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How Oscar Wilde got his big break

In the late 1870s, when he was still a student, Oscar Wilde gathered his college friends for a late night chat in his Oxford room. The conversation was drifting to serious topics.
“You talk a lot about yourself, Oscar,” one of them said, “and all the things you’d like to achieve. But you never say what you’re going to do with your life.”

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Remembering Joseph Johnson

Given his near half-century career, the Romantic-era publisher Joseph Johnson (1738-1809) left behind a notably small archive. We know from a letter he wrote on today’s date in 1799 that he destroyed some of his correspondence and business documents while serving a two-year sentence for seditious libel in King’s Bench Prison (imprisonment was a fate that progressive publishers were all too familiar with during the 1790s).

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Living with hysteria: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Yellow Wall-Paper”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of the semiautobiographical short story, “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” was a first-wave feminist determined to live a fully actualized life of work for the common good. Born in Connecticut in 1860, she was a lecturer on ethics, labor, and feminism, and was also the niece of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Charlotte grew up in poverty and was particularly interested in bettering the economic straits of women. Her family moved so often that she was largely home-schooled and self-taught.

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Women artists in conversation: Tiff Massey Q&A [Part I]

Tiff Massey is a young artist whose work ranges from wearable sculpture to large-scale public interventions. She is the first African-American woman to graduate from Cranbrook Academy of Art’s MFA in Metalsmithing. She cites her influences as ranging from 1980s hip-hop culture and her hometown of Detroit to African art and Japanese fashion.

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New narrative nonfiction [podcast]

After the 2008 recession, print book sales took a hit, but now BookScan has recorded consistent growth in print book sales year over year for the past five years. What has been driving these sales? Surprisingly, adult nonfiction sales. Covering topics from history, politics and law, nonfiction saw a growth of 13 percent during the last fiscal year.

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Librarians on bikes: cycling through US libraries

After working for 26 years as academic librarians, we have reached a point in our careers where we are right-sizing professionally and personally. This year, we requested and were granted a nine-month contract, enabling us to pursue our dream of cycling across the United States, from Washington, D.C., to Astoria, Oregon.

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Shariah: myths vs. realities

For many in the West today, “Shariah” is a word that evokes fear—fear of a medieval legal system that issues draconian punishments, fear of relegation of women and religious minorities to second-class citizenship, fear of Muslims living as separate communities who refuse to integrate with the rest of society, and fear that Muslims will seek to impose Shariah in America and Europe.

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A Q&A with composer Will Todd

British composer and pianist Will Todd has worked at the Royal Opera House, the Lincoln Center in New York, London’s Barbican, and with Welsh National Opera, award-winning choirs The Sixteen, the BBC Singers, and Tenebrae. His music is valued for its melodic intensity and harmonic skill, which often incorporates jazz colours. We caught up with Will to ask him a few questions about his inspiration and approach to composition.

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It’s not just decline and fall anymore…

One evening in mid-October 1764 the young Edward Gibbon sat among the ruins of the Capitol at Rome. The prospect before him must have looked like a Piranesi print–bony cattle grazing on thin grass in the shade of shattered marble columns. It was then and there that he resolved to write the history of the decline and fall of Rome.

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Philosopher of The Month: Maurice Merleau-Ponty [slideshow]

This July, the OUP Philosophy team honors Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-61) as their Philosopher of the Month.  Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenologist and together with Sartre founded the existential philosophy. His work draws on the empirical psychology, the early phenomenology of Husserl, Saussure’s structuralism as well as Heidegger’s ontology. His most famous work Phénoménologie de la […]

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The varieties of shame

When my grandmother died in 2009, my far-flung family returned to east Texas to mourn her. People she had known from every stage of her life arrived to pay their respects. At a quiet moment during the wake, my aunt asked my grandfather how he felt about seeing all these people who loved him and who loved my grandmother. He answered, “Shame” and started to cry. 

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Did Muslims forget about the Crusades?

The crusades are so ubiquitous these days that it is hard to imagine anyone ever forgetting them. People play video games like Assassin’s Creed (starring the Templars) and Crusader Kings II in droves, newsfeeds are filled with images of young men marching around in places like Charlottesville holding shields bearing the old crusader slogan “Deus vult” (God wills it!), and every year books about the crusades are published in their dozens, informing readers about the latest developments in crusader studies.

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The ascent of music and the 63rd Eurovision Song Contest

At a speed few can fathom, nationalism has become the dirtiest word in all of European cultural politics. Embraced by the right and rising populism, nationalism seemingly poses a threat to the very being of Europe. Nationalists proudly proclaim a euroscepticism that places the sovereignty of self over community.

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The Ancient Celts: six things I learned from Barry Cunliffe

Confession: I’m not an archaeologist nor a historian—at least not in any meaningful sense, though I do delight in aspects of both. But I was lucky enough to see Barry Cunliffe speak about the Ancient Celts at the Oxford Literature Festival earlier this year and then to have front row seats to the recording of this podcast, and I wanted to share a little of what I’ve learned.

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The greatest witch-hunt of all time

Imagine that a man comes to the highest office in the land with absolutely no political experience. As a young man, he had arrived in the big city to make his fortune and became one of the richest and most famous men in America by making big deals and taking great risks. Some schemes worked out and others did not.

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