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Cassam - Self-knowledge for Humans

Self-knowledge: what is it good for?

Marvin is a delusional dater. He somehow talked the gorgeous Maria into going on a date with him, and today is the day. Maria is way out of Marvin’s league but he lacks self-knowledge. He thinks he is better looking, better dressed, and more interesting than he really is. Yet his illusions about himself serve a purpose. They give him self-belief and as a result the date goes better than it would have done otherwise. Maria is still out of Marvin’s league, but is at least impressed by his nerve and self-confidence, if not by his conversation.

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Aha!

A toast to your unconscious mind

We like to think that we can control the contents of our mind, but if we watch ourselves think, we will quickly realize that this isn’t so.If you don’t believe me, try this experiment. Sit in a quiet room for five minutes, during which time you stare at a blank wall and try to empty your mind of thoughts.

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5,000 years of the music of romance, courtship, and sex

How do you approach the history of love? Is it through psychology and the understanding of emotion? Is it through the great works of literature? Or is it through sound — from the chord that pulls the heart strings to the lyric that melts your heart? But this music has a strange history of its own. We can trace our ‘saccharine’ comments to Ancient Rome and the language of servitude to the Convivencia.

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The love song and its complex gender history

A recent study of commercial recordings finds that 90% are attributed to men—and most often men in their peak years of sexual activity. Perhaps this discrepancy is the result of bias in the music industry or among audiences, or maybe a little of both. Or perhaps we can conclude that Darwin was right about music.

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We’ll have Manhattan: 10 hits from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart

With the catchy melodies of Richard Rodgers’ music, and the cheeky wit of Lorenz Hart’s lyrics, the early collaborative songs of Rodgers-and-Hart are characteristic of 1920s jazz at its finest — and some of the best examples of early classics from the Great American Songbook. Most of the shows from this period have sunk into obscurity, but the songs have stood the test of time. You won’t be able to resist tapping your feet along to these ten great hits!

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OWC Reading Group

Discussion questions for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

Last week we announced the launch of the Oxford World’s Classics Reading Group, and the first book, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Helen Small, editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of the book, has put together some helpful discussion questions that will help you gain a deeper understanding of the text as you read it and when you finish it.

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The economics of chocolate

Cocoa and chocolate have a long history in Central America but a relatively short history in the rest of the world. For thousands of years tribes and empires in Central America produced cocoa and consumed drinks based on it. It was only when the Spanish arrived in those regions that the rest of the world learned about it. Initially, cocoa production stayed in the original production regions, but with the local population decimated by war and imported diseases, slave labor was imported from Africa.

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Breath is the basis of good singing

Giovanni Battista Lamperti (1839 – 1910), one of the first great vocal pedagogues, is quoted as saying in his Maxims that the breath is the basis of good singing. ”What is your approach to breath?” is a simple question, but the answers to this question are anything but simple. Master singers have varying ideas about breath control

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Religion and the social determinants of health

Is religion a plus or minus when it comes to global health and the “right to health” in the twenty-first century? A little of both, I’d say, but what does that look like? For me the connection is seen most clearly in the “social determinants of health”; that is, “the everyday circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age.” This post considers a selection of photos that shape how I see social determinants intersecting with religion.

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Tetralogue

Trains of thought: Zac

Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in. During February, we will be posting a series of extracts that cover the viewpoints of all four characters in Tetralogue. What follows is an extract exploring Zac’s perspective.

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Cook_Yablo Paradox

The impossibility of perfect forgeries?

Imagine that Banksy, (or J.S.G. Boggs, or some other artist whose name starts with “B”, and who is known for making fake money) creates a perfectly accurate counterfeit dollar bill – that is, he creates a piece of paper that is indistinguishable from actual dollar bills visually, chemically, and in every other relevant physical way. Imagine, further, that our artist looks at his creation and realizes that he has succeeded in creating a perfect forgery. There doesn’t seem to be anything mysterious about such a scenario at first glance – creating a perfect forgery.

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Avarice in the late French Renaissance

Greed (avarice, avaritia) has never gone out of fashion. In every age, we find no shortage of candidates for the unenviable epithet, “avaricious.” Nowadays, investment bankers and tax-dodging multinationals head the list. In the past, money-lenders, tax collectors, and lawyers were routinely denounced, although there was a strong feeling that any person, male or female, […]

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9780199942121

Why are missionaries in America?

Why are there missionaries in America? This is a Christian country!” “We send missionaries out. We don’t bring them in.” “Missionaries in America… I’ve never heard of such a thing.” These were some of the comments I encountered as I conducted research on the phenomena of missionaries in America. Despite these protests, missionaries from outside of the west do come to the United States, seeking to revitalize and evangelize Americans.

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9780198732198 - Nuns of Sant Ambrogio

On the dark side of devoutness

The unbelievable story of the Roman convent of Sant’Ambrogio in Rome is about crime and murder, feigned holiness, forbidden sexuality, and the abuse of power over others. Does this controversial story, which casts high dignitaries of the 19th century Catholic Church in a less than flattering light, need to be retold for the 21st century?

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Using religious repression to preserve nondemocratic rule

Religious repression—the nonviolent suppression of civil and political rights associated with religion—is a growing and global phenomenon. Though it is most often practiced in authoritarian countries, it nevertheless varies greatly across nondemocratic regimes. In my work, I’ve collected data from more than 100 nondemocratic states to explore the varieties of repression that they impose on religious expression, association, and political activities, describing the obstacles these actions present for democratization, pluralism, and the development of an independent civil society.

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Conscience in the contemporary world

Debates about conscience arise constantly in national and international news. Appropriately so, because these debates provide a vital continuing forum about issues of ethical conduct in our time. A recent and heated debate in the United States concerns the killing of an unarmed African American youth named Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.

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