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Academic Insights for the Thinking World


The life of Saint Patrick [part one]

Saint Patrick’s Day is a religious festival held on the traditional death date of Saint Patrick. Largely modernized and often viewed as a cultural celebration, Saint Patrick’s Day is recognized in more countries than any other national festival. To celebrate, we’ve pulled a two-part excerpt from Celtic Mythology: Tales of Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes, in which Philip Freeman tells the story of Saint Patrick. It is a tale of courage, survival, and deep faith. Remember to check back on 17 March for the second part of “The Life of Saint Patrick.”

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Sui Sin Far’s “The Land of the Free” in the era of Trump

Facing President Trump’s controversial travel ban, hastily issued on 27 January and revised on 6 March, that temporarily halted immigrants from six Muslim majority countries, I was wondering what Sui Sin Far (Edith Eaton), a mixed race Asian North American writer at the turn of the twentieth century, would say about the issue.

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George Eliot and second lives

The later nineteenth century she represents is not an historical period we have simply left behind. What it stands for psychologically, again and again, for sundry lost individuals is the arena of transition from a religious to a modern secular life: an in-between world of seriousness that many people still do not, cannot or will not wholly get over. The Victorian critic John Morley said that reading George Eliot was like inadvertently entering a confessional.

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Voltaire and the one-liner

As we mark Voltaire’s 323rd birthday – though the date of 20 February is problematic, the subject of another blog – what significance does the great Enlightenment writer have for us now? If I had to be very very short, I’d say that Voltaire lives on as a master of the one-liner. He presents us with a paradox. Voltaire wrote a huge amount – the definitive edition of his Complete works will soon be finished, in around 200 volumes.

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A librarian’s journey: from America to Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah University of Science Technology (KAUST) is based in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, on the east shore of the Red Sea. It was founded by King Abdullah and opened its doors in 2009, with the vision of being a destination for scientific and technological education and research, to inspire discoveries that address global challenges and striving to be a beacon of knowledge that bridges peoples and culture for the betterment of humanity.

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Telling (fairy) tales

Fairy tales have been passed down through communities for many hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and have existed in almost all cultures in one form or another. These narratives, often set in the distant past, allow us to escape to a world very unlike our own. They usually follow a hero or heroine who comes up against some sort of obstacle (or obstacles) – from witches and ogres, to dwarves and (as the name suggests) fairies.

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A library in letters: the Bodleian

Libraries by their very nature are keepers and extollers of the written word. They contain books, letters, and manuscripts, signifying unending possibilities and limitless stores of knowledge waiting to be explored. But aside from the texts and stories kept within libraries’ walls, they also have a long and fascinating story in their own right.

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New Grub Street and the starving artist

Sitting alone in front of a computer screen, a writer sometimes feels like screaming at the machine to make the words appear. When inspiration finally strikes, the result may be far from satisfying—but when your next meal is at stake, it hardly matters.

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The many voices of Dickens

Charles Dickens’s reputation as a novelist and as the creator of Ebenezer Scrooge, one of the most globally recognized Christmas miser figures, has secured him what looks to be a permanent place in the established literary canon. Students, scholars, and fans of Dickens may be surprised to learn that the voice many Victorians knew as “Dickens,” especially at Christmastime, was also the voice of nearly forty other people.

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Spice up your readers’ advisory with “Blind Date with a Book”

Readers’ advisory librarians are the ultimate literary matchmakers. We listen to our patrons, get to know their interests, set them up with a book, and hope they hit it off. If we do our jobs effectively, our patrons will fall in love with multiple partners. And they’ll keep coming back for more. “Blind Date with a Book” offers librarians the perfect way to showcase our readers’ advisory services.

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Five tragic love stories across time

This time of year is often filled with images of romance, hearts, and cupid’s bows, but not all love stories end in happily ever after. Who among us hasn’t had their heart broken, or felt the sting of rejection once (or twice)? But we all know that life without love (even if it’s painful) isn’t much of a life. As Charles Darwin once said, ‘Much love much trial, but what an utter desert is life without love’.

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Was Chaucer really a “writer”?

We know more about Geoffrey Chaucer’s life than we do about most medieval writers. Despite this, it’s a truism of Chaucer biography that the records that survive never once describe him as a poet. Less often noticed, however, are the two radically different views of Chaucer as an author we find in roughly contemporaneous portraiture, although the portraits in which we find them are themselves well known.

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Christopher Marlowe: the quintessential Renaissance man

Christopher Marlowe was born in February of 1564, the same year as Shakespeare. He was the son of a Canterbury shoemaker, and attended the King’s School there. With fellowship support endowed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, young Marlowe matriculated at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge University in 1580 and received the BA degree in 1584.

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