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Richardson Earns Jesuit Book Award

Alan Richardson (Photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert)

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Nov. 17, 2011

Professor of English Alan Richardson has received a National Jesuit Book Award from the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the national Jesuit honor society Alpha Sigma Nu for his 2010 work, The Neural Sublime: Cognitive Theories and Romantic Texts.

The annual awards honor books published within the past three years in a designated discipline on the basis of scholarship, significance of topic to scholars across several disciplines, authority in interpretation, objectivity, presentation, and style. Ninety-eight entries from 20 Jesuit institutions were submitted for the 2011 awards, which were in the category of “The Humanities.”

The Neural Sublime, which won the Literature/Fine Arts award, uses cognitive neuroscience as an analytical tool to examine issues in British Romantic studies. Richardson explores six intersections of Romanticism and the sciences of the mind and brain: the experience of the sublime and the neuroscience of illusion; the Romantic imagination and visual imaging; the figure of apostrophe and linguistic theory; fictional representations of the mind and "theory of mind" theory; depictions of sibling incest and neo-Darwinian theories of mental behavior; and representations of female speech and cognitive developmental psychology.

“I'm both honored and greatly encouraged in receiving the Alpha Sigma Nu book award,” said Richardson, a faculty member at BC since 1987. “My book belongs to an exciting and still emerging new field, cognitive literary studies, and I see this award as validating the efforts of a whole group of scholars and critics — including my English Department colleague Mary Crane — who have been working along with me to develop this new approach to reading and understanding literature.

“I feel that the study of literature in the twenty-first century needs to take the work of researchers and theorists in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, philosophy of mind, and related ‘cognitive’ fields centrally into account, and The Neural Sublime represents one step in this direction.”
Richardson — whose achievements also include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a Boston College Distinguished Research Award — joins other recent National Jesuit Book award winners from the BC faculty including Pamela Grace, Ellen Winner and Baldassare Di Bartolo.