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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Arts & Humanities

I’m the mother I am thanks to my daughter’s disability

On the first Mother’s Day that my daughter, Sesha, no longer lived at home with us, I received a lovely basket with various hand-crafted gifts from her. With help from her aide, she handed it over to me, and as I gushed she looked so very pleased. Mother’s Day is a time for children to […]

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Why performance poetry still matters after 24 centuries

Glastonbury Festival, England, June 2019 AD: the spoken-word poet Kate Tempest performs her poems before a huge, enthusiastic audience. Panathenaia Festival, Athens, June 419 BC: the Greek rhapsode Ion performs the poems of Homer before a huge, enthusiastic audience. Is there a historical connection between these events 2,400 years apart? Western poetry had its beginnings […]

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Music schools respond to COVID-19 shutdown

Keeping Upbeat in Tough Times is the new motto for the San Francisco Community Music Center. The phrase sums up the school’s attitude toward the abrupt transition to online instruction that it had to make this spring, after local schools closed their doors because of a government-ordered mandate aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19 […]

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Why we need humour at a time like this

Comedy has always offered swift relief in times of stress. A good laugh can be good therapy, can lift us out of sadness and depression. Our sense of humor can restore us to high spirits and renew our sense of hope. Some scientists even believe that humor activates pathways in our brain that circumvent the […]

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A.J. Ayer and Logical Positivism

Alfred Jules Ayer (1910-89) was a philosopher and a leading English representative of Logical Positivism. He was responsible for introducing the doctrines of the movement as developed in the 1920s and 1930s by the Vienna Circle group of philosophers and scientists into British philosophy. Ayer’s philosophy was also influenced by empiricism of David Hume and the […]

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G.E.M. Anscombe on the evil of demanding unconditional surrender in war

During military conflict, what are the constraints on the things that a warring nation may do to achieve their objectives? And what constraints are there on the objectives that such a nation should have in the first place? A traditional answer to the first of these questions draws a sharp line at the deliberate killing […]

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Space for concern: Trump’s executive order on space resources

Among the bevy of executive actions undertaken by President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 crisis is, of all things, an executive order (issued on 6 April 2020) promoting the development of space resources, which states in part that: Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer […]

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Is the fetus a resident or a body part?

Pregnancy has variously been described as unique, confusing and full of ambivalence; as involving a doubling or splitting the person; and as challenging widely-held philosophical assumptions about firm distinctions between self and other or mind and body. But what, exactly, is pregnancy? What is this unique human – and mammalian – state? What is its […]

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Eight rules for teaching during COVID-19

At 10:50 a.m. recently, I was all set to teach my Theory II class. My I-Pad was charged. I had the links queued up to the textbook for screen share, and I had already created several videos explaining the concepts. When the 11:00 a.m. hour arrived and only two students were visible on Zoom, my […]

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The city will survive coronavirus

In a recent essay, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman asked “Can City Life Survive Coronavirus?” It seems an apt question in this extraordinary time of mandated retreat from public life.  City streets and spaces normally teeming with people are nearly deserted now, evoking scenes from a Terry Gilliam film.  In an effort to slow the […]

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Why war stories could reinjure those affected

When my mother was born, the Federal Republic of Nigeria was less than one year old. Language barriers, and eventually death, prevented me from asking my grandparents what life under the colonial rule of the Royal Niger Company had been like, their fates twisted and tugged by the company’s board of directors in London. I […]

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Inspirational TV shows to watch during this pandemic

There are many ways people are passing time with staying home during the pandemic. Some are taking up new hobbies. Some are exploring virtual museums. Some may even be preparing for a neighborhood sing-along out their windows. But many people are turning to television to provide entertainment, comfort, and/or escape. Since the late 1990s, as […]

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Six jazz movies you may not know

The film industry started making jazz-related features as soon as synchronized sound came in, in 1927: “I’m gonna sing it jazzy,” Al Jolson’s Jack Robin optimistically declares in the pioneering talkie The Jazz Singer, before taking off on Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.” (He gets closer to the jazzy mark whistling a quasi-improvised chorus of “Toot Toot […]

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The Perfect Tenses in English

What could be simpler than grammatical tense—things happening now are in the present, things happening before are in the past, and things that haven’t happened yet are in the future. If only it were so easy. Consider the present tense. Its meaning often refers not to things happening right now but to some general state […]

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How religious sects can be a force for good

On Sunday, 29 March, Russell M. Nelson, president of the 16-million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released a video from Salt Lake City calling on church members everywhere to join in a fast “to pray for relief from the physical, emotional, and economic effects of this global pandemic.” Some 71 years before, on […]

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Why vaccines should be compulsory

Imagine we develop a vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19). Suppose the vaccine has some very small chance of some serious side effects, for instance seizures. However, this vaccine can save millions of lives globally, in the same way as other vaccines do. You are the prime minister and you have to decide whether to make […]

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