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By James F. English

This can be a ebook approximately one of many nice untold tales of contemporary cultural existence: the amazing ascendancy of prizes in literature and the humanities. Such prizes and the competitions they crown are virtually as outdated because the arts themselves, yet their quantity and power--and their effects for society and tradition at large--have improved to an extraordinary measure in our day. In a wide-ranging assessment of this phenomenon, James F. English records the dramatic upward thrust of the awards and its advanced function inside of what he describes as an economic climate of cultural status. watching that cultural prizes of their sleek shape originate on the flip of the 20th century with the institutional convergence of artwork and aggressive spectator activities, English argues that they have got in contemporary a long time passed through a major shift--a extra actual and far-reaching globalization than what has happened within the financial system of fabric items. concentrating on the cultural prize in its modern shape, his booklet addresses itself commonly to the industrial dimensions of tradition, to the principles or common sense of trade out there for what has emerge as referred to as "cultural capital." within the wild proliferation of prizes, English reveals a key to adjustments within the cultural box as a complete. And within the particular workings of prizes, their tricky mechanics of nomination and election, presentation and popularity, sponsorship, exposure, and scandal, he uncovers proof of the hot preparations and relationships that experience refigured that box. (20051031)

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Additional info for The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value

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One thinks of the hectic eightfilms-a-day pace of moviegoers at Cannes or Toronto, the excited “spottings” of major directors and other cultural celebrities—and of course the invariable structuring of such contemporary film festivals around a slate of prizes, the whole festival culminating in the announcement of a Grand Prize winner, a “palme d’or,” whose victory is immediately subjected to strenuous carping and complaint. )6 Other fairly straightforward modern analogs to the Greek festivals and arts competitions come to mind, as well: not only theater festivals, such as that of Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but competitions in classical musical performance, such as the fifteen-day Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, and the major fairs or exhibitions of art, such as the Venice Biennale, all of which bring large, international crowds into the host cities and demand considerable stamina on the part of their Precursors of the Modern Cultural Prize 33 audiences.

And in order to earn the special and lofty position that festivals opened up to them, artists had to endure the stressful and potentially humiliating role of competitors before a panel of judges—judges who, moreover, in the festivals’ immediate aftermath, were routinely accused of having been bribed or otherwise improperly influenced, or of simply being incapable of distinguishing great art from mediocre. The fundamental ambivalence here—whereby artists are at once consecrated, elevated to almost godlike status (“consecrations” being Bourdieu’s favored term for cultural honors or awards), and desecrated, brought rudely down to earth by entanglement in a system of hard-nosed financial calculation, national or municipal selfpromotion, and partisan, often petty politics—persists in cultural prizes to this day, and, as I indicated in my introduction, a major purpose of the present study will be to explore this convergence of the sacred with the profane, or the symbolic with the material, in the modern and contemporary awards scene.

Even this was not the end of the process, however. Once again, an urn was brought out. The ten judges’ sheets were placed in the urn, and just five withdrawn at random, these five becoming public documents and serving as the basis for awarding the prize, while the other five were destroyed unseen. In this elaborate series of contrivances, designed to convey the most perfect appearance of autonomy and impartiality, one sees the threat of scandal which still lurks at the door of every auditorium or banquet hall where prizes are awarded, and which continues to foster curious rituals of selection and secrecy: the somber-looking representatives from Pinkerton or Pricewaterhouse Coopers standing in the wings with their specially sealed envelopes.

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