Emily Crowell submitted her essay “Jesus Christ Depicted as a White Man” for an assignment in my ENGL 242 class in fall 2014. The assignment was for students to find a Western depiction of the so-called non-West and interrogate the power structures present within that image. In other words, how does the West articulate the non-West in the case of a particular image, and why?
There were a number of strong pieces submitted in response to this assignment, but I chose to send Crowell’s piece for inclusion in this anthology as much for her essay’s perspicacity and intellectual daring as much for her writing per se. Choosing to meditate upon depictions of Christ, in her essay Crowell de-familiarizes a European cultural touchstone and explores the raw power underlying articulations that, in a terrifying reversal of Genesis 1:27, represent God fashioned in man’s image. For an assignment of this length (2-3 pages) her research is more than adequate and fully supports her thesis. She cites extensively from her sources if only to make sure that her thoughts on a controversial topic are indeed well supported. Given her thoughtful approach in interrogating what may be one of the most profound tenants of European cultural common sense, this essay is truly a strong, carefully constructed piece of undergraduate writing.
Drew Starkey’s “Into the Night” takes a lyric essay form in its exploration of insomnia. It smoothly mixes historical shifts in sleep patterns and personal experiences and philosophical musings on the nature of consciousness. He arrives to ideas and lines like this on the nature of sleep and lack of sleep: “Sleeplessness falls somewhere between concrete time and infinity. It’s a place positioned between two worlds; cocooned in a limbo of one mind.” Good literary essays tend to explore ideas that many people have witnessed but not fully articulated or explored. Drew’s essay follows this model, as it brings us into a specific state of sleeplessness (both in form and content) and raises questions that are at once profound and everyday.