2020 Johnston Award for Best Conference Paper

Alexandra Johnston Award
Award Year: 

Winner: Youssef, Jennie. “Zambra, Codes of Honor, and Moorish Dress: Transculturation in Calderon’s Love after Death.” 4th International Conference of Young Researchers on Theatre Studies (CIJIET IV), Valencia, Spain, October 31, 2019.

The committee agreed unanimously that Youssef’s paper rose to the top of the six papers nominated, in no small part due to clear, fluent, and engaging prose; strong argumentation; and skilled handling of the text in question. Youssef expertly illustrates Calderon’s ambivalence about Moriscos’ roles in the blending of cultures in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain. The key critical perspective at work is “transculturation,” which allows Youssef to avoid simplistic cultural or racial oppositions like the Christianity/Islam binary which is often ahistorically read backwards onto the period. Instead, she begins from the vantage point that Spanish society that has long been a site of cultural exchange, and the production of new, distinctive Spanish dimensions that are a blend of previously separate cultural markers. Employing close reading of dramatic and political texts, Youssef contends that Calderon’s Love After Death presents a transcultural amalgamation of performance practices, dress, and ethical codes. She demonstrates that the primary signifier distinguishing the Moriscos from “European” Spaniards was the former’s use of the Arabic language. Thorough and well-written, this essay provides a timely illustration of the blending of global cultures in the Early Modern era. We were very impressed with this essay, and we look forward to the high-quality work sure to come from this talented new voice in early drama studies.

Award Committee: Sarah Jane Brazil, Frank Napolitano, and Lofton L. Durham (chair). Awards announcement and presentation took place during the MRDS business meeting in May, held online by way of Zoom due to the COVID19 global pandemic.