Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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On SHAPE: a Q&A with Lucy Noakes, Eyal Poleg, Laura Wright & Mary Kelly

OUP have recently announced our support for the newly created SHAPE initiative—Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy. To further understand the crucial role these subjects play in our everyday lives, we have put three questions to four British Academy SHAPE authors and editors—social and cultural historian Lucy Noakes, historian of objects and faith Eyal Poleg, historical sociolinguist Laura Wright, and Lecturer in Contemporary Art History Mary Kelly—on what SHAPE means to them, and to their research.

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Disability, access, and the virtual conference

Creating access for people with disabilities sometimes means fundamentally changing the nature of the thing that is made accessible. When we change the nature of the thing made accessible, we don’t just create access and inclusion for people with disabilities—we often create a new kind of experience altogether.

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Picture World

Victorian 3D: virtual adventures in the stereoscope

We’re used to travelling long distances to explore exotic new locations—but that hasn’t always been possible. So how did people visit far-flung spots in times gone by? Rachel Teukolsky, author of “Picture World: Image, Aesthetics, and Victorian New Media”, takes us on a fascinating journey in glorious Victoriana 3D, introducing us to the must-have virtual reality tech of the 19th century: the stereoscope.

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SHAPE today and tomorrow: Q&A with Sophie Goldsworthy and Julia Black (part two)

This second part of our Q&A with Sophie Goldsworthy, Director of Content Strategy & Acquisitions at OUP, and Professor Julia Black CBE FCA, Strategic Director of Innovation and Professor of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and President-elect of the British Academy, reflects on how SHAPE disciplines can help us to understand the impact of the events of the pandemic and look towards the future of SHAPE.

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Introducing SHAPE: Q&A with Sophie Goldsworthy and Julia Black (part one)

OUP is excited to support the newly created SHAPE initiative—Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy. SHAPE has been coined to enable us to clearly communicate the value that these disciplines bring to not only enriching the world in which we live, but also enhancing our understanding of it. In the first instalment this two-part Q&A, we spoke to Sophie Goldsworthy and Professor Julia Black to find out more about SHAPE and what it means to them.

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Shakespeare and East Asia

Five themes in Asian Shakespeare adaptations

Since the 19th century, stage and film directors have mounted hundreds of adaptations of Shakespeare drawn on East Asian motifs, and by the late 20th century, Shakespeare had become one of the most frequently performed playwrights in East Asia.

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Eubie Blake: Rags, Rhythm, and Race

10 little-known facts about Sissle and Blake’s Shuffle Along

Written, staged, and performed entirely by African Americans, Shuffle Along was the first show to make African-American dance an integral part of American musical theater, eventually becoming one of the top ten musical shows of the 1920s. Authors Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom provide a list of ten little-known facts about the show.

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Religion's Sudden Decline

Why is religion suddenly declining?

An analysis of religious trends from 1981 to 2007 in 49 countries containing 60% of the world’s population did not find a global resurgence of religion—most high-income countries were becoming less religious—however, it did show that in 33 of the 49 countries studied, people had become more religious. But since 2007, things have changed with surprising speed.

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The Oxford Book of Theatrical Anecdotes

How well do you know the world of theatre? [Quiz]

Gyles Brandreth has been collecting theatre stories since he was a boy—and he has collected more than a thousand of them for The Oxford Book of Theatrical Anecdotes, an anthology of entertaining and illuminating stories about every aspect of the world of theatre, from the age of Shakespeare to the present day. How well do you know […]

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What we can learn from ancient Greeks about tyranny

In their brand-new democracy, the people of ancient Athens knew there was one form of government they never wanted to suffer through again: tyranny. But they loved to see plays depicting tyrants on stage. These rulers typically do not listen to advice or expert opinion. But authority figures who don’t listen don’t learn; they make […]

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How Broadway’s Hamilton contributes to the long history of small screen racial discourse

On 3 July 2020, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton—perhaps somewhat inadvertently—took its place alongside decades of Broadway shows and stars which had helped foster an awareness of American race relations via the small screen. When Disney won the $75 million bidding war for the global theatrical distribution rights of Hamilton, the filmed recording of the show’s original cast performing […]

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Art and theater after Stonewall [podcast]

As we’ve seen over recent weeks, direct action is sometimes necessary in order to exact social change. On June 28, 1969 in Greenwich Village, a bastion for New York City’s gay community, a riot broke out after police raided the popular Stonewall Inn. The demonstration became the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ movement in the United States; it immediately led to organizing and the formation of gay rights groups in New York City, and the first New York Pride march occurred on the anniversary of the riot in 1970. The Stonewall riots truly transformed the United States of America.

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