As we’ve already noted, the discourse surrounding cultural prizes has long been predominantly negative in tone.1 Historically, it is difficult to find anyone of any stature in the world of arts and letters who speaks with unalloyed respect for prizes, and still more difficult to find books or articles (other than those underwritten by the prize sponsors themselves) that do not strike the familiar chords of amused indifference, jocular condescension, or outright disgust. It seems moreover to be the case that the most prestigious awards draw the most intensely critical sniping. It is not the little start-up prizes, or the eccentric, whimsical prizes, or the prizes in low-prestige genres like romance or pornography, which ‘everyone hates’ (though these are often the object of dismissive, just-what-we-need-another-prize remarks), but rather the very prizes which we should have thought everyone wanted to win: in America the Pulitzers or Academy Awards, in Britain the Booker or the BAFTAs, nearly everywhere the Nobel. And not only are the high-prestige, high-culture prizes the ones most frequently and bitterly derided, but the most derisive commentators tend to be the highest-prestige authors and artists and critics – the very people who constitute the pool of potential judges and prizewinners, and from whom we might therefore have expected a certain degree of diplomacy, if not an actual endorsement.
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- Scandalous Currency
James F. English
- Macmillan Education UK
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