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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


VAN JAARSVELD, A. The Hertzog prize for drama: Greek tragedy, Medieval morality play or Nineteenth century reality - the problematic nature of and challenges within the drama "industry" and the influence it bears upon the process of awarding prizes. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.2-1, pp.387-411. ISSN 2224-7912.

The twentieth century compels a reinterpretation of our position within the cultural and social domains in society. This process also inevitably leads to a reconsideration of the concept of "community". To understand and evaluate this process one needs to refer to Bourdieu and the philosophy of science. For the sake of this reinterpretation Pierre Bourdieu positions himself between structuralism on the one hand and a more subjective approach to agents in the society on the other. In effect this means that people ostensibly act as subjective independent agents, but are also influenced by structures within their social environment. Within the literary system it implies that neither the author or playwright nor his/her text, can be evaluated autonomously. Other important players are readers, critics, publishers and even the media. In today's society there is a remarkable increase in the importance of prizes in literature and in the arts. The power and impact thereof on society and culture in general has grown significantly. In a comprehensive review of this phenomenon, James F. English (2008) documents the dramatic rise of the awards industry and its complex role in what he described as an economy of cultural prestige (Van Coller 2010; Bonthuys 2016). Investigating the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns's literary awards, it is evident that the drama awards are surrounded by controversy. Through decades the drama awards were characterized by controversial issues over who would be worthy of an award, but often also about whether an award could be made whatsoever. To reflect on the Hertzog Prize for drama, it is important to get a complete overview of the awards made, but more importantly to investigate the years in which no awards were made. From this investigation, meaningful facts come to the fore especially on the specific process involved. It is apparent that a problematic situation exists because of important issues that play a significant role in the award process of the Hertzog Prize for drama. For one, the fact that the drama genre can never completely be defined within a singular realm. It is literary text, but also performance text and is furthermore heavily dependent on publication. Given the trends in the Afrikaans drama and theatre world, one finds a unique set of problems relating to the successful reception of the published play. The larger ground breaking "new" drama genre is now livelier than ever before, and because of its specific features, it also acts restrictively with regards to publication. Furthermore, the existence of the Afrikaans drama genre, against the background of the important and decisive political and social landscape, has an enormous impact on the status and publication of plays in Afrikaans. The demands set for playwrights for mere survival in the industry today exert extreme entrepreneurial thinking. Apart from the problematic nature and form of the drama, the genre suffers under many outside factors detrimental to financing productions, performance, prescribed feasibility of texts and ultimately publication. These are all factors that have an impact indirectly on the awarding of the Hertzog Prize for drama. As a result of the aforementioned, the dynamics of literary prize awards are investigated in this article. More specifically the nature of the prizes and the value of literary and cultural capital when it comes to assessing these prizes are under scrutiny. Despite the ultimate main focus on the published literary work, there is also an underlying awareness of the types of usable capital in the literary field to establish the position of a playwright of a specific drama within the larger social structures of power in the literary community. A clear transformation in the awarding of prizes is currently taking place. In this process there is a constant dynamic interaction between the extensive mechanics of nomination and election, presentation and acceptance, sponsorship, publicity and scandal. In this article the focus will be on the specific relationships between agents and rules that exist in the field. In addition, the larger "cultural field" which is exposed through prizes, including the interest they generate and the critical hostility they evoke, is viewed. The conclusion that can be drawn is that there is no escape whatsoever from "the economy of prestige". This article attempts an in depth look at drama awards against the background of the drama genre as part of the larger literary system, but also the larger scientific study of theatre. As mentioned above, the dramatic script is concurrently literary text and theatrical performance. It is also, much more than the other two genres, hampered by the specific socio-political landscape within which it exists. The political dynamics as well as socio-historical contexts contribute greatly to the creation, existence and survival of the theatre as a source of the published play. Within the Hertzog prize assessment process the drama as performance text as well as reading text requires without a doubt a unique approach without which the drama genre will never gain its rightful place within the literary system.

Palavras-chave : Hertzogprize; drama; literary prestige; Bourdieu; field-theory; forms of capital; literary awards; drama genre.

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