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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Misattributed quotations: do you know who really said it? [quiz]

The seemingly simple task of asking who said what has perhaps never been more difficult. In the digital age, quotations can be moved around, attributed, questioned, re-appropriated, and repeated in the blink of an eye. If someone is “widely quoted” as saying something and it sounds more or less right, many people take this to be sufficient proof of the quotation’s origin. With that said, do you really know who said what?

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A composer’s Christmas: Sarah Quartel

“It’s like a favourite carol or particular descant is a member of the family that comes once a year and gets the prized spot at the dinner table.” We caught up with composer Sarah Quartel to find out what she loves about Christmas, how the season inspires her composing, and how she spends her Christmas day.

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Who wrote Gulliver’s Travels?

Originally published anonymously, Jonathan Swift sent the manuscript for the satirical masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels to his publisher under a pseudonym and handled any correspondence and corrections through friends. As such, even though close friends such as Alexander Pope knew about the publication, Swift still kept up the ruse of feigning ignorance about the book in his correspondence with them.

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One’s “own” voice?

Sometimes personal and professional lives get tangled in unexpected ways. As I was writing an article on the nineteenth-century celebrity soprano Jenny Lind (1820-1887), a colleague who’d been asked to send comments on an early draft alerted me to a problem: I wasn’t writing, or so they thought, with my “own voice.” Their comment got me thinking—first of all, about the basis for their claim.

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Is “food waste” really wasted food?

Food waste has become a major cause for concern in the United States. Or at least, that’s what some prominent organizations suggest. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that the United States wastes 103 million tons of food. The statistics suggest that food waste is a problem, but how do these organizations calculate them? And what, exactly, is food waste?

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Understanding secularism [excerpt]

“The separation of religious institutions from state ones had also been a feature of societies elsewhere, and at other times in history.” What is secularism? In the following extract from Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom, Andrew Copson breaks down 3 different parts of the definition of secularism, its history, and how its meaning has developed over time.

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Many rivers to cross – can the Ganges be saved?

The Ganges is known as a wondrous river of legend and history. After decades of false starts, scandals, and wasted money under previous governments, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a campaign in 2014 to clean the Ganges and save it for future generations. Find out more about the Ganges, its problems, and what can be done to save it with our interactive map.

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Beer and brewing by numbers [infographic]

Beer has been a vitally important drink through much of human history, be it just as a drink that was safe to consume when water might not have been, through to having significant economic and even political significance. The earliest written laws included regulations on beer, tax income from beer funded centuries of British imperialist conquests, and beer is the subject of the oldest international trademark dispute.

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A composer’s Christmas: Alan Bullard

Alan Bullard is a highly respected composer of both instrumental and choral music. He has written many well-loved carols and Christmas works and edited a number of volumes of Christmas carols. To mark the start of the Advent season, we asked him to tell us a bit about his Christmas traditions and what it is about Christmas that inspires his writing.

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Rethinking the singalong

When two young veterans came to our elementary school to give a talk and show slides about their experience in Afghanistan, the children were captivated with their presentation. The slides brought to life much of what the soldiers saw and experienced. As the music teacher, I planned to have the children say thank you in a musical way. I didn’t choose a patriotic song, but a song that exemplified the love and appreciation we all had for these soldiers. I chose one song that the entire student body of the school could sing together.

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Tired spirits? What happens when Pentecostalism becomes middle class?

Pentecostalism is a Christian revival movement. It emerged at the beginning of the 20th century and is marked by a focus on the Holy Spirit and its gifts. Pentecostals believe that the Holy Spirit can award them specific gifts such as the gifts of healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues. In terms of membership growth, Pentecostalism has been the most successful religious movement in the 20th century.

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Cheese and wine pairings for the holiday season [infographic]

Cheese continues to be a staple of dining and entertainment. In 2012, cheese consumption in the U.S. was 33.5 lbs per capita— a number that is set to increase to 36.5 lbs by 2024. Referencing The Oxford Companion to Cheese and The Oxford Companion to Wine, we’ve put together a selection of cheese and wine pairings for the holiday season.

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Reinforcing the patriarchy: tricksters in literature and mythology

Have you ever noticed how much your favorite stories have in common? Boy meets girl, falls in love, gets married. Hero goes on a quest, meets a wise old man, and saves the day. There’s a reason for this repetition, if you believe the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Jung found that his psychotherapy patients would tell stories containing elements of ancient mythology, even when they had never been exposed to these myths.

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What is Thanksgiving? A Brit’s guide to the holiday

Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays in the US calendar. However for those who have never lived in America, the celebration can seem perplexing and often down-right bewildering. Here in the Oxford offices at Oxford University Press, we thought we may have understood the basics, but on researching more into the holiday, we have been left with many more questions than answers. For instance, what is a “Turkey Trot” or sweet potato pie, and if television is to be believed – do people actually go around the table saying what they’re thankful for?

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