University Distinguished Professor Brian Boyd is generally acknowledged as the world’s leading expert on Vladimir Nabokov, one of the twentieth century’s best known novelists. The two massive volumes he wrote on Nabokov’s biography each won prestigious awards (including being named as books of the year by the New York Times) and both have been translated into many languages. In addition he has published highly acclaimed critical studies of Nabokov’s writing, and his contribution to Nabokov scholarship, as editor, critic and commentator, is unrivalled in its range, volume and quality. He is continually in demand for conference presentations and institutional seminars.
More recently he has helped pioneer the investigation of literature from evolutionary and cognitive perspectives, now a rapidly growing area of literary study that explores the very foundations of literature and its functioning in individual brains and societies. Already he has established a reputation in this field and his On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction (Harvard University Press, 2009) has been hailed as a landmark in our understanding of the origin and nature of narrative. Accompanying this work has been an ongoing engagement with the biography of philosopher of science Karl Popper, who helped establish a research tradition in New Zealand universities. Professor Boyd’s reputation for scholarly thoroughness and accuracy is further demonstrated by the way he has mastered German in order to write on Popper, just as just he mastered Russian in order to write on Nabokov.
Professor Boyd is a vigorous intellect, prolific in his output, and energetic in his contribution to the scholarly profession. While working on Nabokov, Popper, and the evolution of fiction, he also has a half-finished book on Shakespeare on his desk; he presents numerous public lectures and media interviews, from Russia and China to Brazil and the US; he has been a consultant for documentaries and is currently engaged in preparing a television series on story-telling; he develops innovative first-year courses for undergraduate teaching and general education courses linking literature and science; and he readily supervises masters and doctoral theses. He is regarded by his peers as one of New Zealand’s most eminent humanities scholars, subtle and creative in his thinking, and utterly rigorous in his scholarship.