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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Arts & Humanities

Here’s Johnny––and Bette!

New York-based talk shows in the 1970s offered plentiful opportunities for quirky young talents like Bette Midler to sing a song or two and maybe kibitz with the host, regardless of whether they had a Broadway show or film or new record to promote. Midler had none of these when her manager Budd Friedman got her booked on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson not long after she began her legendary run at the Continental Baths.

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Did the Santa Barbara oil spill save our beaches?

On 28 January 1969, a blowout on a Union Oil platform six miles off the Santa Barbara coast released three million gallons of crude oil into the ocean. As the first environmental disaster captured in technicolor and publicized across national news media, the Santa Barbara oil spill played an important role in the emergence of the modern environmental movement.

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Classical allusions in Owen and Rosenberg’s war poems

Wilfred Owen is one of the most studied of the war poets, and his poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is undoubtedly the best-known example of classical reception in First World War poetry. The poem ends with seven Latin words from Horace Odes 3.2: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori—‘it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country’. Owen bitterly denounces these words as ‘the old Lie’.

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Finding the classics in World War I poetry

It is a paradox that interest in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome has increased at the same time that the extent of detailed knowledge about Greece, Rome, and the associated languages has declined.

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Messy, messy masculinity: The politics of eccentric men in the early United States

For every weirdo one finds while researching the past’s forgotten personalities, there are probably two or three more just a stone’s throw away whom time did not preserve. Ben Bascom (Feeling Singular: Queer Masculinities in the Early United States) assembles a collection of once neglected but now deeply curious stories that offer the underside to more popular narratives about the founding of the U.S and what it meant—and means—to be masculine.

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Has Christian philosophy been having it too easy?

Over the last 50 years, Christian philosophy has ballooned into by far the largest interest area in the philosophy of religion. The Society of Christian Philosophers boasts more than a thousand members in the United States, and similar groups are dotted around the world.

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The Alexander Mosaic: Greek history and Roman memories

Perhaps the finest representation of battle to survive from antiquity, the Alexander Mosaic conveys all the confusion and violence of ancient warfare. It also exemplifies how elite patrons across diverse artistic cultures commission artworks that draw inspiration from and celebrate past and present events important to the community.

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Forgotten books and postwar Jewish identity

In recent years, Americans have reckoned with a rise in antisemitism. Since the 2016 presidential election, antisemitism exploded online and entered the mainstream of American politics, with the 2018 shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue marking the deadliest attack on American Jews.

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Do American family names make sense?

Do names really mean anything, even when they seem to? Individuals in present day America called Smith, Jackson, Washington, or Redhead are not usually smiths, sons of Jack, residents in Washington, or red-haired.

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Society was to blame for the letters, not twisted psychologies

In complex ways, social inequalities create the conditions for people to feel that writing anonymously might be useful for them. On top of this, social crises create anxious contexts, when the receipt of a threatening, obscene, or libellous anonymous letter might seem especially hazardous.

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Jonah and genre [long read]

Reading a piece of writing—from instruction manual, to sports page, to Op-Ed piece—according to its genre is something we do so naturally that it seems odd to even talk about it. Indeed, the very phrase “reading according to genre” sounds odd itself, entirely too formal, perhaps suitable for some English or Comparative Literature class, but hardly something that normal people do when reading normal things on an everyday basis.

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Philosophers don’t often write about the heart

The Heart and Its Attitudes illuminates interpersonal phenomena that are as local and commonplace as heartfelt connections and their rupture between friends and lovers, on the one hand, or as nationally or internationally significant as the emotional injuries of racial and gender oppression and war, on the other.  It is a work of philosophy that aims for rigor and analytical depth, but one that is unusual in its relevance to so much of ordinary life.

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