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Academic Insights for the Thinking World


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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Labour and the legacy of antisemitism

We are currently living through a period when “antisemitism” seems to be on the rise in Europe, and is now a hot topic of debate in Britain, because of a few clumsy statements by some prominent Labour politicians (along with a very few statements that do appear to have an actual antisemitic animus).

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Sikhs and mistaken identity

American basketball star, Darsh Singh, a turbaned, bearded Sikh, featured this April in a Guardian Weekend piece on cyberbullying. He recalled how his online picture had been circulated with Islamophobic captions. Long before that he’d had to get used to people yelling things like “towelhead”. Since 9/11, Sikhs haven’t just been verbally insulted but have suffered ‘reprisal attacks’.

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Is Buddhism paradoxical?

Buddhist literature is full of statements that sound paradoxical. This has led to the widespread idea that Buddhism, like some other religions, wants to point us in the direction of a reality transcending all intellectual understanding.

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Unwholly bound: Mother Teresa’s battles with depression

A psychiatrist’s couch is no place to debate the existence of God. Yet spiritual health is an inseparable part of mental or psychological health. Something no psychiatrist should regard with clinical indifference. But what does spiritual or religious health involve? This can’t just include normalized versions of monistic theism – but the entire set of human dispositions that may be thought of in spiritual terms.

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Christian Bioethics

Note to Pope Francis: sex is more than just sex

Pope Francis is boldly liberalizing Catholic teaching on sexual matters. Or so it is commonly believed. In earlier ages of the Christian Church, both East and West, its canons and its teachings always understood human sexuality as having a very powerful effect upon the human soul.

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Study Bible sampler

Study Bibles have been around almost as long as Bibles have been printed in English. While Christianity has long been considered a “religion of the book” (a phrase that not everybody likes), the Bible isn’t easy to understand. It’s so complex that the first universities (which emerged from monastic and cathedral schools) regularly taught Bible classes.

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Reflections on religion and the Civil Rights Movement

Americans, black and white, love to commemorate the civil rights struggle. School programs, public events, popular culture, and historic markers all recount the heroic battle black Americans waged for their full humanity. Yet, racial inequality continues to plague the United States, and most popular civil rights history mythologizes it in ways that hinder the full realization of the movement’s goals.

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choosing our religion

3 things you might not know about Nones

Religious Nones are a name for people who answer “none” when asked with what religious group they most identify or to which they belong. Nones are a growing segment of the U.S. religious landscape but there are some misconceptions about how they practice what might count as “spirituality” or “religion.” Here are three challenges to typical misconceptions about Nones.

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Is Christian selflessness oppressive?

It is not uncommon to hear contemporary theologians (and others) opine that the Christian ethic of selflessness is a long-standing cause of female oppression. Even anorexia, that increasingly wide-spread disorder, has been traced back to Christian understandings of love as selfless or self-denying. The notion of selfless love has consequently acquired an air of the psychologically dangerous and patriarchal.

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The God-man resurrected: a philosophical problem for the Incarnation

Today is Easter Sunday for the majority of the world’s 2.4 billion Christians (most Orthodox Christians will wait until May 1st to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus). After the long penitential season of Lent, Christians are greeting each other with joyful exclamations of “He is risen,” and hearing in glad response, “He is risen indeed, hallelujah!”

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Oxford Biblical Studies Online

When’s Easter?

The phrase “moveable feast,” while popularized by Ernest Hemingway’s memoir, refers primarily to the holidays surrounding Passover and Easter. Although “Easter” is not a biblical word, Passover is a major holiday in the Jewish calendar. The origins of the festival, while disputed among scholars, are narrated in the biblical texts in Exodus 12–13

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