Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Five facts about Dame Ethel Smyth

By Christopher Wiley
The 8th May marks the seventieth anniversary of the death of Dame Ethel Smyth, the pioneering composer and writer, at her home in Hook Heath, near Woking. In the course of her long and varied career, she composed six operas and an array of chamber, orchestral, and vocal works, challenging traditional notions of the place of women within music composition.

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Writing a graphic history: Mendoza the Jew

By Ronald Schechter
Let me begin with a confession. I used to be a snob when it came to comics. I learned to read circa 1970 and even though my first books were illustrated, there was something about the comic format – the words confined to speech and thought bubbles and the scenes subdivided into frames – that felt less than serious. The only time I remember being allowed to buy comic books was when I had just been to the doctor’s office.

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Ukraine and the fall of the UN system

By John Yoo
Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and its continuing military pressure on Ukraine demonstrates that the United Nations-centered system of international law has failed. The pressing question is not whether Russia has violated norms against aggression – it has – but how the United States and its allies should respond in a way that will strengthen the international system.

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Leonardo da Vinci myths, explained

By Kandice Rawlings
Leonardo da Vinci was born 562 years ago today, and we’re still fascinated with his life and work. It’s no real mystery why – he was an extraordinary person, a genius and a celebrity in his own lifetime. He left behind some remarkable artifacts in the form of paintings and writings and drawings on all manner of subjects.

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The early history of the guitar

By Christopher Page
I am struck by the way the recent issue of Early Music devoted to the early romantic guitar provides a timely reminder of how little is known about even the recent history of what is to day today the most popular musical instrument in existence.

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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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Philosophy and its history

By Graham Priest
If you go into a mathematics class of any university, it’s unlikely that you will find students reading Euclid. If you go into any physics class, it’s unlikely you’ll find students reading Newton. If you go into any economics class, you will probably not find students reading Keynes. But if you go a philosophy class, it is not unusual to find students reading Plato, Kant, or Wittgenstein. Why?

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Western (and other) perspectives on Ukraine

By Robert Pyrah
Untangling recent and still-unfolding events in Ukraine is not a simple task. The western news media has been reasonably successful in acquainting its consumers with events, from the fall of Yanukovich on the back of intensive protests in Kiev, by those angry at his venality and signing a pact with Russia over one with the EU, to the very recent moves by Russia to annex Crimea.

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Plausible fictions and irrational coherence

By Joseph Harris
One of the most intriguing developments in recent psychology, I feel, has been the recognition of the role played by irrationality in human thought. Recent works by Richard Wiseman, Dan Ariely, Daniel Kahneman, and others have highlighted the irrationality that can inform and shape our judgements, decision-making, and thought more generally. But, as the title of Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational reminds us, our ‘irrationality’ is not necessarily random for all that.

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What Coke’s cocaine problem can tell us about Coca-Cola Capitalism

By Bart Elmore
In the 1960s, Coca-Cola had a cocaine problem. This might seem odd, since the company removed cocaine from its formula around 1903, bowing to Jim Crow fears that the drug was contributing to black crime in the South. But even though Coke went cocaine-free in the Progressive Era, it continued to purchase coca leaves from Peru, removing the cocaine from the leaves but keeping what was left over as a flavoring extract.

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Bumblebees in English gardens

By Michael Hanley
Urban gardens are increasingly recognised for their potential to maintain or even enhance biodiversity. In particular the presence of large densities and varieties of flowering plants is thought to support a number of pollinating insects whose range and abundance has declined as a consequence of agricultural intensification and habitat loss.

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Beggars, buggers, and bigots, part 4

By Anatoly Liberman
Apart from realizing that each of the three words in question (beggar, bugger, and bigot) needs an individual etymology, we should keep in mind that all of them arose as terms of abuse and sound somewhat alike. The Beguines,Beghards, and Albigensians have already been dealt with.

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Colorful spiders?

By Rainer Foelix
Spiders are not exactly renowned for being colorful animals. Admittedly, most of the more than 40,000 spider species are rather drab looking. However, there are certainly several hundred species which are lively colored, e. g. bright red or bright green, and some are very colorful indeed.

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