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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Arts & Humanities

On the value of intellectuals

In times of populism, soundbites, and policy-by-twitter such as we live in today, the first victims to suffer the slings and arrows of the demagogues are intellectuals. These people have been demonised for prioritising the very thing that defines them: the intellect, or finely reasoned and sound argument. As we celebrate the 161st birthday of Bernard Shaw, one of the most gifted, influential, and well-known intellectuals to have lived, we might use the occasion to reassess the value of intellectuals to a healthy society and why those in power see them as such threats.

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Picking a fight in an empty room

This year marks the 137th anniversary of the birth of Seán O’Casey, one of the best-known of all Irish playwrights. His works first enthralled audiences at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre during the 1920s, and in the years since then his dramas have been repeatedly revisited by actors and directors.

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Music and human evolution

After being closed to the public for the past six months, the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall reopened on the 13 July 2017, featuring a grand blue whale skeleton as its central display. This event carried particular importance for OUP’s Gabriel Jackson, who was commissioned to write a piece for the Gala opening ceremony.

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The paradox of Margery Kempe

After a period of chastity, Margery Kempe’s husband described one of those hypothetical scenarios that couples sometimes use to test each other. “Margery, if a man came with a sword and wanted to chop off my head unless I had sexual intercourse with you as I used to before, […] [would you] allow my head to be chopped off, or else allow me to have sex with you as I previously did?”

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How well do you know Hegel [quiz]

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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The traveler’s challenge: overcoming vacation blues

After months of working 40+ hour weeks, running the kids from one activity to the next, and managing a household, the time has arrived: vacation. You’ve carefully planned a week-long getaway at a seaside resort, and can think of nothing better than basking in the sun, reading a novel, and sipping a cocktail. You arrive with eager anticipation. The beach is perfect, the resort restful and luxurious.

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Attention, or how to organize the mind

Sometimes our mind is a mess. Thoughts and experiences pile up, and our mind flips from one thing to another: I need to buy milk, I have an important meeting tomorrow, and, no, the bills have still not been paid; it’s my friends birthday, the face of that person reminds me of someone I met in college, and the advertisement blaring from the loudspeakers tells me that a new shampoo will change my life.

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10 facts about spirituality

What does spirituality really mean? Is spirituality distinct from religion? Why is spirituality becoming increasingly popular and how has the term evolved and used today from its Christian roots? Philip Sheldrake, author of Spirituality: A Very Short Introduction, talks about what he thinks are the top 10 facts everyone should know about spirituality.

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Bluegrass festivals: a summertime staple

For more than fifty years, bluegrass musicians and fans from around the world have gathered in shady bowers and open fields to trade songs in parking lot picking sessions; hear top local, regional, and national bluegrass bands as they present onstage performances; and buy instruments, books, recordings, and memorabilia from vendors. These bluegrass festivals serve as vital meeting spaces for members of the bluegrass community, and they play a key role in the music’s ongoing economic vitality.

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Does “buying local” help communities or conflict with basic economics?

As summer approaches, picturesque roadside stands, farmer’s markets, and fields growing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) dot the horizon from the Golden Gate to the Garden State. Consumers go to their local Farmer’s Market to keep spending local and to hopefully create jobs in the community. They “buy local” to reduce environmental impacts. Some believe interacting with neighbors builds trust within the community.

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Jane Austen’s writing – a reading list

Jane Austen wrote six novels and thousands of letters in her lifetime, creating a formula of social realism, comedic satire, and romance that is still loved today. Her works were originally published anonymously, bringing this now celebrated author little personal renown – with nineteenth century audiences preferring the Romantic and Victorian tropes of Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Since then, literary tastes and opinions have changed dramatically, and many people have written about, interpreted, and adapted Austen’s writings. But why do we like her stories so much? What can they tell us about her world, and ours?

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Planetary astronomy in ancient Greece

As eclipse 2017 quickly approaches, Americans—from astronomers to photographers to space enthusiasts—are preparing to witness the celestial wonder that is totality. Phenomenon found within planetary science has long driven us to observe and study space. Through a shared desire to dismantle and reconstruct the theories behind our solar system, ancient Greek philosophers and scientists built the foundation of planetary astronomy.

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Winter is coming: the zombie apocalypse on TV

But maybe the greatest horde of zombies these days is on television, from cult shows like iZombie and Santa Clarita Diet to two of the most popular shows on the planet, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. The Walking Dead has recently wrapped its seventh season, but Game of Thrones is getting ready to ramp up for its final two seasons, with the world premiere of its Season Seven coming tonight.

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How well do you know Jane Austen? [quiz]

In honour of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, we have created a quiz to help you determine how well you know the beloved novelist. Are you an Austen expert? Or do you need to brush up on some of her greatest works? Take the quiz to find out!

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Obscene intentions and corrupting effects

The Picture of Dorian Gray frequently ridicules the idea that fiction may have corrupting effects. But Wilde’s criticisms of the logic of obscenity law went beyond these statements about the sterility of the work of art.

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The United States in World War I podcast series

2017 marks the centennial of the United States joining World War I. To commemorate this historic occasion, Oxford University Press put together a podcast series discussing various aspects of America’s involvement in the war.

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