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Redefining beauty in the suburbs of Victorian London

The British Museum’s current blockbuster show, Defining Beauty: the Body in Ancient Greek Art, amasses a remarkable collection of classical sculpture focusing on the human body. The most intriguing part of the show for me was the second room, “Body colour,” which displays plaster casts of several Greek sculptures brightly painted in green, blue, yellow, red and pink. The press has not known what to make of “Body colour.” It has been met with surprise, sneers, or been entirely ignored in otherwise glowing reviews.

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Vincent van Gogh’s images of motherhood

Vincent van Gogh’s turbulent relationship with mothers—especially his own—began a full year before his birth. On 30 March 1852, Anna Carbentus van Gogh gave birth to a son, Vincent Willem van Gogh, who was stillborn. Anna tearfully buried her son in the cemetery of the parsonage where the Van Goghs lived. A year later to the day, Anna would give birth to another son, whom she also named Vincent Willem van Gogh.

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9780199890347 - A Storm of Witchcraft

Bridget Bishop: first victim of Salem’s Gallows Hill

On 10 June 1692, the condemned Bridget Bishop was carted from Salem jail to the place that would later be known as Gallows Hill, where Sheriff George Corwin reported he “caused the said Bridget to be hanged by the neck until she was dead.” She would be the first of 19 victims executed during the Salem witch trials.

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Unmasking Origen

If the degree of misunderstanding determines the greatness of a theologian, then Origen (c. 185-254 C.E.) ranks among the greatest. He was misunderstood in his own time and he continued to be misunderstood in subsequent centuries, resulting in his condemnation—or the condemnation of distortions of his ideas—at the Fifth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 553 C.E. Why has Origen been misunderstood? How do we understand him better?

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Giving up control

One of the great joys of classical composing is the plotting and planning of new sounds, harmonies, and rhythms. Many composers delight in working out exactly which instrument will sound when, which voice forms what part of a harmony, or how a motif will be created, twisted, and perhaps developed, morphed, or abandoned.

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Before Wolf Hall: How Sir Walter Scott invented historical fiction

Historical fiction, the form Walter Scott is credited with inventing, is currently experiencing something of a renaissance. It has always been popular, of course, but it rarely enjoys high critical esteem. Now, however, thanks to Hilary Mantel’s controversial portraits of Thomas Cromwell (in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies), James Robertson’s multi-faceted studies of Scotland’s past (in The Fanatic and And the Land Lay Still), and Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North, winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize, the genre has recovered serious ground, shrugging off the dubious associations of bag-wig, bodice, and the dressing-up box.

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OWC Reading Group

Roger Luckhurst’s top 10 vampire films

There are many film adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula; many, of course, that are rubbish. If you need fresh blood and your faith restored that there is still life to be drained from the vampire trope, here are ten recommendations for films that rework Stoker’s vampire in innovative and inventive ways.

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Watching the true detectives

The media has a key role to play in the construction of our knowledge of crime and policing. In the post-war decades, they argue the representation of policing in the UK reflected the general social consensus. The dominant image here is Jack Warner playing George Dixon in the popular UK TV series Dixon of Dock Green that ran from 1955 to 1976. George Dixon came to represent the archetypal ‘British Bobby’, a pillar of the community who was widely respected. The homely and reassuring values that Dixon represented were summarized in his catchphrase ‘Evenin’ all’.

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Hanks - Propositional Content

What made Russell feel ready for suicide?

In early May 1913 Bertrand Russell sat down to write a book on the theory of knowledge, his first major philosophical work after Principia Mathematica. He set a brisk pace for himself – ten pages a day at first, up to twelve by mid-May. He was “bursting with work” and “felt happy as king”. By early June he had 350 pages. 350 pages in one month!He never finished the manuscript. Some parts of it were published as journal articles, but the book itself was never completed. (It was later published posthumously under the title Theory of Knowledge.) What went wrong?

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It’s time to play the (Broadway) music

Whether you think the Tony Awards is the epitome of Broadway talent or just another marketing device, it’s a night where everyone has a front row seat to the creative, the lively, the emotional moments that have made a home on the Great White Way.

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American religion in the Age of Reagan [quiz]

You may have heard about the recent Pew Research Center study that shows millennials (born roughly between 1980 and 1995) fleeing Christian churches to occupy the ranks of the “nones,” those professing no religious affiliation. But how much do you know about the decade that gave birth to the millennial generation?

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Crisp - The Cosmos of Duty

Is pleasure all that matters?

This week I convened a philosophy seminar in Oxford with Kasia de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer. Singer is probably the world’s most famous living philosopher, well known for his pioneering work on the ethics of our treatment of non-human animals, on global poverty, and on many other issues. Less well known, perhaps, is the fact that Singer has recently changed his mind on the question of what really matters. I’m talking here about what matters for individual beings – what makes their lives good or bad for them.

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9780199272334 oso

Catholics and the torture chamber

Argentina, 1976. On the afternoon of 3 August, Fr. James Weeks went to his room to take a nap while the five seminarians of the La Salette congregation living with him went to attend classes. Joan McCarthy, an American nun who was visiting them, stayed by the fireplace, knitting a scarf. They would have dinner together and discuss the next mission in Jujuy, a Northwestern province of Argentina, where McCarthy worked. Suddenly, a loud noise came from the door. Before McCarthy could reach it, a mob burst into the house. Around ten men spread all over the house, claiming to be the police, looking for weapons, guerrilla hideouts, and ‘subversive fighters.’

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Jesus takes a selfie: the Vernicle and Julian of Norwich

During her second ‘revelation’, Julian of Norwich has a bewilderingly dark vision of Christ’s face, which she compares with the most celebrated relic in medieval Rome. This was the ‘Vernicle’: the image of Christ’s face miraculously imprinted on a cloth that St Veronica lent Christ to wipe his face on his way to Calvary.

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The real world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Some reviewers of the first episodes of the current BBC1 adaptation have dismissed it is over-blown fantasy, even childish, yet Clarke’s characters are only once removed from the very real magical world of early nineteenth-century England. What few readers or viewers realise is that there were magicians similar to Strange and Norrell at the time: there really were ‘Friends of English Magic’, to whom the novel’s Mr Segundus appealed in a letter to The Times.

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The Stones’ “Satisfaction,” June 1965

In the spring of 1965, The Rolling Stones could be forgiven their frustration. Even though they had scored three number-one UK hits in the past year, the American market remained a challenge. Beatles recordings had already thrice dominated the US charts since New Year’s Day and Brits Petula Clark, Herman’s Hermits, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, and Freddie and the Dreamers had all topped Billboard between January and May.

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