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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • History

Five tragic love stories across time

This time of year is often filled with images of romance, hearts, and cupid’s bows, but not all love stories end in happily ever after. Who among us hasn’t had their heart broken, or felt the sting of rejection once (or twice)? But we all know that life without love (even if it’s painful) isn’t much of a life. As Charles Darwin once said, ‘Much love much trial, but what an utter desert is life without love’.

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The European Left’s legacy of nationalism

Since the end of the Second World War, it’s been difficult to talk about nationalism in Europe as a force of progress. Nationalism, which seemed to reach its logical conclusion in violent fascism, has appeared anathema to liberalism, socialism, and other ideologies rooted in the Enlightenment. It’s been seen as the natural enemy of tolerance, multiculturalism, and internationalism.

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After Brexit: the English question surfaces?

“Will the Prime Minister provide a commitment today that no part of the great repeal bill will be subject to English votes for English laws?” This seemingly technical query – will have reminded Theresa May that, amidst the turmoil and drama of the current political moment, a powerful English question is now salient in British politics. But these questions of parliamentary procedure and tactics are really the tip of the iceberg.

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Was Chaucer really a “writer”?

We know more about Geoffrey Chaucer’s life than we do about most medieval writers. Despite this, it’s a truism of Chaucer biography that the records that survive never once describe him as a poet. Less often noticed, however, are the two radically different views of Chaucer as an author we find in roughly contemporaneous portraiture, although the portraits in which we find them are themselves well known.

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Christopher Marlowe: the quintessential Renaissance man

Christopher Marlowe was born in February of 1564, the same year as Shakespeare. He was the son of a Canterbury shoemaker, and attended the King’s School there. With fellowship support endowed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, young Marlowe matriculated at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge University in 1580 and received the BA degree in 1584.

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The enduring legacy of François Truffaut

On 6 February 2017, François Truffaut (1932-1984) would have been 85 years old. As it was, he died tragically from a brain tumor at the age of 52, thus depriving the world of cinema of one of its brightest stars. His legacy, nevertheless, continues, being particularly evident in his influence on the current generation of filmmakers.

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President Trump: shortcuts with executive orders?

Every President is attracted by the idea of making public policy by unilaterally issuing an executive order — sounds easy and attractive. Get someone to draft it, add your signature, and out it goes. No need to spend time negotiating with lawmakers.

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Population will hit eight billion. Here’s why it scares people

Any day now, global population will hit 7.5 billion. Experts predict that we humans will reach eight billion in number sometime around the year 2024. Does that fact fill you with trepidation? Chances are that it does, even though it’s only a number, after all. “Eight billion” says nothing about innovations in agriculture or renewable energy technologies, and certainly nothing about global social justice.

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Super Bowl madness

Every year we worship at the altar of the Super Bowl. It’s the Big Game with the Big Halftime Show and the Big-Name Advertisers. That we do this, explains why Donald Trump is now president. I’ll get to that shortly. But for now, back to the show. From an advertising perspective, the Super Bowl is the most expensive commercial on television. This year, Fox charged upwards of $5 million per 30-second spot according to Sports Illustrated

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Why is it legal to bet on the stock market but not the Super Bowl?

The upcoming Super Bowl will be the most wagered-on event of the year in the United States, just like it is every year. In most of the country, these bets are unenforceable. That is, if the loser doesn’t pay the winner, there’s nothing legal the winner can do about it. Agreements to risk money on the outcome of a sporting event, an election, or most other events are not enforceable contracts.

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Gender, medicine, and society in colonial India

The growth of hospital medicine in 19th century India created a space–albeit a very small one–for providing Western-style healthcare to female patients. Many of these changes, including the reform of reproductive healthcare and the spread of women’s medical education, benefitted a privileged minority belonging to urban, higher-caste groups. The reform in women’s healthcare in colonial India constitutes a significant chapter of the country’s social history and laid an irrevocable foundation for medicine in the post-independence period.

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Guaranteeing free speech

In a blog post heard ’round the oral history world, Zachary Schrag broke the news that the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects was finally amended to deregulate oral history.

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An introduction to the life of Frederick Douglass

In honor of Black History Month in the US and Canada, we’ve compiled an introduction to Frederick Douglass. Known for his work as an abolitionist and women’s rights supporter, Douglass remains one of American history’s most influential figures. Despite the fact that Douglass was born into slavery, his accomplishments were astounding and beyond admirable.

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The wonderful poetic production of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes, whom Carl Van Vechten memorably called “the Poet Laureate of the Negro race,” was born on 1 February 1902 in Joplin, Missouri; he died in New York City on 22 May 1967. This year, then, we celebrate Hughes’ birthday at the beginning of what is now Black History Month, and we honor the 50th anniversary of his untimely passing. Remembering Hughes will no doubt lead to more books, articles, and conferences, which is as it should be.

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How a comet crash on Jupiter may lead us to mine asteroids near Earth

This past December, millions of people around the world gazed in wonder at the rising of the so-called “super moon.” The moon looks super when it turns full on its closest approach to Earth, and variations in its orbit brought it nearer to us than it has been in almost 70 years. Yet even this extra super moon was scarcely bigger than a regular full moon, and few would have noticed the difference without breathless media reports that encouraged them to see it.

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The humanities in Trump’s Gotham City

On 8 November 2016 the American political system threw up from its depths a creature wholly unrecognizable to those of us born in the West since 1945. Most of us who teach the humanities at any level have felt, since 8 November, that we have been reduced to the level of bit players in a Batman movie – we are out on the streets of Gotham City, with the leering Joker on the loose.

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