Monthly Archives: December 2014

Glaringly Political Rushdie Treatment (Here, as Subject)

Huggan’s treatment of Salman Rushie puts him in an interestingly vocal position in relation to Bourdieu’s claims about the ilusio. Specifically, Lindsay Mackie’s brief article titled “Indian wins the Booker” says a lot about his function as both a representative of his nation (exiled from, but not mentioned there) and his function in the political Booker game. If the Booker prize intends to “reset” the definition of the ideal reader, which would exist outside gender, class, and nation, to instead represent the ideal upper-middle-class, British, white, heterosexual cis-male, Rushdie’s role is represented as re-positioning India “as a subject and not as the background,” while simoutaneously reasserting his authority as a British subject, which Mackie not-so-subtly implies by ending the article thus: “[Rushdie] had embarked, he said, on another very long novel, this time set in Britain. He lives with his English wife and small son in Kentish Town, London.”

Two distinctions in “value” in Coleman’s article

Coleman’s article introducing the prize highlights a few different aspects of “value” in literature. First, the author is introduced as having value – one of the aims of the prize is cited to be “to encourage and reward authors”. Placing value on the author obviously has its socio-literary problems, thinking back to Barthes and Foucault, and the goal to “reward” authors places the author on an even higher pedestal in regarding the individual “creator” as the chief producer of cultural work. Coleman then goes on to criticize the award’s scope – in limiting the the awardable work to novels, he says, you continue to limit prize-branded literary work to the type of work that already monopolizes prizes. Here we see another dimension of literary “value”, as Coleman clearly contends that awards are an evident mark of the novel’s domination over cultural rewards. This demonstrates not only the cultural pedestal that the novel is on, like the author, but also returns to the question of what literature is. Coleman cites “laundry lists and football coupons” as fitting under the definition of literary work, which demonstrates the continuing tension of defining literature. The importance  of “value”, however, separates such types of literature from the novel.

In thinking about the illusio, all of these distinctions in “value” hinge upon Huggan’s summation of “value” as a construct. Literary work has no intrinsic value – a work’s distinction (and in this case, prize-branding) as valuable rests upon the cultural schema of what is valuable. The two distinctions in literary value Coleman’s article outlines demonstrates the cultural relativity of value – in valuing the author we emphasize the individual creator (and often, their identity) in the process of production, and in valuing the novel over other forms, we value one structure of writing over many others.

And the Prize Goes to…

“As Hugh Eakin has suggested, the Booker, despite the development its ‘multicultural consciousness,’ has arguably done less to further the development of non-Western and /or post-colonial literatures than it has to ‘encourage the commerce of an “exotic” commodity catered to the Western literary market'” (414).

As a response to this Sarah Chruchwell’s comments on the process of awarding the Booker prize and states, “If out of those 156 books, publishers only submit a fraction of women, then that is a function of systemic institutional sexism in our culture. The same point goes for racial diversity: either we six people, all of whom work on behalf of literacy and education, are sexist, racist troglodytes, or we live in a racist, sexist world and the publishing culture reflects that.”

There are many things at stake found in both comments. Besides the obvious (the writer’s life and possible outcomes from winning such a prestigious award), the community of those who read (the “public”), and future winners of this prize are all influenced by past choices and decisions made. The decision to include or exclude is an important one both authors make, but Churchwell notes that its a failure of the system and note hers. This seems to be a careless notion as publishers send specific copies that they deem worthy because they resemble past works that have been “critically acclaimed”. The argument goes full circle, and rather than changing the process she would rather claim its not her fault.  Eakin will then have it right because its not a development at all, but rather another similar book sold based on an old framework.