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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Arts & Humanities

Dogs in ancient Islamic culture

Dogs in Islam, as they are in Rabbinic Judaism, are conventionally thought of as ritually impure. This idea taps into a long tradition that considers even the mere sight of a dog during prayer to have the power to nullify a pious Muslim’s supplications. Similar to many other mistakenly viewed aspects of Islamic history, today both most Muslims and non-Muslims think that Islam and dogs don’t mix.

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Philosopher of the month: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel [timeline]

This July, the OUP Philosophy team honors Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) as their Philosopher of the Month. Although Hegel was a hugely successful philosopher in his own right–described as “the most famous modern philosopher” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe–his legacy remains the influence he had on later philosophers.

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What’s in the message?

Once upon a time, it could be believed that each advance in communications technology brought with it the probability, if not the certainty, of increased global harmony. The more that messages could be sent and received, the more the peoples of the world would understand each other. Innovators have not been slow to advance comprehensive claims for their achievements. Marconi, for example, selected 1912 as a year in which to suggest that radio, in apparently making war ridiculous, made it impossible.

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Jane Austen and the Voice of Insurrection

Mark Twain was notoriously unimpressed. “I often want to criticise Jane Austen,” he fumed with flamboyant but heartfelt irritation. “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone!”

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Wonder Woman and the realities of World War I

Wonder Woman takes place in an alternative universe, yet the new film of the same name is set in a recognizable historical context: the First World War. For historians, this provides a chance to compare myth to reality. Putting aside the obvious and deliberate alterations—Erich von Ludendorff’s depiction in the story—the film touches on several of the themes that scholars still debate today regarding war and gender.

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“The lover”– an extract from Love, Madness, and Scandal

The high society of Stuart England found Frances Coke Villiers, Viscountess Purbeck (1602-1645) an exasperating woman. She lived at a time when women were expected to be obedient, silent, and chaste, but Frances displayed none of these qualities. The following extract looks Frances’ affair with Sir Robert Howard.

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Marc Chagall, religious artist

One hundred thirty years after the birth of Moishe Shagall, as he was known in his small Hasidic neighborhood on the outskirts of Vitebsk, and thirty-two years after the death of Marc Chagall, as he came to be known in the modern art world, we are starting to understand his vision.

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Embracing tension, space, and the unknown in music therapy research

Every three years, the international music therapy community gathers at the World Congress of Music Therapy. This meeting of students, clinicians, educators, and scholars offers opportunities to examine culturally embedded assumptions about the nature of “music” and “health”; to learn how the relationship between music and health differs across cultures; and to directly connect with colleagues from across the globe.

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Ezra’s executive order

In one form or another, executive orders have long been issued by the highest office in the land to implement policy or highlight priorities. In theory, an executive order is not new law, yet a controversial aspect is the power of an individual to control the laws of the land with the stroke of a pen and the net effect may be an actual change in law.

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Library outreach: a case study from Wakefield Libraries

Dawn Bartram is Library Development Area Supervisor, Skills and Learning, at Wakefield Libraries in the UK, and was the winner of our CILIP competition. Here Dawn expands on her winning entry, and talks us through the benefits and approach to setting up a library outreach programme in order to spread the word about the online resources available at your local library.

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How to write about theatre performances

It’s the theatre season in my town of Ashland, Oregon, and I’m keeping up with the play reviews and talking with reviewers about what makes a good review. Reviewing a play is different than reviewing a book or even a film.

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Unity without objecthood, in art and in natural language

What makes something we see or something we talk about a single thing, or simply a unit that we can identify and that we can distinguish from others and compare to them? For ordinary objects like trees, chairs, mountains, and lakes, the answer seems obvious.

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Bastards and Game of Thrones

Watching Game of Thrones, and devouring the novels, made me a better medievalist. As fans of the show and novels know well, George R. R. Martin’s imaginary world offers a vibrant account of life and death, of royal power and magic, of political infighting, arranged marriages, sex, love, and despair. It is not an accurate depiction of medieval Europe, but why should it be?

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Ten facts about the pipa

The modern day pipa has gone through many transformations since being introduced during the Han dynasty and Koryŏ period. The instrument was integrated into three distinct cultures. It can be made of several different materials.

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How well do you know the foods of Ramadan? [quiz]

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Muslim calendar and a period of 29 or 30 days each year in which practicing Muslims fast during daylight hours. The morning meal, suhur, must be finished before dawn, and iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast (sawm), cannot occur until after dusk. While the commitment to prayer and hours of fasting build community, so do the extensive preparations for the breaking of the fast with friends and family at iftar each night.

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Excuse me, but who’s telling this story?

Ian McEwan’s latest novel, Nutshell, published in paperback this June, the month in which its author turns 69. McEwan forged an edgy early reputation by shell-shocking readers, or at least reviewers, with the violent, sexualised or neglected child narrators of his short stories.

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