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Principles, privilege and powerlessness in the Edwardian Prize Book: Bridging the gap between two opposing worlds

O'Hagan, Lauren ORCID: 2018. Principles, privilege and powerlessness in the Edwardian Prize Book: Bridging the gap between two opposing worlds. English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 60 (4) , pp. 506-529.

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IN A WORLD of mobile phones, tablets and computers, it is hard to imagine the joy that children once felt when presented with a book as a prize by the head teacher of their school or the vicar of their local church. Yet the prize book, and its associated prize inscription, was a revolutionary concept when it was first introduced to Britain in the mid nineteenth century. By 1901, awarding books as prizes had become standard practice for most schools, Sunday schools and other institutions in Britain and its Empire. While prize books were typically awarded to a person in recognition of an outstanding achievement or contribution, they also served a secondary function of moral education and they were often used by educational and religious institutions as tools to disseminate approved fiction. But how were these books viewed by recipients? Were their contents read over and over again or were they placed on the shelf as mere attractive editions? Were readers aware of their explicit pedagogy or did they simply read the stories as a means of escapism? In terms of awarding institutions, did they differ in their prize-giving practices? Were boys and girls treated differently? And how did prize inscriptions vary? This article aims to unravel these questions by tracking the role of the prize book as an institutionalised object. Through an exploration of its content and prize inscription, we can gain a unique insight into Edwardian culture and society and examine the perpetual line that the prize book tread between privilege and powerlessness.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
ISSN: 0013-8339
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 6 October 2016
Date of Acceptance: 28 September 2016
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2024 15:20

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