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On this day: the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s death

Philip Carter
Today, 11 February 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963). It is an event that has significantly shaped biographies and critical studies of her work — particularly following the publication of Ariel (1965), her posthumous collection edited and prepared by Ted Hughes. Then, as now, many reviewers regarded these poems as foretelling the circumstances of her death. Plath’s biography in the Oxford DNB offers an alternative perspective.

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Plagiarized or original: A playlist for the contested music of Ira B. Arnstein

From the 1920s to the 1950s, Ira B. Arnstein was the unrivaled king of music copyright litigants. He spent the better part of those 30 years trying to prove that many of the biggest hits of the Golden Age of American Popular Song were plagiarized from his turn-of-the-century parlor piano pieces and Yiddish songs. “I suppose we have to take the bad with the good in our system which gives everyone their day in court,” Irving Berlin once said, but “Arnstein is stretching his day into a lifetime.”

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The discourse of the blues

Happy New Year, everyone! The Oral History Review is ringing in 2013 with a second oral history podcast. This week, managing editor Troy Reeves speaks with Roger Davis Gatchet about his Oral History Review article, “‘I’ve Got Some Antique in Me’: The Discourse of Authenticity and Identity in the African American Blues Community in Austin, Texas.” (Vol 39, issue 2). And if that isn’t enough to entice you, there’s also (what Troy assures me is) a really hilarious Weird Al Yankovic joke.

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No jingles: an alternative Christmas playlist

Christmas is, almost inescapably, a time of music. A lot of it is familiar and much-loved, but for those who might be looking for some more adventurous listening this year – beyond Slade, the Messiah, and Victorian carols – here are some pointers to alternative Christmas music from down the ages.

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The life of J.R.R. Tolkien

By Philip Carter
Published in 1937 The Hobbit was Tolkien’s first published work of fiction, though he had been writing on legends since at least 1915. His creation — a mythological race of ‘hobbits’, in which Bilbo Baggins takes the lead — had originally been intended for children. But from the outset Tolkien’s saga also proved popular with adults, perhaps appreciative of the hobbits’ curiously English blend of resourcefulness and respectability.

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In his own voice: H.L.A. Hart in conversation with David Sugarman

By David Sugarman
This recording of my lengthy interview with H.L.A. Hart (1907–1992) has been resurrected from my audio tapes and given new life. Dusted and digitalized, the result is something quite beautiful. Here is Hart in his own words recorded in 1988, reviewing his life, his work, and his significance. The interview presents Hart as three individuals: legal philosopher, interviewee, and critic. The recording adds another dimension to our understanding of Hart that must be incorporated into our collective memory.

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Great Expectations: an audio guide

Perhaps Dickens’s best-loved work, Great Expectations tells the story of young Pip, who lives with his sister and her husband the blacksmith. He has few prospects for advancement until a mysterious benefaction takes him from the Kent marshes to London. Pip is haunted by figures from his past — the escaped convict Magwitch, the time-withered Miss Havisham and her proud and beautiful ward, Estella — and in time uncovers not just the origins of his great expectations but the mystery of his own heart. Here is a sequence of podcasts with Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Great Expectations.

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Oral history students as narrators

For this week’s contribution to OUPblog, we’ve gone audio — we are the Oral History Review, after all. In our first podcast, our guest Stephen Sloan elaborates on “On the Other Foot: Oral History Students as Narrators,” a piece he wrote for the most recent issue of the OHR (volume 39, issue 2). This post represents another first: an effort to give current and future OHR contributors room to discuss their articles further.

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Marian Stamp Dawkins on why animals matter

There is an urgent argument for the need to rethink animal welfare, untinged by anthropomorphism and claims of animal consciousness, which lack firm empirical evidence and are often freighted with controversy and high emotions. With growing concern over such issues as climate change and food shortages, how we treat those animals on which we depend for survival needs to be put squarely on the public agenda. Marian Stamp Dawkins seeks to do this by offering a more complete understanding of how animals help us.

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Music we’re thankful for

Thanksgiving is upon us in the US. Before the OUP Music team headed home for some turkey and stuffing, we compiled a list of what we are most thankful for, musically speaking. Read on for our thoughts, and leave your own in the comments. Happy Thanksgiving!

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An interview with Emanuel Tov

In this interview conducted for Oxford Biblical Studies Online (OBSO), Professor Marc Brettler (Brandeis University) discusses with Professor Tov his early days as a scholar of Biblical studies, his research into the Qumran scrolls, and the legacy of his work — most notably his landmark book Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, which continues to set the standard for his field.

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In praise of the podcast

PB. The initials are not exactly as familiar as, say, BBC, or NPR, but we’re not operating in a massively different environment. PB: Philosophy Bites. Time was when to broadcast on the radio (or the ‘wireless’) you’d have to seek a license for permission to use a teeny weeny portion of the radio frequency spectrum. Broadcasting was time-consuming, bureaucratic, and above all expensive. It required staff and costly equipment and it was possible only with the support of highly-trained studio technicians and engineers. No longer

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New Atlantis at Voodoo Fest

I had the great thrill over the week to perform as part of the Paul Sanchez Rolling Road Show at the Voodoo Experience in New Orleans. The three day music extravaganza takes place under the live oaks in beautiful City Park. Sanchez asked me to read from New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Future of New Orleans at the beginning of his set on the Preservation Hall stage. I read about my return to New Orleans after hurricane Katrina as the band played the melodic swells of “At the Foot of Canal Street” behind me.

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Howard Skempton on composing

Composer Howard Skempton is one of the mainstays of British contemporary classical music. He is an experimental composer who writes in a style completely his own, un-deflected by trends in composition or performance. Having developed, under the tutelage of Cornelius Cardew, a musical style characterised by its elegance and simplicity, Skempton’s catalogue of compositions is now extensive and diverse.

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Pasqua Rosee and the coffee shop

Coffee shops are in the news, but where did it all begin? Perhaps with this man, Pasqua Rosee (fl 1651-6), who opened London’s first coffee-house at St Michael Cornhill. Rosee’s coffee-house was a shed in St Michael’s churchyard. Here served “two or three dishes” of coffee “at a time twice or thrice a day.” Rosee’s coffee-house was a shed in St Michael’s churchyard.

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