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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The Iliad and The Trojan War [excerpt]

The Iliad tells the story of Achilles’ anger, but also encompasses, within its narrow focus, the whole of the Trojan War. The title promises “a poem about Ilium” (i.e. Troy), and the poem lives up to that description. The first books recapitulate the origins and early stages of the Trojan War.

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Barth, the Menardian

For the better part of half a century, John Barth was synonymous with what was the last self-conscious attempt at constructing a universal aesthetic movement speaking for all of humanity but recognizing only its bourgeois, white constituent. Much like Virginia Woolf once could claim that “on or about December, 1910, human character changed,” Barth would argue that literary modernism was over.

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The life and work of Angela Carter [timeline]

Award-winning author Angela Carter is widely viewed as one of the great modern English writers. Known for her use of magic realism and picaresque prose, Carter’s writing style reflected the world around her, capturing 1960s counterculture and second wave feminism.

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A very British realignment

Over the first two years of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, several commentators noted fascinating parallels with an iconic fictional account of a Labour leadership. First written as a novel by journalist and future Labour MP Chris Mullin in 1982, A Very British Coup depicts the surprise election of a radical left-wing Labour Party led by staunch socialist Harry Perkins in an imagined near future.

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Which Celtic goddess are you?

Although most people have heard of the Celts, very little is known about their customs and beliefs. Unlike the Ancient Greeks and Romans, few records of their stories exist.

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Valuing our ecological futures

Most people care about their potential futures. But there’s a threat to some of these possible futures. In 2016, globally we experienced the hottest consecutive year on record since 2000, with 2017 looking to break the record again. At the current rate of warming climates, along with other environmental concerns, living on the Earth will become more difficult, if not impossible, by the end of the century.

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Friendship in Shakespeare

In Shakespeare’s England, the term “friend” could be used to express a wide range of interpersonal relations. A friend could be anything from a neighbour, a lover, or fellow countryman, to a family member or the close personal acquaintance we understand as a “friend” today.

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English: The Journal of the English Association cover

Ivanka Trump’s sleeves (too long; didn’t read)

Like our students, we scholars don’t always finish our reading – but unlike our students, we are professionally cultivated in the crucial tasks of deciding what to read and how to read it. We might better equip our students if we openly discussed TL;DR instead, thereby acknowledging not only the great unread but the existence of a wide variety of reading modes, always working in concert with our cherished close reading.

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On the value of intellectuals

In times of populism, soundbites, and policy-by-twitter such as we live in today, the first victims to suffer the slings and arrows of the demagogues are intellectuals. These people have been demonised for prioritising the very thing that defines them: the intellect, or finely reasoned and sound argument. As we celebrate the 161st birthday of Bernard Shaw, one of the most gifted, influential, and well-known intellectuals to have lived, we might use the occasion to reassess the value of intellectuals to a healthy society and why those in power see them as such threats.

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Picking a fight in an empty room

This year marks the 137th anniversary of the birth of Seán O’Casey, one of the best-known of all Irish playwrights. His works first enthralled audiences at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre during the 1920s, and in the years since then his dramas have been repeatedly revisited by actors and directors.

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The paradox of Margery Kempe

After a period of chastity, Margery Kempe’s husband described one of those hypothetical scenarios that couples sometimes use to test each other. “Margery, if a man came with a sword and wanted to chop off my head unless I had sexual intercourse with you as I used to before, […] [would you] allow my head to be chopped off, or else allow me to have sex with you as I previously did?”

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Jane Austen’s writing – a reading list

Jane Austen wrote six novels and thousands of letters in her lifetime, creating a formula of social realism, comedic satire, and romance that is still loved today. Her works were originally published anonymously, bringing this now celebrated author little personal renown – with nineteenth century audiences preferring the Romantic and Victorian tropes of Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Since then, literary tastes and opinions have changed dramatically, and many people have written about, interpreted, and adapted Austen’s writings. But why do we like her stories so much? What can they tell us about her world, and ours?

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How well do you know Jane Austen? [quiz]

In honour of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, we have created a quiz to help you determine how well you know the beloved novelist. Are you an Austen expert? Or do you need to brush up on some of her greatest works? Take the quiz to find out!

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Obscene intentions and corrupting effects

The Picture of Dorian Gray frequently ridicules the idea that fiction may have corrupting effects. But Wilde’s criticisms of the logic of obscenity law went beyond these statements about the sterility of the work of art.

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Which of the fathers in Shakespeare said these words? [quiz]

Everyone knows William Shakespeare, the prolific English playwright and poet of the late 1500’s and early 1600’s. His extensive collection of comedies, tragedies, and romances are still very popular today. In fact, they are frequently referenced, adapted, and studied across the globe due to their reputation and his. In light of TNT’s new television series, Will, which premiered on 10 July we created a quiz to test your knowledge of Shakespeare’s works.

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Jane Austen and the Voice of Insurrection

Mark Twain was notoriously unimpressed. “I often want to criticise Jane Austen,” he fumed with flamboyant but heartfelt irritation. “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone!”

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