Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Humanism—from Italian to secular

Humanism doesn’t get much good press these days. In many circles it comes accompanied by an adjective—secular—and a diatribe: A war of philosophy and of what defines morality is being fought daily in the media, judicial benches and legislative halls across the Western world. On one side stand fundamentalist Protestantism and conservative Catholicism and on the other side secular humanism.

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Using the arts for change on International Women’s Day

With every generation comes difficult and contested times that shape history. In the United States, where we are experiencing one of the most divided society in decades, the sentiment feels omnipresent and pervasive. For women and those of nonconforming gender, the issues at stake are even more expansive than the gun laws, environmental concerns, or tax reforms that are on the minds of our citizens.

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Seven women you may not know from music history

The historical record of women making music extends back as far as the earliest histories and artifacts of musical performance. For example, artwork from Ancient Greece and Rome suggest that women’s choruses were featured in rituals and festivals. And throughout Chinese imperial history the courts, civil and military officials and wealthy households employed women to sing, dance, and play musical instruments.

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Women artists in conversation: Narcissister

Narcissister is a Brooklyn based artist whose work includes performance, dance and activism as essential elements. She continues the tradition of second wave feminist artists, such as Adrian Piper, Lorraine O’Grady, Carolee Schneemann, etc., who challenged the status quo in their examination of gender roles, sexuality and equal rights. Narcissister wears a trademark vintage mask in most works, obscuring her identity and provoking the viewer to think of the artist as an “everywoman” rather than about an individual experience.

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Defiant rulers and (real) superheroes: Black History Month

The first incarnation of Black History Month began in 1926, when Carter G. Woodson, historian and author, established an observance during the second week of February coinciding with the birthdays of social reformer Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. The month-long celebration was then proposed at Kent State University, Ohio, in February 1969, beginning the following year.

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In celebration of twentieth century African American literature

Since the first poems published by former slaves Phyllis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon around the time of the American Revolution, African American literature has played a vital role in the history and culture of the United States. The slave narratives of figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Wilson became a driving force for abolitionism before the Civil War, and the tumultuous end of Reconstruction brought about the exploration of new genres and themes during the height of the Jim Crow era.

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Animal of the Month: Interactive guide to polar bear anatomy

From white fur to large paws, we all know what the largest bear species in the world looks like, but how much do you actually know about the anatomy of polar bears? So far this month, we have explored how climate change affects our Animal of the Month. Now, we would like to take some time to appreciate the anatomy of the polar bear, particularly the ways in which the bear has adapted to its environment and lifestyle.

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George Washington and eighteenth century masculinity

We want George Washington—the President of all Presidents, the Man of all Men—to be a certain way. We want him to be an unalloyed male outdoing, singlehandedly, all the other competitors. We want him strong and rude, rough and rugged, athletic and hypersexualized, a chiseled torso, a Teddy Roosevelt, a Tarzan, and a John Wayne: “a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

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Want to know the Latin for “true love”?

Then Ovid is your man – and woman, as the case may be … Fidus amor. That’s “true love” in Latin. Historically, such love is often claimed to have emerged with the troubadours of twelfth century Provence. The troubadours used the Occitan term fin amor for this kind of love rather than the more famous […]

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What happens when a volcano erupts?

Volcanoes are incredibly complex geological systems. They are capable of generating many dangerous effects in the form of lava follows, fallout, and lahars – as well as associated hazards such as seismic shocks, tsunamis, or landslides. About 500 million people currently live in regions of the world directly subject to volcanic risk, and it is estimated that about 250,000 persons died during the past two centuries as a direct consequence of volcanic eruptions.

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OUP Philosophy

Philosopher of the month: George Berkeley [timeline]

This February, the OUP Philosophy team honours George Berkeley (1685-1753) as their Philosopher of the Month. An Irish-born philosopher, Berkeley is best known for his contention that the physical world is nothing but a compilation of ideas. This is represented by his famous aphorism esse est percipi (“to be is to be perceived”).

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Community healing and reconciliation: a tale of two cities

Community healing and reconciliation has been a focus of many nations in response to civil war, genocide, and other conflicts. Over the past 12 years there has been a growing number of high profile murders of African American youth in the United States. Some communities have responded to the incidents offering examples of how communities may work together to move forward.

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Feminist themes in TV crime drama

The fictional world has always featured women who solve crimes, from Nancy Drew to Veronica Mars. Although men crime-solvers outnumbered women on TV, women detectives have increasingly become more commonplace. This trend includes the policewomen depicted on CSI and Law & Order: SUV as well as private detectives like Veronica Mars and Miss Phryne Fisher who are the chief protagonists of their series.

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Oxford Medicine Online

The Death Cafe: A medium latte and a chat about dying

In early 2011, Jon Underwood decided to develop a series of projects about death – one of which was to focus on talking about death. Jon read about the work of Bernard Crettaz, the pioneer of Cafes Mortéls which were themselves inspired by the cafes and coffeehouses of the European Enlightenment. Motivated by Bernard’s work, Jon immediately decided to use a similar model for his own project, and Death Cafe was born.

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5 great unsolved philosophical questions

The discipline of philosophy covers the study of everything from the nature of knowledge, art, language, and the very nature of existence, to moral, ethical, and political dilemmas. Stemming from the Greek word “philosophia” there isn’t much that philosophers haven’t disputed over the years. Despite this, there are many key debates and great philosophical mysteries that remain unsolved—and quite possibly always will.

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Exploring the Scottish and African diasporas

Since 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death, January 25 has become synonymous with the poet Robert Burns, widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and celebrated worldwide. One of the lesser-known aspects of Burns’ life is that he almost moved to Jamaica to become an overseer; his tumultuous relationship with ‘ungrateful’ Jean Armour also attributed to his resolution to sail as an emigrant to Jamaica.

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