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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Jewish American Writing and World Literature: Maybe to Millions, Maybe to Nobody

What does it mean to think of the world “in Jewish”?

Antisemitism has been increasingly in the headlines, from reports of violent incidents directly targeting Jews to the growing prominence of ethnonationalist discourse that makes frequent use of Jewish stereotypes. This surge in anti-Jewishness includes renewed attention to the medieval image of the wandering Jew, translated into contemporary parlance with the term “globalism.” It would be tempting to dismiss such ideas as uninformed distortions of Jewish culture and history. It may be useful then to think with the stereotype rather than against it. What does it mean to think of the world “in Jewish”? What might a vocabulary of Jewish worldliness reveal about the global present?

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Mexican independence from Spain and the first Mexican emperor

Mexico had been battling its way towards independence from Spain for some years when, in 1820, the Mexican-born officer, Agustín de Iturbide y Arámburu (1783-1824), proclaimed a new rebellion on behalf of what he called the Plan of Iguala. This called for Mexican independence, a constitutional monarchy with the Spanish king or another member of the Bourbon dynasty at its head, the Catholic religion as the only religion of Mexico, and the unity of all inhabitants, no matter what their origin, ethnicity, or social class.

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Poetry and the Language of Oppression: Essays on Politics and Poetics

Why literature must be part of the language of recovery from crisis

Recovery takes many forms, the most obvious being physical, mental, and economic. But there must also be a recovery and a newly-discovered sense of values that put the human struggle in perspective and bring the world community to a strongly-held respect for life. The role of language in the destruction of values as well as in their recovery cannot be overstated. Poetry records and expresses, and it keeps us alert to the spiritual consequences of our experiences.

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OUP Libraries

Innovation in libraries: the University of Johannesburg Library

Innovation has been a buzzword in all industries amidst this “new normal” and libraries are having to change their approach rapidly in these challenging times. OUP representatives set out to find examples of truly innovative libraries from across the world and the first one in our series is focused on the University of Johannesburg Library, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Discoveries from the Fortepiano

Missing the forest for the trees: interpreting the composer’s message

We can get so bogged down with mysterious notation that we miss the point of the score: the composer’s message. Obsession over details—why did the composer use newly available extra keys in one piece but not another? Why did the composer use particular articulation in this spot but fail to maintain consistency later?

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Sandbows and Black Lights

The mermaid in the fishbowl: the rise of optical illusions and magical effects

The nineteenth century saw the publication of several books explaining how magical effects and spectral appearances could be performed using the science of optics. It started in 1831, when Sir David Brewster (famed for his discovery of Brewster polarization and inventing the kaleidoscope) published “Letters on Natural Magic.” In this book, Brewster showed how to produce images of ghosts using partially silvered mirrors and by using a magic lantern to project images onto screens or onto clouds of vapor.

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Saint Napoleon? How Napoleon used religion to bolster his power

Though not a believer himself, Napoleon was well aware that religion was a vital tool for any ruler, especially when many of his subjects were believers. As he said to his secretary, Emanuel Las Cases, on St Helena at the end of his life: “from the moment that I had power, I hastened to re-establish religion. I used it as foundation and root. It became the support of good morals, of true principles, of good manners.”

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He That Dwelleth in the Secret Place of the Most High

Exploring the choral music of Rebecca Clarke

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) is most commonly known as a violist and composer, in particular for her famous Viola Sonata (1919), which has remained one of the most significant in the instrument’s repertoire since its composition. Her Shorter Pieces for viola and piano, as well as a number of solo songs, have gained increasing recognition since the turn of the millennium, as more of her music has begun to be published and researched.

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Extraordinary times: revisiting the familiar through the novels of Marilynne Robinson

Last week, after more than a year of living in pandemic lock-down, my husband, my son, and I drove from our home outside Boston to the outer tip of Cape Cod, where we parked in a near empty lot and walked down a steep hill through the dunes to the ocean. “It’s still here,” I said aloud, trying to breathe in the sweeping expanse of the curved shore, the June light illuminating the water, the sound of waves and the sweep of terns. Like the trip we took as a young family to watch the sunset at Race Point Beach just days after 9/11, this encounter with the sublime felt like a blessing, a visceral recollection of the way that beauty opens us up to something larger than ourselves.

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The Making of a Terrorist

Thirteen new French history books [reading list]

Bastille Day is a French national holiday, marking the storming of the Bastille—a military fortress and prison—on 14 July 1789, in an uprising that helped usher in the French Revolution. In the lead up to the anniversary of Bastille day, we’re sharing some of the latest French history titles, for you to explore, share, and enjoy. We have also granted free access to selected chapters, for a limited time, for you to dip into.

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The Shock of America

The rise and fall of the European Super League: when the American challenge backfires

In the long history of America’s influence on the politics of innovation in Europe, the case of the planned football Super League stands out. This is not because of the project as such, but simply because, of all the variety of responses Europe has produced when faced with the latest American novelty, none has provoked enthusiasm and rejection—above all rejection—with such extraordinary intensity, unity, and speed.

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