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(Boston) — Boston University Professor Christopher Ricks and Oxford University Press editor Frances Whistler, after more than a decade in an author/editor relationship, are now colleagues at the BU Editorial Institute — where she also joins another Oxford author, co-director Archie Burnett. As Ricks and Whistler work together on the first scholarly collection of writings by the great English jurist Sir James Fitzjames Stephen (1829-94), her considerable professional publishing talents are also being made available to faculty and graduate students across BU’s academic community.
Whistler’s 3-year appointment as director of publications and assistant director of the Editorial Institute stems from the $1.5 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award granted to the university in Ricks’ name last year. While the bulk of the grant is allocated to the Stephen edition and the work of the Institute, part will be available to assist individual editorial enterprises within the university at large. Whistler will guide distribution of grant subsidies and also teach two graduate courses starting in January in academic editing and publishing.
“The benevolence of the Mellon grant afforded us many opportunities, and there wasn’t — so far as I know — anyone in the university who had the practical experience of working with a great publishing house,” said Ricks, who with poet Geoffrey Hill created the Editorial Institute in 2000 to offer advanced degrees in editorial studies — the art and craft of preparing scholarly texts. “Knowing of her professional relations with many of the people here — Professors Burnett and Hill, but also Bruce Redford, and Danny Karlin, who next month joins the English Department — I asked Frances if she would give up a secure job with Oxford University Press.”
Whistler and Ricks will oversee a multi-volume scholarly edition of the major works of Stephen, a judge, legal historian, and man of letters who was one of the leading commentators and legal thinkers of 19th century England. Despite his lasting impact on the law in Britain, India, and the United States, and his forceful contributions to intellectual debate through books and periodical essays, his significant writings have never before been collected or annotated. Scholars from the different disciplines covered by Stephen’s work will be invited to edit individual volumes.
“I know how publishers function,” said Whistler, who steered numerous authors — including Ricks — through to publication while an editor for nearly 24 years at Oxford University Press. “A lot of the work that I used to do in guiding Oxford editions through the press I will also do here. In my teaching role I’ll be adding the final stage of editing and preparing books for publication to what is already a fine program in how to edit a text.”
Unlike other prestigious academic award programs that benefit only the individual scholar, the Mellon award for significant contributions to the humanities recognizes the interdependence of scholars and their institutions. It enables scholars to teach and do research while enlarging opportunities for scholarship offered by their institutions.
Ricks, who is the William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University, is a well-known literary critic and author of works on Victorian verse, English drama, Tennyson, Milton, Beckett, Keats, T.S. Eliot, and most recently Bob Dylan. Ricks and Whistler both work within BU’s College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
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.
Note to the editor: For more on the Institute, see http://www.bu.edu/editinst/about/index.html