Earlier this month, the Association of American Publishers announced the recipients of the 40th annual PROSE awards, which recognize the best works in professional and scholarly publishing. The submissions were judged on the noteworthiness and originality of their contributions to the professional and scholarly publishing world. Chosen to share the Award for Excellence in Humanities was Unflattening, by Nick Sousanis, which we published last spring.
As PROSE Awards Chairman John A. Jenkins noted in his address to the audience, “All PROSE Award winners from this year demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing the magnitude of professional and scholarly publishing through their pioneering works,” and Unflattening, an academic study in comic book form, is a testament to that commitment. Sousanis argues that we are taught to think in boxes and perceive ideas in a specific way, and Unflattening represents his effort to situate visual thinking in human experience in order to step outside the confines of thought prompted by written text. Addressing science, philosophy, art, literature, and mythology, Sousanis’s hand-drawn panels aim to show that perception is an active process of evaluating viewpoints. As editor Sharmila Sen explained to Inside Higher Ed, the book compels our brain to work on two planes, absorbing information sequentially and all at once, “push[ing] us intellectually, cognitively.”
This intellectual urging is representative of our efforts to explore new scholarship and give readers new ways of thinking about intellectual ideas. In an era when university presses seek to reflect the innovation that characterizes contemporary culture while still honoring our mission of disseminating thoughtful, scholarly works to the public, Unflattening represents a synthesis of quality scholarship and inventive thinking. The book has resonated widely, and was recognized by Forbes, The Independent, The New York Observer, Panels, and Print as one of the best books of 2015.