Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

On writing: nine quotes from classic authors

You’ve gotten through the first week of National Novel Writing Month. Have you’ve been hitting your word count? Writing 1,665 words every day may not sound like a lot, but sitting down in front of a blank page each day begins to feel like a struggle. Find some inspiration from these Oxford World’s Classics authors!

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Crime and Punishment: From Siberia to St. Petersburg

Before the serial publication of Crime and Punishment in the prominent literary journal The Russian Messenger in 1866, the reception of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s works, and his reputation as a writer, had been somewhat mixed. The story of his career marks one of the most dramatic falls from grace and rise again stories in literary history.

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A Chopin-inspired reading list

I have always read “classics,” alongside contemporary titles, as an editor who desires to be informed by the past in shaping new publications; and a human who loves to read. We bring our personal and political lens to any work, and what makes reading and re-reading classics such an intellectually pleasurable occasion is to engage […]

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Kate Chopin, the “mother-woman”

Kate Chopin married at 20 years old and birthed six children within nine years. The Awakening, which she published in 1899, is arguably written to reject that an artist’s offspring would presume to occupy the first line to any discussion of her work.

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Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: an audio guide

Anna Karenina is a beautiful and intelligent woman, whose passionate love for a handsome officer sweeps aside all other ties—to her marriage and to the network of relationships and moral values that bind the society around her. Her love affair with Vronsky is played out alongside the developing romance between Kitty and Levin, and in […]

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Silas Marner, Threads, and Weaving [an excerpt]

Repetition and storytelling are bound in the novel’s representation of weaving, a theme that exemplifies the manner in which Silas Marner deftly moves between fable and realism. Classical mythology and fairy tales are crowded with weavers. Silas’s insect-like activity (he is reduced ‘to the unquestioning activity of a spinning insect’ and ‘seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection’ (p. 14)) calls to mind the myth of Arachne, who boldly challenged a goddess to a weaving contest.

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M. R. James and Collected Ghost Stories [excerpt]

In the following excerpt from Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James, Darryl Jones discusses how the limitations of James’s personal, social, and intellectual horizons account for the brilliance of his ghost stories. “The potential that ideas have for opening up new worlds of possibility caused James lifelong anxiety. Thus, his research, phenomenal as it […]

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The Iliad and The Trojan War [excerpt]

The Iliad tells the story of Achilles’ anger, but also encompasses, within its narrow focus, the whole of the Trojan War. The title promises “a poem about Ilium” (i.e. Troy), and the poem lives up to that description. The first books recapitulate the origins and early stages of the Trojan War.

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Unsilencing the library

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” So wrote Virginia Woolf in her famous 1929 essay on reading and freedom, A Room of One’s Own.

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The paradox of Margery Kempe

After a period of chastity, Margery Kempe’s husband described one of those hypothetical scenarios that couples sometimes use to test each other. “Margery, if a man came with a sword and wanted to chop off my head unless I had sexual intercourse with you as I used to before, […] [would you] allow my head to be chopped off, or else allow me to have sex with you as I previously did?”

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How well do you know Jane Austen? [quiz]

In honour of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, we have created a quiz to help you determine how well you know the beloved novelist. Are you an Austen expert? Or do you need to brush up on some of her greatest works? Take the quiz to find out!

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Jane Austen and the Voice of Insurrection

Mark Twain was notoriously unimpressed. “I often want to criticise Jane Austen,” he fumed with flamboyant but heartfelt irritation. “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone!”

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Kafka’s The Trial [extract]

Last Tuesday, during our first Classics Book Club at Bryant Park of the season, Bruce Bauman (author of Broken Sleep) led a discussion of The Trial by Franz Kafka. Among many other interesting takeaways, Bauman described The Trial as “an affirmation of life, art, and of the necessity to continue against great odds.” He went […]

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