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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Seditious Shakespeare: beyond hierarchy

Given that Shakespeare’s company enjoyed royal patronage, performed regularly at Court, and became known as the King’s Men upon the accession of James I in 1603, you’d be forgiven for assuming that his plays were bent on buttressing rather than subverting the status quo. That assumption certainly seems to be backed up in Troilus and Cressida by Ulysses’ apocalyptic vision of the anarchy that’s bound to ensue when “degree, priority and place” are not strictly observed: “Take but degree away, untune that string, / And hark what discord follows.”

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Place of the Year nominee spotlight: Dwarf planet Pluto

This July, a NASA space probe completed our set of images of the planets, at least as I knew them growing up. New Horizons, a probe that launched back in 2006, arrived at Pluto and its moons, and over a very brief encounter, started to send back thousands of images of this hitherto barely known place.

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Which fairy tale character are you? [quiz]

The magic of fairy tales doesn’t just lie in their romantic landscapes and timeless themes of good against evil. The best fairy tales are always populated with compelling and memorable characters – like the rags-to-riches princess, the gallant prince on horseback set to save the day, or the jealous and lonely evil king or queen. Which famous fairy tale character do you think you’re most like?

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The paradoxes of Christmas

While most of you probably don’t believe in Santa Claus (and some of you of course never did!), you might not be aware that Santa Claus isn’t just imaginary, he is impossible! In order to show that the very concept of Santa Claus is riddled with incoherence, we first need to consult the canonical sources to determine what properties and powers this mystical man in red is supposed to have.

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The Oxford Place of the Year 2015 is… Nepal

With the ballots cast and the year winding down, we recognize Nepal as Oxford’s Place of the Year 2015. The country came into the global spotlight back in April, when a devastating earthquake took over 9,000 lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Months later, critics point at the slow-moving recovery process that has still a far way to go before Nepal can resume normal operations.

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Does the meat industry harm animals?

Should we eat animals? Vegetarians often say “No, because the meat industry harms animals greatly.” They point to the appalling conditions in which animals are raised in factory farms, and the manner in which they are killed. Meat-eaters often reply that this objection is ill-founded because animals owe their very existence to the meat industry.

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The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is… an emoji

As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time to look back and see which words have been significant throughout the past twelve months, and to announce the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year. Without further ado, we can reveal that the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 is…

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The future of scholarly publishing

In thinking about the future of scholarly publishing – a topic almost as much discussed as the perennially popular ‘death of the academic monograph’ – I found a number of themes jostling for attention, some new, some all-too familiar. What are the challenges and implications of open access?

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10 academic books that changed the world

What is the future of academic publishing? We’re celebrating University Press Week (8-14 November 2015) and Academic Book Week (9-16 November) with a series of blog posts on scholarly publishing from staff and partner presses. Today, we present Oxford’s list of ten academic books that changed the world.

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In defense of myth

I approach myth from the standpoint of theories of myth, or generalizations about the origin, the function, and the subject matter of myth. There are hundreds of theories. They hail from anthropology, sociology, psychology, politics, literature, philosophy, and religious studies.

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Learning to listen

If your experience of school music was anything like mine, you’ll recall those dreaded aural lessons when the teacher put on a recording and instructed you to identify the instruments, to describe the main melody, to spot a key change, perhaps even to name the composer.

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Arabia: ancient history for troubled times

In antiquity, ‘Arabia’ covered a vast area, running from Yemen and Oman to the deserts of Syria and Iraq. Today, much of this region is gripped in political and religious turmoil that shows no signs of abating.

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