Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Finding ‘the weird’ in psychedelic art

The concepts of altered states and psychedelia creep in to a great deal of visual art. According to Lewis-Williams, some early forms of Palaeolithic rock art may have been shamanic in origin, and represent forms seen during visionary states. 18th Century works such as Fuseli’s The Nightmare (1781) depicted the ‘old hag’ phenomenon, a type of hypnagogic hallucination that is experienced on the threshold of sleep, during which a person feels as though a daemon or other supernatural entity is suffocating them.

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Why visit Vermeer?

An exhibition of paintings by Johannes Vermeer caused a frenzy in Washington DC in 1995. The National Gallery of Art was booked to capacity, and there were lines of hopeful visitors queued around the block, despite sub-zero conditions outside. Vermeer has just returned to Washington, and the gallery staff expects a full house, but have things changed now? Why would you bother to go to a museum to see great art? With the tap of a finger, you can see masterpieces up close on your screen; you can get nearer than any museum attendant would ever allow.

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Illustrating Streptococcus pneumoniae

According to the WHO, Streptococcus pneumoniae (also known as pneumococcus) is the fourth most frequent microbial cause of fatal infection. These bacteria commonly colonize the upper respiratory tract and are the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia and meningitis. Although much is known about pneumococcal biology and the diseases it causes, there are still many questions about the molecular biology and cellular processes of the bacterium.

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A twenty-first century reinterpretation of dreams?

But, on this occasion, it is also thanks to a certain Donald Woods Winnicott—perhaps most of all—that this commemorative moment in history takes place. Winnicott, as President of the British Psychoanalytic Society, was instrumental in raising awareness and funds in the 1960s for getting this same statue by Nemon cast and put up in North London for the first time.

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Banned, burned, and now rebuilding: Comics collections in libraries

Comics is both a medium—although some would say it’s an art form—as well as the texts produced in that medium. Publication formats and production modes differ: for instance, comics can be short-form or long-form, serialized or stand-alone, single panel or sequential panels, and released as hardcovers, trade paperbacks, floppies, ‘zines, or in various digital formats. […]

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The coinage of the Roman Emperor Nerva (AD 96-98)

On 18 September, in AD 96, the 65 year-old senator, Nerva, became emperor of Rome (Figure 1). His predecessor, Domitian, was assassinated in the culmination of a palace conspiracy; there is no evidence that Nerva had anything to do with the plot.

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A photographer at work: Martin Parr behind the scenes

Martin Parr is one of Britain’s best-known contemporary photographers, with a broad international following, and President of Magnum, the world-famous photo agency. His social documentary style of photography turns a wry and sometimes satirical lens on British life and social rituals, lightened by humour and affection. Parr turned his lens on life at the University of Oxford, capturing the day-to-day life of the colleges and University at work and play.

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What can the Zombie Apocalypse teach us about ourselves? [Video]

Like war stories, like disaster films, like any kind of narrative that revolts and scares yet also delights us, the Zombie Apocalypse offers a laboratory for observing human emotion and experience. Its excess opens up a multitude of responses that don’t get explored in the course of our everyday lives, although these same choices lurk underneath the surface of all our lives.

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Andy Warhol’s comfort food for the apocalypse

Birthdays are complicated. They are cause for celebration but also remind us that we are closer to death. Such duality would not have been lost on Andy Warhol (1928-1987), an artist who strove throughout his career to find images that could house such contradictory notions.

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The mysterious painting methods of Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer’s luminous paintings are loved and admired around the world, yet it is not fully understood exactly what painting methods he used. Experts over the years have been confounded as to how he captured light in such a way. The image below discusses seven of his masterpieces, and reveals the few traces Vermeer has left behind in an intriguing detective story.

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Building a consensus on climate change

As the world shudders in the face of the Trump Administration rejection of the Paris Climate Accords, other forms of expertise and professional engagement are, again, taking on increased relevance. Buildings have long been important mediators in the relationship between energy, politics, and culture. Today the architecture, engineering and construction professions are increasingly compelled to take on energy efficiency.

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Marc Chagall, religious artist

One hundred thirty years after the birth of Moishe Shagall, as he was known in his small Hasidic neighborhood on the outskirts of Vitebsk, and thirty-two years after the death of Marc Chagall, as he came to be known in the modern art world, we are starting to understand his vision.

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Unity without objecthood, in art and in natural language

What makes something we see or something we talk about a single thing, or simply a unit that we can identify and that we can distinguish from others and compare to them? For ordinary objects like trees, chairs, mountains, and lakes, the answer seems obvious.

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Do you know the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright? [quiz]

Frank Lloyd Wright, born on 8 June 1867, was one of the most significant architects of the Western world in the first half of the 20th century. At the height of his prolific career, Wright’s works revealed the architect’s keen insight into American and European culture, as well as an appreciation for indigenous art and architecture and the history and styles of Japan.

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Marcel Duchamp’s most political work of art

A hundred years ago last month, two of the most influential historical events of the twentieth century occurred within a span of three days. The first of these took place on 6 April 1917, when the United States declared war on Germany and, in doing so, thrust the USA into a leading role on the world stage for the first time in its history.

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