Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

How Oscar Wilde’s life imitates his art

The idea that life imitates art is one of Oscar’s best yet most often misunderstood. It is central to his philosophy and to his own life. Take The Decay of Lying, for example, an essay in the form of a dialogue that he wrote in the late 1880s. What did he call the interlocutors? Why Cyril and Vyvyan, the names of his two young sons, of course. But the piece’s intellectual party really gets started when Wilde has his learned young gentlemen interview each other. Naturally, what is uppermost in their minds is the relationship between life and art.

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The point of depression

There has been a great deal of speculation about the evolutionary significance and origins of depression. What selective advantage does it confer? Does it allow the patient to concentrate on complex and important problems? Is it a type of pain that, like physical pain, causes us to pull back from danger? Is it a type of behavioral quarantine, causing us to hole up in a safe place while dangers stalk around outside?

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Understanding physician-assisted death [excerpt]

When it comes to end-of-life treatment, patients currently have a few different options available to them. One option, refusal of treatment, is when a decisionally capable patient is put in the driver’s seat with respect to medical treatment under the doctrine of informed consent. Another option is pain management, where palliative medicine is administered to entirely eliminate, or reduce pain to a level that the patient finds tolerable.

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Nine things you didn’t know about love and marriage in Byzantium

The Byzantine civilization has long been regarded by many as one big curiosity. Often associated with treachery and superstition, their traditions and contributions to the ancient world are often overlooked. Referencing A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities, we’ve pulled together nine lesser known facts about love and marriage in Byzantium.

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When our tribes become bullies

Tribalism’s slide into bullying has become seemingly pervasive. We’ve all seen how it contaminates schools, sports, and work. In all of these collective institutions there is a drive to form tribes—often motivated by a desire for constructive kinship, but just as frequently for purposes of control, and exclusion. The change begins at home with parents who understand that hate causes violence.

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A Tale of Two New York Cities [excerpt]

New York is a city of many things to many people. But more and more those people are being divided. Those who have the means to live in comfort and splendor, and those struggling to survive in a once vast urban landscape that grows smaller and smaller with each year. In this excerpt from his book The Creative Destruction of New York City, author and urban scholar Alessandro Busà, gives us the lay of this new land where all are welcome, particularly if they can afford it.

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Animal of the month: 10 facts about bats

Bats are often portrayed in popular media as harbingers of doom and the embodiment of evil. They’re consistently associated with death, malevolent witches, and vampires. Batman, with his bat-like attributes, is easily the most sinister superhero in the league. Most people will have seen or heard about this creature, but what do we really know about them? So this month, ending on All Hallows’ Eve, we are celebrating this misunderstood mammal.

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The feminist roots of modern witchcraft [excerpt]

Throughout modern history, witchcraft has been predominately practiced by women. Historically, women were considered more likely than men to partake in magic due to their inherent moral weakness and uncontrolled sexual nature. Unsurprisingly, as witchcraft spread throughout the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, it captured the interest of the growing feminist movement.

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Sheepskin and mutton

This is a sequel to the previous post of 4 October 2017. Last time I mentioned an embarrassment of riches in dealing with the origin of the word sheep, and I thought it might not be improper to share those riches with the public.

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A twenty-first century reinterpretation of dreams?

But, on this occasion, it is also thanks to a certain Donald Woods Winnicott—perhaps most of all—that this commemorative moment in history takes place. Winnicott, as President of the British Psychoanalytic Society, was instrumental in raising awareness and funds in the 1960s for getting this same statue by Nemon cast and put up in North London for the first time.

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Buddhist nationalists and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar part II: the rise of religious nationalism and Islamophobia

Since August over 420,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar, citing human rights abuses and seeking temporary refuge in Bangladesh. In part one we looked at the background and context of the Rohingya crisis. In this second part of Sarah Seniuk’s and Abby Kulisz’s interview with Michael Jerryson, they look at the role of Buddhist nationalism and the impact of Islamophobia in the developing crisis.

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Women at work: New York City at the turn of the 20th century

New York City was rapidly expanding at the turn of the 20th century: the five boroughs had just unified, skyscrapers were going up, and the economy was booming. In the following extract from Greater Gotham, historian Mike Wallace discusses how the New York City’s flourishing economy influenced the career opportunities available to women in the early 1900s.

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Cognitive biases and the implications of Big Data

Big Data analytics have become pervasive in today’s economy. While they produce countless novelties for businesses and consumers, they have led to increasing concerns about privacy, behavioral manipulations, and even job losses. But the handling of vast quantities of data is anything but new.

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World Mental Health Day 2017: History of the treatment of mental illness

The tenth of October marks World Mental Health Day. Organized by the World Health Organization, the day works toward “raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.” Mental health has been a concern for thousands of years, but different cultures have treated mental illnesses very differently throughout time.

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A short walk per day: a look at the importance of self-care

“What have you been doing that has been especially important over the past several years?” In the following video and shortened excerpt from Night Call, Robert J. Wicks explains how this question helped him realize the importance of striking a balance between compassion for others and self-care.

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Avoiding World War III: lessons from the Cuban Missile Crisis

An American president, recently made aware of a new potential nuclear threat to US cities, declared that any nuclear missile launched against any nation in the western hemisphere would require “a full retaliatory response.” The chair of the House Armed Services Committee argued that the United States should strike “with all the force and power and try to get it over with as quickly as possible.”

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