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Weekly Round-Up: Cracked Codes, Sexist Sites, Meaningful Margins, Diabolic Drunks, Corrupt Capitalism, Grandiose Graffiti

The Oxonian Review presents the Weekly Round-Up, featuring articles the editorial staff have found interesting, illuminating, or otherwise noteworthy.

1. “Edward Rothsteinno: ‘Turing’s Spirit Hovers at a Restored Estate’“, The New York Times: detailing many of The Imitation Game’s errors, this account of the exhibition at Bletchley Park celebrates the modest activities that resulted in remarkable feats of code-breaking and changed the course of World War II. “In many ways, too, the human decoding work was more impressive than the mechanical.”

2. “David Auerbach: ‘Encyclopaedia Frown’“, The Slate: where would be without Wikipedia? Though he recognises the site’s great contribution, Auerbach also digs deep into the anarchic editing systems and exposes the many prejudices which are commonplace on the website. “But beneath its reasonably serene surface, the website can be as ugly and bitter as 4chan and as mind-numbingly bureaucratic as a Kafka story. And it can be particularly unwelcoming to women.”

3. “Tim Parks: ‘A Weapon for Readers’“, The New York Review of Books: reading with a pen in your hand, ready to spring into action and make a margin note, is not just a critical exercise but a political one, according to Parks. While there is joy to be found in giving yourself over in passive pleasure to a writer, it is also important that our analytical antennae do not stop twitching altogether. “Let us resist enchantment for a while, or at least for long enough to have some idea of what we are being drawn into. For the mindless, passive acceptance of other people’s representations of the world can only enchain us and hamper our personal growth, hamper the possibility of positive action.”

4. “Kristen D. Burton: ‘Blurred Forms: An Unsteady History of Drunkenness’“, The Appendix: in perfect time for the festive season, this account of four centuries’ attitudes to drunkenness is enough to make you think twice before indulging in just one more glass of mulled wine this Christmas. The Victorians’ commitment to temperance may have been a little pompous but, back in the seventeenth century, the devil got involved, a time when “drinking not only aged the drunkard’s body, but by corrupting judgment, it made the drinker more beast than man.”

5. “Sven Beckert: ‘Slavery and Capitalism’“, The Chronicle of Higher Education: tracing the continued legacy of slavery through violent capitalist structures, this article forges uncomfortable links between the practices of the cotton fields and the practices of the factory, work spaces in which inequality has always been rife and conditions, in many instances, deplorable. The spectre of slavery continues to haunt capitalist culture. “The next time we walk the streets of Lower Manhattan or the grounds of Harvard University, we should think at least in passing of the millions of enslaved workers who helped make some of that grandeur possible, and to the ways that slavery’s legacy persists today.”

6. “Emily Gowers: ‘Ancient Vandalism?’ “, The Times Literary Supplement: reviewing Kristina Milnor’s book on Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii, Gowers explores the extent to which graffiti, when it engages with matters of real political and cultural significance, deserves to be thought of as art. Certainly, it can provide a crucial and colourful commentary. “She ends not by asking us not to canonize graffiti as ‘Latin literature’, but to reflect carefully on where we put the boundary between the literary and the paraliterary at Rome. Thanks to her, the last voices of Pompeii seem to buzz all the more inventively before everyone falls silent.”


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