Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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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Sherlock Holmes’ beginnings

Here at Oxford University Press we occasionally get the chance to discover a new and exciting piece of literary history. We’re excited to share the newest short story addition to the Sherlock Holmes mysteries in Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories. Never before published, our editorial team has acquired The Mystery of the Green Garden, now believed to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first use of the Sherlock Holmes’ character in his writing. Written during Doyle’s time at Stonyhurst College before entering medical school, the short story displays an early, amateur style of writing not seen in his later published works.

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Sex and the ancient teenager

By Jane Alison
Jane Fonda spoke passionately about teenage sexuality this week on the Diane Rehm Show. (Her new book is Being A Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More.) Fonda’s book and words are very much of our age, yet some of her most moving points evoke the ghost of Ovid and his mythic stories of young sexuality that are over two thousand years old.

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“A peaceful sun gilded her evening”

On 31 March 1855 – Easter Sunday – Charlotte Brontë died at Haworth Parsonage. She was 38 years old, and the last surviving Brontë child. In this deeply moving letter to her literary advisor W. S. Williams, written on 4 June 1849, she reflects on the deaths of her sisters Anne and Emily.

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Entitling early modern women writers

By Andrew Zurcher
As Women’s History Month draws to a close in the United Kingdom, it is a good moment to reflect on the history of women’s writing in Oxford’s scholarly editions. In particular, as one of the two editors responsible for early modern writers in the sprawling collections of Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO), I have been going through the edited texts of women writers included in the OSEO project.

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Plausible fictions and irrational coherence

By Joseph Harris
One of the most intriguing developments in recent psychology, I feel, has been the recognition of the role played by irrationality in human thought. Recent works by Richard Wiseman, Dan Ariely, Daniel Kahneman, and others have highlighted the irrationality that can inform and shape our judgements, decision-making, and thought more generally. But, as the title of Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational reminds us, our ‘irrationality’ is not necessarily random for all that.

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Ovid the naturalist

By Jane Alison
Ovid was born on the 20th of March (two thousand and fifty-some years ago): born on the cusp of spring, as frozen streams in the woods of his Sulmo cracked and melted to runnels of water, as coral-hard buds beaded black stalks of shrubs, as tips of green nudged at clods of earth and rose, and rose, and released tumbles of blooms.

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Selected fables about wolves and fishermen

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 Wolf in Shepherd’s Clothing’ and ‘The Lion and the Fly’ are witty and sophisticated, satirizing human nature in miniature dramas in which the outcome is unpredictable.

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Jane Austen and the art of letter writing

By Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade
Letter writing manuals were popular throughout Jane Austen’s lifetime, and it’s possible then that Jane Austen might have had access to one. Letter writing manuals contained “familiar letters on the most common occasions in life”, and showed examples of what a letter might look like to people who needed to learn the art of letter writing.

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“You’ll be mine forever”: A reading of Ovid’s Amores

Amores was Ovid’s first complete work of poetry, and is one of his most famous. The poems in Amores document the shifting passions and emotions of a narrator who shares Ovid’s name, and who is in love with a woman he calls Corinna. In these excerpts, we see two sides of the affair — a declaration of love, and a hot afternoon spent with Corinna. Our poet here is Jane Alison, author of Change Me: Stories of Sexual Transformation from Ovid, a new translation of Ovid’s love poetry.

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William Godwin’s birthday

By Mark Philp
Do people at the end of the eighteenth century celebrate their birthdays? More precisely, what did William Godwin (1756-1836) – philosopher, novelist, husband of feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) and father of Mary Shelly (1797-1851) – do on his birthday, which falls on 3 March?

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