Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Reading War and Peace

Maybe you’ve read War and Peace; maybe you haven’t. Maybe you got part of the way through its 1,392 pages and lost the will to continue. (It happens to the best of us!) If you’re in one of the latter two camps, Brian E. Denton is here to change your mind. A freelance writer based in Queens, New York, Brian has read War and Peace seven times already and has no plans to stop there. I talked to Brian to find out what makes War and Peace so special

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New Year’s Day through the ages

How are you spending New Year’s Day this year? If your mind has turned to resolutions and plans for the coming months, or even if you’ve got a touch of the January blues, then you’re in good company. To mark the start of 2017, we’ve taken a snapshot of poems, novels, and letters from famed historical and literary figures, all composed on January 1st.

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Nine literary New Year’s resolutions

Do you need some inspiration for your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re in a resolution rut and feeling some of that winter gloom, then you’re not alone. To help you on your way to an exciting start to 2017, we’ve enlisted the help of some of history’s greatest literary and philosophical figures–on their own resolutions, and inspiring thoughts for the New Year.

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A thousand and one translations

What do Jane Austen, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells, James Joyce, Salman Rushdie, and Hanan Al-Shaykh have in common?

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The logic of unreliable narrators

In fiction, an unreliable narrator is a narrator whose credibility is in doubt – in other words, a proper reading of a narrative with an unreliable narrator requires that the audience question the accuracy of the narrator’s representation of the story, and take seriously the idea that what actually happens in the story – what is fictionally true in the narrative – is different from what is being said or shown to them.

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Illuminating Shakespeare

The best of Illuminating Shakespeare

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we brought you a new theme every month throughout 2016. From Women to Race and from Money to the Supernatural, we delved into complex subjects surrounding his life and works, exploring their relevance for a modern audience. With specially commissioned videos, articles, and interactive content from a host of Shakespearean experts, Illuminating Shakespeare presented the very best Shakespeare resources from across Oxford University Press. Take a look at some of our favourites from this anniversary year…

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From Miss Havisham to Ebenezer Scrooge: playlists for Dickens’ characters

Charles Dickens is one of the most famous novelists of all time. The energy which surges through his writing brings the Victorian world to life, and his lively ensemble of characters has seeped from his pages, deep into popular culture. There are roughly two thousand named characters in his novels, and many more unnamed. In the playlists below, we imagine what some of his most famous characters would listen to if they had access to our modern musical offerings.

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Christmas with the Little Women

With Christmas in less than two weeks, there is no better way to get in the holiday spirit than by revisiting one of our favorite Christmas scenes from classic literature.

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Somewhere in an attic: the Emily Dickinson publishing dilemma

She’s been called “the myth of Amherst,” “the woman in white,” and a “recluse,” but the truth about Emily Dickinson and her writings is still being revealed, 130 years after her death. It’s an intriguing story of love, betrayal, and unlikely collaborations, and one that provokes several questions about the role that special collections and archives play in revealing important literary

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Scots Wa Who? Forgotten poems of Scotland

Scotland has inspired much celebrated poetry over the ages, from the stirring verses of Robert Burns, to the imaginative tales of Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter Scott. These poets are now household names, but how many outside of Scotland have heard of William Dunbar or James Hogg?

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“An infernal journey” – an extract from Homer

Homer, despite being the author of the hugely influential The Odyssey and The Iliad, remains a bit of a mystery. We know very little about his life, but what we can see is the huge legacy that he has left behind in art, music, philosophy, literature, and more. By examining both of his epic poems, we can begin to understand more about this mythical figure. In the extract below Barbara Grazosi takes a closer look at Odysseus’ journey to the Underworld.

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Which “little woman” are you? [quiz]

The twenty-ninth of November 2016, marked the 184th birthday of American author Louisa May Alcott, best known for her literary classic Little Women. Taking place in New England during the Civil War, Little Women follows Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy–four strong-minded sisters, each determined to discover and fulfill her destiny. Adapted for film six times, Little Women is a coming-of-age story that […]

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Woman as protagonist in BBC’s re-adaption of Conrad’s The Secret Agent

With the recent surge of interest in Conrad’s text following the programme airing in July, one needs to question the contribution that BCC’s adaption offers to the oeuvre of Conrad’s criticism. Tony Marchant’s adaption is acutely aware of global relevance of this text, noting that the “contemporaneity just hit[s]” you “in the face”. Yet, his production precisely fails in this presentation of terrorism.

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Conversations and collaborations: lessons from the Charleston Conference

As a first-time attendee of the Charleston Library Conference earlier this month, I knew I was headed for a few idea-charged days, but was overwhelmed by the amount of things I learned from the conference. The conference, according to its website, “is designed to be a collegial gathering of individuals from different areas who discuss the same issues in a non-threatening, friendly, and highly informal environment.”

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Jacob Tonson the elder, international spy and businessman

Few have heard of him today, but Jacob Tonson the Elder (1656?-1736) was undoubtedly one of the most important booksellers in the history of English literature. He numbered Addison, Behn, Congreve, Dryden, Echard, Oldmixon, Prior, Steele, and Vanbrugh among those canonical authors whom he published. His reputation was international, and the quality and range of his classical editions remained a benchmark throughout the eighteenth century.

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