Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Grammar in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll was a mathematically-inclined poet who published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 and Through the Looking-Glass in 1872 as well a number of poems and math and logic texts. Last summer I saw an outdoor production of Alice in Wonderland and it reminded me of all the linguistics in the two books. Carroll touches on questions of […]

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Five philosophers on the joys of walking

René Descartes argued that each of us is, fundamentally, a thinking thing. Thought is our defining activity, setting us aside from animals, trees, rocks. I suspect this has helped market philosophy as the life of the mind, conjuring up philosophers lost in reverie, snuggled in armchairs. But human beings do not, in fact, live purely […]

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How to diversify the classics. For real.

As (I hope) Barnes and Noble and Penguin Random House have just learned, appropriating the concept of diverse books for an opportunistic rebranding insults the idea they claim to honor. If you were off-line last week, here’s a brief recap. The bookseller and publisher announced (and then abandoned) plans to publish “Diverse Editions” – not books by writers of […]

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Making Shakespeare a classic

Despite his foundational status in today’s academy, William Shakespeare was not particularly welcome in the early modern English universities. In the 1570s and 1580s, just as the commercial playhouses were gaining steam in London, the authorities of both Oxford and Cambridge Universities enacted statutes banning “common stage players” from performing within university precincts. Chancellors lacked the […]

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How well do you know Anne Brontë? [quiz]

Anne Brontë was born on 17 January 1820 and best known for her novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. In honour of the bicentenary of Anne Brontë’s birth, we have created a quiz to help you determine how well you know the youngest member of the Brontë literary family. Quiz image: Anne Brontë. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Feature […]

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Aunt Lydia could be the voice of conservative women

Fans of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 The Handmaid’s Tale proliferated as the novel’s scenarios came to resemble the realities of American women who were subject to more regulation and surveillance. In its 2019 sequel, The Testaments, Atwood gives us a different voice and a different tale, told largely from the perspective of someone who perpetuated the authoritarian regime instead of […]

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Eight things you didn’t know about George Eliot

Throughout her life, George Eliot was known by many names – from Mary Anne Evans at birth, to Marian Evans Lewes in her middle age, to George Eliot in her fiction – with the latter name prevailing in the years since her death through the continued popularity of her novels. Eliot has long been recognised as one of the greatest Victorian writers, in life and in death, having published seven acclaimed novels and a number of poems, in addition to her work as a translator and a journalist.

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George Eliot 200th anniversary timeline

George Eliot (born Mary Anne Evans) was born 22 November 1819, 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of her birth. Eliot is considered one of the most important and influential writers in the history of English literature and her novels are often praised as being the prototypes for the modern novel, full of rich detail of English country life and complete with characters whose motivations are laid bare by the author’s probing psychological dissections.

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To-Day and To-Morrow; the rediscovered series that shows how to imagine the future

Almost a century ago a young geneticist, J. B. S. Haldane, made a series of startling predictions in a little book called Daedalus; or, Science and the Future. Genetic modification. Wind power. The gestation of children in artificial wombs, which he called “ectogenesis.” Haldane’s ingenious book did so well that the publishers, Kegan Paul, based a whole series on the idea.

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What American literature can teach us about human rights

The arrival of a new child destroys a household’s ordinary sense of time. At least, it did for us. When our first son was born last fall, two leading scholars had just published books that each, in their own way, describe how contemporary US fiction has been shaped by the dramatic rise of human rights in global politics since the 1970s.

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Slavoj Žižek on what really makes him mad

What really makes me mad when I read critical (and even some favorable) reactions to my work is the recurring characterization of me as a postmodern cultural critic – the one thing I don’t want to be. I consider myself a philosopher dealing with fundamental ontological questions, and, furthermore, a philosopher in the traditional vein […]

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Celebrating banned books week

Book banning is not a new phenomenon. The Catholic Church’s prohibition on books advocating heliocentrism lasted until 1758. In England, Thomas Bowdler lent his name to the practice of expurgating supposed vulgarity with the 1818 publication of The Family Shakespeare, edited by his sister.

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History of clashes in and around Jewish synagogues

One Sabbath day in the late-second century CE, a slave and future pope named Callistus (Calixtus I) entered a synagogue and, hoping to die, picked a fight with the Jews. For the opening salvo, he stood and confessed that he was a Christian. A melee ensued. But the Jews only dragged Callistus before Rome’s city […]

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