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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The Walking Dead and the security state

Did The Walking Dead television series help get President Donald J. Trump elected? During the presidential campaign, pro-Trump ads regularly interrupted episodes of the AMC series. Jared Kushner, who ran the campaign’s data program, explained to Forbes that the campaign’s predictive data analysis suggested it could optimize voter targeting by selectively buying ad-space in shows such as The Walking Dead.

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Analyzing “Expressiveness” in Frankenstein (1931)

In Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema, film studies professor Todd Berliner explains how Hollywood delivers aesthetic pleasure to mass audiences. Along the way, Professor Berliner offers numerous aesthetic analyses of scenes, clips, and images from both routine Hollywood movies and exceptional ones. His analyses, one of which we excerpt here, illustrate how to study […]

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Photographer Helen Muspratt through the eyes of her daughter

Helen Muspratt (1905–2001) was a pioneering photographer. Her unique techniques with different forms of exposure made her a driving force in naturalistic portraiture and social documentation. Throughout her illustrious career, Helen photographed the likes of Dorothy Hodgkin, Nobel Prize winning chemist; Roger Fry and Julian Bell of the Bloomsbury Group; painter Paul Nash; journalist Alistair Cooke; and many others.

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Brando, Obama, and The Brando

Just days before Marlon Brando’s 93rd birthday on 3 April, Barack Obama announced that he will write his presidential memoirs at an exotic South Pacific hideaway once owned by Brando. Thirty miles north of Tahiti and accessible only by boat or small aircraft, the island of Tetiaroa was transformed into a high-end resort after Brando […]

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The critical role of race in John Cassavetes’ first film

Shadows is the first film John Cassavetes directed and, regarding the version he released in 1959, it is the only film he created that distinctly explores themes of Blackness and Black identity in an American urban landscape. Too Late Blues, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Love Streams all depict identity and race in different and attention-worthy ways as well, but none of Cassavetes’ directorial work after 1959 engages with these topics to the same degree or with the same immediacy.

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Remembering Charlie Chaplin, citizen of the world

Early in the 1957 film A King in New York, the second-to-last feature that Charlie Chaplin would write and direct and the last in which he would star, an unusual debate erupts between the two principal characters, one an exiled monarch and the other a precocious schoolboy.

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What we talk about when we talk about capitalism

For more than a century, capitalism has been the dominant planetary system for supplying people with, quite literally, their daily bread. It transformed our cultures and knit us together in a global network of buying and selling. But how do we understand it? How do we make sense of it? What do we talk about when we talk about capitalism? Recently we did a study to track talk of capitalism over two hundred years.

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Trump in Wonderland

Four days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, an unlikely novel reached the top of Amazon’s bestseller list. It was not the latest potboiler by John Grisham, Stephen King, or any other likely suspect. Topping the list on 24 January was 1984, George Orwell’s 68-year-old masterpiece about a dystopian society in which the ruling authorities routinely alter the meanings of words and facts to suit their own purposes.

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The polls aren’t skewed, media coverage is

The perceived failures of election forecasting in 2016 have caused many to suggest the polls are broken. However, scholars are quick to point out that more than polling failure this election has demonstrated that people have a hard time thinking probabilistically about election outcomes. Our research suggests skewed media coverage of polls may also be to blame: News media are likely to cover the most newsworthy polls.

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The role of the death-mother in film

Hitchcock’s famous Psycho (1960) has an enduring legacy in the slasher-horror genre. Its impact on this genre is an enduring one, as suggested by the A&E series Bates Motel, culminating with Rihanna cast in Janet Leigh’s indelible role (Figure 1). Perhaps its most striking contribution, however, is its thematization of a figure I call the death-mother.

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Concepts of Epidemiology

Why many wrongs make a right in the health sciences

Stories that link diseases to their possible causes are popular, and often generate humour, bemusement, and skepticism. Readers assume that today’s health hazards will be tomorrow’s health saviours. Rod Liddle’s headline in the Sunday Times is an example: “Toasties get you laid, fat prevents dementia and I’m a sex god.” Liddle starts with some fun statistics showing that those who ate cheese toasties had more enjoyable sex than those who did not.

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The globalization of the Hollywood war film

For a long time, people in other countries had to watch American war films. Now they are making their own. In recent years, Russia and Germany have produced dueling filmic visions of their great contest on World War II’s Eastern Front. Paid for with about $30 million in state money, Stalingrad, directed by Feder Bondarchuk grossed around $50 million within weeks of hitting Russian screens in October, 2013.

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