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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Remembering the life and music of Antonio Vivaldi

For many who at least known his name, Antonio Vivaldi is the composer of a handful of works heard on the radio or a drive-time playlist of 100 Famous Classical Pieces, featured in TV (and internet) commercials, movies and concerts by students, amateurs, and professionals. Pieces such as The Four Seasons (featured prominently in Alan Alda’s 1981 film, The Four Seasons), the Gloria in D RV 589 and the Violin Concerto in A Minor Op. 3 No. 6 (familiar to most students of the Suzuki Violin Method) are staples of the repertoire and frequently rank high on lists of popular classical music.

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More than an Amazon: Wonder Woman

This summer’s epic blockbuster, Wonder Woman, is a feast of visual delights, epic battles, and Amazons. The young Diana, “Wonder Woman,” is, we quickly learn, no ordinary Amazon. In fact, though she is raised by the Amazon queen Hippolyta and trained to be a formidable warrior by her aunt Antiope, both of whom are regularly featured Amazons in Greek myth, she turns out to be not an Amazon at all but a god, whom Zeus has given to the Amazons to raise.

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Etymology gleanings for July 2017

First of all, I would like to thank our readers for their good wishes in connection with the 600th issue of The Oxford Etymologist, for their comments, and suggestions. In more than ten years, I must have gone a-gleaning about 120 times.

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English: The Journal of the English Association cover

Ivanka Trump’s sleeves (too long; didn’t read)

Like our students, we scholars don’t always finish our reading – but unlike our students, we are professionally cultivated in the crucial tasks of deciding what to read and how to read it. We might better equip our students if we openly discussed TL;DR instead, thereby acknowledging not only the great unread but the existence of a wide variety of reading modes, always working in concert with our cherished close reading.

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The misunderstood Irish composer

Composer/pianist John Field’s birthday serves as a reminder of the uncertainty that underpins his reception. On the twenty-sixth of July, we ostensibly celebrate Field’s birthday.

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The legacy of Stanley Kubrick and the Kubrick Archives

Stanley Kubrick would be 89 this year. It’s quite possible were he still alive that he would have made more films. At his death in 1999, he left a legacy of just twelve works of extraordinary cinema, as well as a few interesting early short films.

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On the value of intellectuals

In times of populism, soundbites, and policy-by-twitter such as we live in today, the first victims to suffer the slings and arrows of the demagogues are intellectuals. These people have been demonised for prioritising the very thing that defines them: the intellect, or finely reasoned and sound argument. As we celebrate the 161st birthday of Bernard Shaw, one of the most gifted, influential, and well-known intellectuals to have lived, we might use the occasion to reassess the value of intellectuals to a healthy society and why those in power see them as such threats.

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Picking a fight in an empty room

This year marks the 137th anniversary of the birth of Seán O’Casey, one of the best-known of all Irish playwrights. His works first enthralled audiences at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre during the 1920s, and in the years since then his dramas have been repeatedly revisited by actors and directors.

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The perils of political polarization

Political polarization in the United States seems to intensify by the day. In June 2016, surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that majorities in both parties held highly unfavorable opinions of their opponents. Many Democrats and Republicans even admitted to fearing the rival party’s political agenda. Such strong feelings have scarcely dissipated—and likely escalated—since those surveys were completed.

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Prospection, well-being, and mental health

That we remember the past is obvious. But as well as the ability to recall what has already happened to us, we are also able to imagine what might happen to us in the future. Is this capacity for prospection important? Absolutely. Being able to anticipate what might happen and take relevant steps, prioritise goals, and form plans of action for what we are going to do have been fundamental to our evolutionary success.

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Music and human evolution

After being closed to the public for the past six months, the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall reopened on the 13 July 2017, featuring a grand blue whale skeleton as its central display. This event carried particular importance for OUP’s Gabriel Jackson, who was commissioned to write a piece for the Gala opening ceremony.

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Travel medicine health tips

The world is becoming more globalised, with the number of people traveling each year on the rise. US residents are taking nearly two billion leisure trips and almost 500 million business trips (2016), with UK residents making 70.8 million visits overseas last year (2016), an 8% increase to the previous year (2015). With travel visits increasing year on year on a worldwide scale, it is no wonder travel medicine is an area also growing quickly to match activity and demand.

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The paradox of Margery Kempe

After a period of chastity, Margery Kempe’s husband described one of those hypothetical scenarios that couples sometimes use to test each other. “Margery, if a man came with a sword and wanted to chop off my head unless I had sexual intercourse with you as I used to before, […] [would you] allow my head to be chopped off, or else allow me to have sex with you as I previously did?”

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Let’s fly away: pioneers of aviation

The history of aviation spans over two thousand years – from the earliest kites in Ancient China to balloons in eighteenth century France, to military drones and reconnaissance. Early aviation was a dangerous past-time, with many pilots meeting untimely ends as a result of their desire to reach further and higher than ever before. We’ve taken a look at some of these early aviators and their attainments

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Brexit: what happens to international litigation?

At the present time, a large range of civil proceedings, especially in the commercial area, are governed by an EU measure, the Brussels I Regulation (Recast) of 2012. This applies whenever the defendant is domiciled in another EU country, whenever there is a choice-of-court agreement designating a court in the EU, and whenever an EU Member State has exclusive jurisdiction over a particular matter, for example title to land or registered intellectual-property rights.

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The first humans

The discovery in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco of human fossils with modern facial features, similar to ours, has been a wonderful surprise, even outside the world of anthropology. The discoveries have been published in the journal Nature by Jean-Jacques Hublin and collaborators. The fossils are associated with tools from the Middle Stone Age, the technique immediately preceding the Upper Pleistocene.

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