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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Arts & Humanities

Female first: aerial women in mythology, pop culture, and beyond

The sacred is where you find it. We would be foolish to ignore human awe in contemplating the eternal stability of the night sky and envy for the flight of birds that seemed to fly between the earthly, somewhat troublesome world of constant change, and what appeared to be eternal heavenly realms. The ancient depictions of winged females, and not winged males, suggest women were perceived as having some special power that men did not.

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The unexpected role of nature at Amiens Cathedral [slideshow]

Medieval church designers drew on nature in surprising and innovative ways. Organic forms appear in unexpected places, framing the portals that provide access to sanctified spaces, punctuating interior walls and supports, and hanging from the vaults that soar above the beholder. These foliate sculptures are often characterized as mere ornamentation, devoid of meaning or purpose.

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Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Aftering critical theory: reimagining civil “religion”

Why haven’t the insights of critical theory been more widely incorporated into the work of religious studies scholars in particular, and humanists more generally? Conversely, why have critical theorists missed the cross-cultural patterns of signification that have shaped post-tribal hierarchies for millennia, when they are so adept at finding hidden epistemological linkages within western political hegemonies?

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The untold story of ordinary black southerners’ litigation during the Jim Crow era

Discover how Henry Buie, Moses Summerlin, Lurena Roebuck, and almost a thousand other black soutnerners managed to successfully litigate civil cases against white southerners throughout the 85 years following the Civil War. Many different tactics needed to be deployed during this period of injustice, and in a system where those in power often had very different interests and perspectives than their own.

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Opportunity recognition: the heart of entrepreneurial thinking

With the 2018 Winter Olympics over, I’m reminded of one of the key traits all entrepreneurs possess and all would-be entrepreneurs must develop: the ability to recognize opportunities. You see, one of my favorite Olympic sports is bobsledding. I love the speed and excitement, the precision with which the sleds must be steered to gain the most speed—but also avoid disaster. I’m also fascinated by the tracks themselves.

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Prohibition and its discontents [Q&A]

The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution banned alcohol from 1920 to 1933. Sometimes called the “noble experiment,” this disastrous public policy reduced tax revenues, made gangsters rich, and failed to stop drinking. Alcohol consumption did drop some, but regular drinkers turned to bootleg liquor and moonshine. In the following interview the historian W. J. Rorabaugh discusses prohibition and its discontents.

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The eleventh hour: a look at the final battles of the Great War [timeline]

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the Great War came to an end. Conventional accounts of the war often allow these closing battles to be overshadowed by opening moves and earlier battles. However, the human costs behind the Allied victory cannot be truly understood without examining the summer of 1918. Using personal accounts featured in The Last Battle, the timeline below captures the final battles of World War I through the eyes of the men fighting them.

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Editing Arthur Machen

f the challenges Arthur Machen presents to an editor, two, in particular, have shadowed me during the preparation of this new collection of his stories. The first is simply the special sense of responsibility one feels when curating the work of a deeply loved writer—for even when Machen’s reputation has been at low ebb (as, often enough, it has been), he has always had a hard core of devoted admirers.

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OUP Philosophy

What is it like for women in philosophy, and in academia as a whole?

During Women’s History Month, the OUP Philosophy team has been celebrating Women in Philosophy throughout history and in the present day. While it is easy for most of us to name male philosophers, it is far more difficult for people to name female philosophers even though their influence has been just as great as their male counterparts.

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Is Debussy an Impressionist?

From the start, audiences liked Claude Debussy’s music. Critics, perplexed by its originality, were less enthusiastic. It seemed so non-traditional that they found it difficult to grasp, and a challenge to categorize. That’s what eventually led to the term Impressionism being applied to it. It became an easy way both to classify it and make it seem less unusual. Prior to linking Debussy to it, Impressionism was solely associated with the visual arts.

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History in 3 acts: a brief introduction to Ancient Greece [excerpt]

Ancient Greek history is conventionally broken down into three periods: Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic. However, the language used to describe them highlights an oversight made by generations of historians. By dubbing one period of history as “Classical,” scholars imply that the other two periods are inferior, simplifying the Archaic age as a mere precursor to and the Hellenistic age as a lesser descendant of the Classical age.

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Arranging The Lark Ascending for small string ensembles

I discovered the violin and piano version of The Lark Ascending in my youth, and I still remember how much I loved playing the violin part, unaccompanied. I was impressed by the programmatic transformation of the underlying poem as well as the liberating setting of the pentatonic scale and transcendent cadenza. Even then, I was already thinking of adapting this wonderful work for a different instrumentation.

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A visual history of the New York Crystal Palace [slideshow]

When New York’s Crystal Palace opened in 1853, it quickly became one of the most celebrated landmarks in the city. But five years later, the building was gone—engulfed in flames and reduced to a heap of smoldering debris. The below photographs from The Finest Building in America recapture the sensation and spectacle behind the New York Crystal Palace: a building that mattered so much to antebellum Americans and New Yorkers, yet was never rebuilt.

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“Alas, poor YORICK!:” death and the comic novel

Tragedy provokes sorrow and concludes with downfall and death. Comedy elicits laughter and ends happily. Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is one of the funniest novels of world literature. But does the work, overshadowed by death, end happily? Can death and comedy mix? “Everybody dies. If you are going to take that badly, you’re doing it wrong. So you have to take it as a joke.” The sentiments of the celebrated Spanish cartoonist Antonio Fraguas, Forges, who died on 22 February 2018, might echo those of Sterne, whose own death took place 250 years ago on 18 March 1768.

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OUP Philosophy

Landmark moments for women in philosophy [timeline]

This March, the OUP Philosophy team are celebrating Women in Philosophy. Throughout time, women have had to fight for their place in history, academia, and the philosophy discipline. To honour their contributions, we will be highlighting women and their achievements in the field of philosophy all throughout Women’s History Month.

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