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Blog about news in arts, humanities and culture at Oxford University
Stuart Gillespie | 02 Apr 14 | 0 comments
It was one of the biggest protest movements ever seen in the UK.
For three decades, the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) campaigned for a boycott of apartheid South Africa and supported all those struggling against it.
Founded in 1959 as the Boycott Movement, the AAM grew into the biggest ever British pressure group on an international issue.
Now, 20 years after Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa's first black president, a collection of rare documents held by Oxford University's Bodleian Library has been uploaded to a new website chronicling the history of the AAM.
Lucy McCann, archivist at the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House, said: 'The Anti-Apartheid Movement Archive at the Bodleian Library records the activities of one of the most important campaigning organisations in post-war Britain and this website makes available to all a wide selection of documents, posters, photographs, newly recorded interviews, videos and other items.
'It is of interest to those studying South Africa and British-South African relations over the period and the activities and effectiveness of campaigning organisations.'
The new website features three decades' worth of videos, photos, posters and documents relating to the AAM. Highlights include footage of the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley in 1988, iconic posters from campaigns to save the Rivonia trialists from the gallows in 1964 and to stop the Springbok cricket tour in 1970, and letters from Margaret Thatcher arguing against sanctions on South Africa.
There are also interviews with musician Jerry Dammers of The Specials, actor Louis Mahoney, David Steel (AAM President in the 1960s), and grassroots activists who talk about what motivated them to get involved and help bring down South Africa's system of white minority rule and racial segregation.
Ms McCann added: 'I think the archive is very important because for people at school now, all this happened before they were born.
'But it was a very big movement in Britain and some of the events they organised, such as the Nelson Mandela concert, were global events and were broadcast around the world.'
The website is part of a wider education project that includes a pop-up exhibition with 22 display boards on anti-apartheid campaigns and support groups.
The project is funded by the Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Top: Anti-Apartheid Movement poster asking shoppers to boycott South African goods. The poster was first produced in 1978 and incorporates images of the shootings of school students in Soweto in 1976. Image © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.
Bottom: Part of the capacity crowd at the Nelson Mandela 70th birthday tribute concert at Wembley Stadium, 11 June 1988. The concert was organised by the Anti-Apartheid Movement with Artists Against Apartheid and broadcast to 63 countries. Image © Gill Edelstein/IDAF.(Full story)
Stuart Gillespie | 01 Apr 14 | 0 comments
Leading figures from the worlds of art, museums, film and historiography will visit Oxford next month in the latest series of Humanitas events.
World-renowned artist Vik Muniz will deliver a series of stimulating talks in his role as Humanitas Visiting Professor in Contemporary Art. Mr Muniz is a photographer who incorporates unusual materials into the photographic process. For his recent project Pictures of Garbage he created a series of monumental photographic portraits made from industrial rubbish in collaboration with the litter pickers of Jardim Gramacho, one of the largest landfill sites in Latin America.
Mr Muniz will be joined for a symposium titled 'Between the Artist and the Museum' by Michael Govan, Humanitas Visiting Professor in Museums, Galleries and Libraries. Mr Govan is CEO and Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and is responsible for turning it into Southern California's dominant cultural organisation.
Also visiting Oxford next term are filmmaker Kelly Reichardt and historiographer Professor Lynn Hunt.
Ms Reichardt, Humanitas Visiting Professor in Film and Television, will be giving a masterclass and taking part in an 'in conversation' event, while Humanitas will also be hosting special screenings of her films Meek's Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy.
Professor Hunt will deliver a series of lectures on 'Dilemmas of History in a Global Age', which will conclude with a roundtable discussion with Professor Lyndal Roper and Professor Elleke Boehmer.
Full details of each professorship and associated events can be found here. All events take place during May and are free and open to all, although registration on the website is recommended.
Humanitas is a series of Visiting Professorships at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge intended to bring leading practitioners and scholars to both universities to address major themes in the arts, social sciences and humanities.
Created by Lord Weidenfeld, the programme is managed and funded by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue with the support of a series of generous benefactors and administered by the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).
Image of Vik Muniz © Lucas Blalock(Full story)
Stuart Gillespie | 19 Mar 14 | 0 comments
Parliamentarians have been given a fascinating insight into one of the Second World War's forgotten stories by an eminent Oxford academic.
Professor Rana Mitter, Director of the University of Oxford China Centre and a Fellow of St Cross College, addressed the All Party Parliamentary Universities Group on China's role in World War II, and how the eight years its people spent resisting the Japanese helped shape the country's future.
Professor Mitter's lecture was one of just four chosen to be delivered from 185 submissions as part of the Frontiers of Knowledge series. It was also the only humanities talk chosen.
The lecture was held, by kind permission of the Lord Speaker, in the River Room in the House of Lords, and was introduced by Lord Norton of Louth.
Professor Mitter's research drew on material from Chinese archives that remained sealed until five or 10 years ago.
The lecture was based on his recent book, China's War with Japan, 1937–45: The Struggle for Survival, which was chosen as a 2013 Book of the Year by the Economist, Financial Times, New Statesman, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Telegraph, and Observer.
Professor Mitter told parliamentarians: 'The story of China in World War II is one of the last great unknown stories of one of the most famous world conflicts.
'It's really very strange that we haven't known in the West what happened to China in World War II for so many decades, because the effect on China was devastating.
'Fourteen million or more Chinese were killed, 80 to 100 million became refugees, and the tentative modernisation that was happening in China before the war was smashed into pieces.
'All of this came together to shape the China that we know today – the rising superpower – and yet the experience of the Chinese people resisting Japan and coming through those eight years of war is simply very little known.'
Professor Mitter went on to outline why a war that devastated China has been largely forgotten, and why World War II was so important in China's global rise.
The lecture illuminated the roles of towering political figures such as Mao Zedong and China's nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek, and explained the ways in which their legacy is shaping the fraught relations between China and Japan today.(Full story)
Stuart Gillespie | 11 Mar 14 | 0 comments
The Ashmolean Museum's new exhibition, Cézanne and the Modern, opens on Thursday and will feature 50 masterpieces of late-19th to mid-20th-century European art from the Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection.
Highlights include Paul Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire, Vincent van Gogh's Tarascon Stagecoach and Amedeo Modigliani's portrait of Jean Cocteau, as well as an outstanding suite of 16 watercolours by Cézanne.
Arts at Oxford was given a behind-the-scenes look at the installation of the new exhibition…
Vincent van Gogh – Tarascon Stagecoach (1888)
This painting of the Tarascon stagecoach was produced in the courtyard of the inn at Arles – probably in a single sitting on 12 October 1888. Vincent van Gogh (1853–90), the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, spent time living and working in Paris and Arles. He is famous for his vivid use of colour and works filled with emotion. Although his artistic career only lasted for 10 years, he was highly prolific and 864 paintings of his have survived, along with many drawings and prints.
(Background: Paul Cézanne – Cistern in the Park of Chateau Noir [c.1900])
Foreground: Édouard Manet – Young Woman in a Round Hat (1877-79)
Édouard Manet (1832–83) lived and worked in Paris, and many of his most famous works depict Parisian society of the 19th century. At the time his paintings were considered controversial, but they are now considered by many as the starting point for modern art.
Manet often used members of his family and close friends as models in his paintings, blurring the conventional distinction between the portrait and the genre picture. Although clearly painted from life, this striking painting is not a conventional portrait, as the woman's face is hidden by a veil and by the shadow of her hat. She is seen in profile, in outdoor dress, ready to leave the apartment or studio where she is depicted.
Wilhelm Lehmbruck – Buste von Frau Anita Lehmbruck (1910)
Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881–1919) was a German sculptor who studied in Düsseldorf and also in Paris. He worked as a paramedic in a military hospital during World War I, and this had a profound effect on his later sculptures. Lehmbruck created this portrait of his wife during their four-year stay in Paris (1910–14).
Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European art from the Pearlman Collection runs from 13 March to 22 June 2014.
Images © The Ashmolean Museum and The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation.(Full story)
Stuart Gillespie | 06 Mar 14 | 0 comments
Margi Blunden, daughter of the First World War poet Edmund Blunden, will be remembering her father and his work at the WW1 Poetry Spring School run by Oxford University's English Faculty on 3-5 April 2014.
Margi will recall life growing up with a father deeply affected by the Great War and shed light on his literary achievements. As our living link to this bygone age, Margi will provide a thrilling insight into the man who wrote the autobiographical Undertones of War (1928), hailed as Blunden's greatest contribution to the literature of war.
The Spring School is open to members of the public, particularly those who are seeking to challenge common misconceptions and gain a deeper critical appreciation of Great War poetry. It will bring together world-leading experts, each giving an introductory lecture on the major poets and poems. Speakers will provide reading lists and follow-up exercises for further study.
Other speakers confirmed include: Adrian Barlow, Meg Crane, Guy Cuthbertson, Gerald Dawe, Simon Featherstone, Philip Lancaster, Stuart Lee, Jean Liddiard, Alisa Miller, Charles Mundye, Jane Potter, Mark Rawlinson and Jon Stallworthy.
Aged 19, Edmund Blunden volunteered to join the army, despite winning a place at The Queen's College, Oxford to read Classics. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and went to France in early 1916 and was eventually demobilised in mid-February 1919. During his service in France and Flanders he spent two years at the front, more than any other well-known war writer. Those two years included some of the most violent and bloody fighting in the war, including the battle of the Somme and the battle of Third Ypres.
His most famous works also include In Concert Party: Busseboom (written 10 years after the war) and The Waggoner (1920). He enjoyed a productive career as an editor, journalist, critic and biographer. Blunden was also instrumental in bringing the works of the war poets Wilfred Owen and Ivor Gurney to publication. Edmund Blunden died at his home on 20 January 1974 aged 77.
The Spring School will be held at the Faculty of English, St Cross Building, University of Oxford on 3-5 April 2014. There are a number of different ticket options, including student, senior, school and single-day rates. See the website for full details.(Full story)
Stuart Gillespie | 03 Mar 14 | 0 comments
To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, the Oxford English Dictionary is seeking earlier or additional evidence for a host of WWI-related vocabulary, including 'shell shock', 'demob', 'skive' and 'Sam Browne'. In a guest blog post, Kate Wild, senior assistant editor of the OED, explains further...
The Oxford English Dictionary needs you!
Can you help find earlier evidence for the use of some wartime words?
To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War, the OED is updating its coverage of terms relating to or coined during the war.
The First World War had a significant impact on English vocabulary: new words were needed to refer to, for example, new vehicles, weapons, military strategies and trench-related illnesses; words were borrowed or adapted from other languages, especially French and German; and many soldiers’ slang terms were either coined or widely popularized.
For many of these terms, our first quotations are from newspapers and magazines, and we know that there may well be earlier evidence – especially for slang and colloquial terms – in less easily accessible sources such as private letters and diaries.
And just last month, the National Archives released a set of digitized war diaries which might contain valuable evidence of WWI-related vocabulary.
The OED has a long tradition of asking the public to help find evidence of word usage.
Back in the 19th century, the first editor of the OED, James Murray, published lists of words for which he wanted to find earlier or additional evidence, and this type of appeal has continued in recent years, first with the television programme Balderdash & Piffle, and more recently with the OED Appeals website, oed.com/appeals.
Although OED readers and researchers consult a large number of books, newspapers, and online databases, it would be impossible to read or search everything that has ever been written in English.
And given that the purpose of the OED is to show the history of each word in English, the earliest written evidence of a word is very important.
As an example, one of our appeals is for earlier evidence of the term shell shock, for which our earliest quotation is currently the title of a 1915 medical article, ‘A contribution to the study of shell shock.’
This article was written by Charles Samuel Myers, a psychologist who was commissioned in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the First World War.
Some accounts, though, suggest that Myers did not invent the term, but merely popularized it.
Certainly, shell shock sounds like a term that might have been devised by laymen rather than by a medical practitioner, and it is possible that Myers heard it being used by soldiers at the front.
Any earlier evidence of such usage – perhaps from a soldier’s letter or diary – would contribute to our understanding of the term.
A more lighthearted example is the colourful phrase Zeppelins in a cloud or Zepps in a cloud (sometimes also Zeppelins/Zepps in a fog/smokescreen and other variants), meaning ‘sausage and mash’.
Our first example at present is from a 1925 dictionary, Soldier & Sailor Words.
Given that this is a dictionary of slang terms used in the First World War, it seems highly likely that earlier evidence can be found.
This appeal has elicited a number of responses, with suggested quotations from as early as 1915 – though it is possible that there might be something even earlier out there.
For all our appeals, we check the suggested quotations to make sure they are accurate and correctly dated.
The earliest valid quotation is then added to the dictionary entry when it is published in its revised form.
The OED Appeals website always acknowledges those who have submitted usable and verifiable evidence.
The full list of WWI-related appeals can be found at oed.com/appeals.
If you think you might be able to help, please have a look and send in your evidence!
The revised WWI-related vocabulary will be published on OED online during the centenary period.(Full story)
Stuart Gillespie | 14 Feb 14 | 0 comments
Love is in the air for many of us today – but it's always a time for romance at the Ashmolean Museum, which has been featuring a number of Valentine's Day-themed works of art from its collections on its Twitter feed throughout the day.
1. Two merchants compete for the love of the geisha Kasaya Sankatsu
Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1864)
Woodblock triptych print, c. 1849
Here, two merchants compete for the love of the geisha Sankatsu. Sankatsu holds the two halves of a red sake cup in her hands, demonstrating her divided loyalties towards the two men.
2. The Love Letter
Thomas Sully (1783–1872)
Oil on canvas, 1834
One of Sully's most popular compositions, of which he painted numerous replicas. This version was presumably bought by the tenor Joseph Wood and his wife, the soprano Mary Ann Paton, during their American tour in 1836 when Sully painted Mary Ann's portrait, or perhaps when Sully visited England to paint Queen Victoria in 1837.
3. Acme and Septimius
Frederic Lord Leighton (1830–1896)
Oil on canvas, 1868
The subject of this scene of idyllic love is taken from Catullus, Carmine XV. Both the round shape and composition are indebted to Raphael's Madonnas. The background includes the rose, traditionally the symbol of love, and orange trees. When it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1868, it was praised by critics, who noted with approval Leighton's chaste treatment of the scene.
4. Lovers at dawn, illustrating the musical mode Raga Vibhasa
North Deccan, India
Gouache on paper, c.1675
The musical mode Vibhasa ('radiance') is normally performed at dawn. It is conceived pictorially as a noble couple who have passed the night together. Often, as the lady sleeps, her lover may aim his bow to shoot the crowing cock. But here he holds a flower bow and arrow like the love god Kama, and the peacock is unthreatened. Ragamala painting became a highly popular genre in the Mughal period.
5. Oh delizie d'Amor!
Giovanni Cardini after Antonio Fedi
Etching and stipple, c.1810-20
An element of drama, and plenty of exclamation marks, are all provided by this Italian scene of elopement.
6. Love bringing Alcestis back from the Grave
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones
Watercolour and chalk on paper, 1863
7. Baz Bahadur and Rupmati
Kulu, northern India
Gouache with gold and silver on paper, c.1720
A cultivated prince and gifted singer, the Muslim Sultan Baz Bahadur, Sultan of Malwa, was devoted to the company of musicians and dancing girls. His favourite was Rupmati, a celebrated beauty who became his constant companion. The love of Baz Bahadur and his Hindu mistress became a popular theme of poetry and song in late Mughal India.
All images copyright Ashmolean Museum.(Full story)
Stuart Gillespie | 07 Feb 14 | 0 comments
A group of Modern Languages students from Oxford University are documenting their time abroad in Brazil via the BBC.
'Para Inglês Ver', or 'For the English to See', is a series of blogs hosted by BBC Brasil that allows the students to share their impressions of the country – from music, arts and culture to race relations and politics – as they travel around during the first few months of 2014.
Lily Green, a Portuguese and Spanish student at St Peter's College, contributed the first blog post.
She told Arts at Oxford: 'The project evolved from a series of meetings. I met Juliana Iootty of the BBC during Brazil Week, a cultural event organised by one my tutors, Dr Claire Williams.
'Juliana suggested that some of the Portuguese students should come and visit Broadcasting House, where we were given a tour and talked about potential projects. We then had a second meeting with Silvia Salek of BBC Brasil, who suggested the blog.
'So it was pretty organic, and Juliana and Silvia were both really encouraging and just as enthusiastic about the project as we were.'
Lily was the first student to arrive in Brazil, and she is convinced being involved with the blog has made her more inquisitive about her surroundings.
She said: 'From living with a host family and talking to them, as well as colleagues and friends, I know that the things I've written about will get a debate going among Brazilian people. They're the kinds of topics that come up on the commute to work, or in the staff room, or round the dining table.
'The writing process has been difficult, as there is so much I want to say, with so many subtleties. Writing about social issues for social media is a world away from our 2000-word essays. But it has been great to step out of the books and into the real world.'
Guilherme Perdigão Murta, Language Instructor in Brazilian Portuguese at Oxford, said: 'It is part of the course requirement that our students spend part of their third year in a Portuguese-speaking country, and the interest in Brazil has grown considerably in the past few years.
'The students sometimes move to Brazil with certain preconceptions about the country, and it is always fascinating to see how their views and understanding of Brazilian culture change.
'It will be an opportunity for Brazilians to see themselves through young foreign eyes, and for the students to share what they learn during their time in the country – in terms of both language and culture.
'The BBC Brasil website is an amazing platform for the work of our future Brazilianists.'
Lily's first post introduces the blog and explores the series' title.
She said: 'The title is so perfect, really. To get a sense of what it really meant, I would ask people I met what the phrase meant to them. Many people hadn't heard it before but for most it was something false, or something put on just for show.
'In my head I find it easiest to understand it as "sweeping things under the carpet" – not just because you don't want to deal with a problem, but because you don't want anyone to see there is a problem at all.
'So in the first post I was trying to get my head round the title but also highlight a few things I had spied under the metaphorical rug of sunny Brazil – the way there are always two sides to the coin in every aspect of the country. For example, luxury new-age shopping centres sit side-by-side with interior country landscapes that remind me of Nepal; breathtaking natural beauty is coupled with really shocking industrial pollution.'
Silvia Salek, acting editor of BBC Brasil – part of the World Service – said: 'When choosing "Para Inglês Ver" as the title of this series we were playing with the idea that Brazilians can present foreigners with a façade that may not necessarily reflect reality, and our bloggers are certainly able to go beyond the façade.
'The Oxford University students taking part in this project are assuming the role of modern travellers who set out to explore Brazil, but instead of explaining it to their fellow countrymen they are talking to a Brazilian audience.
'We hope that this will be a two-way process in which Brazilians can learn from these students' perspectives and perhaps see how they themselves can contribute to a more diverse understanding of their own country.'Full story)
Stuart Gillespie | 30 Jan 14 | 0 comments
With the Golden Globes handed out and the Oscars looming, much of the media's attention is focused on the top films of the past 12 months.
Chief among them is Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, which has already scooped the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture amid a slew of other nominations and is the hot favourite to triumph at the Academy Awards in March.
The film, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o and Benedict Cumberbatch, is an adaptation of an 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup, a free-born African American from New York who was kidnapped by slave traders.
To coincide with the release of 12 Years a Slave, a BBC Culture Show special, presented by Mark Kermode, looked at the history and culture of slavery.
Oxford academic Jay Sexton, Deputy Director of the Rothermere American Institute (RAI), was one of the experts interviewed for the programme.
He said: 'To be a free black in the northern states would be much better than being a slave in the south, but there would be all sorts of limitations – both legal and political.'
Also interviewed was Richard Blackett of Vanderbilt University, Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at the RAI.
He said: 'Kidnapping was a major issue in mid 19th-century America. One can't quantify how many people were kidnapped, but a considerable number of free black people were kidnapped and sold into slavery.'
The programme can be viewed on BBC iPlayer here (link available until 12:04am, Saturday 1 February).(Full story)
Stuart Gillespie | 28 Jan 14 | 0 comments
Leading figures from the arts, science and public policy came together in Oxford last night to discuss the value of the humanities in the 21st century.
Around 450 people packed into the University's Examination Schools to hear the views of, among others, Guardian chief arts writer Charlotte Higgins and Oxford mathematician Professor Marcus du Sautoy.
The event, which included a keynote speech from Dr Earl Lewis, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, kicked off the Humanities and the Public Good series, organised by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).
Among the audience given a warm welcome by the University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, were a number of school groups from across the UK.
Dr Lewis, in his speech titled 'In Everyone’s Interests: What it Means to Invest in the Humanities', said: 'Three quarters of a century ago, Virginia Woolf posed the question: if you had just three guineas to share, what would you support? In each age we face ostensibly insurmountable challenges that require choices to be made, resources to be allocated and areas to be ignored.
'The American Academy of Arts and Sciences argued in a recent report that we live in a world characterised by change, and therefore a world dependent on the humanities and social sciences.'
Dr Lewis argued that, like the STEM subjects earlier this century, the humanities need to develop their own narrative – but not one of crisis.
He added: 'We have to consider that the humanities continue to demonstrate the vibrant and dynamic tension between continuity and change. Longstanding disciplines such as literature, history and philosophy remain important to scholarship and discovery. And for nearly a quarter of a century we have also been embracing interdisciplinary scholarship.
'The humanities give us a fuller understanding of our world – past, present and future. The use of one's precious guineas in support of the humanities must start with a clear sense of its narrative, backed up by data. Investment then follows because the case for support is clear. That is why it is in everyone's interests to support the humanities and the public good – doing so advances our shared future.'
Responding to Dr Lewis's speech, Dame Hermione Lee, President of Wolfson College, Oxford, argued that those defending the humanities should not do so in an 'indignant, embattled or sentimental way'. She added: 'Why should we invest in the humanities? Because we're human.'
Charlotte Higgins, herself an Oxford classics graduate, called for the humanities not to be measured by the same criteria as the sciences, while Professor du Sautoy hailed the value of narrative, storytelling and collaboration in his own discipline.
Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute and a late addition to the panel, suggested that humanities scholars need to become better at engaging with policy makers, adding that the humanities have an unfortunate tendency to fight the previous battle rather than the current one.
And in an audience question and answer session chaired by Professor Shearer West, Head of the Humanities Division at Oxford, topics covered included why a sixth former should study a humanities subject at university; the value of longitudinal career studies into humanities graduates; the relationship between humanities study and employment prospects; and funding for the arts and humanities.
Information on the rest of the Humanities and the Public Good series can be found here.
Images: Stuart Bebb (stuartbebb.com)(Full story)