Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Congratulations to Prof. Cory Reed for receiving the Humanities Research Award (2017-2018)

Mon, October 9, 2017
Congratulations to Prof. Cory Reed for receiving the Humanities Research Award (2017-2018)
Dr. Cory Reed

This research project seeks to understand the cultural dynamics of what we might call an early modern social activism in Europe, as exemplified by theatrical performances that participated in public campaigns of social awareness and political action during times of war and cultural tension in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain. Dr. Reed employs methodologies derived from the emerging field of cognitive literary-cultural studies in order to analyze the social and psychological interactions in the shared public space of theatrical performance and to ascertain the discursive and emotional strategies employed by dramatists and theatrical companies in order to disseminate subversive messages in a society governed by a rigid, hierarchical, class structure and censorship. This project, which attempts to address the problem of how critical and/or subversive messages are conveyed in the public arena despite political attempts to silence them, has implications for our own age of media saturation, in which dissenting voices have difficulty penetrating the onslaught of messages crafted by elite, vested interests for the purpose of manipulating and controlling public opinion.

Specifically, this project analyzes the cognitive interactions in early modern Spanish theatre, both among characters in certain plays and between theatrical performers and their audience, in order to propose a cognitive theory of performance that explains how theatre brings together diverse perspectives in order to forge empathy and inspire thoughts and plans for social action. The project focuses on dramatic texts that were performed as part of social or political campaigns in early modern Spain. Among these is El trato de Argel by Miguel de Cervantes, which was performed as part of a campaign to raise awareness for the plight of captives abroad, but which “spins” Spanish patriotism in order to generate an emotional appeal to resolve the dehumanizing Algerian slave trade that personally affected more than 50% of the Spanish population. In Numancia, Cervantes likewise undermines an apparent message of Spanish patriotism in order to deliver a potentially subversive critique of the abuses of Spanish hegemony in its exercise of imperial power in the Americas and entice his audience to act. In El valiente negro en Flandes, a play likely performed as a recruitment device for soldiers near the end of the failing Eighty Years’ War, Andrés de Claramonte challenges traditional associations of Spanish valor and racial-ethnic purity by depicting the model soldier as a black protagonist who aspires to symbolic whiteness but whose valorous actions eclipse those of a leadership class growing complacent during the long war.

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