Ben Auburn Cultural Criticism Award

The Ben Auburn Award in Cultural Criticism

The Ben Auburn Award in Cultural Criticism honors the memory of Benjamin Max Joseph Auburn (1972-2000), son of Mark S. and Sandy K. Auburn, brother of David Auburn, and grandson of Norman P. and Kathleen M. Auburn and George and Pearl Korman. It seeks to stimulate the production and recognition of works of cultural criticism by students at The University of Akron through sponsoring an annual awards competition and symposium administered by the Honors College.

Background Information:

Ben Auburn himself, for example, was a writer, a producer, and a performer. He wrote extensively on popular music and on the rise of Internet communication for print and electronic media (using the review essay or evaluative article mode); but he also designed and conducted audio programs of popular music (performance in the medium of radio and electronic recording) whose purpose was to illustrate trends in the popular music of his day. He performed as an ensemble improvisational comic actor, and his company’s work implicitly assessed trends in the arts, ideas, and aesthetics of his time. His “weblog” tracked some of his thinking (and hence a webpage or a “blog” conducted over an extended period may be entered into this competition).

The Ben Auburn Award seeks to expand the boundaries of cultural criticism, the capacity of our students to participate in its creation, and the opportunities to grapple with arts and aesthetics and ideas expressed in any form. It will recognize thoughtful analysis and commentary, reflective and careful judgment, and sustained acquisition of knowledge and taste. It will reward original thinking and expression. It will encourage intellectual risk-taking subjected to public assessment.

Cultural criticism tracks and assesses trends in the arts and aesthetics and ideas of a human society. Limited neither to high culture nor to popular forms, its examples range over all human artistic and intellectual achievement. Seeking to predict new trends as it critically summarizes past achievements, its most common mode of expression is the review essay or the evaluative article—rhetorical or textual expostulations not of a single object but of several. Cultural criticism can take many shapes and appear in many media, however. A series of related reviews, an extended essay or article, a monograph, or a chapbook are some rhetorical forms; video, audio, or filmed programs may constitute cultural criticism, as may exhibitions and performances and works of imaginative textual (poems, fiction), pictorial, sculptural, and performance art designed primarily to reflect other works of the imagination.


Undergraduate students at The University of Akron may submit productions of cultural criticism to the Awards Committee until 5 p.m. on April 6, 2012.  For Submission Form, click here.   Those productions should be addressed to: Ben Auburn Cultural Criticism Award, Honors College Office, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-1803.

Up to five participants will be invited to take part in a public symposium or performance in the Common Room of the Honors Complex on April 20. Initially, the Ben Auburn Award for Cultural Criticism shall be at least $500, perhaps divided among participants.

Oberlin College connection:

Persons concerned with this Award should take note that Ben Auburn graduated from Oberlin College (1994), although his parents and his grandfather Korman graduated from The University of Akron and his parents and grandparents Auburn served UA. Participation by students of Oberlin College in this Award and its activities is encouraged but not required by the donors, and Oberlin College students may receive awards in the form of tuition credits at The University of Akron.

Questions about this competition may be address to Dr. Mugler at the Honors College office (ext. 7966).