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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Passion's Fictions from Shakespeare to Richardson: Literature and the Sciences of Soul and Mind

Shakespeare and the sciences of emotion

What role should literature have in the interdisciplinary study of emotion? The dominant answer today seems to be “not much.” Scholars of literature of course write about emotion; but fundamental questions about what emotion is and how it works belong elsewhere: to psychology, cognitive science, neurophysiology, philosophy of mind. In Shakespeare’s time the picture was different. What the period called “passions” were material for ethics and for that part of natural philosophy dealing with the soul; but it was rhetoric that offered the most extensive accounts of the passions.

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Transgression and Redemption in American Fiction

Where have you gone, Jimmy Gatz? Roman Catholic haunting in American literary modernism

The year is 1924: the restriction acts designed to turn the tide of Eastern and Southern European immigration into a trickle have been signed into US law. However, nativist panic continues apace. In quick succession three titans of US literary modernism weigh in, each with the novel still judged their best: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House (1926), Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926).

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Shakespeare and East Asia

Adapting Shakespeare: shattering stereotypes of Asian women onstage and onscreen

There has always been some perceived affinity between the submissive Ophelia and East Asian women. Ophelia is a paradox in world literature. Even when she appears to depend on others for her thoughts like her Western counterpart, the Ophelias in Asian adaptations adopt some rhetorical strategies to make themselves heard, balancing between eloquence and silence, shattering the stereotypes about docile Asian women.

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Whose streets? The picturesque, Central Park, and the spaces of American democracy

Last summer, during the “Black Lives Matter” protests in US cities galvanized by the murder of George Floyd, it was common to hear marchers chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” In some instances, police seeking to break up the protests also took up this chant, an ironic retort to the crowd’s claim to political power. These contesting claims to possession of the city streets framed a conflict over social representation in contemporary US life: “whose streets” are they really

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Jewish American Writing and World Literature: Maybe to Millions, Maybe to Nobody

What does it mean to think of the world “in Jewish”?

Antisemitism has been increasingly in the headlines, from reports of violent incidents directly targeting Jews to the growing prominence of ethnonationalist discourse that makes frequent use of Jewish stereotypes. This surge in anti-Jewishness includes renewed attention to the medieval image of the wandering Jew, translated into contemporary parlance with the term “globalism.” It would be tempting to dismiss such ideas as uninformed distortions of Jewish culture and history. It may be useful then to think with the stereotype rather than against it. What does it mean to think of the world “in Jewish”? What might a vocabulary of Jewish worldliness reveal about the global present?

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Poetry and the Language of Oppression: Essays on Politics and Poetics

Why literature must be part of the language of recovery from crisis

Recovery takes many forms, the most obvious being physical, mental, and economic. But there must also be a recovery and a newly-discovered sense of values that put the human struggle in perspective and bring the world community to a strongly-held respect for life. The role of language in the destruction of values as well as in their recovery cannot be overstated. Poetry records and expresses, and it keeps us alert to the spiritual consequences of our experiences.

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Extraordinary times: revisiting the familiar through the novels of Marilynne Robinson

Last week, after more than a year of living in pandemic lock-down, my husband, my son, and I drove from our home outside Boston to the outer tip of Cape Cod, where we parked in a near empty lot and walked down a steep hill through the dunes to the ocean. “It’s still here,” I said aloud, trying to breathe in the sweeping expanse of the curved shore, the June light illuminating the water, the sound of waves and the sweep of terns. Like the trip we took as a young family to watch the sunset at Race Point Beach just days after 9/11, this encounter with the sublime felt like a blessing, a visceral recollection of the way that beauty opens us up to something larger than ourselves.

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The Spanish Civil War: a nostalgia of hope

This summer will mark the 85th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War, a brutal struggle that began with a military uprising against the democratic Second Republic and ended, three years later, in victory for the rebels under General Francisco Franco. The enduring fascination of that conflict, its ability to grip the global imagination, belies its geographical scale and is testament to the power of art.

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The Hidden History of Coined Words

Do you know how these words were coined? [Quiz]

Successful word-coinages—those that stay in lingual currency for a good, long time—tend to conceal their beginnings. In The Hidden History of Coined Words, author and word sleuth Ralph Keyes explores the etymological underworld of terms and expressions and uncovers plenty of hidden gems.

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On SHAPE: a Q&A with Lucy Noakes, Eyal Poleg, Laura Wright & Mary Kelly

OUP have recently announced our support for the newly created SHAPE initiative—Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy. To further understand the crucial role these subjects play in our everyday lives, we have put three questions to four British Academy SHAPE authors and editors—social and cultural historian Lucy Noakes, historian of objects and faith Eyal Poleg, historical sociolinguist Laura Wright, and Lecturer in Contemporary Art History Mary Kelly—on what SHAPE means to them, and to their research.

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Poetry and the Language of Oppression: Essays on Politics and Poetics

Lyricism as activism: Sigurd Olson and The Singing Wilderness

Placing the reader in the poetic and ethical space is the first step toward direct action that affects the larger human community: a step toward activism. Activism formalizes the values that inspire and ultimately direct our will—and action—to preserve and protect. By opening new worlds, other spaces, and creating experiences for the reader—and, crucially, letting the reader explore those worlds for herself or for himself—the lyric writer has an opportunity to create a protected zone for significant communication.

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The Hidden History of Coined Words

Do you know the hidden histories of these words? [Quiz]

Successful word-coinages—those that stay in lingual currency for a good, long time—tend to conceal their beginnings. In “The Hidden History of Coined Words,” author and word sleuth Ralph Keyes explores the etymological underworld of terms and expressions and uncovers plenty of hidden gems. Take our quiz and see how many hidden histories you know!

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