Myah Dombroski-ENGL 203: Final Self Reflective Essay

Throughout my previous education experiences, I’ve always felt a pressure to choose, not what opinion or idea I have, or write how I felt comfortable writing it, but what the teachers wanted to hear or expected to be done. For our first essay of ENGL 203, we were prompted to choose an epigraph from this course, and to write an essay on what it gets us thinking about. I was so scared to mess it up or to be wrong. As a new student here, not only had I never written an essay for Dr. McCoy, this was my first essay I was assigned.  Originally, I chose the epigraph “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.”- Percival Everett. For this essay, I decided to challenge myself and chose a new course epigraph to use. In the first essay, I felt as if I chose for the wrong reasons. I chose it because it seemed quick and easy,  it was the shortest one to write about. In high school I had so much work, I would write papers fast right before it was due to get it done, then move on to the next, and now I have learned to slow down and think deeply before responding. Though the original epigraph does reflect and make sense for the course, I felt as though there was another one that made sense as well. The new epigraph seemed to be very wordy and overwhelming in the beginning of the semester. From being in Dr. McCoy’s courses, I have learned so much and now know how to unpack this epigraph and know there is no wrong answer, because there are no wrong ideas when it comes to reflective style writing we have been practicing throughout the semester. My chosen epigraph for this essay is “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.– Percival Everett.”. This epigraph has spoken to me after the last collaboration we did in class for I am Not Sidney Poitier. 

In our last collaboration assignment, my group focused a lot on the irony throughout the novel I Am Not Sindey Poitier by Percival Everett. In the novel, irony is scattered throughout. Irony is, as defined by The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms on page 217, “A contradiction or incongruity between appearance or expectation and reality. This disparity may be manifested in a variety of ways. A discrepancy may exist between what someone says and what he or she actually means, between what someone expects to happen and what really happens, or between what appears to be true and what actually is true.”.  This begins even within the main character of the novel, Not Sidney Poitier, who is both Not Sidney Poitier, as in his name and not Sidney Poitier, he is not the actor Sidney Poitier, though he looks like him. This creates lots of confusion and ironic conversation throughout the novel, which also connects with my original epigraph “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood.”. Throughout the semester, we’ve read a lot of Everetts works, including two novels written by Everett, but were stories predating his works. These were works retold by him, by changing names and small plot lines, used in both Frenzy and in I am Not Sidney Poitier. An example of this is Everetts use of the stories of the movie Lilies of the Field and many more Sidney Poitier movies. He uses the irony of Not Sidney’s name to include the plots from many of the famous Sidney Poitier movies. At first, I did not understand this epigraph. Throughout the course though, I’ve grown as a reader and writer and I feel pretty confident with this epigraph and understanding that irony can be funny, but does not have to be. For example, In I am Not Sidney Poiter, the names of the nuns are ironic in what each name means, as we wrote about in our last collaboration, but that does not mean that it was funny. We discussed and wrote about how all of the nuns were called stupid by the people who knew them, but they were named after pretty important philsophers. I think Everett uses these ironies that you don’t understand unless, either you know your early philosophers, or you get to research it, as a way to learn something new. Which, in essence, is what this class has done for me, and even us as a collective. The use of Reflective Writing in contrast to writing to get a grade and having the teacher’s opinion affect grades, we focus on how we feel and expand upon that and create beautiful pieces by embracing the confusion and unknown, and building off our ideas. We have all learned from this process. On page 5 of Reflective Writing, it says “You can see the tension, the opposite pulls, in reflective writing required as part of a college programme”. In many collaborations, we’ve talked about how Dr. McCoys class has been hard for us based on how we were forced to tackle work all the way from Elementary school until you graduate high school, and even in most college courses. We are used to a check list of do this, this and this, when we should be slowing down to really understand and craft our works. One of the best assignments I did in a collaboration was our Nun-sense Essay. We thought we were doing so bad, we needed more time and extra help and many days, even out of class and felt like we would get somewhere, then backtrack and end up where we started again and again. What we didn’t know is we did just as the Reflective Writing describes. On page 53 it says, “Research is an iterative process – you go backwards and forwards, but also onwards and upwards, and reflection drives it.”. We were doing it right the whole time and felt as if we were failing. We just needed some help to see this. If I am being honest, I never read the Reflective Writing until right after that assignment. And boy, did I regret it. It was like a key to the whole class, and everything clicked. Maybe this speaks to the irony of the course. We all came in expecting a regular old English class where you read the book and pump out a paper and move on, never to look back, and look at what we got. In every assignment, every collaboration, we learned as the Reflective Writing says on page 57, “Being able to apply new ideas or information from your courses or reading is what learning is about.”.

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