Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Making Shakespeare a classic

Despite his foundational status in today’s academy, William Shakespeare was not particularly welcome in the early modern English universities. In the 1570s and 1580s, just as the commercial playhouses were gaining steam in London, the authorities of both Oxford and Cambridge Universities enacted statutes banning “common stage players” from performing within university precincts. Chancellors lacked the […]

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Taking a knee: sports and activism [podcast]

In the fall of 2016, the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick created a firestorm when he took a knee during the national anthem. He was protesting police brutality perpetuated against African-American men, and the reaction to his simple act of dissent was immense.

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“Breath” and “breathe”

I decided to make good on my promise to complete a series devoted to a few words referring to the most basic functions of our organism. The previous posts dealt with eat, drink, and throat. Now, as promised, a story of breath is coming up. The basic word here is the noun breath; it already existed in Old English and had long æ.  The verb breathe is a later derivative of the same root; it also had a long vowel.

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Does Consciousness Have a Function?

Perhaps, the most fascinating question about consciousness is the Hard Problem. It’s the problem of explaining why and how subjective experiences arise from complex electrochemical interactions happening in the brain. It is Hard because the working of the brain should be fully described in term of physical interactions, leaving no room for subjective experiences to fit within our current views of the physical world.

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How China spurs global dissent

China’s rulers launched the New Silk Road venture—a trillion-dollar development campaign that is often compared to the Marshall Plan—to promote connectivity across what they believed to be poorly integrated regions of Eurasia and Africa. Much to their surprise, however, they discovered that many of these societies were already wired to the hilt—not by the infrastructure […]

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W. T. Stead: A Newspaper Prophet for a Secular Age?

W. T. Stead (1849-1912) journalist, social reformer, women’s rights advocate, peace campaigner, and spiritualist–was one of the best-known public figures in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain. He pioneered in Britain what was called the New Journalism, or journalism with a mission; he is well known for his investigative journalism and political activism.

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Why doctors are like pilots

A recent analysis of the Boeing 737 Max disasters concludes that while technical malfunctions contributed to the crashes, “an industry that puts unprepared pilots in the cockpit is just as guilty.” Journalist William Langewiesche uses the term “airmanship” to encompass an array of skills and experience necessary to the safe and effective guidance of an airplane. “It includes a visceral sense of navigation, an operational understanding of weather and weather information, the ability to form mental maps of traffic flows, fluency in the nuance of radio communications and, especially, a deep appreciation for the interplay between energy, inertia and wings. Airplanes are living things.”

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Innovative dynamism allows all to flourish

The poor who lack jobs often suffer from substance abuse, violence, and unstable families. As the suffering persists for many of these outsiders to our system, scholars and politicians on both the left and right ask how to reform or overturn our current economic system so that all can flourish. The Great Fact of economic […]

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How well do you know Anne Brontë? [quiz]

Anne Brontë was born on 17 January 1820 and best known for her novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. In honour of the bicentenary of Anne Brontë’s birth, we have created a quiz to help you determine how well you know the youngest member of the Brontë literary family. Quiz image: Anne Brontë. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Feature […]

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Agency in Gerwig’s Little Women – but for whom?

Summing up nineteenth-century American literature as Moby Dick and Little Women, Greta Gerwig, writer-director of the newest film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, argues that the latter is “one of our great works of American literature, but because it’s a women’s novel, it’s treated like an asterisk.” Little Women came into being because others had recognized gendered divisions in […]

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Seven ideas for a new choral year

The New Year has arrived and with it comes that familiar feeling of a fresh start. Everything is bright and full of possibility. If you’re the planning type, you probably have a typed list of shiny goals and resolutions already hung in a prominent place to remind you of your intentions for this year. Even […]

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Before you eat, drink, or breathe: “throat”

At the end of 2019, I wrote about the origin of the verbs eat and drink. The idea was to discuss a few other “basic” verbs, that is, the verbs referring to the most important functions of our organism. My next candidate is breathe, but, before I proceed to discuss its complicated history, it may be useful to look at the derivation of the names of the organs that allow us to inhale the air and get the food through.

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How to write about science or technology clearly

Today, English is the international language of science and technology. People around the world read and write science or technical articles in English. A clear writing style helps to make your work easier to read, both for the colleague down the hall, and the one on the other side of the world. One key to […]

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The problem of consciousness

Many people find consciousness deeply puzzling. It is often described as one of the few remaining problems for science to address that is genuinely deep—perhaps even unsolvable. Indeed, consciousness is thought to present a challenge to the prevailing scientific image of the universe as physical through-and-through. In part this puzzlement arises because people are (at […]

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Hilary Putnam on mind and meanings – Philosopher of the Month

Hilary Putnam was an American philosopher who was trained originally in the tradition of logical positivism. He was one of the most influential philosophers of science of the twentieth century and had an impact on philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics.

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Women on the front lines: Military service, combat and gender

The 1990s saw women beginning to fill a wider range of roles in the military, with many countries relaxing their bans on women serving in combat roles. As a result, women are able to fly combat aircraft, serve in artillery units, staff missile emplacements, serve as combat medics, and fill various other roles that involve potential combat exposure. Additionally, many more women are assigned to combat-support roles located on the front line. Yet most research on women involved in military life still concerns itself with the wives of enlisted men, women in civilian posts within the military, women that were sexually assaulted in the military, or women in non-combat-related military service. It is thus patently obvious that women combatants and veterans who fulfill assignments in conflict zones deserve closer attention.

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