2008-09 MM The Booker Prize 2008 and the Culture of Literary Prizes

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Adiga, Hensher, Rushdie and Hanif shortlisted for Commonwealth Writers' Regional Prize

  • Course Description

This course will offer an opportunity to explore the culture of literary prizes in Anglophone fiction on the example of the Man Booker Prize 2008. As UK's most prestigious literary prize celebrates its 40th anniversary, the course will introduce students to the main issues and developments of the Booker 2008, and invite them to analyze its background on four levels: textual analysis, marketing, reviewing and prize coverage. By the beginning of term, students should have purchased and read the six novels on the 2008 Booker shortlist:

  • Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (2008) - Atlantic
  • Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture (2008) - Faber and Faber
  • Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies (2008) - John Murray (Ibis Trilogy, book 1)
  • Linda Grant, The Clothes on Their Backs (2008) - Virago
  • Philip Hensher, The Northern Clemency (2008) - Fourth Estate
  • Steve Toltz, A Fraction of the Whole (2008) - Hamish Hamilton

We recommend the course to be attended in combination with Delia Duncan's "Academic Discourse in Literature: The Booker Prize 2008: selected readings" (3.02.516), Fr 10 - 12, A06 0-004.

For a preliminary seminar plan, see below.

A reader with secondary sources will be made available around the middle of September. A number of essays can already be downloaded from the links below. (Please, contact us if you do not yet have the password.)

The thirteen novels of the Booker longlist as well as a number of important books will be in the Handapparat in the University Library from the middle of August.

Please, sign up to the Booker mailinglist, check out the Booker website and be aware of the following —

Important Dates:

  • The judging panel: announcement on 18 December 2007
  • The longlist: announcement on 29 July 2008
  • The shortlist: announcement 9 September 2008 at a press conference at Man Group's London office
  • The winner: announcement on 14 October 2008 at an awards ceremony at Guildhall, London (televised live on the BBC Ten O’Clock News)

Click on Booker Prize for more information on the award.

  • Requirements
  • Course Requirements for credits as a Master Module "English Literatures":
  1. Regular attendance (you may miss up to two meetings, whatever the reasons) and
  2. active participation
  3. An oral presentation of max. 30 minutes to introduce the seminar discussion of one of the six novels
  4. A contribution to one of the "expert groups" which discuss the similarities and differences in textual analysis, marketing, reviewing and prize coverage for all six novels
  5. A term paper (generally dealing with one or several of the issues raised in your oral contribution; length ca. 15-20 pages for M.Ed.Gym.; 10-12 pages for M.Ed.WiPaed.; deadline 1 March 2009).
  6. Additionally, for students of the MA English Studies, a research project
  • Requirements for candidates for the Staatsexamenklausur:
  1. Regular attendance and active participation.
  2. A contribution to one of the "expert groups" which discuss the similarities and differences in textual analysis, marketing, reviewing and prize coverage for all six novels. Alternatively, you may join a group that produces short summaries of the seminar meetings which help you revise for the written exam.


Booker Prize: Introduction and Discussion


  1. Purpose of the course, organization and questions
  2. Links and resources
  3. Judging the Booker by covers
  4. Discussion and opinions about literary prizes
  5. Placing tips on a winner


Culture and Economics of Literary Prizes


  • James F. English (2002) - overview
  • Victor Ginsburgh (2003) - statistics


Booker History and Booker Critique


  • Richard Todd (1996) - information, anecdotes and perspectives
  • Graham Huggan (1997) - argues from a theoretical perspective and formulates a specific critique


meeting postponed!


meeting postponed!


A First Approach to the Novels: Textual Analysis, Marketing, Reviewing

Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger
  • Textual Analysis: Kerry Lee Achenbach
  • Marketing and Reviewing: Imke-Silja Hintze


A First Approach to the Novels: Textual Analysis, Marketing, Reviewing

Migration, Gender, Dress, Identity: Linda Grant's The Clothes on Their Backs
  • Textual Analysis: Anja Maria Sempt
  • Marketing and Reviewing: Danica Grade


A First Approach to the Novels: Textual Analysis, Marketing, Reviewing

Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture
  • Textual Analysis: Jenna Louise Hartmann
  • Marketing and Reviewing: Nadine Moehlmann


A First Approach to the Novels: Textual Analysis, Marketing, Reviewing

Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies
  • Textual Analysis: Franziska Felbermair
  • Marketing and Reviewing: Markus Friedel


A First Approach to the Novels: Textual Analysis, Marketing, Reviewing

Philip Hensher's The Northern Clemency
  • Textual Analysis: Christian Ueckert
  • Marketing and Reviewing: Hannah Ina Dasecke


A First Approach to the Novels: Textual Analysis, Marketing, Reviewing

Steve Toltz's A Fraction of the Whole
  • Textual Analysis: Julia Nadine Kruska
  • Marketing and Reviewing: Swantje Mahn


Expert Group 1: Textual Analysis, Close Reading 


Expert Group 2: Textual Analysis, Close Reading 


Expert Group 3: Marketing and Reviewing
  • Course Evaluation



Expert Group 4: Marketing and Reviewing
  • Outlook: Theory Revisited
  • Feedback on course Evaluation.

Reading Help

Some thoughts to support your reading experience:

  • Literary studies routine questions: narration, characterization, plot construction
  • What kind of discussions are triggered? What are the main themes?
  • Are there any intertextual allusions - explicit/implicit?
  • Production/ marketing history: When/where published? Published as novel/thriller? Interesting cover/ blurbs?
  • What was your direct reaction after/during your reading? Justified nomination for Booker Prize?
  • How did others react? Reviews, blogs...


  1. Huggan, Graham. 1994. "The Postcolonial Exotic: Salman Rushdie and the Booker of Bookers." Transition 64: 22-29.
  2. Todd, Richard. 1996. Consuming Fictions: The Booker Prize and Fiction in Britain Today. London, England: Bloomsbury. (Chapter 2: "Literary Prizes and the Media." 55-94.)
  3. Huggan, Graham. 1997. "Prizing 'Otherness': A Short History of the Booker." Studies in the Novel 29.3 (Fall): 412-33.
  4. English, James F. 2002. "Winning the Culture Game: Prizes, Awards, and the Rules of Art." New Literary History: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation 33.1 (Winter): 109-35.
  5. Showalter, Elaine. 2002. "Coming to Blows over the Booker Prize." Chronicle of Higher Education 48.42 (June 28): B11.
  6. Strongman, Luke. 2002. The Booker Prize and the Legacy of Empire. Cross/Cultures: Readings in the Post/Colonial Literatures in English 54. Amsterdam: Rodopi. (ToC, Intro, Conclusion)
  7. Ginsburgh, Victor. 2003. "Awards, Success and Aesthetic Quality in the Arts." The Journal of Economic Perspectives 17.2 (Spring): 99-111.
  8. Squires, Claire. 2004. "A Common Ground? Book Prize Culture in Europe." Javnost: The Public 11.4: 37-47.
  9. English, James F. 2005. The Economy of Prestige. Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP. ( Chapter 9: "The New Rhetoric of Prize Commentary." 197-216.)
  10. Markovits, Benjamin. 2005 (March 6). "Prize Fight." New York Times Book Review. 27.

Further Reading

  • Street, John. 2005. "'Showbusiness of a Serious Kind': A Cultural Politics of the Arts Prize." Media, Culture & Society 27 (November): 819-840. (Abstract)
  • Huggan, Graham. 2001. The Postcolonial Exotic. Marketing the Margins. London and New York: Routledge. Publisher description

Links and Resources

  • Booker Website
  • Publishers
  • Newspapers