The award of literary prizes is a highly potent tool of cultural policy that frequently determines the wider national and international impact of a literary work. As such it is of crucial relevance to the study of comparative literature in a number of ways: the award of literary prizes reflects the beginnings of the successful or, as the case may be, the (ultimately) abortive formation of literary canons; moreover, it affords insights into processes of cultural production and marketing and reveals in which ways political and economic agendas are tied up with these processes; it also offers a perspective on transnational and transcultural aspects of the production and reception of literature and indicates shifting notions of the social function of literature and the writer; literature is thus understood as a cultural product in ever changing contexts which is frequently subject to external forces of which literary prizes become indicators or even 'enforcers'.
This module will investigate with the methods of literary and cultural studies the development of a number of major literary awards which have achieved global significance, among them the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Man Booker Prize the Prix Goncourt (This list may be modified according to precedent to accommodate the topical relevance of individual award winners in the future.) Seminars will develop a historical perspective by scrutinising and analysing award winners of the past and their most recent counterparts in their different production and marketing contexts as well as in changing reception contexts: seminars will include the close reading of individual works as well as their critical reception, and the analysis of marketing strategies in various media (e.g. reports in culture magazines, reviews, displays in book shops, translations, etc.); final winners will be interpreted in the context of the respective long and short lists from which they emerged; historical developments will be taken into account, for instance by investigating 'forgotten' prize winners in comparison with those who, largely through the agency of academic intervention, 'made it' into the canon; the module thus also offers an insight into the history of the discipline of literary studies.
Total Contact Hours: 20
Method of assessment
Short Essay (1,000 words) – 30%
Extended Essay (2,000 words) – 50%
Presentation (15 minutes) – 10%
Presentation Write-up (500 words) – 10%
Indicative Reading List:
Mario Vargas Llosa (winner in 2010); for instance: The War of the End of the World (1981)
Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse (winner in 1910); for instance: L'Arrabiata (1853)
Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children (1981; "Booker of Bookers" in 1993)
Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question (2010)
André Malraux, Man's Fate (1933)
Marie NDiaye, Three Strong Women (2009)
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
On successfully completing the module Level 6 students will be able to:
Demonstrate coherent and detailed knowledge of the cultural contexts from which notions of literary quality emerge;
Demonstrate systematic understanding of the problems of successful, respectively abortive, canon formation in its earliest stages
Critically appreciate critical debates in the most influential national and international feuilletons and to form an opinion of their own by critically engaging with them;
Demonstrate conceptual understanding enabling them to talk about recent literary texts and join in literary debates;
Demonstrate systematic understanding of the politics of literary production and marketing, and the economic, social, and cultural forces by which it is driven;
Deploy accurately established techniques of the analysis of literary texts in their individual production and changing reception contexts (including the shifting appreciation of aesthetic and moral values);
Apply conceptual understanding of literary and cultural theories relating to the study of literature;
Demonstrate coherent and detailed knowledge of the history of the discipline of literary studies.
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