Literature & Language

Immerse yourself in the world of words, written & spoken, from mythology to the media

How do languages evolve?

Professor Simon Kirby

Language sets humankind apart from other species. Even our closest primate relatives haven't developed the same ability to acquire & use language. Why are humans the only species with language and how did language evolve?

Thu, 14 Jul 2022 6:30 pm UTC

Find out more
What do flowers mean to us?

Prof. Kasia Boddy

From the meaning of carnations in Sex and the City to the use of sunflowers in the cleanup of Chernobyl and Henry VIII’s ban on saffron dye, flowers are deeply woven into our culture and our history. How have they inspired us and what do they mean?

Does love get better with age?

Dr. Jessica Riddell

Romeo and Juliet are often held up as the romantic ideal, willing to risk it all for their one great love. But if Shakespeare really agreed that this is what true love looks like, why are so many of his favourite couples distinctly... middle-aged?

What does fiction say about the world we wish we had?

Prof. Matthew Beaumont

Imagining new worlds in speculative fiction, fantasy and sci fi doesn't just help us envision possible futures; it also gives us a powerful way to think about our world as it is now. What do our fictional worlds tell us about the world we want to live in?

Why does comedy make us happy?

Prof. Angus Fletcher

Humans have created art to provoke laughter for millennia. Why does comedy work, and what does it reveal about the counterintuitive biology of the human brain?

Were the first thought experiments in Shakespeare's plays?

Prof. Fathali M. Moghaddam

Scientists have long used thought experiments to further their understanding of the world. But was Shakespeare the first person to do it?

How do the stories we tell shape who we are?

Prof. Ann Phoenix

Conversation is a continuous act of curating, connecting and analysing the events in our lives. How do we decide how we want to be seen?

Can life be both wonderful and terrible at the same time?

Prof. Shannon Murray

The modern world is increasingly polarised; we see things in black and white. How can Shakespeare teach us to hold two conflicting ideas in our heads simultaneously?

How are truths made?

Prof. Lisa Dickson

What you believe about the world depends on the lens you view it through. What does Shakespeare's Henry V have to tell us about different perspectives and where the real truth lies?

What's the connection between stories and memory?

Dr. Michael A. Yassa

Stories make it easier to understand complex topics and make sense of our lives. But why does the brain work this way?