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The first rule of judging club…: inside the saltire society literary awardsBook awards are a pervasive aspect of contemporary book culture, attracting both substantial media and scholarly attention. They confer prestige, create marketing opportunities, push sales, and contribute to the early stages of canon formation. Yet, beyond occasional media splashes when judges break ranks and disagree, there is little insight into the administrative and decision-making processes inside book awards. This article draws on the autoethnographic experiences of two academic researchers, who were simultaneously participants (as administrator and judge) for the Saltire Society Literary Awards. In so doing, the article gives insight into particular moments within the administration and judging of the awards, such as changes instigated by research findings and debates surrounding gender imbalance in Scottish literary award culture. It also examines some of the challenges of operating as embedded researchers. The article analyses what autoethnographic methods can bring to an understanding of the Saltire Society’s Literary Awards and other cultural awards, and the implications of embedded research and collaborative autoethnography for 21st century book culture scholarship more widely. It reflects upon modes of embedded research by making evident the challenges and dilemmas of researching from the ‘inside’. The ethical framework for such research is far from simple, but in exploring particular moments with perspectives from both inside and outside the judging processes, and in interrogating the practices of literary consecration, the article casts light upon this particular ‘judging club’ and its practices, and illuminates ways in which researchers might consider, orientate, and carry out further research into processes of cultural consecration.
‘I didn’t know you could read': questioning the legitimacy of Kim Kardashian-West’s status as a cultural and literary intermediaryThis paper considers the reactions to the announcement of the Kim Kardashian-West Book Klub and explores how this episode illustrated the perceived illegitimacy of celebrities like Kardashian-West, who are commonly associated with ‘lowbrow culture’, engaging with and discussing literature, an activity that has traditionally been seen as a middlebrow endeavour. The reactions to the Kardashian-West Book Klub not only reflect issues around the status of celebrities as cultural intermediaries but also bring to the fore historical principles that have questioned the intelligence and capabilities of women readers. This paper positions the Kim Kardashian-West Book Klub within the wider historical context of women readers and book clubs and considers the prestige, or lack thereof, of celebrities who try to be cultural and literary intermediaries. The paper also considers the Kardashian-West Book Klub in relation to other major celebrity book clubs and argues that such forays into literary culture are used by some celebrities to bolster their social and cultural capital, acting first and foremost as a branch of their personal brand identity, rather than as altruistic enterprises.
Why women don’t win literary awards: the saltire society literary awards and implicit stereotypingThe purpose of this analysis is to consider the Saltire Society’s Book of the Year and First Book of the Year Awards in relation to wider issues pertaining to media representations of Scottish literary and publishing culture. Through a statistical analysis of the Society’s Book of the Year and First Book of the Year shortlists and winners between 1988 and 2014, this examination shows the extent to which the Society’s Literary Awards reflect, as opposed to subvert, historic and existing gender imbalances in Scottish literary and publishing culture. Indeed, despite critics arguing that there was a change in tide in the late 1980s and early 1990s regarding the balance in gender representation in Scottish literature, this analysis suggests that Scotland’s book award culture, and in turn, literary culture more widely, remains dominated by men. Perceptions of the apparent ‘balancing’ of the gender disparity in Scottish writing do not align with the statistics discussed here, a fact further evidence by misconceptions held by members of the Society’s own Literary Awards judging panels. Accordingly, this article contends that such inconsistencies lend credence to the argument that the Society’s judges have participated in implicit stereotyping based upon culturally pervasive stereotypes’ that Scottish women writers play a ‘minor’ role in Scottish literary and publishing culture.