Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Humanities

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Why metaphor matters

Plato famously said that there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry. But with respect to one aspect of poetry, namely metaphor, many contemporary philosophers have made peace with the poets. In their view, we need metaphor. Without it, many truths would be inexpressible and unknowable.

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The Odyssey in culture, ancient and modern

Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey recounts the 10-year journey of Odysseus from the fall of Troy to his return home to Ithaca. The story has continued to draw people in since its beginning in an oral tradition, through the first Greek writing and integration into the ancient education system, the numerous translations over the ages, and modern retellings.

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The vote for women bishops

By Linda Woodhead
There are two kinds of churches. The ‘church type’, as the great sociologist Ernst Troeltsch called it, has fuzzy boundaries and embraces the whole of society. The ‘sect type’ has hard boundaries and tries to keep its distance. Until recently, the Church of England has been the former – a church ‘by law established’ for the whole nation. Since the 1980s, however, the Church has veered towards sectarianism. It’s within this context that we have to understand the significance of the recent vote for women bishops.

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Polygamous wives who helped settle the west

By Paula Kelly Harline
Happy Pioneer Day! The morning of 24 July in downtown Salt Lake City, thousands of Westerners watch the “Days of ’47” parade celebrating the 1847 arrival of Mormon pioneers; in the afternoon, they attend a rodeo or take picnics to the canyons; at night they launch as many fireworks as they did for Fourth of July.

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The exaltation of Christ

By Christopher Bryan
Every Good Friday the Christian church asks the world to contemplate a Christ so helpless, so in thrall to the powers of this age, that one might easily forget the Christian belief that through it all, God was with him and in him. And therein lies the danger of serious misunderstanding

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Mindful Sex

By Jeff Wilson
Mindfulness seems to be everywhere in North American society today. One of the more interesting developments of this phenomenon is the emergence of mindful sex—the ability to let go of mental strain and intrusive thoughts so once can fully tap into sexual intercourse.

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10 questions for Jenny Davidson

On Tuesday 22 July 2014, Jenny Davidson, Professor of English at Columbia University, leads a discussion on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Each summer, Oxford University Press USA and Bryant Park in New York City partner for their summer reading series Word for Word Book Club.

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What is consciousness?

Ted Honderich
The philosopher Descartes set out to escape doubt and to find certainties. From the premise that he was thinking, even if falsely, he argued to what he took to be the certain conclusion that he existed. Cogito ergo sum. He is as well known for concluding that consciousness is not physical.

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Radical faith answers radical doubt

By John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
Do Christians need the kind of radical faith that Thomas Reid, in the Scottish Enlightenment, and Alvin Plantinga, in our own time, offer as the best response to the pervasive skepticism of modernity?

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Characters of the Odyssey in Ancient Art

Every Ancient Greek knew their names: Odysseus, Penelope, Telemachas, Nestor, Helen, Menelaos, Ajax, Kalypso, Nausicaä, Polyphemos, Ailos… The trials and tribulations of these characters occupied the Greek mind so much that they found their way into ancient art, whether mosaics or ceramics, mirrors or sculpture.

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Approaching peak skepticism

By John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
We are near, it seems, “peak skepticism.” We all know that the sweetest character in the movie we’re watching will turn out to be the serial killer. We all know that the stranger in the good suit and the great hair is up to something sinister.

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So you think you know Jane Austen?

How much do you know about the works of one of our best-loved classic authors? What really motivates the characters, and what is going on beneath the surface of the story? Using So You Think You Know Jane Austen? A Literary Quizbook by John Sutherland and Deirdre La Faye, we’ve selected twelve questions covering all six of Austen’s major novels for you to pit your wits against.

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Certainty and authority

By John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
We might have reason to doubt some or even much of our day-to-day apprehension of things. We’re all in a hurry, all having to learn and discern and decide on the fly. Surely in the realm of medical research, however, the most important research we conduct, expert knowledge is sure and sound?

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The butterfly and the matrix

By John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
Right now I’m bored. And I can’t be wrong about that. I truly am yawningly, dazedly bored. And epistemologists assure me that about my mental states, such as this present one of stupefaction, I can claim certainty.

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Summer reading recommendations

Whether your version of the perfect summer read gives your cerebrum a much needed breather or demands contemplation you don’t have time for in everyday life, here is a mix of both to consider for your summer reading this year.

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