The essays featured in this issue of Paper Shell Review boldly tackle challenging material, ranging from the Victorian novel’s encounter with disability to the cultural history of an African American military hero whose official recognition for valor arrived about a hundred years too late. They also venture into the primitive dreamscape of a modernist “nightwood” and bear witness to the brutal legacy of Christianity in the postcolonial Caribbean. Surefooted and strongly argued, they have much to teach us about the power of imaginative writing to unsettle familiar worlds and envision alternative ones.
In its own way, each of these essays negotiates past and present. We learn how Djuna Barnes’s Nightwoodretells the Edenic narrative of Genesis as a modernist fall into knowledge of self and other. We see the valuable resources of contemporary disability theory mobilized to discover in Wilkie Collins’s Poor Miss Finch a critique of the ableist and sexist ideologies that created Victorian ideas of the “normal.” We are exposed to the violent histories of religious colonial intervention in the Caribbean, seen from the perspective of postcolonial fictions from the region. And we are introduced to the true story of World War I hero Henry Johnson, whose brave critique of racism at the time not only cost him all the adulation he had received for courage on the Western Front but remained unremarked, even up to 2015, when President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Medal of Honor.
The critical journeys undertaken in these essays make for powerful and rewarding reading. Congratulations to their authors for their engaging—and engaged—scholarship.
Professor of English, University of Maryland
- Nicholas Brown
- Rosa Perez Ceballos
- Leila Dawson
- Shaliah George
- Christian Ivey
- Brianna Lale
- Meiling Liu
- Maryam Mashayekhi
- Ellen McDaniel
- Caitlyn Roberts
- Heather Seyler
Our deepest thanks to…
Amanda Bailey, Christina Walter, and Karen Lewis, for supporting undergraduate communities like ours,
Theresa Coletti, for not only supplying our beautiful introduction, but for teaching and supporting us long before this journal was ever published,
Elise Auvil, for knowing what to do when we didn’t,
John Prince and co., for once again bringing this journal to print,
The Center for Literary and Comparative Studies and the Student Government Association, for providing our funding, without which this project would not be possible,
Our editorial board, for spending precious hours reading, editing and putting up with us,
Lauren Baker, for her unwavering leadership and enthusiasm,
Heather Seyler, for stepping up when we needed her,
Sohayl Vafai, for founding this wonderful journal some years ago,
Emily Tuttle, for entrusting us with the responsibilities she worked so hard to fulfill,
Our contributors, without whom this journal would not exist,
And lastly, our readers, who make this journal worth printing in the first place.
Jonathan Offenberg and Hannah Meshulam
Spring 2017 Essays
Eden Re-Lost: Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood as a Reinterpretation of Genesis
In 1936, American expatriate writer Djuna Barnes published her fifth book, Nightwood. Set throughout Europe and America, Nightwoodfollows the lovers of Robin Vote as they attempt to comprehend the otherworldly woman and their attraction to her. Meanwhile, the transgender doctor Matthew O’Connor provides intermittent philosophical monologues detailing the nature of love, sleep, and death.
The Great Stones Got to Move: Violence and Religion in Diana McCaulay’s Huracan, Maryse Condé’s Crossing the Mangrove, and Kei Miller’s The Fear of Stones and Other Stories
“Telling a half that has hardly ever been told.” (“Kei Miller”)
“Young Black Joe” to the Harlem Hellfighters: America’s Imperfect Portrayals of WWI Hero Henry Johnson
On May 15, 1918, Henry Johnson, a private in the all-black 369th United States Infantry Regiment, armed with only a knife, protected both himself and a wounded comrade from a German attack on the Western Front of World War I. On June 2, 2015, nearly eighty-six years after Johnson’s death, President Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Honor (“Medal of Honor: Sergeant Henry Johnson”).