Colgate Syllabus: The Booker Prize

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The Booker Prize: Examining a Prize, Examining an Empire
CJ Hauser, Assistant Professor of English
MWF 9:20–10:20 AM, Lathrop Hall 314

Course description

This class follows the 2017 Booker Prize proceedings, from an investigation of the longlist to the announcement of the winner in October. By reading work by the current nominees, as well as seminal past work, students dissect the evolving aesthetics and politics of the prize. Why is the Booker such a cultural phenomenon in England and what does it mean to consider the former “Empire” through these texts? What does it mean for a British prize to laud texts written in or about post-colonial spaces? What do this year’s selected texts have to say about our current cultural moment?

Key assignment

Longlist book analysis and presentation: Each student is assigned one of the 13 books from the Longlist of nominees. Students research the author’s biography, national and cultural heritage as it is related to the former British Empire, and history with the Booker Prize. Students also analyze the book, looking at its style, major themes, and passages that represent something fundamental about the text. In addition, they examine the significance of the text within the cultural moment. Finally, students will have their say: What are the chances this book will move on to the next round? Did you like the book? Why or why not?

The professor says

“Even though we’re all focusing on the same six books that made the shortlist, everyone in the class has a book they think of as [theirs] from the longlist that they can bring up in class, whether it made the shortlist or not. So, between all of us, we’ve got quite a bit of a think tank going on.”