It’s hard to believe an expansion of one’s mind would come from a pair of pants. Maybe it’s altruistic revenge for an expanding waistline. When I first saw the Suspicious Pants tweet on Dr. McCoy’s syllabus, I couldn’t help but to think it was just another veiled attempt to relate and connect to her younger audience. A thought that was nearly confirmed as we spent our class dissecting it to gain a scholarly understanding of it all .But admittedly, as the discussion went on, a sense of depth started to form around the picture that was coupled with only two words. Suspicious pants. However, this deeper meaning didn’t truly take form until I took the thought and expanded it to other areas of the class.
On the surface, Suspicious Pants suggests looking beyond your initial viewpoint and to ask yourself what is on the other side. The conflicting duality of, are the pants suspect of themselves or are they suspicious of something else, can go even deeper. What makes a reader think they are suspect? if I had been raised differently, would I still consider them suspect? Had they been jeans, shorts, or even the coveted pocket lined skirt, would I still lock my doors when they are around? This side of the pant plot demand self-reflection to help find the deeper meaning within myself. Alternatively, what does a pair of pants have to be suspicious of? The cameraman? The naked owner returning to their pants? A mirror? No matter the subject, what has gone on in the pant’s world that demands their need of being suspicious? Is there even a world for the pants to reside in or are they merely the result of years of evolution causing the human brain to hallucinate them into cognitive existence? Which according to Merriam-Webster is pareidolia, the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. A dinosaur in the clouds. A face in a stain. Life in a pair of pants. All of this and the idea only continues when I read Dr. McCoy’s write up on peritext and epitext. She describes peritext as “non-textual” elements with which authors imbue their texts. What the author controls. So, would I be having such a visceral reaction to this picture if the author, @_youhadonejob1, had not included their caption? In contrast, Dr. McCoy summarized epitext as elements outside of the author’s control. Would any of us be here had it not been for Dr. McCoy choosing to include Suspicious Pants in her syllabus and force the discussion upon her students? All of these questions with seemingly no concrete answers. And any derived answers, only leading to more questions. This concept in of itself is the answer to the question behind the importance of the Suspicious Pants. To fully understand something as abstract as a 2018 tweet, an Ancient Greek play, or a conversation in an English class, is to keep opening more doors of questioning and answers until you find each door. Regardless of if you enter them and choose to stay or not.
When Dr. McCoy repeatedly suggested reading The Bacchae at least twice due to its difficult nature, I believed her because Ancient Greek plays are usually as dry as the paper they are printed on. But, as I began my second reading while simultaneously beginning to think about what I may or may not write for this essay, minus any of the actual writing, I started to theorize an alternative motive for the prompt. While definitely a dense read, The Bacchae also houses a multitude of required layered understanding to fully appreciate it. Within the story, characters can be regular men or women, Kings, or even Gods. It may be easy enough to think like one of the regular folk, but how can you relate to a King let alone a God? By giving understanding to the characters you relate to, the viewpoints you align with, you can shelf those understandings in order to shift your focus on the alternatives. The Bacchae‘s need for understanding goes even further when you consider the time in which it was written compared to present day. Partying all day in the forest with your gal pals sounds like a delightful way to spend your Summer. When contrasted with 405 B.C. in Ancient Greece, what would the typical audience member think? Especially when you consider that, according to World History Encyclopedia, the audience members were most likely men and culturally at the time, a woman’s place was at homes with the children? How would these ideas affect the way Euripedes chose to write the play? Were his decision based in educational reasoning, entertainment purposes, political and social commentary, or was he merely concerned with getting paid? A full on barrage of questions met with only half answers are all the result of a tweet. A tweet that has taken form as the primary catalyst for an English student to gain understanding of a play written in a different time and world. Further pushed by a suggestion to re-read and rethink about the play and a suggestion that would be needed to taken time and time again to get close to fully understanding the play, as well as everything in life, in all of their intricacies.
A drawing of a certain par of suspicious pants exclaiming “Wears for Sale” rests in my notebook and marks the start of a new line of thinkING. A new line of questioning. “What did she say?”, “How do I find the syllabus?”, “Is she serious?” all lead to “What is a King to a God?”, “What would a son do for his mother?”, and lastly, “When do we get to talk about this in class?” I still believe these pants are an attempt to relate and connect to our class. But now I understand it is more than that. It’s to educate, to motivate, and to cultivate an open minded way of thinkING whose growth will feed into itself in a classroom setting. Whether or not the pants were just a device to get internet addicted students hooked on learning doesn’t matter in the end. What does matter, is that it worked.
McCoy, “What is the paratext?”
Euripides. The Bacchae and Other Plays. Penguin Books, 2005.
Cartwright, Mark. “Women in Ancient Greece.” World History Encyclopedia, World History Publishing, 27 July 2016, https://www.worldhistory.org/article/927/women-in-ancient-greece/.
“Pareidolia Definition & Meaning.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pareidolia#:~:text=%3A%20the%20tendency%20to%20perceive%20a,make%20pictures%20out%20of%20randomness.