The “Suspicious Pants” Are Always In My Head

Throughout my prior years of education, I was always interested in English courses.  My interest was first sparked in fifth grade when we were given a formula for constructing paragraphs.  We would restate the question as the introductory sentence, write three details using evidence, then restate the first sentence as the concluding statement.  I was able to breeze through copious amounts of paragraphs and ace every single one of them. I followed similar variations of this writing formula for many years after my fifth-grade class.  I absolutely loved being able to follow the same formula for each of my different writing pieces. Once I reached my senior year of high school, I realized I wouldn’t be able to write that way forever.  I started engaging with literary works that had deeper meanings within them than what was only on the surface. My reading and writing skills reflected each other too much at this point. My writing was simplistic because my reading levels were too simple.  I only figured this out last year, and never received a chance to change myself because we didn’t engage with many difficult literary works within my senior year English class.

When I was picking my classes at orientation in July, I was not thinking about the specifics of the classes.  I was filled with nerves and choosing whatever class the advisor was recommending to me. One of the classes that caught my attention was English 203.  It dealt with a specific author, Percival Everett, and I thought it would be interesting to spend the semester reading texts from only one author. I thought all of the texts would be similar and I would breeze through the semester.  I was very wrong.

Upon my entrance into my first year of college, I had expectations of the English classes being somewhat easy because I had already taken college-level English classes in high school.  I knew it would probably be a little more difficult than high school, but I never thought it would be to the extent of English 203. The first aspect of the class that lead me to believe it would be much different from my previous years of English study was the blog post assignment.  We were given the whole semester to craft ten blog posts and post them onto a blog forum filled with other students in the class. We were given the freedom to choose topics and write about them using concepts and texts from class. This freedom was so different than any other assignment I had received before college.  Another aspect of the class that surprised me greatly was the level of discussion among the class. I came into college expecting lectures, but this class was much different. During one of our first class periods of the year, we viewed a tweet and were asked to have a discussion. The tweet depicted the back of a pair of pants that appeared to look like a face.  The face appeared to have an expression of suspicion. All of the peer groups within the class then began speaking aloud what they thought the meaning of the tweet was. My group thought the pants were suspicious, and we stated this out loud to the class. Beth then asked, if the pants were suspicious themselves, or are the pants suspicious of the person looking at the tweet.  This was one of the first questions asked within the class that really inspired me to start thinkING. I knew texts, pictures, or anything could have more than one meaning, but I never took it upon myself to question those other meanings. As I stated throughout several of my blog posts, I used to always view things for how they appeared on the surface. I would no longer be able to do this in English 203.  

As we began dealing with text by Percival Everett, I remained mostly confused.  The Bacchae was my biggest struggle of the semester.  I have very little knowledge regarding Greek mythology, so when I began reading the book, I had no idea what was going on.  I had to do quite a bit of research regarding the topics in the book to grasp the meaning of the text. When the class began discussing deeper meanings within the text, I was completely lost.  Looking back at the “suspicious pants” tweet, I knew everything contained different meanings. A reader can only find and understand the meanings if they understand what is given on the surface.  If one couldn’t see a face within the picture of the pants, then they wouldn’t understand why people claimed they were suspicious. I didn’t understand The Bacchae on the surface, so I struggled very much with discussions regarding the deeper meanings.  Though, discussions did aid heavily in my understanding of this text and other texts. One class, in the early period of reading the text, the class broke down sections of the reading and deciphered what happened.  I was able to see other peoples’ perspectives to aid in developing my own. Different perspectives give a text more meanings than one person can see on their own. Someone can view something completely different than someone else.  Thinking back to the “suspicious pants” helped me realize this throughout the semester.

The novel that solidified my goal for English 203 was I am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett.  We were introduced to the novel by watching one of Sidney Poitier’s films, so the only information I had going into the book was that Sidney Poitier was a black actor in the 1960s.  The novel told the story of a boy growing up with the name “Not Sidney Poitier”. He is given a label at birth that he has to constantly explain to others throughout his life. When I first began reading the novel, I did not see it as a struggle with identity.  I viewed the novel as a life story of a boy with a bizarre name. I didn’t think there was an underlying message or deeper meaning throughout the text. My opinion changed drastically during a discussion in class. Amanda and I were talking about the beginning of the book and I made a comment that the book wasn’t deep.  Amanda agreed with me and we continued discussing the book. Beth overheard me make this statement and told me this book will be one of the deepest I will ever read. I was in utter disbelief. How could a book that appears so simple on the surface be one of the deepest books I will ever read? I continued reading the book with a more open mind and realized the novel was the deepest I had ever read.  The meaning I ended up taking away from the book is a message Percival Everett often preaches. Identity shouldn’t be based on a label or a categorization. At the end of the novel, Not Sidney states, “I am not myself today”(234)after attending an award ceremony and allowing others to assume that he was Sidney Poitier. He no longer believes that his name represents who he is on the inside. He chooses to be who he wants to be regardless of his label.  If I had never changed my perspective on the book, I wouldn’t have understood the ending.  

This class helped me to discover a new way of reading.  Nothing has only one meaning. The “suspicious pants” aided me in understanding that not everyone has the same perspective.  Different perspectives aid the reader in finding a deeper meaning within texts. Discussion helps a reader see the different sides of a text and unlock concepts they might not have seen while only reading through their perspective.  I will now read with an open mind and listen to people around me to help with my thinkING.

Les Miserables and Not Sidney

One of my favorite musicals of all time is Les Miserables.  One day during my reading of I am Not Sidney Poitier I was watching the film adaptation of the musical and noticed a similar theme between the two.  The novel ends by Not Sidney allowing people to assume he is Sidney Poitier and accepting an award on his behalf.  He was talking to people that assumed he was Sidney as if he was actually Sidney Poitier and never corrected them. After a life of constantly explaining that he is not Sidney Poitier, he finally gives up and just lets people assume what they want to assume.  In Les Miserables a similar situation takes place.  Throughout these two situations, a character changes the way they identify themselves in order to better a situation.  Not Sidney begins identifying as Sidney Poitier and Eponine, from Les Miserables begins identifying as a boy in the June Rebellion war.

Throughout Les Miserables, a storyline develops a love story of a low-class girl named Eponine, and an upper-class boy named Marius.  Eponine had loved Marius since her childhood. Her family was of a higher class but then fell to a lower class because her parents were thieves, and their old tricks were no longer working.  Marius comes from a family of wealth but began disassociating with them because he was participating in a rebellion of the lower class. Eponine showed several hints throughout her life to show Marius that she was in love with him.  Marius seemed to never understand her feelings towards him and ignored her advances. A new girl, Cosette, comes to town and Marius falls in love with her immediately. Eponine didn’t want this to happen, so she decided to dress up as a boy and take part in a battle that Marius was also fighting in.  She gave up her identity as Eponine to force Marius to notice her. In the end, Eponine takes a bullet for Marius as her last attempt to show Marius how she feels. He realizes that this boy he had been fighting alongside was Eponine. He finally realizes how she has felt towards him, but it was too late.  Eponine completely stripped herself of her identity because she was tired of the life she had to live for many years. In order to finally get attention from others, she assumes the identity of a different person. The only way to finally achieve the life she wanted, she has to give up the life she had lived for years.  This is very comparable to Not Sidney Poitier.

Throughout the novel I Am Not Sidney Poitier, the main character Not Sidney Poitier goes through life constantly having to explain to people that his name is Not Sidney Poitier, and when he gets older, that he is not the actor Sidney Poitier.  He meets many people throughout his life, and the problem constantly presents itself. At the end of the novel, Not Sidney gets off a plane at LAX and is greeted by a driver waiting for Sidney Poitier.  The driver assumes that Not Sidney is Sidney Poitier and Not Sidney is tired of explaining that he is not him so he joins the driver and is taken to an award ceremony. He is aware that he is still Not Sidney but doesn’t say anything to anyone regarding this fact.  He accepts the award on Sidney Poitier’s behalf and allows everyone to assume that he is Sidney Poitier. On the last page of the novel, Not Sidney states that the people in the audience of the ceremony do not know him, but they may know him better than he knows himself (234).  He is confused by his identity because it is constantly questioned throughout his life. A label is just a label and it doesn’t matter because the only aspect of a person that matters is what’s on the inside. Names mean nothing because it doesn’t tell anything about the person, it forces people to make assumptions. 

 Les Miserables and I am Not Sidney Poitier reflect each other greatly.  Although both characters parted from their original identity, it didn’t change the outcome of their situations.  Eponine did not get Marius to fall in love with her because no matter what identity she chooses to assume on the outside, she will remain to be the same person on the inside.  In Not Sidney’s case, people will assume who they think he is on the outside, while only Not Sidney will know who he actually is. Outside identity does not reflect who people identify as on the inside.  Changing a label will not change the person.

F Is For The Feathered Thrust

F is for the feathered thrust

And the birth of twins.

Leda never felt a thing.

Penetrated by the force majeure,

A trick in the air.

F is for fuck.

Finis coronat opus.

F is for Frankenstein,

Who did not name his baby.

Always name offspring.

De donde vienos, amor, mi ninos?”

-Percival Everett

Throughout Percival Everett’s “Zulus”, he constructs poems that each begin with a letter of the alphabet following alphabetical order.  The poem beginning with the letter F tells a story that has a commonality with some of the other poems within the series. The consistent statement made within several of the poems is, “always name offspring”(20).  The other poems that contain this statement refer to different concepts within each poem, but they allude to the same conclusion that naming a child is crucial. Not naming a child upon birth can lead to the child not living a good and fulfilled life, and the poem contains examples of this occurring such as the story of Frankenstein and the Greek mythology story of Leda and the Swan.  These recurring themes within the poems, I thought was quite contradictory of Perical Everett to be endorsing. Percival Everett does not endorse labels. A name is considered a label and he is endorsing naming children immediately otherwise the child will not live a fulfilled life, or causing harm to others involved with the child. The poems’ messages mostly all connect with each other but do not endorse the beliefs that Percival Everett usually preaches.

Within the poem beginning with the letter F, Percival Everett mentions two stories having to do with the creation of children.  The first is the story of Leda and the Swan. I was not aware of this story prior to reading the poems, but some of my group members during the discussion of this poem educated me on the topic.  According to an article titled Leda and Zeus in Greek Mythology (, Leda and the Swan involves a woman named Leda, and the Greek god Zeus.  Leda is a beautiful woman who attracted the attention of Zeus. Zeus disguises himself as a swan and impregnates Leda without her knowledge, described in the poem as Leda never feeling a thing (20).  Within the same day, Leda also sleeps with her husband and multiple children are born. The children face lives of being tormented by other gods because of the way they were conceived. This triggers the argument of children needing to be born out of a pure background.  These children face a life of wrath from other gods because of the way they were conceived.

The next allusion made within the F poem is the story of “Frankenstein”.  The author of “Frankenstein” began the story after experiencing a traumatic event.  At eighteen years old, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley fell pregnant with a child according to an article in The New Yorker (  After not naming the child, she found the baby dead after a night of not feeding the child.  She then writes the story of Frankenstein. A mad scientist creates a monster that he never gave a name.  The monster is depicted as a horrific being. The scientist that created the monster is eventually killed by the monster.  This supports the meaning behind the “F” poem by Percival Everett. The poem alludes to the fact that parents need to name their children or something horrific will happen.  The scientist who made a creation full of desire was killed by that very creation, and the reason for this could be because he never named the monster. The monster was never given an identity, which led to a downfall within the story.

Both of these examples are contradictory to the opinions of Percival Everett.  Everett doesn’t believe in categorization, as discussed in one of my previous blog posts, (  For him to state throughout these poems that children need to be named, is quite contradictory of his statements within interviews.  He is aware that labels exist within society but chooses to ignore them within his own life. Writing these poems, and advocating for the labeling of a child goes against everything he usually advocates.  I don’t know the exact reason for this, but I have an idea. Though he doesn’t totally believe in labels, he may think they are sometimes necessary.  

Why does Percival Everett’s contradiction matter?  For me, this conveys the idea that beliefs do not have to be concrete.  Beliefs can be subjective and should be subjective. Opinions can change and that means that a person is intellectual learning and growing.  Everett’s opinion of labels should be fluid based on the situation. If giving a child a name can give them a better life than the alternative of not giving them a name, then the belief should change.  Labels can help one develop an identity, then if the label no longer fits the identity, the label should change. Labels should exist, but be subjective to the individual.

Beautiful Poetry Or Conceivement?

Throughout the poetry book re: f(gesture), Percival Everett combines many series of poems into one book.  The second section of the book contains a series of poems named “Body.”  Percival Everett’s “Body” contains a series of poems describing different parts of a female’s anatomy. Throughout the series of poems, Percival Everett is using the Blazon form of a poem.   A literary blazon refers to the categorization of physical attributes of a subject, usually female (poetryfoundation). Throughout the poems, Everett is attempting to tell a story. More specifically, the poems may be understood as suggesting the conceivement and birth of a child.  Throughout Percival Everett’s poem “Body”, he breaks down one large idea using body parts of a female. The section contains nineteen different poems which each compartmentalize parts of the female anatomy, while also telling a story. Throughout my first time reading this poem, I couldn’t interpret it very easily.  The names of the body parts were mostly in Latin, so I could only tell that a few of the titles of the poems were body parts. I even asked my father what some of them were because he’s a physical therapist, so I assumed he would know what they were, but he was just as clueless as I was. Within our discussion is class, though, my group figured out a basic interpretation of the poems.  There was also a small disagreement within my group over the meaning of the poems. Everett is describing childbirth only using scientific terms but in an artistic way. He begins with the Hyoid Bone and ends with the Epigastric. The body parts don’t appear to follow any order or pattern but end up telling the story of a woman’s conception of a child.

The first section to stand out to me as a possible conception story is the “Orbicularis Palpebrarum.”  The beginning of the poem didn’t give me many hints because it is describing body parts with no specific hints of a story.  The ending of the poem, however, states, “send us a wink, thicker now, with that sphincter, with that muscle around the looking”(46).  It continues with the description of body parts but describes body parts that are developing. At first, this didn’t appear to me as body parts developing.  While discussing this matter with my group, they pointed this fact out to me. With this discussion, there developed a sort of disagreement among my group that led to some frustration later on in the discussion.  Some of the group members didn’t see these poems as a conception story, while some of us saw it almost immediately. After the small argument was settled, we agreed to disagree and continued trying to find points that backed up our different arguments of the deeper meaning of the text.  The next poem, which was basically a selling point to me on the conception argument, was “Obturator Internus.” The poem describes that it is part of the pelvis, but I had to research exactly what the body part is used for. It is used for stability of the femur bone in the hip socket (, which is quite important for a woman carrying a child according to my physical therapist father.  The poem describes the body part as, “completing the arch, the canal for passage”(49). The Obturator Internus appears to be one of the final completing structures of the body preparing for childbirth. Also, the “canal for passage”, is almost definitely referring to a child passing through the body of a woman.  One of the only things that could be passing through a woman is a child, and this poem describes the story through poetic language that is sometimes difficult to decipher.  

The final poem within the series entirely points to a child residing in the body of a woman.  The first stanza within “The Epigastric” states, “The stomach before, filled with sweet air, supplying all that lies in the cavity…”(61).  The statement describes a woman’s midsection being filled with air, then, describes an entity taking the supplements of the woman within the body.  A fetus would be the most likely entity within a body to be taking nutrients from the mother. This poem is the most descriptive of the series to document the child living within a mother.  

Through the use of a blazon, Percival Everett describes the conceivement of a child.  Each poems’ title is a different body part within the anatomy of a female with a specific description that lead a reader to make assumptions of the reason for discussing only certain body parts.  The poems contain phrases that make it difficult to depict the meaning of the poem. Discussion was one of the most helpful tools in order to find the underlying meaning. Discussing different meanings with peers can aid a person in figuring out the meaning that they think is best.  My initial thoughts on these poems do not reflect my thoughts now.

Chirography Tells A Story

In English 203 we are reading a series of poems by Percival Everett called re: f(gesture).  I purchased the book in August with the rest of my textbooks and didn’t open it until we began reading it in class.  When I opened the book, I noticed a signature on the title page. Written over the black printed name of Percival Everett on the page, there was a blue slash mark with Percival Everett’s signature written below it.  My initial thought regarding the signature was something along the lines of oh this is so Percival Everett of him.  Of course, Percival Everett would cross his own name out on a publication of his own work, just to rewrite his name over it in his own handwriting.  I thought this was quite an interesting way for an author to autograph their own literary work. I did question, however, if this was an authentic signature from Percival Everett, considering I purchased the book off Amazon, and nothing within the description of the purchase mentioned that it was a signed copy.  I tried researching pictures of his signature in his other publications. I only found one picture on the internet, but it did look the same as the signature in my copy of re: f(gesture).  I decided to show Beth and asked if this was a real signature.  She said that she has a signed copy as well and that it did indeed looks identical to the signature in my copy.  I expressed my interest in the bizarre way that he autographs his works and she gave me the inspiration to begin researching chirography.  From this research, I also began researching aspects of graphology.

Chirography refers to the study of penmanship and handwriting, and graphology is the “analysis of physical characteristics and patterns of handwriting claiming to identify the writer, indicating the psychological state at the time of writing, or evaluating personality characteristics”(Longman Dictionary of Psychiatry).  It is sometimes considered a form of a pseudoscience because the mind reflects the style of writing a person practices. People tend to develop their own styles of handwriting throughout their lives. Some of these style choices are conscious and some are subconscious. Life experiences may change a person’s handwriting, or a person can decide to write a certain way.  Aspects of a person’s character can also be discovered by looking at their handwriting. A chirography analyst or graphology analyst can decipher characteristics such as gender, the mood of the writer, and even some aspects of personality. The choices people make within their handwriting can reflect the way they feel about certain problems within their lives or society.  While analyzing Percival Everett’s autograph I noticed several characteristics. First, he crossed out his printed name on the title page. Percival Everett does not support the concept of labels. A name is considered a label in Everett’s mind. His name appears printed on the cover of a book and can be considered a label. By crossing out his own name within a book, he is crossing out a label that another person gave to him.  After crossing out his printed name, he re-writes his name below the printed one. This demonstrates Everett re-labeling himself. He is able to define the way the label represents him by changing the way his name appears on paper. He uses his own handwriting rather than a computer-printed text to show that he is a real person, rather than just an author. 

One of our course epigraphs in English 203 reflects this concept of Percival Everett giving himself his own label.

“Thank you,” I said. “I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something lost, to reunite if not 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. 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 let you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself. 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 a specimen before these strangely unstrange faces, I know finally what should be written on that stone. It should say what mine will say:


 — Percival Everett 

Throughout this statement Everett makes the statement, “I have learned that my name is not my name.”  This is evident within his autographs. Although the print says his name, he doesn’t believe that it is truly his name.  One is never truly themselves when it is another person who is assigning them a label. He also learned this fact from several years of being a published author.  Members of society assign labels to people who have any sort of fame because they are never viewed as real people. The media is to blame for this. In order to stray away from this assumption, Everett has to make societal statements in any way he can, including the way he signs his books.  Handwriting can give people a sort of control over some situations. Percival Everett’s influence within this culture reflects a person using chirography to gain control over a social situation.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pbOHb5QjkNB0tgDya_zKbrbUQ2-r8PmaALBbUpJeHWeyf1wVh22Wy7nWXDnjBQfGVShCYFltOYBUHOyf-laiFcogQPGkH4SOw8kI4906Gs4-QtCCbYTIk1Vbx8jScP3w7ni0V5WQ


In Literary Analysis by Celena Kusch, she explains the concept of cultural contexts.  Cultural context refers to cultural history that aids in enhancing our interpretation of the text’s social significance (Literary Analysis, 75).  The cultural context offers an explanation behind the reasoning for an artistic work being the way it is.  Kusch uses the example of the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer.  The main characters in the Twilight series are Bella, a human, Edward Cullen, a vampire, and Jacob, a werewolf.  Edward and his vampire family represent the upper class of society and Jacob and his family represent the lower class.  The Cullens are an all-white family, and the patriarch of the family is a doctor. The werewolves are Native Americans and live secluded from the other members of the community on a reservation.  The vampires and werewolves have had a several hundred-year feud. The two groups never blend. Bella falls in between these two groups by having romantic feelings for both Edward and Jacob. In the end, she chooses to marry Edward and becomes a vampire.  The cultural context of the novels tells the audience that Bella chooses to become a member of the elite section of society. The ultra-white skin, immortal beauty, and rich family will give her a life with no struggle. If she had chosen to join the werewolf family, this would not be true.  Cultural context is the tool that leads the reader to make this assumption of the Bella’s choices throughout the novel. The book’s situations parallel situations in current culture. The reader is able to make these connections because of cultural history. The reader is also able to discover different meanings within the text than what is interpreted from only the surface of the text.

For this blog post, I would like to analyze a certain situation in Twilight where cultural context is key in understanding a deeper meaning of the text.  Towards the end of the novels, Bella and Edward end up getting married and conceiving a child.  A problem is developed within her pregnancy when the Cullen family realizes the child she is carrying is not human.  The baby is half-human, half-vampire and is draining her of all the nutrients she needs to survive. Jacob still cares about Bella very much, despite her choosing Edward over him, and wants to help her survive through the pregnancy and birth of the child.  The child is born and kills Bella. Bella is then transformed into a vampire and Jacob hates Edward for changing her from human to vampire. Then, the first time Jacob makes eye contact with the baby, he imprints on her. Imprintation occurs when a bond is formed between a werewolf and another person and initiates the werewolf to protect the other at all costs.  It is viewed as a law in werewolf culture. Eventually when the child grows older Jacob and Bella’s child fall in love. Viewing this situation through the lens of cultural context gives it a different meaning. Since the vampire family represents the elite section of society, and Jacob is the complete opposite, society says that he will never be able to mesh with the Cullens because of the low probability of social mobility.  The only way Jacob is able to achieve the status of the elite class is by joining the family of the Cullens. This isn’t easy for Jacob. Before the child was born, the family often remarks that Jacob is only “a dog” and they don’t like being around him. This is comparable to racism and segregation in American society. They look down upon him because of his appearance and lifestyle. The Cullens and the werewolves choose to never change the relationship between werewolves and vampires because that is how their culture has always been.  Only a law can change this relationship which is similar to segregation within previous years of American culture. It is common in American society for people to be stuck in their ways and not change their opinions. The novels appear to end in a “happy ending”, but the cultural problems within the novel are never truly resolved. American culture’s issues will never fully be resolved.  

Using cultural context as a tool for finding different meanings in literary texts is crucial.  It aids the reader in developing an awareness of underlying details. It gives a text a larger social significance according to Kusch.  When challenging the norms of society within a literary work, it may change the meaning to readers. Some texts may be viewed as superficial to some readers, especially Twilight because of the story it tells on the surface.  When a reader views it with the cultural context in mind, the level of importance may increase.  The series appears to challenge American culture through the use of bloodsucking and body-morphing creatures.  These aspects may draw a reader in, and change the way they view the society around them.

To be a critic or to be critical?

In everyday life, criticism refers to a person making negative judgments.  People may criticize others’ appearances, attitudes, or thoughts. Within literary works, however, criticism is using details from the text to unlock the author’s true meaning.  In Literary Analysis by Celena Kusch, she describes criticism as making negative judgments.  In my daily life, I admit to doing this quite often. Upon my entrance into the class English 203, I was critical of the pieces we were reading, specifically regarding I am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett.  The class began reading the book with assignments of a few chapters at a time.  Throughout the first few assignments, I really enjoyed the book. I thought it was an easy read and the content was simple.  The book was only telling the life story of a boy named Not Sidney Poitier. I even went as far as to remark during class time that I thought the book wasn’t deep.  By this, I meant that the book was simple, and there was no underlying meaning that Percival Everett was trying to convey. Beth then told me that this may be one of the deepest books I will ever read.  I couldn’t believe this. How could a book that appears to be so simple on the surface be one of the deepest books I will read? Later on, in the class period, I realized she was right. The name of the main character should have been my first clue that the book was not as simple as I had previously thought.  Throughout several more class periods of instruction and discussion among my peers, I made the discovery that I am Not Sidney Poitier is full of so many elements that I could not fathom that an author fit it into one novel.  A majority of the stories told within the novel relates back to a film Sidney Poitier starred in.  Each story also contains an underlying meaning that a surface level reader, such as myself, may never discover without being critical.

There is a certain level of importance when deciphering between being critical and being a critic.  Being critical refers to the negative side of criticism. The word has a negative connotation for a reason.  The Merriam Webster dictionary defines criticism as an expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.  I viewed the novel I am Not Sidney Poitier as a simple book because on the surface it seemed like an easy read in comparison to other novels I have read that seemed to be similar such as The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  This was my initial comparison because they were set around the same time period and told several stories within one novel.  Comparison can be a helpful tool in criticizing books, but it can also hinder a person’s ability to analyze literary works with an open mind.  The helpful side of critical comparison can help a reader identify certain literary techniques and analyze them more effectively in order to find a deeper meaning.  The hindering side of comparison can lead the reader to make assumptions within the text that lead them to not analyze the meaning at all, or insufficiently. The story within I am Not Sidney Poitier I would like to focus on is the storyline from the film The Defiant Ones.  The film is set in the 1950s and tells the story of two prisoners that escape prison while shackled together.  One man is black and the other is white, and they work together to escape the police hunting them down. It was controversial at this time to see a black and white man working together and developing a friendly relationship.  We viewed the film in class prior to reading the novel. While reading this section of the novel, I was able to make the connection between the movie and the film and criticize the book to find a deeper meaning within the story.  I believe Percival Everett wanted to highlight the type of character Sidney Poitier tended to play in his films. He was strong but always ended up helping people even if it didn’t benefit himself. Critically analyzing literary works, and making comparisons help a reader figure out the deeper meaning of texts.

Using criticism while reading is a crucial skill to develop.  Though, one must be cautious while using criticism. Using a critical eye while analyzing literary texts is helpful when finding the true meaning of a text.  A reader needs to identify elements, patterns, and anecdotes within a text in order to make connections to find deeper meanings. Readers need to develop the skill of differentiating between being a critic and being critical.  

Do you like genre? I do!

Do you remember the twenty-first night of September? Or at least the song.  We began our class a few weeks ago by watching several music videos of a man singing, dancing, and playing instruments while the song, “September” by Earth Wind and Fire.  There were four videos, each getting more extravagant through time. The videos are posted on September 21st every year since 2016. All the videos have similar characteristics that stem from our reading from Literary Analysis by Celena Kusch from the previous homework assignment.  The ideas of genre come into play and we began having a group discussion on our opinions of genre, and whether it helps or hurts our ability to understand the material.  When our discussion began, I assumed the members of my group would have the same opinion as me, but I was wrong. Originally I thought genre helps the reader. It helps me to categorize what I will be reading.  I enjoy having an idea of what I will be reading it before I actually dive into the text. It helps me to differentiate between what I like, and what I don’t like. Genre helps me to predict what the piece of literature will contain and what to expect.  Although writing styles differ among authors, the styles will generally remain the same within certain genres. My peers’ opinions made me think differently. Some don’t like the concept of genre because it puts everything into a set category. It closes the reader’s mind off to some literary works because the reader might assume they would dislike the reading because of its genre.  Many people have different opinions on whether they like or dislike genre. Despite this fact, I believe genre is always helpful to a reader.

Throughout Literary Analysis Celena Kusch describes many aspects of literature.  Genre refers to characterization based on aspects of a text.  Readers are able to identify genres by observing certain characteristics within the text.  The reader is able to do this consciously and sometimes subconsciously. Readers are trained to identify these characteristics from a young age and continue to use genre as a literary tool throughout their lives.  During my elementary years of education, I was taught to choose my favorite genres, and read books from only those genres. Of course, later on, teachers told us to read everything with an open mind, but I tended to always return to my favorites because they made me feel comfortable.  This year my opinions changed quite a bit. I became much more open to the idea of reading across many genres, especially when it comes to literary works by Percival Everett. He is the author of many works of literature. He has written pieces such as I am Not Sidney Poitier, The Bacchae, and Re: F(Gesture).  These texts fall under the genre of novel, Greek tragedy, and poetry.   No matter the genre, Percival Everett is able to put his own style into his literary works.  Genre doesn’t seem to affect the way Percival Everett writes. He keeps his same style, and I believe he does this intentionally.  I recall back to a conversation I had with Claire, and she told me to research some of Percival Everett’s interviews regarding genre.  In these interviews, he states that he is not in favor of genre. He doesn’t believe in the categorization of literary works. In an interview with Yogita Goyal, he states, “Apparently people need categories.  I choose to ignore them.” This is heavily reflected in his writing that crosses over many different genres.

Throughout the section discussing genre in Literary Analysis, Kusch makes a comparison to biology.  She compares genres and subgenres to genus and species.  They are necessary parts of the study for English and Biology.  Genre is necessary for English studies, but opinions differ on whether it is important for a reader.  It is a method of categorization among literary works, but some may choose to not follow this method.  Genre is a key literary tool for the developing mind when taking literary courses. It teaches the reader what to expect within certain texts and to have preferences with reading.  There are more preferences developed later on regarding genre. People may favor using genre as a literary technique and some people may not. It is all about personal preference.

Genre is a key technique in developing the ability to recognize patterns in works of literature, film, poetry, etc.  In the September video sequence, the audience recognizes that the videos relate to each other because of the elements of the videos.  Within literary works, genre helps the reader recognize elements that identify the type of literary work.  

Percival Everett Interview:

Making Connections

I have never been a fan of making connections.  I like to observe one thing at a time because I tend to easily confuse information.  I easily mix concepts together, and it usually tends to lead to frustration. This year, however, making connections is almost impossible to avoid.  Although my classes seem to have nothing to do with each other on the surface, their content often meshes together. The classes that tend to connect to each other are English 203, INTD 203, and History 250.  The connection I would like to focus most on is and English and INTD connection that came about this last week. In English 203 we talked about the alphabet, the use of the alphabet, and what the alphabet promises.  We discussed these topics in groups and my group came to the conclusion the alphabet is not a useful model of organization, and students at the collegiate level have little need for the alphabet. The only way I thought the alphabet could be useful is for children’s use.  The alphabet helps children learn the letters, and prepares them to read and write. For adults, however, it has little organizational value. This was proven when Beth assigned the class to stand up and start an activity. We organized ourselves in alphabetical order based on last name, then the first name.  Both were completely different orders of people, but I personally don’t believe there was any meaning behind the organization. My peers came up with meaning behind names, but I don’t think there was a true meaning. We then were asked if there was a meaning behind the way we were organized. My peers discovered meanings for the organization, but I didn’t think it correlated with alphabetical order.  A name is just a name that is given to a child by their parents at birth. The letters within the name don’t give a meaningful characteristic to the child. Therefore, I don’t believe organizing anything alphabetically is meaningful as an adult, but as a child, the tool can be useful for learning.

For INTD 203, we have homework assignments every week from the textbook, The American School From the Puritans to the Trump Era by Joel Spring.  It goes into the history of the American school system from the Puritan era to the Trump presidency.  It describes certain tactics used by educators throughout the history of education. The educational tactics described in the most recent readings are some of the same tactics educators use in current times.  In one of the most recent readings, Joel Spring describes the use of Sesame Street as an education method for the lower class children of the United States.  The show used many methods of education to help lower-class children prepare for kindergarten.  Most of the educational methods in the beginning of Sesame Street were controversial among parents and educators.  They weren’t sure of which methods were necessary for poor children to be learning before their entrance to kindergarten.  One of the tactics discussed was the use of the alphabet in the years before education within school begins. Spring even goes as far as to say that it “was the most controversial decision regarding preparation for school” (428).  Parents and educators frequently debated the use of the alphabet. Some thought it was completely arbitrary, and some thought it was a necessary skill children need to acquire before entrance into the school system. Parents wanted their children to learn the necessary skills for school, but most considered the alphabet to not fall into this category.  The chapter then continues to describe the educational side of the argument. It describes the importance of the alphabet as a tool in early childhood education. It helps children learn the basics of reading and writing and gives them a general educational foundation before entering school. It was an easy skill to teach and thought to be beneficial to children whose families could not afford to put them in a daycare program.  Referring back to the discussion in English 203, I have come to the conclusion that the alphabet is arbitrary for older students and adults, but crucial for young children. The alphabet should not be used as a meaningful organizational method, because there is no real meaning behind it.

This connection made between English 203 and INTD has been and crucial discovery within my education journey.  Taking information only as it presents itself can be harmful to a student. The student could possibly never find a deeper meaning within their learning.  Making connections between classes or literary works is almost always beneficial to the learner. If we had not had the alphabet discussion in English class, then I would not have unpacked the reading in INTD 203.  As a future teacher, understanding these concepts in-depth helps me to develop my own opinion on educational tactics.  

The Failures of Language

How Interpretations can Alter a Text

Within the first class of English 203, we started by analyzing a rather comical tweet. The tweet was captioned “Suspicious pants”. We gathered into groups and discussed our thoughts regarding the tweet and it’s meaning. At first, my group laughed and joked a bit because I don’t think we were expecting the first assignment of our English class to involve a tweet. As we began actually discussing the meaning of the tweet, we came to the conclusion that the pants are suspicious. Then, the entire class began a discussion about the different meanings we all decided upon. The discussion was intriguing because we didn’t just get to just hear about our own thoughts, but we got to hear everyone’s thoughts. The point that resonated with me the most was the point of the failures of language. My group stated aloud the point of “the pants are suspicious”. Beth, then pointed out the statement could possibly have two meanings. The pants could be suspicious themselves, or the pants could be suspicious of us. At first I thought we failed to state our point correctly, but then we realized that it wasn’t our fault, language just sometimes fails to articulate the meaning correctly. It isn’t always the English language’s fault though. People interpret the language differently. When we stated our point in class, Beth and probably others in the class interpreted differently than we did. We meant that the pants are suspicious of us, but others interpreted as we should be suspicious of the pants. Different interpretations of text lead to different meanings can be beneficial to readers because they make individuals think.

Interpretations of text can alter the meaning. The first text we read in English 203 was The Bacchae. We read, analyzed, and discussed the plot and meaning of the play. We then began reading Frenzy by Percival Everett. This interpretation of the story of Dionysus was much different than The Bacchae. It’s the same story, but told though the perspective of the seer, Vlepo. Vlepo gives a larger insight to the characters in the book. For instance, in The Bacchae, Zeus had very little effect on me in relation to the storyline. I knew he was Dionysus’s father, but I didn’t think about him as being an actual character with thoughts and feelings. More specifically, the moment when he revealed himself to Semele. From The Bacchae I thought Zeus just killed her, I didn’t quite understand how or why. Zeus and Semele had relations and had conceived Dionysus. Semele had never seen Zeus in his true form, and begged him to show her his true self. He wanted to appease her needs, and showed her. This, in the end, kills her and Zeus then has to carry Dionysus on his leg until he is born. This entirely changed my perspective on the family relationship among Zeus, Semele, and Dionysus. I think Zeus may have actually had feelings for Semele, but my previous thoughts were that Zeus didn’t care at all. These different interpretations also altered my opinion on which piece I liked better. Having more insights the the minds of characters within a text tends to make me have a better understanding, which therefore leads me to enjoy a work of writing better. Different interpretations among texts, can have different effects on readers.

The language within a text also alter my interpretation. In Frenzy, Everett describes Zeus, Dionysus’s father, as “costive”. I knew the literal meaning of this word, and didn’t plan of thinking anything else of it. This is a personal problem of mine, not thinking too deeply into text, and observing it just as it is. But then, the class started a discussion. He wasn’t actually constipated, he was full of it. He was full of problems and drama that he had created for himself. This word made me start to have a different insight of Zeus. He had so much building up inside of him, and that is the reason for his actions. This is the problem with language. Words and phrases have so many different meanings and interpretations. A person may never know if they are interpreting a text in the way in which the author meant it to be.

Could a certain interpretation be wrong?

I don’t think an interpretation can be wrong. It may not be the way an author intended their text to be interpreted, but language has too many different meanings for that to always happen. One text can mean something to someone, and mean something completely different to someone else. Language is the reason for all of this. Just like the discussion from the first day of class, everyone interprets things differently. It is an important concept to understand because it helps me to think about and expand upon the knowledge I already have.

Suspicious Pants Tweet.jpg