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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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10 great writers from China’s long literary history

China is one of the world’s oldest countries, and its long history goes hand in hand with its rich literary tradition. The names Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Sun Tzu are well-known around the world, but many of China’s poets, philosophers, and novelists remain hidden gems to outsiders. Take a look at the list below and discover 10 of China’s greatest writers, from the Zhou dynasty to the 20th century.

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Who wrote Gulliver’s Travels?

Originally published anonymously, Jonathan Swift sent the manuscript for the satirical masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels to his publisher under a pseudonym and handled any correspondence and corrections through friends. As such, even though close friends such as Alexander Pope knew about the publication, Swift still kept up the ruse of feigning ignorance about the book in his correspondence with them.

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Reinforcing the patriarchy: tricksters in literature and mythology

Have you ever noticed how much your favorite stories have in common? Boy meets girl, falls in love, gets married. Hero goes on a quest, meets a wise old man, and saves the day. There’s a reason for this repetition, if you believe the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Jung found that his psychotherapy patients would tell stories containing elements of ancient mythology, even when they had never been exposed to these myths.

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How to write for an encyclopedia or other reference work

From time to time, many of us will have the opportunity to write for a reference work like an encyclopedia or a handbook. The word encyclopedia has been around for a couple of thousand years and comes from the Greek term for general education. Encyclopedias as general reference books came about in the eighteenth century and the most ubiquitous when I was a student was the Encyclopedia Britannica.

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On writing: nine quotes from classic authors

You’ve gotten through the first week of National Novel Writing Month. Have you’ve been hitting your word count? Writing 1,665 words every day may not sound like a lot, but sitting down in front of a blank page each day begins to feel like a struggle. Find some inspiration from these Oxford World’s Classics authors!

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The plot thins

In The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, the heroine teaches in Edinburgh in the 1930s. She has a special set of favourites amongst her pupils, loves one-armed Roman Catholic art teacher and WW1 veteran Teddy Lloyd, and sympathises with Mussolini. A member of her set, Sandy, eventually sleeps with Lloyd and then becomes a nun, writing a book called The Transfiguration of the Commonplace.

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Crime and punishment, and the spirit of St Petersburg

Crime and Punishment is a story of a murder and morality that draws deeply on Dostoevsky’s personal experiences as a prisoner. It contrasts criminality with conscience, nihilism with consequences, and examines the lengths to which people will go to retain a sense of liberty. One of the factors that brought all these things together was the novel’s setting, around the Haymarket in St Petersburg, where the grandeur of the imperial capital gives way to poverty, squalor, and vice.

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