English 203 Final Reflective Essay

At the beginning of the semester, I remember staring at that picture of pants hung over a chair, and thinking how is this relevant to literature? Throughout the course of the semester I soon answered my own question. The purpose of the suspicious pants epigraph was to represent interpretations and the uniqueness of everyone’s ideas and thoughts on the subject at hand. This epigraph and its meaning has stuck with me throughout the entirety of the semester, leading me to conclusions that I didn’t even think I could come to. The different ideas that I had come up with had come to me based on the uniqueness of my own interpretations of the literature in class. The idea of perspective and interpretation goes along with most things that we did in class this semester and it offered me so much growth along the way. 

In one of our first in class discussions, I recall having a war over whether or not it was pronounced elemen-tary or elemen-tree. This discussion brought about the idea that interpretations can differ depending on where someone may be from. For example, I personally say elemen-tary and I happen to be from upstate New York, while most people from down state New York often say elemen-tree. This just shows how easily an interpretation of something may differ. By looking at this interpretation in class and outside, I was able to write about these differing interpretations and what they mean in my first blog post. This first post was something that was extremely difficult to write for me, I was not used to having to pick my own topic on something and have to write something deep and meaningful about that topic. Needless to say it did not end well, and I was more than a little discouraged. I continued on throughout the first couple posts without any help, which only caused my grades to drop even lower. Once I realized that I needed help, my topics and interpretations of those topics improved greatly over the semester. 

One of those topics is that of the Common Core standardized education in the public school system and how it takes away the students right to interpret and internalize something in their own way. With standardized education comes the added consequence of a lack of uniqueness in students writing. Students are not able to form any opinions of their own, and are often taught for their final exam, rather than taught to learn and understand the subject. The unrealistic expectations of students is mentioned in Will Greer’s article, The 50 Year History of Common Core, which states that it is “mandated that 100% of students be proficient, or at grade-level, on state standards by 2014.” This expectation was completely unrealistic, and since students were more focused on learning for their exams, they lost the whole idea of interpreting something and formulating an important opinion on it. I had my own personal experience with this in the beginning of the semester, since I had come from a Common Core based education at a public school my writing was not up to the standard that it should have been. I thought that I could figure it out myself, but once I decided to ask for help, Professor McCoy’s interpretations and ideas given to me helped me out of the hole that Common Core writing standards had dug for me. 

The idea of rules was something that I had also spent a good amount of time interpreting and pondering during the semester. Mostly when looking into Percival Everett’s novel, I am Not Sidney Poitier, I looked into the idea of how the rules work in this fictional world. Most of the time, these rules were interpreted by corrupt individuals who used them against Not Sidney. Such as when Not Sidney was arrested for “sassin’ an officer of the law”(Everett) and also for simply being black. These officers had interpreted the laws how they wanted to, which was corruptly, and also gave them more power over Not Sidney. I interpreted the idea of rules as the concept I listed above, and this gave me the idea of writing about the idea of societal rules and how they can often dictate someone’s every move. This whole idea offered a wide set of interpretations along with it, and I was even able to make a blog post out of it. This was a post that I was sure was going to go well, but yet again I was disappointed with the results. This was the post that pushed me to go in and receive help, and it was also the post that showed me that it is okay to ask for help when you need it. 

Our lesson in the library about using our resources was also something that I will take with me during my whole time here at Geneseo. The lesson taught us how to properly use the library databases and how to use our resources to the fullest. Not Sidney, in I am Not Sidney Poitier, often found many lessons and resources in his local library. It was here that he found a book by an Austrian Psychiatrist which outlined a theory called Fesmerization: “a method of gaining control of a subject without the subjects awareness”(Everett). Not Sidney had taken this with him and used it throughout the whole novel to his advantage. He interpreted it in a way that he could use it during his whole life, and it boded well for him in many different ways. For example, Not Sidney had decided to join a fraternity, but when he realized how degrading the hazing process was he decided enough was enough. In order to get himself out of this toxic situation, Not Sidney had Fesmerized his roommate and asked him not only to kick Not Sidney out of the fraternity, but also to “start a recycling campaign on campus”(Everett). In doing this, Not Sidney had effectively started a campus wide recycling project, and he avoided joining an incredibly toxic group of boys, which saved Not Sidney from the degradation that he would have suffered otherwise. The great thing about most resources is that they can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the resource being used. Once I decided I needed help, I used my resources to better my own writing, and with all the resources available to me it seemed to improve from there. I began learning how to properly write a blog post once I learned that it’s okay to ask for help and to use resources. 

The entirety of our English 203 course was based on the idea of intertextuality and how Percival Everett used intertextuality throughout all his pieces that we looked at during the semester.  Professor McCoy also introduced to use the idea of New Criticism which is defined by The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms by Supriya Ray, as “a type of formalist literary criticism characterized by close textual analysis”. When comparing intertextuality and New Criticism, it all comes down to the interpretation of different literary texts. When looking at a piece New Critically you can only interpret it based on the work in front of you, but when looking at a piece intertextually you can interpret it based on other pieces of literature as well. The ideas of both of these concepts was something that drove me to write better blogs by incorporating other pieces of literature, but also being able to observe one piece and use it to my own advantage in the blog post assignment as well. 

Once I began to become more comfortable with the writing style of blog posts, I began to think of what to write about rather than how to write about it. This brought about the idea of writing a poem for my post titled Poetry, Everett Style!, which was about the 7 Deadly Sins and how Everett alluded to them in his final poem in his poetry book re: f(gesture). Poems in themselves have many layers, and are often complex to write and read. The beauty of poetry, is that it can be interpreted in many different ways, and none of them are necessarily wrong or right. In my poem I decided to write of the 8 Evil Thoughts, which is where the 7 Deadly Sins of Christianity are derived from. I depicted them in a way that was supposed to show a critique of the Christian faith, and how people often break the rules they are supposed to follow. This post in particular was a big growth post for me, as was really interpreting Everett’s poems and trying to capture his essence in my own work. 

In my final blog post of the semester I decided to write about nonsense, or more so the concept of nonsense and if something can truly be nonsense or not. I toyed with the idea that if something is nonsense, can we make it into sense just by educating ourselves about the subject at hand? I came to the conclusion that it is all based on interpretations of the subject; whether or not the reader or listener believe it to be nonsense or not. Professor Everett in I am Not Sidney Poitier is a prime example of someone who seemingly speaks nonsense, but has alot of education and knowledge to offer his students. Not Sidney learns many important lessons from his class called The Philosophy of Nonsense, and he often uses these lessons in his real life. Often times during class conversations, some things that my peers would say would go right over my head and I personally declared it nonsense. After class time, I would find myself pondering the conversations that had went on and educating myself on the subjects we were covering in discussion, and slowly the nonsense became knowledge for me. 

The blogging assignment in its entirety is something that was so incredibly useful in bettering my own writing. The whole idea of the blog post assignment was to find different ways of interpreting and connecting the literature we were given over the course of the semester, and to make intelligent claims from these pieces of literature. These blogs were something that caused a tremendous amount of growth in not only my writing, but my own confidence in my writing. And the suspicious pants seem to come full circle here, the idea of interpretation and how each person’s interpretation can be different was something that ran through the entire semester. There was a huge lesson to be learned simply by looking at the picture of the suspicious pants, and that lesson will stay with me during my entire college career. 

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