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This is a book about one of the great untold stories of modern cultural life: the remarkable ascendancy of prizes in literature and the arts. Such prizes and the competitions they crown are almost as old as the arts themselves, but their number and powerand their consequences for society and culture at largehave expanded to an unprecedented degree in our day. In a wide-ranging overview of this phenomenon, James F. English documents the dramatic rise of the awards industry and its complex role within what he describes as an economy of cultural prestige.
Observing that cultural prizes in their modern form originate at the turn of the twentieth century with the institutional convergence of art and competitive spectator sports, English argues that they have in recent decades undergone an important shifta more genuine and far-reaching globalization than what has occurred in the economy of material goods. Focusing on the cultural prize in its contemporary form, his book addresses itself broadly to the economic dimensions of culture, to the rules or logic of exchange in the market for what has come to be called "cultural capital." In the wild proliferation of prizes, English finds a key to transformations in the cultural field as a whole. And in the specific workings of prizes, their elaborate mechanics of nomination and election, presentation and acceptance, sponsorship, publicity, and scandal, he uncovers evidence of the new arrangements and relationships that have refigured that field.
James F. English is John Welsh Centennial Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Prizes and the Study of Culture
I. The Age of Awards
1. Prize Frenzy
2. Precursors of the Modern Cultural Prize
3. The Logic of Proliferation
4. Prizes as Entertainment
II. Peculiarities of the Awards Industry
5. The Making of a Prize
6. Taste Management
7. Trophies as Objects of Production and Trade
III. The Game and Its Players
8. Scandalous Currency
9. The New Rhetoric of Prize Commentary
10. Strategies of Condescension, Styles of Play
IV. The Global Economy of Cultural Prestige
11. The Arts as International Sport
12. The New Geography of Prestige
13. Prizes and the Politics of World Culture
Appendix A. The Rise of the Prize
Appendix B. Prizes and Commerce
Appendix C. Winner Take All: Six Lists
What People are Saying About This
No one has tried to discuss the ins and outs of nonacademic cultural prestige as dispassionately as English does. We have scads of gossipy tales of how the game works and is played, but nothing like the nonparticipant-observer account on offer here. This book is truly ground-breaking, as well as informative and entertaining.
In an impressive tour de force, James English has quite brilliantly accomplished what he set out to do: reveal some essential features of our cultural landscape through the systematic analysis of a set of cultural practices that has been commented on ad infinitum, but never really understood. An extraordinary book, it is at once a delight to read and an original contribution to both cultural sociology and the broader interdisciplinary field of cultural studies. I know of no other book that addresses the issues that he takes up so knowledgeably. This is a genuinely innovative piece of work. Elizabeth Long, author of Book Clubs: Women and the Uses of Reading in Everyday Life
The irony of course is that there ought to be a prize for a book that so beautifully exposes the business and culture of prizes. James English's The Economy of Prestige is a smart, sardonic but never cynical, and genuine in its curiosity and mission. A pleasure to read and think about. Percival Everett, author of Erasure and God's Country
No one has tried to discuss the ins and outs of nonacademic cultural prestige as dispassionately as English does. We have scads of gossipy tales of how the game works and is played, but nothing like the nonparticipant-observer account on offer here. This book is truly ground-breaking, as well as informative and entertaining. John McGowan, author of Democracy's Children