From the epigraphs that we have read throughout this course, I chose the one that states the incredibility of the comprehension of a sentence. The epigraph by Percival Everett’s novel Erasure is, “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean some thing, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention”. This epigraph stood out to me from the others because I think its honesty is so true to today’s world and can correlate to some goals I have set for myself for this course.
In Percival Everett’s book titled Erasure, the author prefaces his novel with his epigraph. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms defines the word epigraph by stating, “A passage printed on the title page or first page of a literary work or at the beginning of a section of such a work. Epigraphs, which tend to set the tone or establish the theme of what follows, are generally taken from earlier, influential texts by other authors” (Murfin and Ray, 309). After reading the epigraph from the novel Erasure, I immediately thought of how true his words are. It is often forgotten about how insane it is that any sentence is understood. As Everett says in the epigraph, it is crazy that a string of words can make sense to others but also can be interpreted differently by each individual hearing it. I thought this was very interesting because this occurs in everyday life. People will say things with one intention and others hearing it may take it a different way, similar to what often occurs in The Bacchae. One crucial example in this play was when Dionysus knew that Pentheus was going to die. Before this happened he made reference to Pentheus by stating, “I will escort you there safely, but another will bring you back from there… Yes, my mother!” (Euripides, 153). Pentheus thinks that his mother will be taking him back but he doesn’t know Dionysus’ intentions are to kill him. This is a great way to show how The Bacchae has examples of the epigraph I used.
Another way to view this epigraph and how I correlated it to my goals for this course was how a student interprets a professor’s expectations. On the first day of any college class, the professor often goes over the syllabus. Although the syllabus mostly has the due dates and required textbooks, what is crucial to the course is the professor’s expectations from their students. On my first day of this course, I was nervous, afraid, and doubted myself. On our first day we went over the syllabus and what Professor McCoy expected from us as a class. After that class had ended, I was happy that the professor’s expectations were made clear and I could reach out if I was ever lost. I often feel like many of my professors make it clear that they don’t really want to be contacted unless absolutely necessary. But in this class, I felt comfortable reaching out to the professor because she wanted to help me. On that first day when we talked about expectations, Professor McCoy made it clear what she was looking for from us. She wanted us to be honest with her, to put in effort into our work, to be proud of our work, and much more. She went into detail about how she respected us as students but expected the respect back. This involved being honest when missing class or asking for an extension. When I first heard her explain how she wanted us to be honest with her I just assumed since this is an english class, she meant do not plagiarize. This is an example of how I took what she was saying about being honest and saw it from a different perspective. She then cleared up what she meant by being honest. After the class had ended, I knew that if I was missing class at any point that I would tell Professor McCoy the truth as to why I was missing rather than a made up excuse that sounded better. I appreciated my professor explaining what she wanted from us and what exactly she meant by honesty. I made it a goal of mine, to be honest with Professor McCoy the entire semester, whether it was about absences, grades, needing help, or anything else. It is interesting to me that if my professor never further explained what she meant by being honest with her, if I would have ever come to the conclusion that she meant in every aspect and not just with my writing. This is a great example of what Percival Everett was talking about in his epigraph. I experienced what he was talking about as Professor McCoy spoke to me about expectations and honesty and I maybe did not take it the exact way she meant it. This is just what happens in any kind of communication and Everett worded it perfectly in his epigraph.
One day in class we spoke about the difference between good and bad faith. As a class we decided that good faith often deals with honesty and sincerity while bad faith deals with lying and being deceitful. We separated into small groups and discussed our personal experiences of dealing with good and bad faith. As I sat there and tried to think of some examples, my mind was blank. After some of my classmates shared some of their examples, I thought of a problem that recently occurred for me involving this class. Over the summer, Professor McCoy sent us a few emails and announcements on canvas stating what textbooks we would need for this course. Since I have had professors in the past who would require multiple very expensive textbooks and never have us use them, I was hesitant about buying the books. I told myself I wanted to wait until I met the professor and had the first class before I spent any money on textbooks. On the first day I realized that Professor McCoy was not lying about what textbooks we would need and that we needed them immediately. I ordered all my textbooks, as soon as I got home but two days later I got an email that every single one of my books for this class was on backorder. I called the bookstore asking if I could cancel the order and they said no. I had two options, spend way more money buying the books somewhere else or just waiting for my books. I decided to wait. I borrowed a book from a friend and did a lot of audiobooks on youtube but if I had just had good faith in my professor and listened to her, I would not be in the predicament I was in. This relates back to the epigraph I chose, because once again, I did not just listen to my professor as I should have. I instead thought maybe she was lying or that the syllabus was not updated. Good faith and bad faith also relate to my chosen epigraph as it can sometimes mean lying and that is an example of bad faith. The reason I explained my experience with my textbooks was because it taught me that I needed to set goals for myself to be more on top of my work. This was a perfect example of my laziness and uncertainty which caused me to not be the best version I could be of myself and be fully prepared for class. Now I make sure that I am checking canvas often, making sure I have all the books I need, and making my calendar clear and organized so I don’t miss anything. I learned from this situation and have since made it a priority of mine to stay on top of my work.
I chose Everett’s epigraph from Erasure to explain how I correlated it with the goals I have set for myself for this class. I found that this specific epigraph truly explained perspective and how others can have different perspectives. This was a great way for me to connect perspective and how I view this course. I also found examples of this epigraph in The Bacchae and with the lecture we had in class about good and bad faith. This epigraph showed me the many examples of perspective for this class and allowed me to discover and set new goals for myself.
“The Bacchae.” The Bacchae and Other Plays, by Euripides, Penguin Books, 2006, pp. 121–168.
Bedford Glossary of Critical & Literary Terms , by Ross Murfin and Supryia Ray, 2017.