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Quiz: How well do you know Albert Camus?

The Nobel Prize winner, Albert Camus (1913-1960) is one of the best known French philosophers of the twentieth century, and also a widely-read novelist, whose works are frequently referenced in contemporary culture and politics. An active figure in the French underground movement, a fearless journalist, and an influential thinker in the post-war French intellectual life, Camus’s experience of growing up in troubled and conflicted times during the World War I and Nazi occupation of France permeate his philosophical and literary works.

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What early modern theater tells us about child sexual abuse

The sexual abuse of children endemic in the Roman Catholic Church is once again in the news, with Pope Francis mandating reporting within the Church. The Catholic Church is not alone; investigative journalists have revealed a pattern of sexual misconduct among Southern Baptist pastors and deacons over a twenty-year period, involving more than seven hundred victims.

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Bryant Park Reading Room 2019

Oxford University Press has once again teamed up with the Bryant Park Reading Room on their summer literary series.
Established in 1935, the Bryant Park Reading room was created by the New York Public Library as a refuge for thousands of unemployed New Yorkers during the Great Depression.

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The surprising similarities between Game of Thrones and the Hebrew Bible

Note: This post contains spoilers for the series finale of Game of Thrones. From prophecies and their cryptic interpretations to stories of warring kings and their exploits, the narrative world that George R. R. Martin has created in his fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, shares much in common with the narrative world of the Hebrew […]

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Albert Camus and the problem of absurdity

Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a French philosopher and novelist whose works examine the alienation inherent in modern life and who is best known for his philosophical concept of the absurd. He explored these ideas in his famous novels, The Stranger (1942), The Plague (1947), and The Fall (1956), as well as his philosophical essays, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) and The Rebel (1951). […]

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Using economics to find the greatest superhero

In case you missed it, the world was recently saved by the Avengers, a Marvel Comics superhero, super-team who defeated Thanos, a genocidal maniac of galactic proportions. However, the real victory belongs to Disney, which owns the Marvel movie properties. Avengers: Endgame annihilated the record for the largest opening weekend box office haul, raking in […]

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Imitation in literature: inspiration or plagiarism?

Imitation is a complex word with a long and tangled history. Today, it usually carries a negative charge. The Oxford English Dictionary’s second definition of the word is “a copy, an artificial likeness; a thing made to look like something else, which it is not; a counterfeit.” So an imitation of a designer handbag might be a tatty […]

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Should the people always get what they want from their politicians?

Should we listen to the voice of “the people” or the conviction of their representatives? Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has inspired virulent debate about the answer. Amidst Theresa May’s repeated failure to pass her Brexit deal in the House of Commons this spring, the Prime Minister appealed directly to the frustrations and feelings of the people. “You the public have had enough,” she asserted in a speech of March 20.

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Looking at Game of Thrones, in Old Norse

The endtime is coming. The night is very long indeed; sun and moon have vanished. From the east march the frost-giants, bent on the destruction of all that is living. From the south come fiery powers, swords gleaming brightly. A dragon flies overhead. And, terrifyingly, the dead are walking too.

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Why banishment was “toleration” in Puritan settlements

Typically, sociologists explain the growth of religious toleration as a result of people demanding religious freedom, ideals supporting tolerance becoming more prevalent, or shifting power relations among religious groups. By any of these accounts, Puritan New England was not a society where religious toleration flourished. Yet, when contrasted to a coterminous Puritan venture on Providence Island, it becomes clear that New England’s orthodox elite did […]

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Preaching as teaching in the Medieval church

We have long assumed that medieval sermons were written for the laity, that is, those with no Latin and probably minimal literacy. But most of the sermons that survive in English contain a significant amount of Latin. What did a medieval lay person understand when he or she heard a sermon?

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Eight facts about past poet laureates

The poet laureate has held an elevated position in British culture over the past 350 years. From the position’s origins as a personal appointment made by the monarch to today’s governmental selection committee, much has changed about the role, but one thing hasn’t changed: the poet laureate has always produced poetry for events of national […]

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How historians research when they’re missing crucial material

It can be deeply frustrating to know that that all the answers on a particular topic were once on a scrap of paper that is now gone forever. However, neither the blank page nor the dreaded word ‘weeded’ need be an insuperable barrier to historical research. Alternative sources nearly always exist; it is just a matter of finding them.

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9 forgotten facts about Leonardo da Vinci

For over 500 years, the masterful works of Leonardo da Vinci have awed artists, connoisseurs, and laypeople alike. Often considered the first High Renaissance artist, Leonardo worked extensively in Florence, Milan, and Rome before ending his career in France, and his techniques and writings influenced artists for centuries after his death. However, to refer to Leonardo da Vinci as just an artist minimizes his role in numerous areas of study; in addition to painting, sculpture, and drawing, the quintessential “Renaissance Man” left an indelible mark on architecture, engineering, science, philosophy, and even music.

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Exploring the Da Vinci Requiem

Wimbledon Choral Society and conductor, Neil Ferris, commissioned me to write the Da Vinci Requiem to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. Leonardo died on 2 May 1519 at the Château du Clos Lucé, Amboise, France; Wimbledon Choral Society will premiere the work in the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 7 May 2019.

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Writing about jazz in the post-modern gig era

How should music reference works deal with jazz in the era of multi-genre freelancing? Back in November 1983, when I asked Stanley Sadie, series editor for Grove Dictionaries of Music, if he’d ever thought of having a New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, jazz seemed to be a reasonably coherent genre with a connected succession of styles. Maybe I was just being young, naive, ignorant. Or maybe the notion of jazz as something coherent hadn’t yet started to completely unravel, even though all sorts of challenges were nipping at it, especially as the fusions emerged (jazz-rock, jazz-funk, and so forth).

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