English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Booker Prize, Literary Speculation, and the Global Anglophone Novel

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2018 Hu, Jane
MWF 10-11 233 Dwinelle

Book List

2017 Winner (TBA); Beatty, Paul: The Sellout (2015); Ishiguro, Kazuo: The Remains of the Day (1989); Mantel, Hilary: Wolf Hall (2009); Rushdie, Salman: Midnight's Children (1981)


In 1968, Booker McConnell Ltd, “an international company dealing in sugar, rum, mining machinery, and James Bond,” established the Man Booker Prize for Fiction: a £5,000 literary prize to be awarded to a British Commonwealth, Irish, or South African author. Since then, the Booker Prize has arguably become the most important literary award in Anglophone culture. This course tracks the history of the Booker by focusing on five winning novels, starting from what is known as the “Booker of Bookers,” Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981), and concluding with the most recent winner of the 2017 Booker (TBA). Across our readings, we will examine the changing contexts surrounding the Booker, such as the relations among race, class, and gender in the era of postcolonialism and increased globalization. For instance, in 2013, the Booker expanded its nomination criteria to include any English-writing author in the world; we will read the first winner to fall outside the original geographical categories, American Paul Beatty’s The Sellout (2015; 2016 Booker Winner). This course will also investigate the evolving socioeconomic aspects of the literary prize, such as cultural taste, value, prestige, representation, circulation, production, and reception.

The purpose of R1B is to advance the critical reading and essay writing skills learned in R1A, as well as to develop students’ research capacities in order to analyze and incorporate secondary sources. In addition to more exploratory journal entries and blog posts, students will also rigorously draft, peer-edit, and revise toward writing a final research paper. The ongoing “contemporary” aspect of the Booker provides many fortuitous occasions for students to explore research materials that aren’t necessarily housed in library archives: film adaptations, newspaper and magazine reviews, genre trends, and annual literary prize long- and short-lists are some examples. The Booker Prize winner does not exist or circulate in a vacuum; and neither will our research questions.

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