Like most people I went into the semester with excitement, and with excitement there is always just a little bit of fear. The exciting thing is not knowing what is to come, which also happens to be the scary thing. I didn’t know what I would get out of this class and I certainly didn’t know what to expect. What I also did not know at the time, is how taking this one path would have such an impact on me. I have done plenty of thinkING and reflectING throughout the course. I have learned about myself. I have learned to understand my peers and to work with them. The most important thing I have learned from this semester is to think, and to keep thinking. Thinking never stops. There is always something more to learn; always another perspective to consider. At the beginning of our time together, the class was introduced to our course epigraphs. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms defines an epigraph as such, “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 are often meant to give the reader a taste of what they are getting into or a theme that is meant to be taken away from the text they are soon to read (223). When reflecting on my time in this course, the course epigraph that will most definitely stick with me is from Percival Everett’s Erasure. He writes, “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.”
To me, this sentiment is about how so many different people, lives, and experiences come together and teach one another. That is what we have done this semester. Most of our time has been spent working with one another. If I had been told this before I came into this course I may not have been thrilled about it, but I have learned that working through literature with other people is an experience unmatched. It is incredible to hear how people interpret the things we have all read, and how each interpretation can be so different and yet lead to wonderful discoveries.
This brings to mind our first official mini-collaboration. In small groups, we were to write about Percival Everett’s Frenzy. Frenzy is a novel based on the Greek play, The Bacchae. To me, both the Bacchae and Frenzy were confusing to read. The Bacchae, of course, because it was first written in Greek in 405 B.C. and later translated into English. Frenzy is a modern novel, but Percival Everett has a writing style that takes some getting used to, and that is a journey everyone must make individually. This was the first of a few times that my epigraph actually came up in class discussion. We were exploring the play, and sharing our confusion when “It is incredible a sentence is ever understood” was uttered. Each of us were not alone in our confusion, and were then told to dig deeper and “unpack” our thoughts and theories. Here comes the mini-collaboration. The remarkable thing about writing for this class is the amount of time we have the opportunity to put into our work. Here we are encouraged to THINK. My group had numerous theories regarding our topic on Frenzy. We went back and forth, we had those “a ha!” moments, and we had uncertainty. But one thing I remember is how one’s thoughts lead to another’s ideas that lead to more thoughts. When working together we are actually just teaching each other. Letting each other see the part of ourselves that led us to draw the connections in the book that we drew. And that is how sentences are understood. It is also how they are amplified. In the second part of the epigraph Everett writes, “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.” He is saying that when a sentence is spoken or written it may have one purpose, but it is not defined by that purpose. Every person is different, and in that same way every sentence is different. Throughout all our class time we get to learn through each other, and that is one of the best parts of learning at all.
At the end of each of these collaborations is the great big question: “Who cares?” This may be the hardest task because it brings up a good point. Why is what we are talking about important? What will be remembered about it? As Geneseo students we are encouraged to “reflect on [our] learning, and reach beyond [our]selves by exploring the diversity of human experiences, cultures, and viewpoints,” (par. 2). In a way, this is what I interpreted Everett as saying when he wrote the lines of the epigraph stated at the start. It is important to reflect and come back to what we have previously read because the meaning of a sentence can change over time, and we won’t know how until that time has passed and that change has occurred. In fact, we were encouraged to reflect on our past work in this course often, and to look back at our epigraphs to remind ourselves of their importance. As we grow, so will our understanding.My overall experience in this class environment has not only taught me how to learn in the classroom, but also how to learn in life. Most importantly, because it is incredible that a sentence is ever understood, if you are feeling lost that only means you are on the right path. That is something Professor McCoy said in class one day. There is more to think, more to learn, more to experience. A conversation between two of Percival Everett’s characters in I am Not Sidney Poitier will always stick with me. It goes “‘One more thing, don’t imagine that you have limitations.’ ‘Don’t I?’ ‘I’m sure you do, but don’t imagine it,’” (112).