Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

A Roman road trip: tips for travelling the Roman Empire this summer

As Europe reopens, consider a Roman road trip that takes inspiration from an ancient travel guide. The Vicarello itineraries describe what we might call the scenic route from Cádiz to Rome. Glimpses of the empire’s superlative architecture can be found along the way, and emerging digital tools can put primary sources at your fingertips.

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Passion's Fictions from Shakespeare to Richardson: Literature and the Sciences of Soul and Mind

Shakespeare and the sciences of emotion

What role should literature have in the interdisciplinary study of emotion? The dominant answer today seems to be “not much.” Scholars of literature of course write about emotion; but fundamental questions about what emotion is and how it works belong elsewhere: to psychology, cognitive science, neurophysiology, philosophy of mind. In Shakespeare’s time the picture was different. What the period called “passions” were material for ethics and for that part of natural philosophy dealing with the soul; but it was rhetoric that offered the most extensive accounts of the passions.

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Outlandish but not crazy

The study of language has generated a lot of outlandish ideas: various bits of prescriptive dogma, stereotypes and folklore about dialects, fantasy etymologies, wild theories of the origin of language. Every linguist probably has their own list. When these ideas come up in classes or conversations, I have sometimes referred to them as crazy, wacky, loony, kooky, or nutty. I’m going to try to stop doing that.

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Transgression and Redemption in American Fiction

Where have you gone, Jimmy Gatz? Roman Catholic haunting in American literary modernism

The year is 1924: the restriction acts designed to turn the tide of Eastern and Southern European immigration into a trickle have been signed into US law. However, nativist panic continues apace. In quick succession three titans of US literary modernism weigh in, each with the novel still judged their best: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House (1926), Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926).

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Shakespeare and East Asia

Adapting Shakespeare: shattering stereotypes of Asian women onstage and onscreen

There has always been some perceived affinity between the submissive Ophelia and East Asian women. Ophelia is a paradox in world literature. Even when she appears to depend on others for her thoughts like her Western counterpart, the Ophelias in Asian adaptations adopt some rhetorical strategies to make themselves heard, balancing between eloquence and silence, shattering the stereotypes about docile Asian women.

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Which law applies to negotiable instruments?

The law of negotiable instruments is known for its sophistication and internal complexity. For centuries it has provided an effective legal solution for the pertinent needs of domestic and international commerce, facilitating predictability, protection of parties’ justified expectations, and the elimination of the risk involved in the physical carriage of money. The internal balance of its rules, doctrines, concepts, and principles has been achieved through a slow and ongoing evolution—a Sisyphean effort of adjudication tribunals to balance of the interests of commercial actors, fairness, legal predictability, and commercial utility.

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Whose streets? The picturesque, Central Park, and the spaces of American democracy

Last summer, during the “Black Lives Matter” protests in US cities galvanized by the murder of George Floyd, it was common to hear marchers chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” In some instances, police seeking to break up the protests also took up this chant, an ironic retort to the crowd’s claim to political power. These contesting claims to possession of the city streets framed a conflict over social representation in contemporary US life: “whose streets” are they really

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Marie Madeleine: exploring language, style, and humour in the Acadian folksong tradition

There are two main French speaking groups in Canada: the Québécois and the lesser-known Acadians, who have a fascinating but tragic history in Canada. After failing to establish a post on St Croix Island (present-day Maine) in 1604, the Acadians became the first French colonial group to settle on Canadian soil in 1605 (in present-day Nova Scotia), three years prior to the arrival of the Québécois.

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Jewish American Writing and World Literature: Maybe to Millions, Maybe to Nobody

What does it mean to think of the world “in Jewish”?

Antisemitism has been increasingly in the headlines, from reports of violent incidents directly targeting Jews to the growing prominence of ethnonationalist discourse that makes frequent use of Jewish stereotypes. This surge in anti-Jewishness includes renewed attention to the medieval image of the wandering Jew, translated into contemporary parlance with the term “globalism.” It would be tempting to dismiss such ideas as uninformed distortions of Jewish culture and history. It may be useful then to think with the stereotype rather than against it. What does it mean to think of the world “in Jewish”? What might a vocabulary of Jewish worldliness reveal about the global present?

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On tokens, beacons, and finger-pointing

Token is a Common Germanic word. The forms are Old English “tāc(e)n”, Old High German “zeihhan”, etc. The English noun combined the senses “sign, signal” and “portent, marvel, wonder.” German “Zeichen” and Dutch “teken” are still alive but mean only “indication, sign.”

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Mexican independence from Spain and the first Mexican emperor

Mexico had been battling its way towards independence from Spain for some years when, in 1820, the Mexican-born officer, Agustín de Iturbide y Arámburu (1783-1824), proclaimed a new rebellion on behalf of what he called the Plan of Iguala. This called for Mexican independence, a constitutional monarchy with the Spanish king or another member of the Bourbon dynasty at its head, the Catholic religion as the only religion of Mexico, and the unity of all inhabitants, no matter what their origin, ethnicity, or social class.

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