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Literature Archives | OUPblog

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Virginia Woolf in the twenty-first century

As we approach 26 March 2015, the centenary of the publication of Virginia Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out, it seems apposite to consider how her writing resonates in the twenty-first century. In the performing and filmic arts, there certainly seems to be something lupine in the air.

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OWC Reading Group

How much do you know about Wuthering Heights? [quiz]

Centuries after its 1847 publication, Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s breathtaking literary classic, remains a seminal text to scholars, students, and readers around the world. Though best known for its depiction of romance between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, it is also largely multidimensional, grappling with themes such as religious hypocrisy, the precariousness of social class, and the collision of nature and culture. But how much do you know about this famous work of English literature?

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The Review of English Studies cover

Severed heads on the Elizabethan stage

On Tower Hill, 25 February 1601, Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, was beheaded with three blows of an axe before some 150 spectators. The headsman held the head up for the spectators to see. He called out, “God save the Queen.” This beheading and others of that time color an important question for Shakespeare scholars. Severed heads populate many Elizabethan period plays. What objects represented those heads on stage?

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The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories

The two faces of Leo Tolstoy

Imagine that your local pub had a weekly, book themed quiz, consisting of questions like this: ‘Which writer concerned himself with religious toleration, explored vegetarianism, was fascinated (and sometimes repelled by) sexuality, and fretted over widening social inequalities, experienced urban poverty first hand while at the same time understanding the causes of man made famine?’

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OWC Reading Group

Emily Brontë, narrative, and nature

Catherine’s removal from the plot (other than as a haunting presence in the background, much less potent hereafter than the waif-like child ghost whose wrist Lockwood rubs back and forth across the broken window glass till the blood runs freely (p. 21)) has seemed to some readers to weaken the second half of the novel. One modern critic has suggested, indeed, that the whole of the second-generation narrative was an afterthought.

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Wolf Hall: count up the bodies

Historians should be banned from watching movies or TV set in their area of expertise. We usually bore and irritate friends and family with pedantic interjections about minor factual errors and chronological mix-ups. With Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and the sumptuous BBC series based on them, this pleasure is denied us. The series is as ferociously well researched as it is superbly acted and directed. Cranmer probably didn’t have a beard in 1533, but, honestly, that’s about the best I can do.

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Why we should read Dante as well as Shakespeare

Dante can seem overwhelming. T.S. Eliot’s peremptory declaration that ‘Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them: there is no third’ is more likely to be off-putting these days than inspiring. Shakespeare’s plays are constantly being staged and filmed, and in all sorts of ways, with big names in the big parts, and when we see them we can connect with the characters and the issues with not too much effort.

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Fairy tales explained badly

What are the strange undercurrents to fairy tales like ‘Hansel and Gretel’ or ‘Little Red Riding Hood’? In November 2014, we launched a #fairytalesexplainedbadly hashtag campaign that tied in to the release of Marina Warner’s Once Upon a Time: A Short History of the Fairy Tale. Hundreds of people engaged with the #fairytalesexplainedbadly hashtag on Twitter, sparking a fun conversation on the different ways in which fairy tale stories could be perceived.

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OWC Reading Group

Discussion questions for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

Last week we announced the launch of the Oxford World’s Classics Reading Group, and the first book, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Helen Small, editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of the book, has put together some helpful discussion questions that will help you gain a deeper understanding of the text as you read it and when you finish it.

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Avarice in the late French Renaissance

Greed (avarice, avaritia) has never gone out of fashion. In every age, we find no shortage of candidates for the unenviable epithet, “avaricious.” Nowadays, investment bankers and tax-dodging multinationals head the list. In the past, money-lenders, tax collectors, and lawyers were routinely denounced, although there was a strong feeling that any person, male or female, […]

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OWC Reading Group

Announcing the Oxford World’s Classics Reading Group

We’re excited to announce the launch of the Oxford World’s Classics Reading Group, an online group for everyone who is interested in reading and discussing the classics. The Oxford World’s Classics social media channels will provide a forum for conversation around the chosen book, and every three months we will choose a new work of classic literature for the group to read.

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Rotten fish and Belfast confetti

Winston Churchill’s Victory broadcast of 13 May 1945, in which he claimed that but for Northern Ireland’s “loyalty and friendship” the British people “should have been confronted with slavery or death”, is perhaps the most emphatic assertion that the Second World War entrenched partition from the southern state and strengthened the political bond between Britain and Northern Ireland.

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The inspiration of Alice in Wonderland: 150 years on

This Christmas, London’s Royal Opera House played host to Christopher Wheeldon’s critically acclaimed Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, performed by the Royal Ballet and with a score by Joby Talbot. Indeed, Lewis Carroll’s seminal work Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) has long inspired classical compositions, in forms as diverse as ballet, opera, chamber music, song, as well as, of course, film scores.

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The myth-eaten corpse of Robert Burns

‘Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt,’ so wrote the other bard, Shakespeare. Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, has had a surfeit of biographical attention: upwards of three hundred biographical treatments, and as if many of these were not fanciful enough hundreds of novels, short stories, theatrical, television, and film treatments that often strain well beyond credulity.

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Roberts- Landor's Cleanness

The works of Walter Savage Landor

Though he’s largely forgotten today, Walter Savage Landor was one of the major authors of his time—of both his times, in fact, for he was long-lived enough to produce major writing during both the Romantic and the Victorian eras. He kept writing and publishing promiscuously through his long life (he died in his ninetieth year) which puts him in a unique category. Maybe the problem is that he outlived his own reputation. Byron, Shelly and Keats all died in their twenties, and this fact somehow seals-in their importance as poets.

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