Boston University Professor Christopher Ricks Earns Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award for BU

in College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Humanities/Social Science, News Releases
December 16th, 2003

Contact: Richard Taffe, 617-353-4626 |

(Boston, Mass.) — Christopher Ricks, a professor at Boston University and a well-known literary critic, has been named a recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award for significant contributions to the humanities.

Unlike other prestigious academic award programs that benefit scholars only, these awards recognize the interdependence of scholars and their institutions. They provide up to $1.5 million, over three years, to enable scholars to teach and do research while enlarging opportunities for scholarship offered by their academic institutions. BU and Mellon must approve Ricks’ proposed work.

Ricks intends to devote the $1.5 million award to BU’s Editorial Institute, “a recent initiative strongly backed by BU and now handsomely supported by the Mellon Foundation,” he said. Central to the scholarly proposals will be an edition of the works of the Victorian judge, legal historian, and man of letters Sir James Fitzjames Stephen.

Award recipients are selected through an intensive process of nomination and review with final selections made by a panel of distinguished scholars. There have been only 14 recipients since the awards were created in 2001 to recognize exemplary contributions to humanistic scholarship and as a means of carrying them forward.

“Boston University is honored to accept this award on behalf of Professor Christopher Ricks, a dedicated educator and prolific author who embodies both the phrase ‘gentleman and scholar’ and the university’s longstanding commitment to academic excellence in the humanities,” said BU President ad interim Aram Chobanian.

The author of works on Victorian verse, English drama, Tennyson, Milton, Keats, T. S. Eliot, and most recently Bob Dylan, Ricks founded and now co-directs the BU Editorial Institute, an interdisciplinary academic program that offers advanced degrees in the art and craft of preparing textually sound, contextually annotated editions of important writings and monographs concerned with editing or textual bibliography.

A prominent essayist, reviewer, and social commentator, Sir James Fitzjames Stephen (1829-94) was the leading legal thinker of Victorian England, internationally influential on such matters as capital punishment, insanity, criminal responsibility, and the law of evidence. As judge, as historian of ideas, as controversialist, and as contributor to the rule of law in India, Stephen showed great powers of mind and of character. Despite his lasting impact on legal thought and practice in India, Britain, and the United States, his works have not been collected or annotated and are, with one exception, out of print.

“I should hope,” said Ricks, “that these next three years of the Mellon Award would leave several legacies. First, a substantial and substantiated edition of Stephen. Second, the training of and the contribution to the careers of young scholars, by post-doctoral funding, for instance. Third, collaboration with publishers and with visiting scholars in a range of disciplines. And fourth, the consolidation of the Editorial Institute more widely as well as within Boston University where it grants an M.A. and a Ph.D. in editorial studies and where it has already enjoyed many successes including the publication, by very good houses, of its students’ work.”

Ricks is the William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University. He is known as a critic for his collections of essays and for books on Milton, Tennyson, Keats, T.S. Eliot, and Samuel Beckett. Among the books he has edited are The Poems of Tennyson (revised 1987), the New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse (1987), Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917 by T.S. Eliot (1996), The Oxford Book of English Verse (1999), and Selected Poems of James Henry (2002). He is the General Editor, Poetry, for Penguin Books, and is a co-editor of Essays in Criticism. He has recently published a collection, Reviewery, as well as Decisions and Revisions in T.S. Eliot, and a book on Bob Dylan, Dylan’s Visions of Sin (Penguin Viking, 2003, forthcoming from Ecco).

Boston University is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States, with an enrollment of more than 29,000 students in its 17 schools and colleges. The BU Editorial Institute is a program of advanced study that promotes textual scholarship and critical awareness of editorial methods, endeavors that are central to the intellectual life of many academic disciplines. The University offers an exceptional grounding in the liberal arts, a broad range of programs in the arts, sciences, engineering, and professional areas, and state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and research.

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