Epigraph 4

Looking at the different course epigraphs Professor Mcoy has given us, I decided to choose the fourth epigraph. I chose this epigraph because I felt I related to it the most out of all the course epigraphs at this point in my life. In the beginning of the semester, I chose the epigraph from the novel: “I am Not Sidney Poitier” written by Percival Everett. I decided to choose that epigraph at the time because I related to it the most then. Not Sidney is stating how he does not feel like himself anymore after returning home to find something he once lost. While writing that essay, I had just recently moved away to college and had felt very similarly to how he did at the end of that novel. However, since living in Geneseo for 5 months, and getting used to being away from home, I have come to realize I no longer feel the same way as Not Sidney did. So when writing this essay, I decided to choose a different epigraph this time that I better relate to. 

For this essay, I have chosen the fourth course 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, Erasure). This statement made by author and professor of english, Percival Everett, is stating how amazing it is that a sentence is ever understood by anyone. He is saying that even if you believe you are speaking clearly, there is no guarantee that the person you’re speaking to is aware of what you are saying. 

This epigraph that I have chosen does create a throughline to the varied texts we’ve engaged with throughout this course. The epigraph I have chosen does this by Percival Everett stating how a sentence is ever understood. If you are trying to say something to another person, and you know what you are saying, that doesn’t mean that the person you are speaking to will also understand what you are saying. In addition to that, this epigraph creates a throughline to the other texts we’ve used throughout the course because even if all the students enrolled in this course read the same exact text, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every student will all get the same thing out of the text. Not every person in the class that reads the text is going to understand what they just read, or that they have the same thoughts or ideas generated from the text. As well as that, there isn’t a promise that all the students in the class will have the same opinion based on what they just read. For example, when we all read the “Bacchae” by Euripdes, I think the majority of students in the class were very confused as to what they had just read. Among other things, everyone in the class had different interpretations about what had happened in the “Bacchae”. Personally, I know I was confused after reading “Bacchae” for the first time. After rereading different sections of the text that confused me, and hearing my classmates’ ideas about what was happening, it was very helpful and helped to further my understanding of the text. Even when we read through Pervival Everett’s rewriting of the “Bacchae”, which he titled “Frenzy”, I was confused from time to time. More specifically, I was confused about the passage where Vlepo is in the maze. Even when we read “I am Not Sidney Poitier ” written by Percival Everett, I had moments when my thoughts or interpretations were different from my classmates; not necessarily when reading the book, but when discussing the novel’s plot and when writing our group essay. For instance, my opinions on the ending of the book as well as the meaning behind Percival Everett changing the nuns names in the novel were vastly different from my group mates. I thought the ending of the novel was that the real Sidney Potiter was the man that was murdered, and not the protagonsit, Not Sidney Potitier. I also believed the nuns’ names being changed in the novel was more significant than what my groupmates thought. I thought their names being changed to scholars and historians from their original names exemplified them to be the opposite of who these characters were. These women were depicted in the novel to be trivial and simple-minded, not intelligent and wise like the scholars they were named after. This relates back to the epigraph because of the confusion and differing interpretations my group and I experienced while discussing the ending and name change in “I am Not Sidney Poitier” because Everett is stating how “…a sentence is ever understood” (Everett, Erasure). Even though our group was communicating clearly, and explaining our thoughts well, the members in the group still weren’t sure what the other people were saying. As well as this, we all had different ideas pertaining to what we thought Percival Everett was trying to tell us in “I am Not Sidney Poitier”. Everett states this in the epigraph: “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”. (Everett, Erasure). This relates to this part of the epigraph because we do not know what Everett was trying to tell us. The end of the epigraph: “…but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” (Everett, Erasure) is saying how the meaning of one thing does not always mean what we think it means. We don’t always know exactly what an author, or even a person we are having a conversation with, is saying unless explicitly stated. 

According to GLOBE’s statement, it is important for Geneseo students to be able to reflect “upon changes in learning and outlook over time.” (Office of the Provost, GLOBE). I would have to agree with this statement. I do think it is very important for students at any college or institution to be able to look upon changes in their learning, reflect, and learn from these adjustments. I know I have personally learned the most whenever I have been asked to look back on my past experiences, learning or otherwise, and I have always learned more at these points. For example, in this class I feel that I have learned quite a bit, just from being asked to reflect on different points in the semester. For instance, whenever we’d introduce a new topic or idea, Professor Mcoy would ask us to reflect back on different topics and incorporate them into our work. More specifically, when Professor Mcoy introduced us to “The Ship of Theseus Paradox”. This paradox is from Greek legends, where there was a big wooden ship and after returning from Crete was fairly destroyed. The Athenians repaired the boat by removing old, destroyed planks from the ship’s body, and replacing these planks with new planks. Anytime the planks would get destroyed, these planks would be removed and replaced. However, the planks that didn’t need to get replaced, didn’t. During some new lessons, Professor Mcoy would bring this paradox up from time to time during class. She’d have us ponder this paradox and how it would fit into our lesson that day. This gave us the experience to not only think, but to learn how we can take previous topics we’ve learned about and incorporate them into our new lessons.  

As we can see, the epigraph pertaining to Percival Everett’s statement about the English language and speaking, relates to different points throughout the semester of this course. We can see how his statement relates to the different texts we read throughout the semester as well. More specifically, the epigraph relates to my experience of the course as well as the readings we dealt with. All in all, I believe that the course epigraph was vastly important to look at and understand as well as being able to relate it to the different experiences I have encountered throughout the semester. 

Essay 1

Hanna Proaper 

For this essay, I’ve selected the epigraph “I am not Sidney Poitier” written by Percival Everett. This epigraph talks about returning to a place to try to find something to reconnect with, not knowing who you are as a person, not knowing your own name, and the loss of your identity. I decided to choose this epigraph because it interested me the most after rereading it as well as being the most thought provoking epigraph.

After reading this epigraph, it made me think about a few different things. I think Percival Everett brings up a few good points throughout the epigraph. Firstly, the fact of returning somewhere to try to relate, or to reconnect with something, and not being able to because it no longer exists. After moving out and going to college, returning home is always nice, but it feels much different than it did before. Driving around the familiar streets is a strange feeling after not being home for an extended period of time, revisiting with family and friends that I haven’t seen in a while is also very strange. As well as that, returning to your childhood bedroom is another odd experience. Where you spent a whole 18 years of your life in and now you just return there on holiday breaks or long weekends. When I first returned home after moving to college for the first time I felt like my bedroom wasn’t my bedroom anymore. Of course, nothing had changed, it just no longer felt like home to me. Now, after living at college for a little over a month, my dorm also doesn’t really feel like home to me either. So at this point in time, I feel like a nomad, a person who doesn’t have a set home. I recognized in Percival Everett’s text: “I am not Sidney Poitier”, the main character also feels like when they returned home. A quote from the text to support this statement is: “‘Thank you’ I said. ‘I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something lost, to reunite with my whole self, then with a piece of it. What I’ve discovered is that this thing is not here. In fact, it is nowhere.” (Everett, “I am not Sidney Poitier”). To me, this quote means that when the main character returned to some place they had been before in hopes of trying to find something that they’d be reunited with, is not where they thought it would be. In fact, what they were hoping to find is actually nowhere. I relate to this quote a lot because whenever I return home, I feel similar to the way the character is feeling. I thought this part of the epigraph was very interesting.

The next point that Percival Everett brings up in this excerpt is how the character, Sidney Poitier doesn’t know who they are. They do not know their name and they don’t know who they are but everyone around them knows who they are. I can relate to this section of the epigraph because I  have also had moments where I wasn’t quite sure who I was as a person. I feel like growing up teaches you a lot about yourself and that you learn more and more every day. But up until that point you don’t really know who you are completely yet. A quote to support this statement from the epigraph is: “…I have learned that my name is not my name. It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself.” (Everet, “I am not Sidney Poitier”). I think what this quote explains is that the main character of the novel, not Sidney Poitier, doesn’t know who they are quite yet. The person states “I have learned that my name is not my name.” meaning that they have realized that the name they’ve gone by throughout their lives is in fact, not their name. They have realized that they do not know who they are as a person. Not Sidney Poitier states that: “It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself.” This quote explains how the character is feeling about returning to a place where they’d hope to find something to connect with. Because they were not able to find what they were looking for, they now feel very lost. They no longer know who they are as a person, let alone knowing their own name. Not Sidney Poitier has felt like they’ve lost their own identity. 

The final point Percival Everett brings up in this epigraph is that the character in this story is explaining how their mother is buried not far from where they are. They state how there aren’t any inscriptions written on their tombstone. A quote to support this statement is: “…My mother is buried not far from this auditorium, and there are no words on her headstone. As I glance out now, as I feel the weight of this trophy in my hands, as I stand like aspeciment before these strangely unstrange faces, I know finally what should be written on that stone. It should sway what mine will say: I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.” (Everett, “I am Not Sidney Poitier”). This quote is just showing how not Sidney Poitier does not feel like themself for the day. They have lost their identity, their name, and what they know about themselves as a whole. I thought this part of the epigraph was interesting because the word “epigraph” has two different meanings. One meaning is a short paragraph before a chapter in a story that explains what is going to happen throughout the chapter. The second meaning to the word “epigraph” is an inscription that is written on an object. This portion of the epigraph made me think a lot about the different meanings behind certain words. 

After reading through the epigraph, and thinking about what the author was saying, I thought about how this could affect my class experiences and how I can set some goals for myself because of it. I considered how I would do this. I took into consideration how I would go about setting these goals for myself and how I would achieve them. Working with my own thought process, and how I think about being able to achieve certain goals, made me also think about the process of writing this essay and what I would say. I thought about how I would structure the essay as well as what words I chose to use. I also considered what my goals would be. I decided that my goals for this class should be: how to write better/more fluently, how to be more concise, and to make sure I am able to better understand the texts we have to read throughout this semester. This epigraph made me consider not only what Percival Everett was really trying to show us, but also made me think about this course and how I can set goals for myself through reading this text. 

After reading this epigraph several times, thinking about what I thought it meant, and considering what Percival Everett was trying to say, I can say I have learned a lot. I learned a lot about the thinking process and about setting goals for myself for this semester through the thinking process.