Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Eight facts about past poet laureates

The poet laureate has held an elevated position in British culture over the past 350 years. From the position’s origins as a personal appointment made by the monarch to today’s governmental selection committee, much has changed about the role, but one thing hasn’t changed: the poet laureate has always produced poetry for events of national […]

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Why Robinson Crusoe is really an urban tale

Robinson Crusoe (1719) was Daniel Defoe’s first novel and remains his most famous: a powerful narrative of isolation and endurance that’s sometimes compared to Faust, Don Quixote or Don Juan for its elemental, mythic quality.

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Celebrate National Poetry Month with Bernard O’Donoghue

For National Poetry Month, we sat down with Bernard O’Donoghue, author of Poetry: A Very Short Introduction. O’Donoghue discusses the importance of poetry, the influence social media has, and his own process when it comes to writing. Eleanor Chilvers: Why is poetry important? Bernard O’Donoghue: Poetry seems to have been thought important in all known societies, […]

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Celebrating notable women in philosophy: Philippa Foot

This March, in honour of Women’s History Month, and in celebration of the achievements and contributions of women to the field of philosophy, the OUP philosophy team honours Philippa Foot (1920–2010) as its Philosopher of the Month. Philippa Foot is widely regarded as one of the most distinctive and influential moral philosophers of the twentieth-century.

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Women of substance in Homeric epic

Men carve meaning into women’s faces; messages addressed to other men. In Achilles’ compound, the message had been: Look at her. My prize awarded by the army, proof that I am what I’ve always claimed to be: the greatest of the Greeks.  Pat Barker’s book The Silence of the Girls is one of a wave of novels giving a […]

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Fanny Burney in her own words

Born in 1752, Frances Burney (better known as Fanny Burney) was well known as a satirical novelist in her time, anonymously publishing her first book, Evelina, in 1778. Despite her literary influence, Fanny Burney is a name unknown to many aside from the most ardent scholars. Did you know, for instance, that the title of Jane Austen’s Pride and […]

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The rightful heirs to the British crown: Wales and the sovereignty of Britain

The dating and chronology of the tales are problematic – they were probably written down sometime during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, against a background which saw the Welsh struggling to retain their independence in the face of the Anglo-Norman conquest. Although Wales had not developed into a single kingship, it certainly was developing a shared sense of the past, and pride in a common descent from the Britons.

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The tortures of adapting Samuel Richardson’s ‘Pamela’

The term “bestseller” is a bit of a stretch for the eighteenth century, when books were expensive (though widely shared), and information about print-runs is hard to come by. But if any early novel deserves the title, it’s Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, which on publication in 1740 rapidly caught the imagination of Britain, Europe, and indeed America (the Philadelphia printing by Benjamin Franklin was the first unabridged American edition of any novel).

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The continuing life of science fiction

In 1998 Thomas M. Disch boldly declared in The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World that science fiction had become the main kind of fiction which was commenting on contemporary social reality. As a professional writer, we could object that Disch had a vested interest in making this assertion, but virtually every day news items confirm his argument that SF connects with an amazingly broad range of public issues.

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A Christmas Carol cover book

A classic christmas dinner with the Cratchits

“There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows!”

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There are two different types of Jane Austen fans

There is a theory current among many of my fellow Janeites about what kind of a Jane Austen devotee one can be. Either, it is said, one unreservedly cleaves to the Austen of Pride and Prejudice and Emma, or one emphatically embraces the Austen of Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility.

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A lesson in allegorical storytelling [podcast]

National Novel Writing Month challenges writers from all over the world to complete a 50,000-word novel within the month of November. To help guide our readers who have taken on the challenge, we reached out to three-time National Jewish Book Award winner Howard Schwartz. Howard offers a deeper reading of “The Lost Princess,” and his analysis demonstrates the power of allegories as literary devices.

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Resisting slavery

Once known by the name of “Bristol”, he gained notoriety as “Three-Fingered Jack”; the slave (anti)hero whose actions so fascinated the eighteenth-century imagination that his story was variously told and retold in popular treatises, novels, chapbooks, and plays.

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