Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


Scots Wa Who? Forgotten poems of Scotland

Scotland has inspired much celebrated poetry over the ages, from the stirring verses of Robert Burns, to the imaginative tales of Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter Scott. These poets are now household names, but how many outside of Scotland have heard of William Dunbar or James Hogg?

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“An infernal journey” – an extract from Homer

Homer, despite being the author of the hugely influential The Odyssey and The Iliad, remains a bit of a mystery. We know very little about his life, but what we can see is the huge legacy that he has left behind in art, music, philosophy, literature, and more. By examining both of his epic poems, we can begin to understand more about this mythical figure. In the extract below Barbara Grazosi takes a closer look at Odysseus’ journey to the Underworld.

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Which “little woman” are you? [quiz]

The twenty-ninth of November 2016, marked the 184th birthday of American author Louisa May Alcott, best known for her literary classic Little Women. Taking place in New England during the Civil War, Little Women follows Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy–four strong-minded sisters, each determined to discover and fulfill her destiny. Adapted for film six times, Little Women is a coming-of-age story that […]

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Woman as protagonist in BBC’s re-adaption of Conrad’s The Secret Agent

With the recent surge of interest in Conrad’s text following the programme airing in July, one needs to question the contribution that BCC’s adaption offers to the oeuvre of Conrad’s criticism. Tony Marchant’s adaption is acutely aware of global relevance of this text, noting that the “contemporaneity just hit[s]” you “in the face”. Yet, his production precisely fails in this presentation of terrorism.

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Conversations and collaborations: lessons from the Charleston Conference

As a first-time attendee of the Charleston Library Conference earlier this month, I knew I was headed for a few idea-charged days, but was overwhelmed by the amount of things I learned from the conference. The conference, according to its website, “is designed to be a collegial gathering of individuals from different areas who discuss the same issues in a non-threatening, friendly, and highly informal environment.”

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Jacob Tonson the elder, international spy and businessman

Few have heard of him today, but Jacob Tonson the Elder (1656?-1736) was undoubtedly one of the most important booksellers in the history of English literature. He numbered Addison, Behn, Congreve, Dryden, Echard, Oldmixon, Prior, Steele, and Vanbrugh among those canonical authors whom he published. His reputation was international, and the quality and range of his classical editions remained a benchmark throughout the eighteenth century.

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How did Shakespeare originally sound?

We all know the classic Shakespearean lines – “To be or not to be,” “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” or “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” — but how would these famous lines have sounded to Elizabethan audiences? Are we currently misinterpreting the Bard? This question has been on the mind of Shakespeare scholars, directors, actors, and audiences for a long time, and has proved a tricky problem.

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Voltaire’s love letters

Voltaire had numerous passionate affairs, and engaged in an enormous amount of private correspondence with his lovers, much of which has been kept for posterity. Providing a fascinating insight into Voltaire’s inner-most emotions, his letters give a glimpse of his friendships, sorrows, joys, and passionate desires…

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A literary Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has many historical roots in American culture. While it is typically a day spent surrounded by family and showing appreciation for what we are thankful for, we would all be lying if we did not admit that our favorite part is consuming an abundance of delicious food until we slip into a food coma.

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A literary tour of Ireland

Ireland is home to many great writers, from Bram Stoker and Jonathan Swift to Oscar Wilde and James Joyce. In this slideshow, Molly Grote, OUP publicist with a degree in British and Irish literature, takes us on a literary tour of Dublin.

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At the intersection of State and Washington Streets in the Warehouse District of downtown Peoria, a city of about 116,000 that sits halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, stands a nine-foot-tall bronze likeness of the city’s most infamous native son. If you were a visitor, in town to hang out along the up-and-coming riverfront or to visit Caterpillar, the only Fortune 500 company headquartered in the city, you would be forgiven

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What did Shakespeare write?

We have always known already that Shakespeare was a collaborator; he was a man of the theatre which is an inherently very collaborative, social art. The news is that he also collaborated as a writer much more than we used to think he did. We can now say with a high degree of certainty that upward of third of his plays were co-written in some sense or other. In most film portrayals, Shakespeare seems to produce his plays in isolation.

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Lessons from the Song of Roland

What constitutes a person’s identity: family, country, religion? How do we resolve conflict: military action, strategy, negotiation? What turns a good man into a traitor?

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The good and bad of ghostwriting

I just found out that a scientist whom I greatly admire is writing his first book. Only he’s not. He’s hired a writer to do the heavy lifting. The hired writer’s name won’t appear on the cover. He’s signed on the dotted line in the invisible ink. Ghostwriters don’t write about ghosts, but waft around in the background like them. Unlike real ghosts, such behind-the-scenes authors deal in reality, turning the ideas of ‘living’ authors into words for them to take credit for.

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The news media and the election

How does an avowedly nonpartisan news organization like the New York Times cover an outrageous but media-savvy and factuality-challenged candidate like Donald Trump? In a recent interview, Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet explained that the press was at first flustered by Trump, that “everybody went in a little bit shell-shocked in the beginning, about how you cover a guy who makes news constantly.

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