“The interesting thing about irony for me is that real irony is far more sincere than earnestness. To accept the absurdity of a situation is to accept the humanness of it. Utter sincerity suggests a kind of belief that one knows all there is to know about a given circumstance. That is not to say that one should ever make light of serious and grave and important issues, but that open and genuine intellectual curiosity should never be a casualty in any situation. Irony is not always funny. Humor is not always ironic. –”
On August 26, 2019, I walked into my first English class at SUNY Geneseo; I was testing the water in the hope of becoming an English major on the creative writing track. Now that it is December 3, 2019, I’ve learned more about myself as an individual and decided I no longer wanted to be on the English creative writing track, but on the English literature track. Arriving as a freshman, I wanted to be a Political Science major because I was pushed toward becoming a lawyer, but after this class I realized that changing my major was the best decision I made in preparation for the future. While looking for an English 203 class I came across “ENGL-203-03: R&T:Percival Everett Intertextual” I had no idea who Percival Everett was or what the definition of intertextuality was, I did know that it fit into the time slots I had open and it was added.
After reading multiple works by Percival Everett and watching movies that correlate to his books in this class I believe the epigraph from his interview with Yogita Goyal, serves as a notable through line for the changes I’ve made throughout my Fall 2019 semester and the books we covered. I would like to think that with my deep analysis with Everett this semester I’ve gotten better at finding the deeper meaning of texts along with interpreting what the author is trying to say. Everett says, “to accept the absurdity of a situation is to accept the humanness of it”, this resonates with my everyday life while addressing his own characters life in I Am Not Sidney Poitier.
In the novel titled “I Am Not Sidney Poitier”, the main character Not Sidney goes through various situations within his life, which are absolutely absurd but reflect the great joys of being human. In a scene taken from the movie “The Defiant Ones” Not Sidney decides to drive to Los Angeles to find his mother’s grave and to see where he grew up. Inevitably, Not Sidney was pulled over for being a man of color (48), like many men and women of color today he was racially profiled and charged for crimes that were not legitimate. He was arrested and in the process of being transported to the prison his bus gets into a car accident. Not Sidney and Patrice run away together because they were the only ones conscious and they were handcuffed together. Along the way, they meet a young boy who takes them back to his house, where Patrice falls in love with his sister and they decide to run away together. Arriving early everyone takes a nap except Not Sidney and when the train comes he jumps on alone leaving everyone behind. As preposterous as this situation may seem humanistic attributes are displayed; Not Sidney does not wake anyone up because there would be less weight to carry and was an every man for themselves situation.
In reflecting on my life, I know now that I am a lot like Not Sidney, but instead of running toward my roots I was running away from my roots. I could not imagine being home with family for much longer; I wanted to be free, run away from the constant tug of war in my house, and develop the person I have become today. As Everett stated in his interview no matter how absurd our reasons may seem it shows the human in us and the decisions we will make in and every man for themselves situation exerts this best. Walking into English 203 that summer’s day I was confused looking at a meme of suspicious pants, but I left my concerns and worries at the door, jumping onto the train into Percival Everett’s mind and blog post assignments that made me want to trash offices.
Blog posts were my enemy at the beginning of the semester, an informal piece written based on something I found interesting in the class, and was published publicly. I have to admit that after receiving the grade from my second blog post I was a little unhappy; the truth was I really didn’t know what I was doing. But nothing stays the same forever, after meeting with my TA’s, Professor McCoy, and reading the helpful feedback provided on each post I began to receive better grades and I was grateful I didn’t give up. Everett said “[a] genuine intellectual curiosity should never be a casualty in any situation” and I believe this is explicitly displayed in re: f(gesture), in which Everett wrote three sections of poems based on topics that seem to not relate. The first section covered famous historical events with an alphabetical format, here it can be seen as Everett tackling common knowledge over a broad range of fields and adding a twist to a commonly used form. Exploring common knowledge in the first two sections of his book, “Zulus” and “Body”, he explores and develops his own curious interests while reminding his readers to think creatively. In his book his own intellectual curiosity was not a victim to some of the underlying heavy topics he seemed to have been addressing: common knowledge among fields, writers following their own curiosities, and breaking the stigma of liberal arts being seen as boring and useless “Oo you’re an English Major, I’m sorry”. Throughout the length of the semester I found it difficult to break my years of training in writing formal essays and adding my own creative spin on topics I choose. By my tenth blog post, I felt like I learned how to incorporate my own sense of creativity among my writing while following my own curiosities.
English 203 is technically a prerequisite for the English major serving as a foundation class for all students, but I don’t see English 203-03: R&T:Percival Everett Intertextual as just another foundation class. Attending this class I believe I learned so much more than any other English 203 class would have to offer while making great friends in the process. On August 26th, I walked in as a normal sophomore ready to become a lawyer, the irony of the situation was that this was the path my parents were pushing me toward my whole life; coming in as a freshman, I wanted to be a surgeon and here I am three semesters deep and pursuing a career in law again. Now it is December 11th the closing of this class, in which I learned how to unpack my statements and now can no longer go back to hearing statements without asking for more details, where I learned to think creatively and logically, and I refuse to hand in a piece of work if it was not to the best of my ability. I learned that it was okay to start over if it’ll allow the reader to understand my point clearly and to be attached to my work but not fear the necessary changes that needed to be made for a better paper. So, in a way the class is a foundation but it spreads further than my major and further than Percival Everett; granted I don’t think I can read another novel without thinking of Everett and deepening my reading of the books with probing questions and wondering what the author is trying to say. Percival Everett’s novels opened a new world thinking to me in which I believe I can never go back on.