University lecturer wins Guardian first book prize

Shirley J Thompson OBE

Alexandra Harris

Alexandra Harris won the Guardian's award for first-time authors

A University of Liverpool lecturer has won the Guardian first book prize, a prestigious award for first time authors.

Alexandra Harris’s book, `Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper’, provides a re-evaluation of the arts in Britain during the 1930s and 1940s. It beat four other authors to the £10,000 prize and an advertising package with the Guardian and Observer.  Previous winners of the award include Zadie Smith and Jonathan Safran Foer.

The judges included journalist Ekow Eshun and the novelist and poet Adam Foulds.  Foulds described the book as a “brilliant piece of work that manages to be both comprehensive and coherent as it tells a compelling story about 20th-century English art.”

Guardian Literary Editor, Claire Armistead, who chaired the judging panel, said: “Alexandra’s groundbreaking book is a reminder of how important higher education is to literature.”

Alexanda Harris, a lecturer in the University’s School of English, said: “I’m excited that the judges decided to make what one of them described as `counterintuitive decision’ in choosing this book as the winner.”

Notes to editors:

1. Romantic Moderns is published by Thames and Hudson and available for £14.95 (RRP £19.95) with free UK p&p from the Guardian Bookshop. Call 0330 333 6846 or visit

2. The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £98 million annually.

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