Very many congratulations to Alexandra Harris, a Lecturer in English Literature (over the road from us here) in the School of English at the University of Liverpool, who yesterday won the Guardian 2010 First Book Award! Her book, Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper, presents a radically new interpretation of the artistic expression of this period and she follows in the footsteps of Zadie Smith and Jonathan Safran Foer, two of the previous winners of the award.
Guardian literary editor Claire Armitstead, who chaired the judging panel, said she was excited by the judges’ choice, which had been described as “a counterintuitive decision” by one of their number. “Serious works of art history rarely win populist prizes, and often have trouble finding publishers at all,” Armitstead said. “Yet the response from our Waterstone’s reading groups, as well as from our central panel, showed that readers of all sorts are willing to engage with demanding books, if they are well written and beautifully produced.”