Balfour’s book on romanticism garners award

York English Professor Ian Balfour (below) once said, “Writing sure is work.” He would know, as author of The Rhetoric of Romantic Prophecy as well as essays on the Romantics (Wordsworth, Blake, Godwin and Inchbald), Walter Benjamin, Paul de Man, and numerous topics in popular culture (music, TV, film).

As laborious as writing may seem to Balfour, he clearly does it well. He has just been chosen as recipient of the Jean-Pierre Barricelli Prize for the outstanding book in Romanticism studies published in 2002, for The Rhetoric of Romantic Prophecy (Stanford University Press). The award was recently announced by the committee on prizes and awards of the International Conference on Romanticism (ICR).

“The process for choosing the winner is extensive, involving scholars from around the world evaluating over 50 nominations by university presses,” said Larry H. Peer, the Karl G. Maeser Professor of Comparative Literature at Brigham Young University in Utah and executive director of ICR.

“You join past winners of the Barricelli Prize, including David Simpson, Alan Richardson, Susan Wolfson, Joshua Wilner, Frederick Burwick, Jocelyne Kolb, Richard Eldridge, Ann Rigney and Kenneth Johnston.”

Upon receiving the news, Balfour said, “I was very surprised and gratified on hearing of the award. I was a little worried that it might appeal to a small circle of like-minded colleagues. But it seems to have struck a chord with people in my field, which is exactly what one hopes for.”

Balfour’s book already received honourable mention from the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) for the Harry Levin Prize, as the best book of literary history from 1999-2002.

On the ACLA Web site, the work is described as bringing to literary history “the skills of close reading and a keenly philosophical consciousness. This study establishes the defining role of prophetic writing within the literary period that has done so much to define our critical modernity, and, in so doing, brings that period back to a reconsideration of its essential roots.”

Romanticism and literary theory are the areas in which Balfour teaches at York. Before coming to the University, he was a visiting professor at the universities of Cornell, NY; Stanford, CA; SUNY Buffalo, NY; and California at Santa Barbara, and served as the Margaret Bundy Scott Professor at Williams College, MA.

In February, as director of York’s Graduate Program in English, Balfour led a discussion following the showing of Atom Egoyan’s acclaimed film, The Sweet Hereafter. The event, at which Egoyan was present and answered questions, was part of series of film screenings, “The Independents” sponsored by the Graduate Program in Film & Video. Balfour and Egoyan have been co-editing Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film, a book which is due out next year.

The International Conference on Romanticism (ICR) was formally founded in 1991 by a group of scholars from America and abroad and was incorporated as a non-profit scholarly entity in 1993. It is a learned society that seeks to promote, maintain and improve teaching, research and related endeavours in the field of romanticism studies, and to facilitate communication among scholars and teachers through annual meetings and publications. With an international and interdisciplinary membership, it is a forum for colleagues in literature, philosophy, history, musicology, history of science, art history and other disciplines.

For more information on ICR visit