2017 Johnston Award for Best Conference Paper

Award: 
Alexandra Johnston Award
Award Year: 
2017

Winner: Cushman, Helen. “Producing Knowledge in the Chester and N-Town Plays.” International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, 2016.

Helen Cushman’s paper “Producing Knowledge in the Chester and N-Town Plays” provides a persuasive and original reading of the Nativity and Thomas plays in the Chester and N-Town plays by examining Biblical, liturgical, and theatrical connections between the characters of Salome and Thomas. Cushman analyzes the role of “assaying” in each play as a mode of producing knowledge, and she convincingly explores how the plays contrast learned and lewed, masculine and feminine, and intellectual and experiential knowledge. As she argues throughout, drama is especially adept at fusing these modes of knowing. In her words: “[T]he plays demonstrate how theological knowledge does not rest safely or exclusively in the hands of an appointed clerical elite, nor alternatively, in the hands of extraclergial writers. Knowledge, instead, would appear to be something crafted and performed collectively, at the precise point of contact between clerical learning and physical experience. The physical and visual collective experience of theological knowledge as drama results in the creation of a more inclusive kind of audience—and thus allows lewed people to participate as both producers and consumers of theological knowledge.”

Award Committee: Cameron Hunt McNabb and Christina Fitzgerald (chair). Awards announcement and presentation took place during the MRDS business meeting in May at the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.