Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Excuse me, but who’s telling this story?

Ian McEwan’s latest novel, Nutshell, published in paperback this June, the month in which its author turns 69. McEwan forged an edgy early reputation by shell-shocking readers, or at least reviewers, with the violent, sexualised or neglected child narrators of his short stories.

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10 of the best literary summers

With the summer months having firmly arrived, we thought it was a good time to look at some of the most memorable, and most beautiful literary depictions of summer. From Tennyson’s ‘perpetual summer’ to Charlotte Bronte’s balmy summer evenings, and from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist to the oppressive heat of Shakespeare’s ‘fair Verona’, discover literary summers through the ages…

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Twenty years of Pottering

It’s difficult to imagine a Harry Potter-less world. This is not simply because since the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997 the numbers attached to the franchise have become increasingly eye-watering, but because, quite unintentionally (perhaps), what began as a modest fantasy for children has helped to turn the literary world upside-down.

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The representation of fathers in children’s fiction

There aren’t many areas in literature where men are under-represented, but it’s safe to say that in children’s fiction, men – and fathers in particular – have been largely overlooked. And deliberately so. Adult carers with a sense of responsibility have been ousted from the action because of their exasperating tendency to step in and take control. Children’s authors don’t want competent adults interfering and solving problems.

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Where did Leaves of Grass come from?

One of the most enduring (if not most entertaining) games that Walt Whitman scholars like to play begins with a single question: Where did Leaves of Grass come from? Before Whitman released the first edition of his now-iconic book of poetry in 1855, he had published only a handful of rather conventional poems in local newspapers, which makes it seem as if the groundbreaking free-verse form in Leaves of Grass appeared virtually out of nowhere.

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The tale of Madame d’Aulnoy

We may see fairy tales now as something from our youth, a story to get a child to sleep, keep them from boredom, or to teach a moral lesson. However, fairy tales haven’t always just been for kids. In late seventeenth-century France the fairy tale became a ‘legitimate’ genre of literature for the educated (adult) […]

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What is to be done with Harriet Martineau?

“She says nothing that is not obvious,” claimed Alice Meynell of Harriet Martineau (1802-76), “and nothing that is not peevishly and intentionally misunderstood.” (Pall Mall Gazette, 11 October 1895). If this seemed the case in 1895, how does her reputation stand in the twenty-first century, given that so much of her writing and campaigning was […]

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The real thing: the thrills of inauthentic literature

How much would you be prepared to pay for a library of forged books? In 2011, the Sheridan Libraries of Johns Hopkins University acquired (at an undisclosed price) the so-called ‘Bibliotheca Fictiva’, one of the largest collections of forged books and documents.

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How well do you know Jane Austen’s novels? [quiz]

Jane Austen is one of the best known and most celebrated authors of British literature, inspiring legions of fans across the globe. With this popularity in mind, we thought it was a good time to test your knowledge of Jane Austen’s novels and characters — with a quiz based on the author’s lesser-known quotations. How well do you really know Austen’s writings?

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Dying to prove themselves

The Wonder, the latest work of Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue to light up the fiction best sellers’ list (Donoghue’s prize-winning 2010 novel Room was the basis for the 2015 Academy-Award winning film), draws upon a very real, very disturbing Victorian phenomenon: the young women and men—but mostly pubescent females—who starved themselves to death to prove some kind of divine or spiritual presence in their lives.

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Church and nature: sex and sin

The Sin of Abbé Mouret reworks the Genesis story of the Fall of Man, with the abbé, Serge Mouret as Adam, and the young Albine his Eve. Fifth of the twenty novels of Zola’s Rougon-Macquart cycle, the novel follows on almost directly from The Conquest of Plassans, in which the young Serge Mouret decides to become a priest.

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The classics book club at Bryant Park Reading Room

Oxford University Press has once again teamed up with the Bryant Park Reading Room on their summer literary series. The Bryant Park Reading Room was first established in 1935 by the New York Public Library as a refuge for the thousands of unemployed New Yorkers during the Great Depression.

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Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: an audio guide

2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. In honor of Austen, listen to Fiona Stafford of Somerville College, Oxford, as she introduces and discusses Pride and Prejudice. Pride and Prejudice has delighted generations of readers with its unforgettable cast of characters, carefully choreographed plot, and a hugely entertaining view of the world and […]

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