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Fetishizing Intellectual Achievement: The Nobel Prize and European Literary Celebrity

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date11/2011
JournalCelebrity Studies
Journal number3
Volume2
Number of pages15
Pages320-334
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper investigates the concept of literary celebrity within a specifically European context. Following the work of Pascale Casanova and Pierre Bourdieu, it suggests that the Nobel Prize is a specifically European consecrating institution within ‘international literary space’ and that it is both a product of and major contributor to a mid-European, non-market-driven model for valuing high-end cultural achievement. Whilst sharing some of the outer trappings of broader, Anglo-American determined conceptions of celebrity in terms of, for example, the media attention bestowed upon famous authors, this model, with its emphasis on intellectual and moral instruction, functions in a fundamentally different way to transatlantic market-driven models of fame. After exploring the development of the prize in line with the emergence of both wider modern-day celebrity and underlying processes of intellectual fetishization inherent in the French-defined field of restricted cultural production, I consider how individual authors, of both European and non-European nationality, respond to this culturally contingent model of literary celebrity. My analysis focuses both on their formulation of a response at the point of consecration and what their response tells us more generally about the social and cultural value of authorship in a European setting.

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