BC Authors Earn Book Honors

BC Authors Earn Book Honors

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

A volume of essays inspired by a Boston College conference on early Jesuit missionaries, and a BC art scholar's examination of a rarely acknowledged Islamic contribution to Western culture, are among the honorees in this year's Alpha Sigma Nu National Jesuit Book Awards.

Jesuit Institute Director T. Frank Kennedy, SJ, seated, with fellow editors (L-R) Gauvin Bailey, Steven Harris and John W. O'Malley, SJ.
The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences and the Arts, 1540-1773, edited by Jesuit Institute Director Rev. T. Frank Kennedy, SJ, former Jesuit Institute Fellow Steven Harris, Clark University art historian Gauvin Bailey and Rev. John O'Malley, SJ, a Weston Jesuit School of Theology faculty member, won the top prize for history.

Earning honorable mention in the same category was Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World, by Calderwood University Professor of Islamic and Asian Art Jonathan Bloom.

Alpha Sigma Nu, the honor society of Jesuit colleges and universities, awards book prizes each year in recognition of scholarly publication by faculty and administrators at Jesuit institutions.

The Jesuits' first-place award marks the ninth top honor won or shared by a Boston College author since Alpha Sigma Nu inaugurated the awards in 1979. The book, which contains 35 scholarly essays on the worldwide Jesuit undertaking in the arts and sciences, grew out of a major international conference on Jesuit cultural history held in 1997 at Boston College. A follow-up conference took place at BC this past summer, and a second volume of essays is planned.

Jonathan Bloom
In its citation for the book, Alpha Sigma Nu said, "The scholarly sweep is incredibly broad, the detail of new research and understanding of the Jesuit impact is nearly breathtaking, and the range of ideas to stimulate further work is nearly encyclopedic. This is a work to ponder, to find ways to use again and again."

Fr. Kennedy said, "The 1997 conference was a wonderful event, and we've been gratified by how well the book has been received. So I'm equally pleased to have our work recognized by Alpha Sigma Nu."

Paper Before Print, unlike histories that focus on the invention and development of paper in the West, shows how paper's use in the Islamic lands during the Middle Ages influenced almost every aspect of medieval life, and how it served as a crucial agent of cultural transmission in the era before the invention of printing.

Calling Bloom's book "a major work of scholarship that deserves wide reading," the Alpha Sigma Nu citation described Paper Before Print as "a wonderful, original, and very creative contribution."

Bloom, who shares the Calderwood Chair appointment with his wife, Sheila Blair, said, "I'm very thrilled with the award. I was pleased to be able to write about a positive contribution of Islamic civilization at a time when Islam is often seen in a negative light, and I feel truly honored that the book had the impact it did."


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