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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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War and Peace Part One: Tolstoy and Moscow

By Amy Mandelker
Moscow is choked with smoke from surrounding fires. I follow developments online, reading over the weekend that they have been digging trenches to cut off the path of the blaze before it detonates nuclear stockpiles.

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What on Earth is The Wind in the Willows?

By Peter Hunt
To judge from a quick poll of friends, acquaintances, students, and the ladies in the village shop, The Wind in the Willows is fondly remembered, even by those who don’t actually remember reading it. It is a children’s book, it is about small animals – and it is somehow quintessentially English: for almost everyone I spoke to, it conjured up endless summer, boating on a quiet river, large hampers of food, a peaceful, unthreatening way of life.

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King Arthur: Most Successful Brand in English Literature?

King Arthur has some claim to be the most successful commercial brand in the history of English literature, ahead even of Shakespeare. He has certainly been famous for much longer: his reputation has been growing for some fifteen centuries, against Shakespeare’s mere four.

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‘Worst is beginning’: Reading Ulysses

Wednesday 16 June was Bloomsday, when fans of James Joyce’s seminal 1922 novel Ulysses celebrate the author’s work. In Ulysses, the action takes place within a single day – 16 June 1904 – in Dublin. As my own nod to Bloomsday, I’m bringing you a short excerpt from Jeri Johnson‘s Introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Ulysses, in which she talks about the novel’s formidable reputation and the intimidation readers coming to the novel for the first time might feel.

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Walter Bagehot on the English Constituition

Written in 1867, The English Constitution is generally accepted to be the best account of the history and working of the British political system ever written. As arguments raged in mid-Victorian Britain about giving the working man the vote, and democracies overseas were pitched into despotism and civil war, Bagehot took a long, cool look at the ‘dignified’ and ‘efficient’ elements which made the English system the envy of the world.

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Plantagenet Palliser vs. Gordon Brown

Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels offer many fascinating parallels with today’s political scene, none more so than the fifth novel in the sequence, The Prime Minister. Nicholas Shrimpton, of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, will be editing the new edition of the novel for Oxford World’s Classics (out next year). His profile of Trollope’s fictional hero, Plantagenet Palliser, finds some uncanny resemblances between fiction and reality.

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