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.

Essay 1, Maddie Bigelow

The tweet, “Suspicious Pants” can be perceived in many ways. For me, it didn’t get me thinking. When I was told to delve deeper into what the image was showing us all I saw was a pair of pants draped over the side of a couch. But when we got into a group and others explained what they saw I realized that everybody has a different interpretation of things. So in the end it got me thinking about how people perceive things differently. Perspectives can make all their difference in the way you think, behave, and feel.

An example of how these pants got me thinking about how the pair of pants made me realize people need to look at things from a different point of view. Again with the pants I looked at the board and felt crazy having to examine a picture of a pair of pants. I couldn’t get my mind out of thinking it was just a pair of pants. For me to be able to delve deep into something I typically need to have some emotion behind it. Like when reading books like The Great Gatsby you could imagine yourself in the position of the characters. I was able to break away from my life and get into theirs. AT one point in that book everything falls apart, you could feel the devastation of Daisy not returning the love Gatsby gave her, Nick when Gatsby dies. But being asked to give something emotions that typically doesn’t is hard. Or when reading books about the Holocaust it is so easy to think bigger and break down meanings because it was such a tragedy, then there on the board was a pair of pants. I was then paired in a group with about six other people. They were able to think deeper about the pants. They put emotion behind them, they personified the pants. Some said the pants were acting suspicious based on the expression they observed and some thought the pants were suspicious of another person’s actions, and I was able to see where they were coming from. The pants were brought to life and I could see the face, I could see the look, and how a suspicious deed was assumed. I didn’t feel as ridiculous or nervous because I couldn’t see anything. Another example of this can be seen in “The Art of Scaring’, by Laura Skrzypczyk. She writes about the college experience and how maybe the college experience isn’t as fun and wild as it’s painted to be. In her article, she talks about how she had to think about things she didn’t want to. She used a different perspective to learn about what some have gone through in college and what some people will most likely go through. For example, Laura says, “In Dr. McCoy’s response to my post, she asked a very intriguing question: ‘how might colleges and universities communicate the risks and rewards without scaring folks or making them tune out (like folks often do when asked to read the fine print in contracts and the like)?’ I never stopped to wonder if I truly wanted to know the risks of the job market and the shortcomings of a college experience. However, after much consideration, I confirmed that I do want to know exactly what I’m getting into.” I chose this quote because it shows that at first knowing scary possibilities was something she didn’t want to know. But she allowed herself to get out of her comfort zone. She learned about the realities of college. In your first week of college, everyone is trying to tell you how great college is, it’s fun, welcoming, etc. But for a lot of people that isn’t true. College could even be a dangerous place. Laura got out of her perspective of the picture-perfect college experience and said the negation of that. She learned about the risk and the darker side of what college could be like. I think especially when it comes to college people need to get out of their naive mindset and learn from real firsthand experiences. 

Aside from the theory of changing perspective, I think that this can help me set goals for myself by using someone else’s perspective to grade myself, complete my assignments, etc. I only use my interpretation of “self”, I will never truly grow. I need to think like those who admire me, believe in me, and aspire to be me. An example of this can be seen if you call yourself the suspicious pants. If you were the pants and you say you were suspicious you would automatically assume everyone thinks you’ve done something bad. But in reality, they could be thinking something completely different. People never know what someone else is thinking or what they believe. So take a step back and look at yourself from an outside perspective. In addition, I think this could help me to set goals and understand that sometimes you don’t reach them and that is okay. There is no reason to beat yourself up over it or suddenly think you\’re a failure. All you have to do is adjust your goals so that they are a little more within your reach than your previous ones had been. This can also be seen in Laura’s writing, “The Art of Scaring”. For example, “Maybe we just need someone to say, “this is what we hope you’ll get out of this college experience, but these are some alternative possibilities that can happen. That’s the reality. And we’re here for you if it does!”. I chose the section of her test because we can all relate to it. This is an example of adjusting your college experience goal. Things didn’t work out quite the way they wanted to and needed to ask if held to maybe get back to what they wanted. This can help you understand college isn’t all poppy, have one class a day, and party at night. It is hard and for some people, it isn’t the right fit and that’s okay. 

In the end, a change in people’s mindset could be a lifesaver, I know that if I could change the way I think I would most likely be more confident and perform better in life and school. But it’s hard. People always feel they are being judged by the world, and the truth is you might be. But you can’t let that stop you. Most people are thinking more about if you are judging them than they are thinking about you. So transcend from your mind, adopt a new perspective, and change for the better. You could learn so many more things and see how people live that are the opposite of you. It could help you notice that the face of the pair of pants may be suspicious, and help you to make and reach new goals.

Dictionaries & Dionysus

Nina Avallone-Serra


Within the first few lines of the Bacchae I was immediately brought back to my first reading of the syllabus. Specifically, Percival Everett’s short but sweet quote, “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood.”


The experience of my introduction to the inaugural text of this class can be described in no less than four open tabs detailing the various definitions and lore of a handful of Greek mythological terms (dirce, Bactria, Tmolus, etc). I struggled to contextualize the world of the Bacchae with my limited knowledge of Greek plays and mythology and the language eluded me. My in-class experience mirrored this as well: much of it involved defining terms and contextualizing class concepts and new Bedford vocabulary. In my mind I edited Everett’s quote: “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood…without a dictionary.”


My difficulty (if not wonder) at these new terms and concepts both in and out of the Bacchae presented a turning point for me in the way I digest literature. Placing such emphasis on terms and context and their varying meanings shattered my view of literary interpretation and analysis. Dr. McCoy’s article “New Critical Formalism”, breaking down the origins and methodology of New Criticism (which was previously my only tool for analyzing texts) made me think critically about my criticism. Have I been interpreting texts fairly and within the contextualization (and intertextuality) the author intended? And should I have been interpreting even outside of the author’s intention and establishing emotional and cultural connections based on my own view of their work?


All of these questions, of course, only complicated the quote in my head: “It’s incredible a sentence is ever understood…without a dictionary or high school curriculum New Criticism.”


As I move forward in this class, I hope no longer to feel baffled by the Bacchae or by new terms and New old Criticism; rather I hope to learn to adopt an appreciation and perhaps even a healthy sense of wonder about Greek mythology, new vocab, intertextuality, analysis, and how I can learn from or contribute to each. I hope also to adopt Percival Everett’s sense of fascination, despite the bafflement, with language and its construction and apply these wonders to my studies both within ENGL 203 Percival Everett & Intertextuality and beyond.

Suspicious Pants and Greek Gods

It’s hard to believe an expansion of one’s mind would come from a pair of pants. Maybe it’s altruistic revenge for an expanding waistline. When I first saw the Suspicious Pants tweet on Dr. McCoy’s syllabus, I couldn’t help but to think it was just another veiled attempt to relate and connect to her younger audience. A thought that was nearly confirmed as we spent our class dissecting it to gain a scholarly understanding of it all .But admittedly, as the discussion went on, a sense of depth started to form around the picture that was coupled with only two words. Suspicious pants. However, this deeper meaning didn’t truly take form until I took the thought and expanded it to other areas of the class.

On the surface, Suspicious Pants suggests looking beyond your initial viewpoint and to ask yourself what is on the other side. The conflicting duality of, are the pants suspect of themselves or are they suspicious of something else, can go even deeper. What makes a reader think they are suspect? if I had been raised differently, would I still consider them suspect? Had they been jeans, shorts, or even the coveted pocket lined skirt, would I still lock my doors when they are around? This side of the pant plot demand self-reflection to help find the deeper meaning within myself. Alternatively, what does a pair of pants have to be suspicious of? The cameraman? The naked owner returning to their pants? A mirror? No matter the subject, what has gone on in the pant’s world that demands their need of being suspicious? Is there even a world for the pants to reside in or are they merely the result of years of evolution causing the human brain to hallucinate them into cognitive existence? Which according to Merriam-Webster is pareidolia, the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. A dinosaur in the clouds. A face in a stain. Life in a pair of pants. All of this and the idea only continues when I read Dr. McCoy’s write up on peritext and epitext. She describes peritext as “non-textual” elements with which authors imbue their texts. What the author controls. So, would I be having such a visceral reaction to this picture if the author, @_youhadonejob1, had not included their caption? In contrast, Dr. McCoy summarized epitext as elements outside of the author’s control. Would any of us be here had it not been for Dr. McCoy choosing to include Suspicious Pants in her syllabus and force the discussion upon her students? All of these questions with seemingly no concrete answers. And any derived answers, only leading to more questions. This concept in of itself is the answer to the question behind the importance of the Suspicious Pants. To fully understand something as abstract as a 2018 tweet, an Ancient Greek play, or a conversation in an English class, is to keep opening more doors of questioning and answers until you find each door. Regardless of if you enter them and choose to stay or not.

When Dr. McCoy repeatedly suggested reading The Bacchae at least twice due to its difficult nature, I believed her because Ancient Greek plays are usually as dry as the paper they are printed on. But, as I began my second reading while simultaneously beginning to think about what I may or may not write for this essay, minus any of the actual writing, I started to theorize an alternative motive for the prompt. While definitely a dense read, The Bacchae also houses a multitude of required layered understanding to fully appreciate it. Within the story, characters can be regular men or women, Kings, or even Gods. It may be easy enough to think like one of the regular folk, but how can you relate to a King let alone a God? By giving understanding to the characters you relate to, the viewpoints you align with, you can shelf those understandings in order to shift your focus on the alternatives. The Bacchae‘s need for understanding goes even further when you consider the time in which it was written compared to present day. Partying all day in the forest with your gal pals sounds like a delightful way to spend your Summer. When contrasted with 405 B.C. in Ancient Greece, what would the typical audience member think? Especially when you consider that, according to World History Encyclopedia, the audience members were most likely men and culturally at the time, a woman’s place was at homes with the children? How would these ideas affect the way Euripedes chose to write the play? Were his decision based in educational reasoning, entertainment purposes, political and social commentary, or was he merely concerned with getting paid? A full on barrage of questions met with only half answers are all the result of a tweet. A tweet that has taken form as the primary catalyst for an English student to gain understanding of a play written in a different time and world. Further pushed by a suggestion to re-read and rethink about the play and a suggestion that would be needed to taken time and time again to get close to fully understanding the play, as well as everything in life, in all of their intricacies.

A drawing of a certain par of suspicious pants exclaiming “Wears for Sale” rests in my notebook and marks the start of a new line of thinkING. A new line of questioning. “What did she say?”, “How do I find the syllabus?”, “Is she serious?” all lead to “What is a King to a God?”, “What would a son do for his mother?”, and lastly, “When do we get to talk about this in class?” I still believe these pants are an attempt to relate and connect to our class. But now I understand it is more than that. It’s to educate, to motivate, and to cultivate an open minded way of thinkING whose growth will feed into itself in a classroom setting. Whether or not the pants were just a device to get internet addicted students hooked on learning doesn’t matter in the end. What does matter, is that it worked.

McCoy, “What is the paratext?”

Euripides. The Bacchae and Other Plays. Penguin Books, 2005. 

Cartwright, Mark. “Women in Ancient Greece.” World History Encyclopedia, World History Publishing, 27 July 2016, https://www.worldhistory.org/article/927/women-in-ancient-greece/.

“Pareidolia Definition & Meaning.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pareidolia#:~:text=%3A%20the%20tendency%20to%20perceive%20a,make%20pictures%20out%20of%20randomness.

Light the Fire

There are a million parts of myself that I have had to leave behind, just like everyone else. Parts that I wish I was able to bring with me to hold dear, but although incredibly unfortunate, that’s not how the world works. I tend to think back to when I felt motivation and passion flowing through my veins. For years, I had so many ideas and interests, so many reasons to put my best foot forward and achieve anything and everything that I put my mind to. But that passion has dwindled and come to a simmer. It’s there, deep inside of me, but I’ve buried it under all of my doubts and insecurities. 

An article written by Laura Skryzypczyk entitled The Art of Scaring jogged my brain a bit. It uncovered some of that motivation I had left behind so long ago and I came to the realization that I am sick of leaving myself behind again and again as the victim to a world where life goes on and people are expected to move on. It’s harsh, it’s scary, but it’s the truth. In the article, Laura writes about colleges’ scare tactics and ways of trying to get a student up and moving. She compares a soft approach with the first, hard approach and the way a student reacts to each. “Those who received the first, almost shameful letter were more likely to drop out of college, and in doing so end their academic partnership.” –The Art of Scaring. Many students, no matter the grades they recieve, are inherently terrified of failure. And although it isn’t the best course of action, many believe in their flight response and decide to drop out instead. It’s easier than failing, and they feel it is their only option when resources don’t appear to be available.

The softer approach works for so many more students. It gives them the strength and motivation to succeed. It makes them feel as if they are someone worth believing in. And it got me thinking that maybe if I light the fire that used to burn so bright underneath me that I could pick up the pieces that I had left behind. I am here to work. I am here because I deserve to be here; I’ve earned my spot. So why should I just give up and fumble my way through college? What is stopping me from reaching my full potential and striving to be amazing? I answered all of my frequent questions regarding my lack of motivation with a quote by Percival Everett from I am not Sidney Poitier. The quote reads “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 yet 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:

I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.”

I have read this quote so many times trying to decipher the meaning, however all text may mean different things to different people. How an author interprets their own writing may be separated from how the reader interprets it. I believe this is exactly what this quote is meant to be about. So instead I figured out what pieces resonated within me, and what speaks volumes for my inspiration is the ending “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.” This is because when am I ever myself these days? Without the pieces of me I’ve left behind I am not one whole like I wish to be. I am left as a victim, but that mentality is leaving me further behind than anything. Why should anyone have to be a victim? We have all been victims before, but we don’t need to be. We can take these experiences and this bad energy and throw it somewhere else that matters more. We can light the fire that we all wish we had. 

One other part of the quote that I truly understood is “…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…” as this is a wonderful representation of what I had previously stated earlier. Using literature to connect with myself and others to fulfill what I never even knew was missing. Helping to inch my way to becoming whole once more. 

I’ve taken this course as an opportunity to continue learning about myself and others through the art of literature. Analyzing and understanding what our pasts and losses do to our interpretation. Connecting ourselves and others to these texts and epigraphs broadens our thinking, and may expand our perspectives. In this course we have touched on what it means to act in “Good Faith” vs “Bad Faith”. This conversation has motivated me to hold myself accountable and work for what I want. To take care of myself, not only by being gentle with myself but also knowing when I need to put myself together and go forward with my life. To do things that will benefit me. To be kind and considerate to everyone, including myself. This is the only way we can truly conquer life.

 No, I am not myself today. I wasn’t yesterday, and I won’t be tomorrow. But I will be again. So it is imperative that I continue trying to piece myself back together, and finding motivation and reason to put my best foot forward. Acting in good faith, holding myself accountable, and using any opportunity (such as this course) to reignite the flame and light the fire underneath me. 

An Exploration of the Insights of Interpersonality

As a young child, there were many things I was unsure of, but one thing that I was certain of was who I was. It’s hard to believe that a seven year old would have a good sense of self, but compared to the other children of my age, I felt as though I had a solid foundation of who I was and what I wanted to be. As I got a bit older and school became more than just playing kickball at recess and coloring a worksheet for homework, I began to lose the part of me I thought I once knew. Once I reached High School, I felt sincerely that I had lost all creativity and confidence I had once held years ago. I felt as if I was put into a box. Everything was so structured, that there was a serious lack of creative freedom. Once the time came when I finally entered college, I was suddenly in a place where I was given an abundance of creative opportunities. I was able to express myself in more ways than I imagined possible. 

The epigraphs we have explored in class thus far have helped me reflect on my life as well as the way I think. The epigraph that has impacted me the most is Percival Everett’s ‘I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY’. This piece of writing stood out to me, because it perfectly captures the feeling of going back and reflecting on the past. I have been able to explore the depths of what I have gained and lost as I explore this new part of my life. The epigraph perfectly encapsulates this feeling. A line in the epigraph that perfectly captures this is, “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.” Growing up can feel very melancholy, as you are forced to let go of pieces of yourself that help mold who you are as a human being. Being able to revisit those parts of yourself that you have let go of can be very intense, but also can provide a sense of comfort. This writing has encouraged me to rediscover those parts of myself that I felt like I had let go of years ago. When you are a child, nobody really tries to tell you who you can and cannot be, but once you reach a certain age, you are approached with people and situations that make you question your identity. You are no longer asked to write about your favorite foods, or the highlight of your summer. You are suddenly expected to write long structured essays about the exact same topic as all of the other peers in your classes. School suddenly feels like a broken record. You lose a sense of self. By going back and reflecting on those parts you were once taught to embrace, you are able break that pattern, and reopen those creative parts of your mind. 

Another aspect of the epigraph that I find compelling was when the author states, “ I have learned that my name is not my name.” This speaks volumes to the nuances of the several interpersonal relationships you hold with others. Who you are as a person is far more than how you are defined by society. The interactions we hold with others often define us. However, far more often than not, many of the thoughts we hold dear to us are not expressed to the average person. As I previously mentioned, I was not able to express my creative abilities to the fullest extent according to the societal norms surrounding me. As I have gotten older, and reflected more on my past self, I have been able to disregard the standards placed upon me, and I have yet again been able to live my life according to my own standards. 

One of the readings we have discussed in class that relates to my issues with self identity and the pressure both school and society places on us, is Laura Skrzypczyk’s ‘The Art of Scaring.”. This blog post discusses the issues in schools surrounding the lack of information and support students receive, due to the risks that some may face. But what is life, without the risks? How will you be able to gain your full potential without taking risks in life? A wonderful point Laura made was when she stated, “I never stopped to wonder if I truly wanted to know the risks of the job market and shortcomings of a college experience. However, after much consideration,  I confirmed that I do want to know exactly what I’m getting into.” By knowing, to some extent some of the risks you may have to face in life, no matter the circumstances or situations, you are able to reflect and reevaluate how to approach the next step.. I believe it is better to take risks and fail, than not to have taken risks and never succeeded. By not allowing students to express themselves, and prohibiting them from taking risks, what is there for them to gain? Life truly has no rulebook to follow, so why restrict students from reaching their full potential? In the short few weeks I have been in this class, I have learned far more than I have ever learned in my four years of High School. I have been able to relearn many of the things that were stripped away from me. I have gained a new sense of creative freedom. Moving forward, I now know it is okay to take risks, because with every failure there is a lesson, and with every success there is a new opportunity provided. 

Epigraph Essay

An epigraph can have many definitions. The definition used in this writing is from The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. “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, which tend to set the tone or establish the theme of what follows, are generally taken from earlier, influential texts by authors.” (Murfin). An epigraph used from Percival Everett’s novel Erasure goes on to describe the complications between what is being said and what is being interpreted or done. “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.” (Everett). Words are merely sounds that a person is making. Throughout society, it is not always true what comes out of someone’s mouth. It is whether the person is trustworthy or not that makes words mean something. Within the play, The Bacchae, there were many instances of faulty impressions, whether it is words, actions, or appearances not everything is truthful.

There is a sort of irony in using this specific epigraph of Everetts for this play. It is Dionysus who wants people to believe him and the memory of his mother, that he is, in fact, Zeus’ son. He is not being truthful while trying to gain the trust of his people. His anger towards the mistrust comes through the vengeful appearance he makes. He begins his journey in Thebes as a false human, purposefully disguising himself, to create a theatrically vengeful proclamation of his anger. He plans to trick the people into thinking that he was only a mere human and then surprise them. During a confrontation with his cousin, Pentheus, he is talking about himself in the third person as though he, himself, is not Dionysus, tricking the man into speaking too honestly in front of the God. Dionysus was speaking in truth yet lacked the whole truth. There were instances when he talked in the third person, telling the truth. Then there were moments when it was blatantly lying. “He saw me and I him, and he gave me his rites.” (Euripides). This sentence could be taken a few different ways. One way is that Dionysus is insinuating that he sees himself for what he is worth. The other way to take it is that he is just lying. Euripides’ way with words here gives both impressions. “You hear my words, Pentheus, but you pay no attention to them.” (Euripides). The conversation that Dionysus had with Pentheus had many insinuations about the fact that the God himself was right in front of him. His enunciations of “I” during statements regarding the God gave hints towards to concept of he, himself, being Dionysus.   

Dionysus took his anger out on many people who did not regard him as his true person, the son of Zeus. His mother’s sisters were no exception to his wrath. “For this reason, I have spurred those same sisters to madness and driven them in distraction from their houses.” (Euripides). Dionysus, upset over his Aunts not believing in his true kinship, decides it best to make the women believe that they are mad, when they are not actually mad, out of anger. “I bring here in my arms, as you see, this prize of my valour, to be hung on your palace roof.” (Euripides). At the end of the play, it is discovered that Agaue, in midst of her man-made madness, falsely killed a lion which was actually her son. Her reality is not an honest one for, Dionysus has created a false reality that led to her praising the death of her son unknowingly. 

According to the Legal Information Institute, the definition of bad faith is: “Depending on the exact setting, bad faith may mean a dishonest belief or purpose, untrustworthy performance of duties, neglect of fair dealing standards, or a fraudulent intent.” (“Bad Faith”). Throughout schooling, it can get easy to make up lies, even a little one. The overbearing weight of procrastinating for so long that it is almost impossible to get the assignment done on time. Even writing this essay mistakes were made on my part, not remembering the due date, so here on a Thursday night, the essay is being written so that it is almost completed before work tomorrow. There are two ways to go about this situation. The first one is to lie about an extenuating circumstance and ask for an extension, though it is completely my fault for not knowing the due date. The other is to own up to the mistake made and work hard to get the assignment done. The first one is considered bad faith, a lie. The way to best go about the situation is to keep better track of assignments and make sure that my intentions and actions are always good and honest. 

It can be hard, to be honest, and own up to mistakes that you made especially if you lied about one. In high school, it was easy to get away with lying about doing something as simple as the readings for class. The punishment for not readying was not much in high school. They are not always going to find out about the lie. Going into college it is essential to do the readings. It is an essential part of being a student. It is best for my education to continue to do the readings for classes to be honest. The honest work being done through the readings and writings will make my education easier down the road.  

Percival Everett’s epigraph can be interpreted in multiple ways. Words are words. It is the meaning behind the words that matter. People have a tendency of lying. The intention that they have is not being portrayed through their words. Sometimes it can be done by anger, sadness, or just being scared. Throughout the story of The Bacchae, there were many instances where they were not truthful both with their words and appearances. This was due to the anger that Dionysus had towards the people who did not believe in him. There are instances of partial truths but, that also means they are partial lies. This can be something that commonly happens in real life for people may find it easier to lie than, to be honest. There are instances where this can happen during daily life. Whether it is in a novel or in real life, words can be hard to understand. The intentions behind them may not always be honest ones. 

Works Cited

“Bad Faith.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/bad_faith. 

Euripides. The Bacchae and Other Plays. Penguin Books, 2005. 

Everett, Percival. Erasure. Graywolf Press, 2011.

Murfin, Ross C., and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Fourth ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018. 

Essay 1

“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. In life we take what we know for granted until at some point, when you’ve thought you’ve mastered a skill, you become hit by a brick wall of information that you don’t understand. The first time I opened the Bacchae I questioned myself and my chosen concentration. That may sound a little over dramatic but when I opened up to that play it was the first time, I was faced with the fact that I couldn’t understand what I was reading. During the first few days’ class Dr. McCoy had forewarned us that this text was difficult to get through, I remember taking that into account but still expecting to at least understand half of it, so I was truly taken aback when I found myself completely lost. 

 
It’s a wonder that any human language is understandable at all, at least that’s what I think when I look at it now. English truly is just, “Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean some thing,” and the fact that people made up these words and strung them together and we can understand it is such a great feat. The English language has also changed so much over time and the fact that we can still make sense of the old language is amazing. In class we briefly discussed Shakespeare and that has gotten me thinking about how we assume meaning to his play’s and ask ourselves what he intended to mean when he wrote one of his plays. “The meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” Can’t Sheakspears plays just have been for entertainment? Why does Macbeth have to had meant something? Just because we can understand Sheakspears works why must we look into more and not just appreciate them at a surface level understanding? 

With the Bacchae we do the same thing, but this time is it different? Do we look more into the Bacchae because it’s hard to understand? Through this class I have no doubt I will thoroughly come to know and understand the Bacchae and take in all it has to offer me. The meaning behind words is important, or so I’ve been told, so perhaps understanding works like Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, and the Bacchae is more important than I might admit. “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood.” There is always going to be something in read work that we might not understand but as long as we take our language for granted, we’ll surely choose not to acknowledge that fact. 

Learning How to Think

In our first few weeks of classes we’ve already learned a lot. We learned how to think and how to learn. This might sound like pretty basic stuff, but it’s actually critically important to not just this course, but to our life. We have learned how to critically think, how to unpack ideas and analyze them more closely than we might have before. One of our course epigraphs illustrates this idea well, Percival Everett states, “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.” 

The first sentence “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood.” condenses some of what I said before, the idea that anyone can ever understand each other is crazy to think about. Everybody has unique thoughts and feelings, yet through inflections and common words people can understand each other. This got me thinking about something from our class, The Bacchae. The Bacchae was written around 405 BC. That means it has been around for 2427 years, and we still understand it, we can still study it. The Bacchae was written by people who lived in a completely different time period but it still makes sense. It’s hard to wrap your head around that. This idea tells us a few things, one of the obvious being that language is a connector. Through language we can connect with the past, with their ideas and feelings. On top of that, because these texts still make sense to us it shows how similar we are to people in the past. People were still people then, just living in a different situation. This can be seen as both comforting and scary. It’s nice to think that people have been thinking and communicating in similar ways for centuries. It’s also scary to think about how little has changed over what seems like such a large span of time to us. That one single sentence led me toward thinking about The Bacchae and about the minds about people from ancient times.

In our first few classes we learned to think critically about everything. One of our course epigraphs was an internet meme, something most people wouldn’t give a second thought to. However, we spent at least 20 minutes discussing and unpacking meaning behind it to grasp a better understanding. Critical thinking can make your mind run wild in all different ways. If you try hard enough you can connect almost anything to something else. In my paragraph above I moved from a one sentence quote about  language and communication and connected it to our reading of the Bacchae. These texts don’t have any crossover within them, but finding connections between them is a huge part of what we should do when thinking critically. “Intertextuality is the condition of interconnectedness among texts, or the concept that any text is an amalgam of others…” (Murfin and Ray 476). Using this theory we are able to find connections between texts. Moving forward in this course, and in life, I’ll be making as many strong connections as I can between works. This may help me to find inspiration when I’m trying to write an essay, or allow me to explain something more easily. Another thing we learned was about how to learn effectively. We should be learning so that we can teach the topic we’re learning about, not just memorize parts to pass a test. Finding connections makes this easier. As a student hoping to become a teacher in the future this is one of the most important concepts to me. The avenues that critical thinking opens will be extremely helpful to me as a student. I’ve already written half of this essay based around just the first sentence of one of our epigraphs.

The second part of our course epigraph that says “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.” This part of the epigraph is a little bit more confusing than the first. It almost feels like this second half is explaining pieces of critical thinking. Sentences are meant to be understood. The reason we form sentences is to communicate with others and get our ideas across. What this quote shows is that people often understand each other. Normally when people speak to each other the meaning doesn’t get lost, but it’s not impossible. When people think critically about what people have said, what words they’ve used, it can change the intended meaning. That’s why Everett said “the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” This makes me think more about what I say. Going forward I am going to be more critical of my choices in speech. I don’t want my intentions to be misinterpreted, as it is possible to do. Part of the way I plan to make my meaning more clear is through consistent communication. The more well I know somebody, the less likely it is that I am misunderstood. I think that implementing clear communication in class will help to keep my intentions clear and also promote good faith.

So far, this course has already been one of the most beneficial to me in just a few weeks of having it. I had never heard of an epigraph before this class but after learning more about them I can’t stop noticing things that would make great epigraphs in future writing. I think another hugely important part of this class that’s more of a theme, is operating in good faith. I find it easy to operate in good faith when I know the professor is too. I have already found myself pushing myself harder for this course and being more critical of my work because I want to meet the good faith expectations that have been set. I think that will be the most impactful thing in this course. A goal I can already set for myself is to plan ahead more. I think that the level of work we are doing can be seen just by the amount of critical thinking we’ve already done and if I’m going to keep up and work in good faith I’m going to need to plan ahead. My main goals for this class will be to plan ahead and openly communicate. These two goals will help me to operate in good faith and succeed.

Essay 1

When I walked into class on Wednesday (09/14/22),  I was so frustrated with myself that I could have cried. I was very confused, I had no idea what to write about and this normally doesn’t happen to me. Thoughts of word count and answering all the questions and somehow using a book, I was just lost. I think it was something that the majority of the class had felt, but at first, I had no idea. Then we clustered into groups for discussion after break. I got into a group, and like Dr. McCoy had stated in class, all of our moods had changed completely. We used each other to build ideas, I walked in with my epigraph picked and a whole lot of thoughts on what I could possibly do, but I left with an idea. The epigraph I chose is “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. I do not know how to even begin to describe how this makes me feel; it makes more sense than anything, ever. It is the most satisfying statement I’ve heard and I want to talk about it forever, yet I do not even know where to begin. First I think about how we speak, there are so many languages since the beginning of time from all over the world, it’s amazing that we can translate (or attempt to) and understand what someone speaking a completely different language is saying to us. Then I wonder, how do we translate languages, especially the dead ones. This I think is a goal that I can set for myself in the future to learn about and research. I also begin to think about things that are written in different languages and translated to English, like the Bacchae, that I’ve now read many times. It is so crazy to think that someone could have translated that story by Euripides, who was from Ancient Greece and spoke a language that no one speaks any longer. How does a sentence of utter nonsense spoken by a man of the BC time period, yes, before the story of Jesus, become the words we speak? Words are so delicate, especially in English. It’s the hardest language to speak and understand. So how do Euripides words become what they are in English? What if they are translated wrong, his play not getting to serve the same purpose that he’d intended? There it is– intentions. How you intend your words to come across. How you intend your words to make people feel. In class on Thursday, in my group, Cam talked about how this epigraph could also be used to talk about good and bad faith. In the epigraph, Percival Everett states “…the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.”. When I think of this and how it is stated, I think of lying. We talked a few classes ago about good faith and bad faith. The idea I got from Cam’s statement was that the meaning behind the sentence can be different than the sentence. You can say “I read the Bacchae” all day long, but if the intention is to deceive the listener, it is acting in bad faith. But it is still a sentence, by the definition of Everetts. But if it is a lie or deception, perhaps it is a sentence without meaning. That does not mean that the sentence doesn’t make sense as it is listened to, but the person does not mean what they are saying. A sentence without meaning does not always mean a sentence without feeling either. People say things to hurt others, and act to deceive or be malicious which all I would define as acts of bad faith.