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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Arts & Humanities

Visual and Multimodal Communication: Applying the Relevance Principle

Rooting chimp communication in relevance theory

The key assumption of Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson’s relevance theory is that every act of communication comes with the promise (not the guarantee!) of being optimally relevant to its envisaged audience. Sperber and Wilson’s examples typically pertain to spoken face-to-face exchanges between two individuals: speaking Mary and listening Peter. A message gains in relevance for […]

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The Oxford Book of Theatrical Anecdotes

How well do you know the world of theatre? [Quiz]

Gyles Brandreth has been collecting theatre stories since he was a boy—and he has collected more than a thousand of them for The Oxford Book of Theatrical Anecdotes, an anthology of entertaining and illuminating stories about every aspect of the world of theatre, from the age of Shakespeare to the present day. How well do you know […]

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Standing as I do before God

Sound relationships: exploring the creative partnership between poet and composer

Composer Cecilia McDowall and poet Seán Street have collaborated on the creation of many choral works in recent years, from Shipping Forecast to Angel of the Battlefield. Here they discuss some of the challenges and pleasures of balancing words and music to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. *** Cecilia McDowall (CM): Writing for choral forces, characteristically, requires […]

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Beethoven 1806

Beethoven’s virtual collaborations

Since the onset of the pandemic, online platforms like Facebook and YouTube have become indispensable hubs of musical collaboration. Simply scroll down your Facebook feed to encounter collaborative virtual performances of everything from “Over the Rainbow” to Mahler’s Third Symphony, each one painstakingly assembled from individual recordings of sequestered singers and isolated instrumentalists. While physically distant musical collaborations […]

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Multisensory Experiences

The senses in an increasingly digital world

We interact with the world around us with all our senses—such as sight, hearing, smell, but also much more! The senses are fundamental to our experiences. The research area of multisensory experiences considers the different human senses and their interactions when designing human experiences. This area is growing in academic fields such as Human-Computer Interaction, marketing, and the […]

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A tribute to the fallen

President Trump is reliably reported to have referred to soldiers who have fallen in battle as “losers” and “suckers.” Supposedly, on November 10, 2018, he refused to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, outside Paris. It was raining and he feared his hair would get mussed. On hearing this—reported in the Atlantic magazine—I was totally surprised […]

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Oxford African American Studies Center

William Sanders Scarborough and the enduring legacy of black classical scholarship

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) was founded in 1881 as a place “where young scholars might carry on the study of Greek thought and life to the best advantage.” Today, the ASCSA is a center for research and teaching on all aspects of Greece, from antiquity to the present. Its campus in Athens […]

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The New Oxford Organ Method

Learning the least accessible instrument

Why would anyone choose to learn a musical instrument which is too large and expensive for almost every home, and only accessible if one is prepared to brave a lonely, cold, and dark old building? You guessed it: we are talking about the pipe organ. Yet despite this, the instrument continues to attract players of […]

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The myth of the power of singing

One morning in 2007 or 2008 I was listening to the news in my regular wait to turn onto the Birmingham Inner Ring Road, when I was surprised to hear a cheering headline: the UK government had pledged a significant sum of money to encourage singing in primary schools. Over the next few years, the […]

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Global Health Impact by Nicole Hassoun

How protecting human rights can help us increase our Global Health Impact

As the COVID-19 pandemic surges across the world, justice and equality demand our attention. Does everyone have a human right to health and to access new essential medicines researchers develop? Can pharmaceutical companies patent the medicines and charge high prices, selling them to whoever can pay the most? How can data help us address global […]

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Eastern Medieval Architecture

The reconversion of Hagia Sophia in perspective

At the beginning of January 1921, a special service was held in the cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, with Orthodox and Episcopal clergy offering prayers in six languages—Hungarian, Greek, Arabic, Russian, Serbian, and English—for the restoration of Hagia Sophia as a Christian sanctuary. As reported in the New York Times, the […]

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Becoming a Critical Thinker by Sarah Birrell Ivory

Do you feel sorry for first year university students?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Said by Dickens many years ago but with eerie relevance to our current situation. The global pandemic is itself an overwhelming health tragedy. Moreover, it has laid bare so many other local, national, and global issues that have been simmering beneath the surface. […]

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Introducing Shakespeare to young readers

No one has a duty to like Shakespeare, just as no one is obliged to prefer coffee to tea, or classical music to pop, or soap operas to documentaries. On the other hand, just as it is highly inconvenient to know nothing about the internet, or how to boil an egg, so it is liable […]

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The Churchill Myths

The defacing of Churchill’s statue

During Britain’s strange summer of 2020 the statues of long-dead figures became live political issues. Black Lives Matter protesters threw slave-trader Edward Coulston’s effigy into Bristol harbour, an act that shocked many, but that was as nothing to the reaction provoked by the treatment meted out to Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square. During another […]

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Gottfried Leibniz: the last universal genius

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German seventeenth-century philosopher, an incredible logician, and one of the most important contributors to the philosophy of metaphysics, philosophical theology, mathematics, and ethics. His metaphysical career spanned over thirty years, and he was an inspiration to other contemporary philosophers from the Enlightenment period. Born in 1646 in Leipzig, Germany, Leibniz’s […]

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