Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

A Winter Breviary by Rebecca Gayle Howell and Reena Esmail

A Winter Breviary: Q&A with poet Rebecca Gayle Howell

A Winter Breviary is a triptych of carols that tells the story of a person walking in the woods on solstice night. This pilgrim—she, he, they—searches for hope, the hope they cannot name, or hear or see. And still, they walk deeper and deeper into the dark.

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Nine literary New Year’s resolutions

Do you need some inspiration for your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re in a resolution rut and feeling some of that winter gloom, then you’re not alone. To help you on your way to an exciting start to 2017, we’ve enlisted the help of some of history’s greatest literary and philosophical figures–on their own resolutions, and inspiring thoughts for the New Year.

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Moby Dick Oxford World's Classics

Weird Moby-Dick

There are a lot of peculiar phrases in Moby-Dick. My new introduction to the second Oxford World’s Classics edition of Herman Melville’s novel highlights the startling weirdness of the book, both in its literary form and its language.

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East of the Wardrobe

Everyday Narnia: the language of another world

There is little doubt that “Narnia” has effectively entered the English language and that references to a “wardrobe” or “wardrobe door” have been given additional meanings by C. S. Lewis: any reference to it requires no explanation simply because everyone knows.

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Democracies in America: Keywords for the Nineteenth Century and Today

Defining “democracy”

One week before the 2022 US midterm elections, President Joseph Biden delivered a prime-time address at Union Station in Washington, DC. Biden suggested that something foundational, fundamental, was at stake. He reminded listeners of the definition of democracy.

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The Virgin of the Seven Daggers and Other Stories by Vernon Lee

Vernon Lee, history, and horror

Some of the most acclaimed films to come out of the horror mini-boom of the past decade mix history and horror in disconcerting ways. Of course, these are not the first scary movies or stories do this. But when, and how, did horror first get historical?

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Orwell & Empire

The Mahatma and the Policeman: how did George Orwell view Gandhi?

George Orwell served for five years in the 1920s as an officer in the Imperial Police in Burma, at that time part of the British Raj. He was to write about the Empire as an unjustifiable despotism. Mahatma Gandhi did more than anyone else to bring about the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the first step in the dismantling of the Empire. Orwell should have seen Gandhi as a comrade in arms, a fellow anti-imperialist, even a hero. Instead he speaks of Gandhi with suspicion, hostility, irritation, and ” sort of aesthetic distaste.” Why?

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How Romantics and Victorians Organized Information: Commonplace Books, Scrapbooks, and Albums

The Butcher’s Books: how did Tennyson write In Memoriam?

Where do we go to mourn the dead? A graveyard? A photograph album? A Facebook page? The very intangibility of death makes us yearn for a physical space to locate grief—a space we might return to. For many Victorians, mourning took place in notebooks. This was certainly the case for the future poet laureate, Alfred Tennyson.

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The Masnavi, Book Five

Rumi’s subversive poetry and his sexually explicit stories

Rumi, the thirteenth-century Muslim poet, has become a household name in the last few decades, even becoming the best-selling poet in North America thanks to translations of his work into English. Verses of his poetry are used to begin yoga sessions, religious ceremonies, and weddings, and are ubiquitous throughout social media, in addition to actual […]

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Blackfriars in Early Modern London

East and west the preachers mouth: St. Anne Blackfriars in early modern London

The experience of churchgoing at St Anne’s was undoubtedly shaped by the unconventional situation and layout of the place of worship, but in ways that are now hard to recover. Religious experience, like any other, is embodied experience that unfolds in particular spaces and physical conditions. St Anne’s parishioners may have considered the unorthodox nature of their worship space an unhappy accident of history, or they may just as readily have imbued it with special symbolic significance, making it an important focus of their collective identity.

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