“It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean something, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.”– Percival Everett, Erasure
At the beginning of this semester, I remember coming into this class thinking it would be more essays and writing than thinking, processing, and understanding. I came into this class with little understanding of the kind of work we would actually be dealing with. I thought it would be more about writing essays rather than caring about the process that takes place before actually taking a seat and writing one. This process of thinkING – over time – gave me bigger opportunities to succeed in writing a good analysis or whatever the inquiry was. I would’ve never expected there to be so many of our class days to be filled with brain-powering and mind blowing discussions. It feels like it was just yesterday when we first went over the course epigraphs, specifically the “Suspicious Pants” tweet. This tweet is a picture of a pair of pants with the caption “Suspicious pants.” It has buttons on the back that make it look like it has eyes, and wrinkles under the “eyes” that make it look like eyelids. Even though the readers know it’s not real, we still put a face and perspective on this pair of pants which leads to the term ‘pareidolia’. According to Merriam-Webster, pareidolia is “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous pattern.” To sum it all up, the point that Professor McCoy tried to get across was the idea of perspective and how “it’s incredible that a sentence could ever be understood.” – Percival Everett (Erasure). Some of us believed that the pants were suspicious of something or someone as if they were their own person. The rest of us thought that the pants were suspicious as if they committed a crime. I remember those conversations so clearly that day, as they made me thINK deeply, and it gave me opportunities to process the other perspectives that my peers had. Sitting here writing this trying to “string” the sounds and thoughts together from all our previous conversations is so complicated, making everything about this final essay so ironic – “it’s incredible that a sentence could ever be understood” – Percival Everett (Erasure), much less words, sounds and thoughts.
The next deep dive into literature that we took was The Bacchae & Frenzy. The words were complicated and the sentences felt like trying to read a book in an entirely different language, without any previous knowledge that the language existed. The Bacchae is a Greek play involving mythological gods and creatures. When I first started reading, I didn’t really know how to process the information because its complex word usage, including names and places, tripped me up several times. The Bacchae was first written in 405 BC in Greek. It was translated to English at some point and was clearly different from the way it has been written now, in innumerable ways. The translation definitely could’ve mixed up how the story is written in English, which could be a valid reason for the confusion while reading. Now Frenzy is a little bit different. First of all, it was written by Percival Everett who, according to wikipedia, is a distinguished English professor at University of Southern California. Second, he rewrote Frenzy so that it was more legible for students in the 21st century. He incorporated the same characters in Frenzy as The Bacchae, but changed the names.
I have just realized that we’ve actually seen this before with the name changes between the 1963 film Lilies of the Field and the short scenes in the end of I Am Not Sidney Poitier. In the previous collaborative essay, we talked about the name changes that Percival Everett made were nonsense, which they very well could be. But being able to finally see a pattern in Everett’s writing style is quite interesting. It allows the readers to be able to connect his stories from his separate pieces and incorporate them into the way he expresses his work. Now looking back on it, realizing that there were name changes in several of Everett’s works does point to some sort of importance. Why he made those changes is still not completely clear, but acknowledging that they are there in the first place is a good start on the path to comprehension.
In my experience, it needed to be read over and over again in order to at least partially understand the story. There were conversations taking place in and out of the classroom – everyone tried to decipher the sentences all together because of the complexities of the words. It’s even more ironic because the words throughout the story weren’t the hardest part to even understand; it was the end product of the words “strung together” that created even more complicated sentences. I discovered later on that I wasn’t able to fully understand The Bacchae without first understanding Frenzy. For example, in The Bacchae, it says “Newly arrived in this land of Thebes, I am Dionysus, son of Zeus, child of Cadmus, once bore, delivered by the lightning-flame.” (128) At first, seeing the density of the play was very overwhelming. I felt like not even one sentence could help me understand the background of the story. However, in Frenzy, the play is set up like a novel, while the play itself is contained in a book. “Dionysos was Bakkhos was Iakkhos was Bromius was Dithyrambos was Evius. He was the product of the looseness of Zeus, god of imprudent tool, and of Semele, daughter of Kadmos of Thebes.” (Everett, 1) It may first start off in a confusing way – where the words feel never ending – but the background information afterwards is much easier to read rather than a constant loop of names being presented to the readers like in the beginning of The Bacchae. In short, Frenzy was Percival Everett’s full comprehension of The Bacchae. I never thought that trying to understand a singular story would be so difficult, even in the simplest way – just reading, re-reading, and having conversations about the unique perspectives that each of my peers had about the plot of the story in the first place. Anyone invested in this would ask me what the importance is. Well, as my peers and I have discovered time and time again, there is no true understanding of anything if there is no time to process, think, and talk about it; as we have been taught to write ideas without truly thinking and processing them throughout middle and high school. If something is truly important and has some kind of meaning, then there’s always going to be growth. There will be growth in understanding until the moment you fall back into the deep abyss of confusion. But, as Percival Everett says in Erasure, “it’s incredible a sentence is ever understood.” I have never heard anything more true in my life before this ENGL 203 class. Every time Professor McCoy says that one line, my perspective changes on everything. Once again, sitting here writing this trying to “string” the sounds and thoughts together from all our previous conversations is so complicated, making everything about this final essay so ironic – “it’s incredible that a sentence could ever be understood” – Percival Everett (Erasure), much less words, sounds and thoughts.
Are we sure that we completely understand what’s going on? What anyone is ever saying? Are we ever sure of anything?? We may never know, and I guess some people would call that Nonsense. The next book we read was I Am Not Sidney Poitier. Honestly one of the most interesting, most mind blowing books I’ve ever read. According to wikipedia, Sidney Poitier was the first black actor and first Bahamian to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. He’s played in several movies, including but not limited to: The Defiant Ones, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Lilies of the Field, and No Way Out. While reading, I have found myself constantly asking my peers what was going on because the plots and settings changed so much so fast. I know that we all started to question why, and the reason being is that Percival Everett decided to take the plots from each of the movies that Sidney Poitier played in and submerged them into the already tangled inner workings of the book. You’re probably wondering why Everett would do such a thing – make the story even more confusing. Well, the main character’s name is Not Sidney. The thing about perspective here is all in the title. I Am Not Sidney Poitier. It either comes off as Not saying he is himself, Not Sidney, or he is not the actor, Sidney Poitier – and at this point it could be either, depending on the reader’s perspective. The title of this novel definitely reminds me of the first epigraph we went over within the first few days of class; “Suspicious Pants”. Within the simplicity of the wording of both the tweet and the title of the book, there’s some complexity coming from the perspectives that readers tend to get confused by, and don’t discover that others may be reading and processing the same title differently. While reading through this, I have found myself to be confused as well. The thing is, it’s very hard to put something into words when no one, including myself, will ever fully understand what anyone else is saying. Hence, “it’s incredible a sentence is ever understood.” – Percival Everett (Erasure)
There’s only one week left before the semester ends and I must say that this class will always be a reference for future classes, careers, and every life direction out there. The knowledge itself is not the only thing I will gain from this class to use in my future. It will be of good use for management, organization, success in leadership, and most importantly, perspective. It will allow me to ask questions about the real meaning of concepts and conversations, places and miscellaneous objects. It will give me a broader snapshot of reality and beyond.