Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

American Renaissance: the Light & the Dark

The American Renaissance—perhaps the richest literary period in American history, critics argue—produced lettered giants Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Emily Dickinson. Much like the social and historical setting in which it was birthed, this period was full of paradoxes that were uniquely American.

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Editing Arthur Machen

f the challenges Arthur Machen presents to an editor, two, in particular, have shadowed me during the preparation of this new collection of his stories. The first is simply the special sense of responsibility one feels when curating the work of a deeply loved writer—for even when Machen’s reputation has been at low ebb (as, often enough, it has been), he has always had a hard core of devoted admirers.

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“Alas, poor YORICK!:” death and the comic novel

Tragedy provokes sorrow and concludes with downfall and death. Comedy elicits laughter and ends happily. Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is one of the funniest novels of world literature. But does the work, overshadowed by death, end happily? Can death and comedy mix? “Everybody dies. If you are going to take that badly, you’re doing it wrong. So you have to take it as a joke.” The sentiments of the celebrated Spanish cartoonist Antonio Fraguas, Forges, who died on 22 February 2018, might echo those of Sterne, whose own death took place 250 years ago on 18 March 1768.

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How to spot ambiguity

Not long ago, a colleague was setting up a meeting and suggested bringing along spouses to socialize after the business was done. Not getting a positive reply, she emailed: “I’m getting a lack of enthusiasm for boring spouses with our meeting.” A minute later, a second, clarifying email arrived indicating that she “meant boring as a verb not an adjective.” She had spotted the ambiguity in the first message.

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In celebration of twentieth century African American literature

Since the first poems published by former slaves Phyllis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon around the time of the American Revolution, African American literature has played a vital role in the history and culture of the United States. The slave narratives of figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Wilson became a driving force for abolitionism before the Civil War, and the tumultuous end of Reconstruction brought about the exploration of new genres and themes during the height of the Jim Crow era.

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Alain Locke, Charles S. Johnson, and the establishment of Black literature [excerpt]

In March of 1924, Charles S. Johnson, sociologist and editor of Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, approached Alain Locke with a proposal: a dinner was being organized with the intention to secure interracial support for Black literature. Locke, would attend the dinner as “master of ceremonies,” with the responsibility of finding a common language between Black writers and potential White allies.

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Facts about Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems

Of all Shakespeare’s great plays his most frequently published work in his lifetime his erotic poem, Venus and Adonis. Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Poems may often feel less familiar than his plays, but they have also seeped into our cultural history. Within them, they reveal much about the Bard himself and include a number of surprises. Here are a few lesser known facts about Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems.

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Outreach ideas by librarians, for librarians

For university libraries, it can sometimes be difficult to get students—especially new students— comfortable with coming into the library and engaging with library staff. We asked some librarians how they get creative with their student outreach to welcome students to campus and to the library. By welcoming students back with these events every quarter, librarians remind them that they are the reason university libraries are here.

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Want to know the Latin for “true love”?

Then Ovid is your man – and woman, as the case may be … Fidus amor. That’s “true love” in Latin. Historically, such love is often claimed to have emerged with the troubadours of twelfth century Provence. The troubadours used the Occitan term fin amor for this kind of love rather than the more famous […]

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Sing, Ward, Sing

While the title of the latest issue of American Literary History, “What is Twenty-First-Century African American Literature?” is meant as a provocation to understand and define the key elements of a new literary period, there is an easier way to answer the question. Eighteen years into our new century key texts have already emerged as canonical. What is Twenty-First-Century African American Literature? Answers

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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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English usage guides

My own collection of usage guides. I’ve collected quite a few of them since the start of the Bridging the Unbridgeable project in 2011. The aim of the project is to study usage guides and usage problems in British and American English, as well as attitudes to disputed usages like the split infinitive, the placement of only, the flat adverb, and many more.

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Oxford Reference

5 canon-breaking influences on modern literature

In the modern world, the idea of literature has taken on new meaning as new concepts and technologies have emerged with the changing culture. From internet memes and viral content, to ecocriticism and even the occasional zombie—enjoy a wander through a five captivating and eclectic topics in the world of literature.

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Revitalizing culture through the remnants of colonization

In the summer of 1791, Thomas Jefferson sat with three elderly women of the Unkechaug tribe of Long Island. Convinced that these women were among the last living speakers of Unkechaug, Jefferson transliterated a list of Unkechaug words on the back of an envelope alongside the English translation.

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Three millennia of writings – a brief history of Chinese literature

Chinese scholars traditionally have considered the Han fu-rhapsody, Tang shi-poetry, Song ci-song lyrics, and Yuan qu-drama, as the highest literary achievements of their respective dynasties. However, Chinese literature embraces a far wider range of writing than these four literary genres. Explore a treasure trove that offers rich information about Chinese society, thought, customs, and social and political movements

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1917: A reading list

In order to fully understand key moments in history, it is important to review the culture that created them. As 2017 draws to a close, we have compiled a reading list that will help to contextualize history from 100 years ago. Transport yourself to a truly world-changing year in our shared history — 1917 — with any of the following titles.

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