Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


The Devil’s best tunes

It’s been said that the Devil has all the best tunes. If this is true, he likes to keep a conspicuously low profile. While songs of praise for Jesus, God, Krishna, Buddha, the Virgin Mary, and a host of other deities, saints, and semi-deities abound, Satan is seldom properly hymned.

Read More

Was Anton LaVey serenading Satan in his cover of “Answer Me”?

Anton Szandor LaVey was the most outspoken and most notorious apostle of Satan in the twentieth century. On his life before founding the Church of Satan in 1966, LaVey liked to spun wild tales, but he did actually work as a professional and semi-professional musician in the carnival circuit. The High Priest of Satan was fond of bombastic classic music in the Wagnerian mould and popular tunes from the thirties, forties, and fifties, the period in which he himself had been young.

Read More
The purse and the sword

Jewish identity – the Israeli paradoxes

Is Judaism a religion and a culture or is it also a nationality? To this question the Zionist movement, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel, gave a clear positive answer. This approach has been adopted by Israel.

Read More

Ethical change in the Catholic Church

In just a little more than three years as the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis appears to have disrupted what many thought was a straight and unchangeable course of moral teaching in the Catholic Church. Some of the more conservative members of the church are worried that the fundamentals of that teaching are being ignored, or worse, thrown overboard. Francis’s call for a ‘poorer’ church and a world that cares about the environment displays a significant turn in Catholic politics.

Read More

The influence of premodern theories about sex and gender

Have you ever wondered why women are having such a hard time achieving equality with men in the church and the world? Or why intersex and transgender people are having such a hard time to be accepted as they are? Or why same-gender attraction still evokes visceral reactions among millions of straight people?

Read More

Songs of exile: a playlist for Psalm 137

Psalm 137 begins with one of the more lyrical lines in the Hebrew Bible: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” It ends eight lines later with one of the thorniest: “Happy shall he be, who taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” Partly because it deals with music—another famous verse asks, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”—the psalm has been like poetic catnip, a siren song luring musicians and composers.

Read More
Blessings of Business

7 things you may not know about conservative Christian businesses

Corporations became places for evangelical activity and expression and businessmen—sometimes working individually, sometimes collaboratively—shaped what we think of today as conservative “Christian” culture and politics. Here are 7 facts you may not know about the culture and history of Christian business.

Read More

Portraying Krishna in X-Men: Apocalypse

Another summer, another season of superhero movies. Big budgets, big muscles, big explosions: Each release only strengthens the genre’s domination of Hollywood—and the sense that comic-book franchises make up a contemporary mythology, and superheroes are its gods. Among this year’s offerings is X-Men: Apocalypse, which opened the last week of May.

Read More

What is college for?

1 May was National College Decision Day in the U.S. – the deposit deadline for admission into many U.S. colleges and universities. Early indications suggest that we’re poised for a fifth straight year of declining enrollments. In the Atlantic earlier this year, Alia Wong pointed out that this trend continues the widening gap between high school graduation and college enrollment in this country.

Read More

Observing Ramadan at the Qatar National Library

Every year, we welcome June with dreams of beaches, warm sunshine and a well-deserved vacation. This year, for over 1 billion Muslims across the globe, June represents something more spiritual as it marks the holy month of Ramadan.

Read More

The mysterious search for the Cardinal’s girlfriend

From the goosebump-producing thrills of Wilkie Collins’s fiction and the melodramas on offer at the Royal Princess’ Theatre to the headlines blaring in the Illustrated Police News, the Victorians savoured the sensational. The attention-seeking title above is patently untrue, yet, for more than five decades, John Henry Newman (the Cardinal) was emotionally, spiritually, and textually connected with Maria Rosina Giberne, a wholly intriguing figure.

Read More
Illuminating Shakespeare

“Aery nothings and painted devils”, an extract from Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds

Human beings are subject to a continual process of bodily transformation, but shape-shifting also belongs in the landscape of magic, witchcraft, and wonder. Marina Warner, in her award-winning essays Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self, explores this idea ranging from Ovid to Lewis Carroll. In the extract below she looks at Shakespeare’s use of magic and demons

Read More

Spiritual awakening in Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous has provided millions of people with a chance at recovery from addiction. There is one aspect of membership for some members that most people, even addiction specialists, are not aware of, namely, the remarkable transformation that many AA members call a spiritual awakening. It’s a remarkable phenomenon for anyone interested in social science on the addictions.

Read More

Christian theology, literary theory, and sexuality in the ‘Song of Songs’

hy were Christian theologians in the ancient and medieval worlds so fascinated by a text whose main theme was erotic love? The very fact that the ‘Song of Songs’, a biblical love poem that makes no reference to God or to Israelite religion, played an important role in pre-modern Christian discourse may seem surprising to those of us in the modern world.

Read More