Author (Your Name)

Kathleen M. Shaw, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. English Dept.


Charles Bassett


My rationale for choosing the winners in the category of General Fiction of the National and American Book Awards as the focus of my investigation of the characterization of women in American fiction is rather straightforward: I wish to examine the novels recognized by the most prestigious in-house awards given to American fiction in the last twenty years. The National and American Book Awards are generally regarded by the elite of the literary establishment as the coveted prizes, their winners chosen not by a group of venal literary politicians, but by the people who allegedly know the most about American fiction, judges who count most to the writers themselves--namely, their fellow authors and literary critics. Although literary politics to some degree inevitably pervades even the most idealistic of panels and undoubtedly influences the granting of these prizes, the judges who award NBA and TABA, as they are called, nevertheless seem always to have made a conscious effort to honor novels chiefly on their literary and artistic merit. To analyze the books awarded the NBA and TABA from the years 1962-1983, then, is to test out the best that American authors have had to offer in the last twenty-one years: to examine how the publicly recognized creme de la creme of American fiction portrays its female characters.


general fiction, National and American Book Awards, American fiction, female characters


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