Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

9780198708544 Weiss - Real Traviata

Sex, hygiene, and style in 1840s Paris

The young woman who inspired Dumas’s La Dame aux Camélias and Verdi’s Violetta in La traviata conceived at least once in the course of her 23 years. At the time she was in her late teens. During the five years that followed the birth of her baby, between the ages of 17 and 22, she prospered as the leading courtesan of the most glamorous city in Europe. The word ‘courtesan’ is a euphemism for an upper class prostitute, a paid woman who doubled as a trophy exhibit at the theatre and opera.

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Breaking down barriers

Barriers, like promises and piecrust, are made to be broken. Or broken down, rather. Translators, like teachers, are great breakers-down of barriers, though, like them, they are almost always undervalued. This autumn our minds and our media are full of images of razor-wire fences as refugees, fleeing war zones, try to cross borders legally or illegally in search of a safe haven.

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Shakespeare’s encounter with Michel de Montaigne

Some people sign their books but never read them. Others devour books without bothering to inscribe their names. Shakespeare falls in the latter category. In fact we don’t truly know whether he owned books at all; just six Shakespearean signatures are considered authentic, and they appear exclusively in legal documents.

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Forum for Modern Language Studies cover

Why does the European Day of Languages matter?

Each year, the European Union celebrates the European Day of Languages on 26 September. To mark this celebration of linguistic diversity, we asked the editors of Forum for Modern Language Studies to tell us why they think people should study some of the major European languages.

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Five astonishing facts about women in Shakespeare

What would Macbeth be without Lady Macbeth? Or Romeo and Juliet with only Romeo? Yet there’s an enormous disparity between female and male representation in Shakespeare’s play. Few, great female characters deliver as many lines or impressive speeches as their male counterparts. While this may not be surprising considering 16th century society, literature, and theater, data can reveal a wider disparity than previously thought.

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James Baldwin and the fire this time

As the fires burned in Baltimore, following the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray in April 2015, protesters brandished placards with quotations from James Baldwin’s work, and thousands of blogs and twitter feeds invoked the legendary writer.

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Which Shakespearean heroine are you? [quiz]

Did you know that out of a total of 981 characters from Shakespeare’s plays, only around 150 characters are women? There is an ongoing debate concerning what truly qualifies a character as female, but this ratio of male to female characters is nevertheless astounding.

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Shakespeare and film around the world

From the birth of film, Shakespeare’s plays have been a constant source of inspiration for many screenwriters, directors, and producers. As a result, hundreds of film and television adaptations have been made, each featuring either a Shakespearean plot, theme, character, or all three.

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How well do you know the film adaptations of Shakespeare’s work? [quiz]

It’s fun to read Shakespearean plays, but watching our most beloved scenes on stage or screen makes the characters and the plots even more engaging. Reading the scene in which Juliet wakes up to find her Romeo dead is indeed tragic, but watching Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio lock eyes right before he dies is heart-wrenching. Gazing, unable to reach through the screen and offer help, as Ralph Fiennes is outnumbered and murdered in his directorial debut, Coriolanus, is unparalleled.

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Finding wisdom in Old English

Anglo-Saxon literature is full of advice on how to live a good life. Many Anglo-Saxon poems and proverbs describe the characteristics a wise person should strive to possess, offering counsel on how to treat others and how to obtain and use wisdom in life. Here are some words in Old English that describe what a wise person should aspire to be—and some qualities it’s better to avoid.

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Shakespeare’s work: pure genius or imitatio?

William Shakespeare was undoubtedly a literary mastermind, yet several allusions and quotations in his works suggest that he gathered ideas from other texts. Ovid’s Metamorphoses, for example, was alluded to more than any other classical text, and the Bishop’s and Geneva Bibles were quoted numerous times in his works. Shakespeare’s reliance on source material from external literature was a common practice of the time period.

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How well do you know Sherlock Holmes? [quiz]

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous detectives of all time. The detective featured in 4 novels and 56 short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is a regular figure in modern day culture; Holmes has been portrayed on stage, radio, film and television for over a century, most recently by Sir Ian McKellan in the 2015 film, Mr. Holmes.

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9780199689828 Zipes OC Fairy Tales

A fairy tale is more than just a fairy tale

When some one says to you “that’s just a fairy tale,” it generally means that what you have just said is untrue or unreal. It is a polite but deprecating way of saying that your words form a lie or gossip. Your story is make-believe and unreliable. It has nothing to do with reality and experience. Fairy tale is thus turned into some kind of trivial story.

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How well do you know Shakespeare’s influences? [quiz]

Many Shakespeare fans prefer to imagine him as an untrained genius, but, in reality, Shakespeare drew inspiration from many classical sources for his own writing. His most famous plays, such as Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, and Hamlet, allude to and reference external sources that Shakespeare was already familiar with. How much do you know about the influence of other writers on, what some would call, the greatest English dramatist to date?

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How much do you know about Great Expectations? [quiz]

Do you know your Magwitch from your Miss Havisham? Your Philip Pirrip from your Mr Pumblechook? Perhaps Dickens’s best-loved work, Great Expectations features memorable characters such as the convict Magwitch, the mysterious Miss Havisham and her proud ward Estella, as Pip unravels the mystery of his benefactor and of his own heart.

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Silencing Jean Louise: the media and Harper Lee

For a brief moment in July of 2015, the American news media exploded with headline stories about a work of literature, something of an unprecedented turn for the mass media. That this coverage should have focused almost exclusively on race issues and ignored the “new” volume’s revelations about gender issues in Lee’s novels is understandable. The explanation lies in the coincidence of the book’s publication with a series of wrenching racial events from Ferguson to Charleston and summarized in the “Black Lives Matter” campaign.

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