Module QXE-3084:
Recent Prize Winning Literatur

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Helen Wilcox

Overall aims and purpose

The field of contemporary literature could fairly be described as a competitive arena dominated by a culture of prizes and charts: best-sellers, Booker Prize winners, the ‘nation’s favourite poems’, the Costa book of the year, the best novel by a woman writer, and so on. But what is it that makes a work of literature into a prize-winner, and how do concepts such as artistic skill and literary worth square with ideas of popularity and success?

This module will examine a selection of recent prize-winning texts in a variety of genres, including poems, novels, short stories, autobiographies and screenplays, and relate them to critical and theoretical debates about taste, literary value, ‘cultural capital’ and the market-place. During the semester we will also take one major prize as a case study, examining the entire process from the selection of the genre(s) to be judged, the criteria, the jury members, the mechanisms for submission and the nature of the prize itself, through the short-listing stage and associated publicity, to the final choice and the awards ceremony.

Course content

The module begins with a critical discussion of literary prize culture, and then follows the progress of the annual Costa Prize (each student reading one of the short-listed works) as it moves from the award of the individual prizes for best first novel, novel, collection of poems, biography and children’s book, to the choice of the overall book of the year. In the subsequent weeks the seminars will focus on a selection of recent prize-winning texts in a range of genres, setting the qualities of the particular text in the context of the award(s) it achieved. Authors whose work will be featured include Hilary Mantel, Edmund de Waal, Helen Dunmore, Alan Bennett, Alys Conran and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Our research and discussions will be enriched by interviews with prize-winning authors, and the semester will end with a symposium around the question, ‘Are prizes good for literature?’

Assessment Criteria

threshold

Typically, work graded D- to D+ (or 40 to 49) will show many of the following qualities: • Unsure and lacking in confidence when discussing ideas • Referring to the subject in question in a superficial manner • Making an effort to provide fairly balanced answers • Some points in the argument irrelevant to the topic • Little evidence of background reading • Some uncertainty over language and syntax • Strengths and weaknesses fairly balanced; occasionally clumsy and unimaginative • In creative work: superficial • Not succeeding in mastering the requirements of the medium

good

Typically, work graded B- to B+ (or 60 to 69) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas adeptly • Most of the arguments about a specific field are well-aired • Displays knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is relevant • Shows analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of relevant reading • Shows accuracy in expression with mastery over language. • A few minor errors here and there. • Signs of creative thought deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: shows signs of originality, having understood the requirements of the medium • Plans of well-balanced and full answers, despite some gaps

excellent

Typically, work graded A- to A** (or 70 to 100) will show many of the following qualities:

• Discusses ideas with confidence and precision • Demonstrates maturity and sophistication • Displays deep knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is totally relevant • Shows independent, analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of substantial and relevant reading • Shows great accuracy in expression, displaying total mastery over all aspects of the language • Shows occasional signs of brilliance and originality of thought • In creative work: displays considerable originality • Command over medium; may have potential for publication/production

Learning outcomes

  1. Learning outcomes: 1. The appreciation, analysis and interpretation of contemporary texts in English in a variety of genres, relating them to their literary and cultural contexts; 2. Critical discussion of ideas and theories relevant to the relationship of writing to value, success and the creation of cultural capital; 3. The selection and organisation of literary and critical material to produce a consistent and coherent argument, presented in essay form or in an oral presentation.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Participation and oral presentation

Participation during the semester and oral presentation as part of the symposium at the end of the module.

20
Written assignment, including essay Short piece of work

Two short pieces of work written during the semester, 1000 words each, the first reviewing a prize winning work of the student's own choice and the second devising a new literary prize with all its key features including name, literary genre, sponsor, criteria and judging process.

15
ESSAY Final Essay

Final Essay

50
Short piece of work 15

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Private study 167
Seminar 22
Study group 11

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Awareness of how different social and cultural contexts affect the nature of language and meaning (English Benchmark Statement 2.1; 2.2; 3.1.3; 3.1.7; 3.1.11; 3.2.8).
  • Command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology (English Benchmark Statement 3.1.9; 3.2.6).
  • Broad knowledge of literature and the distinctive characters of texts written in the principal literary genres of fiction, poetry and drama, and of other kinds of writing and communication (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.1; 3.1.1; 3.1.2).
  • Critical Skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis and the ability to acquire substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of the distinctive interpretative skills of the subject (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.2; 1.3.6; 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.2.1; 3.3.1; 3.3.3; 3.3.5; 3.3.8; 3.3.12; 3.3.13).
  • Information technology and time management and organization skills, as shown by the ability to plan and present conclusions effectively (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.9; 3.3.14; 3.3.15).
  • Rhetorical skills of effective communication and argument, both oral and written (English Benchmark Statement 2.3; 3.1.10; 3.2.5; 3.3.1; 3.3.6).
  • The ability to work with and in relationship to others through the presentation of ideas and information and the collective negotiation of solutions (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.9; 3.3.10).
  • Sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects upon communication of circumstances, authorship, textual production and intended audience (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.8; 2.3.; 3.1.2; 3.2.3).
  • The capacity for independent thought and judgement; the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories and to interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.1.10; 3.2.2; 3.3.1; 3.3.7; 3.3.11).
  • Responsiveness to the central role of language in the creation of meaning and a sensitivity to the affective power of language (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.5; 1.3.8; 3.1.5; 3.1.11; 3.2.4).
  • The ability to comprehend and develop intricate concepts in an open-ended way which involves an understanding of purpose and consequences (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.6; 3.3.9).
  • Understanding of how cultural norms and assumptions influence questions of judgement (English Benchmark Statement 2.1; 2.2; 3.1.6; 3.1.7; 3.2.9).
  • Recognition of the multi-faceted nature of literature, and of its complex relationship to other media or disciplines and forms of knowledge (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.7; 2.1; 2.2; 2.4; 2.5; 3.1.8; 3.1.12).
  • Critical Skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis of texts (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.6; 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.2.1; 3.3.1; 3.2.1; 3.3.8; 3.3.12).
  • Competence in the planning and execution of essays, presentations and other writing and project work (English Benchmark Statement 3.3.6).
  • Conceptual skills developed by demonstration and discussion. (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.2; 3.3.14; 3.3.17; 3.3.18; 3.3.19).
  • Study skills in researching concepts and contexts by directed reading. (English Benchmark Statement 3.3.22; 3.3.23).
  • The ability to express ideas clearly in discussion and in organised written form. (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.5; 3.2.7; 3.3.11; 3.3.15; 3.3.16; 3.3.21; 3.3.24).
  • The ability to analyse texts, using appropriate critical terminology. ( English Benchmark Statement 3.1.8; 3.2.1; 3.2.6; 3.3.12).
  • The ability to situate texts in intertextual debate and as responses to and interventions in contemporary culture. (English Benchmark Statement 3.1.7; 3.1.10; 3.1.11; 3.2.3; 3.2.8).
  • Communicate effectively in interpersonal settings, in writing and in a variety of media; engagement with forms of critical analysis, argument and debate, expressed through an appropriate command of oral, written and other forms of communication (Communication, Media, Film and Cultural Studies benchmark 6.1.5; 8.2.6).
  • Competence in the planning and execution of essays, presentations and other writing and project work; bibliographic skills, including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of conventions in the presentation of scholarly work and the ability to engage in processes of drafting and redrafting texts to achieve clarity of expression and an appropriate style; making use, as appropriate, of a problem-solving approach (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.7; 3.3.4; 3.3.6; Communication, Media, Film and Cultural Studies benchmark 6.1.7).
  • Broad knowledge of a range of texts, genres, aesthetic forms and cultural practices, and the ability to produce close analysis of these and of the uses and implications of these approaches; an understanding of particular media forms and genres, and the way in which they organize understandings, meanings and affects (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.1; 3.1.1; 3.1.2; Communication, Media, Film and Cultural Studies benchmarks 4.1.5; 8.2.5).
  • Ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories relating to English studies.
  • Bibliographic skills appropriate to the discipline, including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of conventions in the presentation of scholarly work.
  • Knowledge of a wide range of canonical English texts, providing a confident understanding of literary traditions as well as the confidence to experiment and challenge conventions when writing creatively. (English Benchmark Statement 3.1).
  • An awareness of writing and publishing contexts, opportunities and audiences in the wider world (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.1).
  • Artistic engagement and ability to articulate complex ideas in oral and written forms. (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • Awareness of how different social and cultural contexts affect the nature of language and meaning (English Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • Reflective practitioner skills, including awareness of the practice of others in collaborative learning (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • The ability to synthesize information from various sources, choosing and applying appropriate concepts and methods (English Benchmark Statement 3.3).
  • Ability to formulate and solve problems, anticipate and accommodate change, and work within contexts of ambiguity, uncertainty and unfamiliarity (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.3).
  • Ability to engage in processes of drafting and redrafting texts to achieve clarity of expression and an appropriate style. (English Benchmark Statement 3.3; NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • Ability to gather information, analyse, interpret and discuss different viewpoints (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.3).
  • Information technology (IT) skills broadly understood and the ability to access, work with and evaluate electronic resources (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.3).

Resources

Resource implications for students

There will be eight literary texts for purchase, which is about average for a third-year special subject module.

Reading list

In view of the nature of the module topic and its emphasis on current literary prize culture, the exact reading list will be finalised nearer to the start of the semester. Texts for purchase will include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun; Alan Bennett, The History Boys; Alys Conran, Pigeon; Helen Dunmore, Inside the Wave; Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall; and Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes. Among the most important supporting critical texts are James F. English, The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards and the Circulation of Cultural Value (Harvard University Press, 2005) and Richard Todd, Consuming Fictions: The Booker Prize and Fiction in Britain Today (Bloomsbury, 1996).

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: