Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on birds, poetry, and immigration

On 26 February this year, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the most popular poet America has ever had, turned 210. The lines from Longfellow everyone remembers, often without knowing who actually wrote them (“into each life a little rain must fall”; “Let us, then, be up and doing”; “Each thing in its place is best”), point to an author who wanted to help us live our lives, not exactly change them.

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Edwin Muir and a story of Europe

While reading recently British Library correspondence files relating to the poet Edwin Muir—the 130th anniversary of whose birth will be on 15 May this year—I was struck, as I have often been, by the important part played in his development as man and poet by his contact with the life of Europe—a continent that is currently high on the agenda of many of us with a possible British Brexit in view.

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How libraries served soldiers and civilians during WWI and WWII

Essentials for war: supplies, soldiers, strategy, and…libraries? For the United States Army during both World War I and World War II, libraries were not only requested and appreciated by soldiers, but also established as a priority during times of war. In the midst of battle and bloodshed, libraries continued to serve American soldiers and citizens in the several different factions of their lives.

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Edward Gibbon, Enlightenment historian of religion

On 8 May 1788, Edward Gibbon celebrated the publication of the final three volumes of his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire at a dinner given by his publisher Thomas Cadell. Gibbon (born 27 April 1737) was just 51; he had completed perhaps the greatest work of history ever written by an Englishman, and certainly the greatest history of what his contemporary David Hume called the “historical age,” and we think of as the Enlightenment.

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Reflections on Freud, the first “wild analyst”

Sigmund Freud was a more radical and speculative thinker than many have been willing to concede. This is apparent in his many discussions of childhood sexuality. For example, few really understand how Freud’s conclusions about childhood sexuality predate by decades the clinical observations of actual children – later done by dutiful analysis, most often by women analysts like Melanie Klein and Freud’s own daughter Anna Freud

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Mary Wollstonecraft, our contemporary

Since the political earthquake of Trump’s election, preceded by the earth tremor of Brexit, the commentariat has been awash with declarations of the end of eras—of globalisation, of neoliberalism, of the post-World War II epoch of political stability and economic prosperity. As though to orientate ourselves in this brave new world, the search has been on for historical analogies, through whose lenses we might understand our present moment.

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The critical role of race in John Cassavetes’ first film

Shadows is the first film John Cassavetes directed and, regarding the version he released in 1959, it is the only film he created that distinctly explores themes of Blackness and Black identity in an American urban landscape. Too Late Blues, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and Love Streams all depict identity and race in different and attention-worthy ways as well, but none of Cassavetes’ directorial work after 1959 engages with these topics to the same degree or with the same immediacy.

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Fielding and fake news

Fake news is not only a phenomenon of post-truth politics in the Trump era. It’s as old as newspapers themselves—or as old, Robert Darnton suggests, as the scurrilous Anecdota of Procopius in sixth-century Byzantium. In England, the first great age of alternative facts was the later seventeenth century, when they clustered especially around crises of dynastic succession.

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Celebrating 100 years of Urie Bronfenbrenner

n the United States, currently, about 15 million children (almost a quarter of the global child population) live in families whose income falls below the federally established poverty level. The damaging effects on children’s and families’ development were something that was a life-long concern of Urie Bronfenbrenner.

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The origins of dance styles

There is an amazing variety of types, styles, and genres of dancing – from street to disco, to folk dancing and ballroom. Some are recent inventions, stemming from social and political changes, whilst others have origins as old as civilisation itself. Do you know your Jive from your Jazz, your Salsa from your Samba? Read on to discover the surprisingly controversial origins of the Waltz, and the dark history of the American Tango.

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What would Margaret Oliphant have said about Trump and Brexit?

What would Margaret Oliphant (1828–1897), one of the most prolific of commentators on nineteenth-century society (98 novels; 50 or more short stories; 25 works of non-fiction, and over 300 essays) have made of the politics and social mores influencing events today? In particular how would she have reacted to the identity politics behind the plea for a hard Brexit, the current referendum stand-off between England and Scotland, and the triumph of Trump in the US presidential election?

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Best librarian characters in fantasy fiction

Libraries often feel like magical places, the numerous books on every shelf holding the ability to transport their reader to new and wonderful worlds. In the words of Terry Pratchett: “They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books…but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.”

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Life lessons from Shakespeare and Marcus Aurelius

William Shakespeare and Marcus Aurelius (the great stoic philosopher and emperor) have more in common than you might think. They share a recorded birth-date, with Shakespeare baptized on 26 April 1564, and Marcus Aurelius born on 26 April 161 (Shakespeare’s actual birth date remains unknown, although he was baptised on 26 April 1564. His birth is traditionally observed and celebrated on 23 April, Saint George’s Day).

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So, you think you know Darwin?

Charles Darwin, the English naturalist, geologist, and biologist is known the world over for his contributions to the science of evolution, and his theory of natural selection. Described as one of the most influential figures in human history, his ideas have invited as much controversy as they have scientific debate, with religious, social, and cultural ramifications.

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Intercultural communication and considering a different perspective

With the ever-increasing rise of globalization, the need to communicate more effectively across cultures becomes all the more important. In a hyper-connected world, we need to learn how to better understand the perspectives of others, and how to make accommodations in conversations that support both parties being on the same page. Simply put, different cultures see things differently.

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