Joanna Clifford

Exeter student wins American Ambassador’s Award

A national competition for the best undergraduate essay on any aspect of the American experience, from the perspective of history, literature, film, politics or any other related or inter-related discipline has been won by a University of Exeter student.

Third-year English Undergraduate, Joanna Clifford, succeeded in winning the British Association for American Studies (BAAS) / United States Embassy "Ambassador's Award".

Joanna’s winning essay was a coursework submission from her third year option, The American Novel Since 2000.  The essay was entitled: "Print Culture: the construction and destruction of the national narrative in Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America" and was submitted to the BAAS by Joanna’s tutor Dr Sinéad Moynihan.  The essay was inspired by Joanna’s impression that in recent years, there has been a focus on how the American national narrative of liberty and democracy has been endangered by terrorism.  It reveals that the national narrative itself can be dangerous.

The essay is a superb example of undergraduate work at its best according to Dr Moynihan. She said:”In the essay, Joanna argued that Roth's novel reveals, through the micro-texts of stamps and maps, the potential for abuse of the ideals enshrined in the U.S.’s most sacred documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It was exceptionally well written, well researched and well argued and it was no surprise to me when she won the award.”

The U.S. Embassy's cultural attache, Monique Quesada, presented Joanna with her award at a gala dinner held at the BAAS Annual Conference on 20 April. Joanna said of the experience:“I was incredibly flattered to be presented the award by such a high-ranking official, who has done some amazing work for the United States government. I do hope that winning this award will have a positive effect on my career prospects as I believe that this demonstrates that I am hardworking, motivated, and prepared to go above and beyond the basic requirements of my course to achieve success.”

She added:“Being awarded such a prestigious prize is recognition of the effort I have put into my academic studies this year, and shows that hard work really pays off. It has also given me much greater confidence in my academic potential, and my future prospects.”

Further praise for Joanna came from Dr Paul Williams who taught her on a module called The Novel and again on the course Acts of Writing: Literature and Film, 1953-Present. He said:“Her work is strikingly original, and it was a pleasure to be taken by surprise by the intelligent new perspectives she brought to novels that are well covered by academic criticism. It was no surprise, though, that she won the BAAS undergraduate essay prize, since one rarely sees essays of this high quality. If Ms.Clifford chooses to pursue a career in academia, she has made a great start and no doubt there is even stronger work to come.”

Date: 26 April 2013

Read more University News