Stay in your own part of the bookshop!

Legitimation in the literary field and the limited exchange value of celebrity capital

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

This paper explores the phenomenon of boundary crossing between cultural fields and the role that different kinds of capital play in determining whether or not the crossing is a successful one. The fields in question here are those of entertainment (specifically, stand-up comedy) and literature, and the particular boundary crossing is represented by the figure of Ben Elton, a British comedian who has published 15 novels since 1989, with mixed critical and commercial success. One novel (Popcorn, 1996) received sufficient attention within the literary field to be long-listed for the Booker prize, an accolade usually reserved for writers belonging to the sub-field ‘literary fiction’. Others have fared less well, and after many years Elton’s credentials as a writer are still queried in some reviews of his work. I suggest that, from a close analysis of reviews in the UK press, Elton’s boundary crossing was initially enhanced by the amount of celebrity capital that he was able to export to the literary field. Despite his evident intention to remain a serious practitioner in that field, however, this capital has increasingly diminishing returns, and legitimation of his work is forever hampered by the image of his celebrity persona.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cultural Analysis and Social Change
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • celebrity
  • Bourdieu
  • literary field
  • cultural sociology

Cite this

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title = "Stay in your own part of the bookshop!: Legitimation in the literary field and the limited exchange value of celebrity capital",
abstract = "This paper explores the phenomenon of boundary crossing between cultural fields and the role that different kinds of capital play in determining whether or not the crossing is a successful one. The fields in question here are those of entertainment (specifically, stand-up comedy) and literature, and the particular boundary crossing is represented by the figure of Ben Elton, a British comedian who has published 15 novels since 1989, with mixed critical and commercial success. One novel (Popcorn, 1996) received sufficient attention within the literary field to be long-listed for the Booker prize, an accolade usually reserved for writers belonging to the sub-field ‘literary fiction’. Others have fared less well, and after many years Elton’s credentials as a writer are still queried in some reviews of his work. I suggest that, from a close analysis of reviews in the UK press, Elton’s boundary crossing was initially enhanced by the amount of celebrity capital that he was able to export to the literary field. Despite his evident intention to remain a serious practitioner in that field, however, this capital has increasingly diminishing returns, and legitimation of his work is forever hampered by the image of his celebrity persona.",
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Stay in your own part of the bookshop! Legitimation in the literary field and the limited exchange value of celebrity capital. / Giles, David.

In: Journal of Cultural Analysis and Social Change, 2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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