Readers' reactions

October 9, 1998

Last week in The THES...

Booker prize judge Valentine Cunningham asked whether such competitions as the Booker, which blend writing, money and public relations, add anything to our academic study of literature.

JULIE RABY

University of York and WEA tutor

I teach a course entitled "The Booker prize and other contemporary literature". I am not always convinced that the shortlist is the best of contemporary fiction. If literary prizes encourage people to read more contemporary fiction they are good. But if they stop them exploring other works, that would be detrimental to the academic study of literature.

ROBERT EAGLESTONE

Lecturer, Royal Holloway, University of London

The Booker prize is a dated, if glittering, sideshow, aimed at creating canons to sell more product. Critics might say that this neatly sums up English, too. However, studying literature today is as much about how we read as what we read. This year's "best book" usually plays little role in that.

ANN VARTY

Lecturer University of London

Booker creates an arena where new fiction can be lauded or damned, but most of all placed centre-stage. The hype, the glitz, the controversy are essential to achieve a high profile for a threatened art form. Let us stop being squeamish about the link between literature and competition and just enjoy the run for the money.

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