Prizing Scottish Literature

Prizing Scottish Literature

A Cultural History of the Saltire Society Literary Awards

By Stevie Marsden

Anthem Studies in Book History, Publishing and Print Culture

This history of the Saltire Society Literary Awards demonstrates the significance the awards have had within Scottish literary and cultural life. The book explores how the prizes have influenced understandings of Scottish literature over eight decades and explores what they reveal about the wider mechanisms of how literary prize culture functions in the UK today. 

PDF, 250 Pages


February 2021

£25.00, $40.00

EPUB, 250 Pages


February 2021

£25.00, $40.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
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  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

The book provides a comprehensive descriptive history of the founding of the Saltire Society in 1936, a Scottish cultural organization dedicated to promoting ‘all that’s best in Scottish culture’, and its series of literary awards which now includes prizes for fiction, first books, history books, non-fiction, poetry and research books. The book accomplishes this by including a detailed descriptive history of the founding of the Saltire Society and its literary awards and original analyses of the impact the award has made within the UK’s literary economy and publishing culture, forming a unique perspective of research in practice enabled by access to archives, interviews and observations that are unique.

This cultural history of the Saltire Society Literary Awards demonstrates the significance the awards have had within Scottish literary and cultural life. It is one piece of the wider cultural award puzzle and illustrates how, far from being parochial or niche, lesser-known awards, whose histories may be yet untold, play their own role in the circulation of cultural value through the consecration of literary value. The study of the Society’s Book of the Year and First Book of the Year Awards not only highlights how important connections between literary awards and national culture and identity are within prize culture and how literary awards, and their founding institutions, can be products of the socio-political and cultural milieu in which they form,; but this study also illustrates how existing literary award scholarship has only begun to scratch the surface of the complexities of the phenomenon. This book promotes a new approach to considering literary prizes, proposing that the concept of the literary awards hierarchy can contribute to emerging and developing discourses pertaining to literary, and indeed cultural, prizes more broadly.


“The book is a valuable contribution to the field of prize studies. The deep history of the Saltire Prize is, in and of itself, a valuable addition to knowledge about Scottish organization, political assembly and perceptions of national cultural production. There are a number of original and innovative dimensions to the work, and the book’s research has clear implications for cultural studies, English studies, publishing studies, the sociology of the arts, arts labour, and area studies.” —Will Smith, University of Stirling, UK

“This volume is absolutely an original and useful contribution to the study of literary prize culture. Dr Marsden has undertaken an extremely detailed and sophisticated study of the Saltire Society Literary Awards that threads together the history of the award and the society with contemporary contextualization. This book is a welcome addition to the field of study, and one that I will cite regularly in my own work.” —Dr Alexandra Dane, Lecturer in Professional Practice, University of Melbourne, Australia

“Marsden’s book is an accessible yet in-depth and highly original study of Scottish literary awards. Both a fascinating cultural history of the Saltire Society and an incisive analysis of literary prize culture, it is essential reading for anyone interested in the production and public profile of contemporary literary culture.” —Danielle Fuller, Full Professor, Department of English & Film Studies and Adjunct Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Canada

“The success of Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain makes it seem that a distinctive Scottish voice in literature is a given. But Marsden’s deft and detailed study reveals how this identity had to be consciously built through institutions, policies and not a few controversies. It provides invaluable, first-hand insight into how a national literary culture is actually made.” —Simone Murray, Associate Professor of Literary Studies, Monash University, Australia

Author Information

Stevie Marsden is a research associate at the CAMEo Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies, University of Leicester, and a lecturer in publishing at the University of Derby. This is her first monograph.


Anthem Studies in Book History, Publishing and Print Culture

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations; Acknowledgements; Introduction; Part I; 1. The History of the Saltire Society; 2. The Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year; 3. The Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award; Part II; 4. ‘What’s This Got to Do with Scotland?’: Qualifying Scottishness through Terms of Eligibility; 5. Noticing Talent: Michel Faber, James Kelman, A. L. Kennedy, Ali Smith and the Saltire Society Literary Awards; 6. Not Your Typical Book Award: New Ways of Thinking about Literary Awards; Appendix; Notes; Bibliography; Index.


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