Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Getting to know Sir Philip Sidney

By Roger Kuin
What does Sir Philip Sidney’s correspondence teach us about the man and his world? You have to realise what letters were, what they were like, and what they were for. Some of them were like our e-mails: brief and to the point. Other letters are long and more like a personal form of news media: meant to inform the recipient (often Sidney himself) about what is happening in the world of politics.

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How to write a classic

By Mark Davie
Torquato Tasso desperately wanted to write a classic. The son of a successful court poet who had been brought up on the Latin classics, he had a lifelong ambition to write the epic poem which would do for counter-reformation Italy what Virgil’s Aeneid had done for imperial Rome.

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The Compleat Earth Day

First published by Izaak Walton in 1653, The Compleat Angler remains one of the most original and influential books about the environment ever written in the English language. Walton’s narrative depicts a group of urbanites whose appreciation of the natural world deepens as they go fishing in the countryside north of London. In honor of Earth Day, here are some interesting facts about The Compleat Angler as an environmental text.

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Top five hip hop references in poetry

By David Caplan
Hip hop has influenced a generation of poets coming to prominence, poets I call “The Inheritors of Hip Hop.” Signaling how the music serves as a shared experience and inspiration, they mention performers and songs as well as anecdotes from the genre’s development and the artists’ lives, while epigraphs and titles quote songs.

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Money matters

By Valerie Minogue
Money is a tricky subject for a novel, as Zola in 1890 acknowledged: “It’s difficult to write a novel about money. It’s cold, icy, lacking in interest…” But his Rougon-Macquart novels, the “natural and social history” of a family in the Second Empire, were meant to cover every significant aspect of the age, from railways and coal-mines to the first department stores.

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Shakespeare’s 450th birthday quiz

William Shakespeare was born 450 years ago this month, in April 1564, and to celebrate Oxford Scholarly Editions Online is testing your knowledge on Shakespeare quotes. Do you know your sonnets from your speeches? Find out…

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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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