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Unit information: Prize Culture and Prestige in Contemporary Fiction in 2018/19

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Unit name Prize Culture and Prestige in Contemporary Fiction
Unit code ENGLM0065
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Krishnan
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to introduce students to the role of prestige-based institutions in the fashioning of a contemporary literary aesthetic. By examining a range of prize-winning novels, the unit will explore the following questions: what is prize culture and what accounts for its rise in the late twentieth century? Is there a 'prize culture aesthetic'? In an information-based era, what is the role of the author as a public figure? How do authors, institutions and texts intersect in the creation and circulation of literary value? Focusing on the case study of the Booker Prize and drawing on other high-profile contemporary prizes, we will question the extent to which literary fictions are shaped by authorial invention, institutional interventions and economies of prestige.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have

(1) developed a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the role of prize culture in establishing the value of contemporary British fiction;

(2) in-depth knowledge of some of the literary and historical contexts in which this literature was produced;

(3) demonstrated the ability to analyse and evaluate differing critical accounts of the primary literature;

(4) demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument;

(5) strengthened their skills in argumentation and academic writing.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

1 x 1,000 word presentation and 1 x 4,000 word essay (100%) - ILO's 1-5

Reading and References

James English, The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the 'Circulation of Cultural Value (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009)

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (London: Jonathan Cape, 2003)

James Kelman, How Late It Was, How Late (London: Vintage, 1994)

Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children (London: Vintage, 1981)

Zadie Smith, White Teeth (London: Penguin, 2000)