerful to set black history in the grand swirl of events to see the many ways that African-Americans have impacted the nation’s political and cultural development.

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Book vs movie: Thérèse Raquin and In Secret

In Secret, the new movie adaption of Zola’s Thérèse Raquin starring Jessica Lange, Tom Felton, and Elizabeth Olsen premieres today. The novel tells the scandalous story of adultery in 19th century France. When Thérèse is forced into a loveless marriage, her world is turned upside down upon meeting her husband’s friend. The two enter into an affair that has shocking results.

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Love: First sights in Ovid

By Jane Alison
Among the myriad transformations in Ovid’s Metamorphoses—transformations of girls to trees or stars, boys to flowers or newts, women to rivers, rocks to men—the most powerful can be those wrought by erotic desire. Woods, beaches, and glades in Ovid’s poem are ecologies of desire and repulsion: one character spots another through the trees, and you can almost see the currents of desire flow as one figure instantly wants what he sees—and the other starts running away.

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Fishing with Izaak Walton

By Marjorie Swann
The Compleat Angler opens with a man seeking companionship on a journey. “You are well overtaken, Gentlemen,” Izaak Walton’s alter-ego Piscator (Fisherman) exclaims as he catches up with Venator (Hunter) and Auceps (Falconer) north of London. “I have stretched my legs up Tottenham-hill to overtake you, hoping your business may occasion you towards Ware whither I am going this fine, fresh May morning.”

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An Oxford Companion to Valentine’s Day

By Daniel Parker
It’s big, it’s red, and it’s here. Valentine’s Day strikes fear into the hearts of men and women around the Western world like nothing else can. But you needn’t run scared of the Hallmark branded teddy bears. Oh no. Follow the sprinkling of rose petals, the sweet aroma of scented candles, and the dulcet tones of Phil Collins up the stairs to the luxury boudoir that is Oxford University Press.

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Scenes of Ovid’s love stories in art

The poet Ovid plays a central role in Roman literary history and culture. Best known for his Metamorphoses, a 15-book mythological epic, and his collections of love poetry, particularly Amores and Ars Amatoria, Ovid’s poetry has greatly influenced Western art, and his works remain some of the most important sources of classical mythology.

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What could you read over and over and over again?

Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow once more, which leaves us with 6 more weeks of winter. As card-carrying bibliophiles we know the only to get through this is to cozy up with a warm blanket, a hot beverage, and your favorite book to read over and over and over again. Some Oxford history authors were kind enough to share the book that is going to get them through the rest of this cold, cold winter.

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Sinitic script and the American experience

By Margaret Hillenbrand
In recent years, American studies have taken a decisively transnational turn. The origins of this shift lie in a distaste for the notion of “American exceptionalism”, in a revolt against the disjuncture between cherished ideas of the United States as the special homeland of all the democratic virtues, and the persistent realities of discrimination over race, gender, faith, and sexuality.

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Wrecked on a desert island

When I waked it was broad day, the weather clear, and the storm abated, so that the sea did not rage and swell as before. But that which surprised me most was, that the ship was lifted off in the night from the sand where she lay by the swelling of the tide, and was driven up almost as far as the rock which I at first mentioned, where I had been so bruised by the wave dashing me against it.

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Hal Gladfelder on The Beggar’s Opera and Polly

With The Beggar’s Opera, Gay invented a new form, the ballad opera, and the daring mixture of caustic political satire, well-loved popular tunes, and a story of crime and betrayal set in the urban underworld of prostitutes and thieves was an overnight sensation.

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Robert Burns, digital whistle-blowing, and Scottish independence

By Robert Crawford
For the first time since 1707 (more than half a century before Burns was born), the population of Scotland is being given the chance to vote in a referendum that asks the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ The referendum won’t be held until 18 September, but already people are arguing about which side Robert Burns would have been on.

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The Banks O’ Doon

Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway, a small village near the river Doon just south of the town of Ayr, in the south-west of Scotland. As Scots and Scotophiles to world over prepare to celebrate Burns Night tomorrow, here’s an excerpt from the new Oxford World’s Classics edition of his Selected Poems and Songs, dedicated to that river near which he grew up.

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Writing historical fiction in New Kingdom Egypt

By Colleen Manassa
The origins of Egyptian literary fiction can be found in the rollicking adventure tales and sober instructional texts of the early second millennium BCE. Tales such as the Story of Sinuhe, one of the classics of Egyptian literature, enjoyed a robust readership throughout the second millennium BCE as Egypt transitioned politically from the strongly centralized state of the Middle Kingdom…

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How to stop looking for a French Michelangelo

By Phillip John Usher
British comedian Eddie Izzard — known for his Francophilia and for performing standup in French and in France — once made a quip during a show in New York that at first seemed rather Franco-sceptic: why, he asked, do we talk about the “Renaissance” using a word of French origin when France itself had no such moment of Re-birth?

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