Not My(August)self Today

“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.” –Percival Everett 

Four months ago, when I first read this epigraph in our course syllabus, my notions about this class, English in college, and college in general were admittedly foggy.  I didn’t know who Percival Everett was. I didn’t know where the passage was quoted from. I didn’t know how relatable the epigraph would prove to be when reflecting upon it again in December.  

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“This is me I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be now” ~ “This is me”, Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas

The interesting thing about irony for me is that real irony is far more sincere than earnestness. To accept the absurdity of a situation is to accept the humanness of it. Utter sincerity suggests a kind of belief that one knows all there is to know about a given circumstance. That is not to say that one should ever make light of serious and grave and important issues, but that open and genuine intellectual curiosity should never be a casualty in any situation. Irony is not always funny. Humor is not always ironic. –”

“Coming Home from Irony: An Interview with Percival Everett, Author of So Much Blue”

On August 26, 2019, I walked into my first English class at SUNY Geneseo; I was testing the water in the hope of becoming an English major on the creative writing track. Now that it is December 3, 2019, I’ve learned more about myself as an individual and decided I no longer wanted to be on the English creative writing track, but on the English literature track. Arriving as a freshman, I wanted to be a Political Science major because I was pushed toward becoming a lawyer, but after this class I realized that changing my major was the best decision I made in preparation for the future. While looking for an English 203 class I came across “ENGL-203-03: R&T:Percival Everett Intertextual” I had no idea who Percival Everett was or what the definition of intertextuality was, I did know that it fit into the time slots I had open and it was added. 

After reading multiple works by Percival Everett and watching movies that correlate to his books in this class I believe the epigraph from his interview with Yogita Goyal, serves as a notable through line for the changes I’ve made throughout my Fall 2019 semester and the books we covered. I would like to think that with my deep analysis with Everett this semester I’ve gotten better at finding the deeper meaning of texts along with interpreting what the author is trying to say. Everett says, “to accept the absurdity of a situation is to accept the humanness of it”, this resonates with my everyday life while addressing his own characters life in I Am Not Sidney Poitier. 

         In the novel titled “I Am Not Sidney Poitier”, the main character Not Sidney goes through various situations within his life, which are absolutely absurd but reflect the great joys of being human. In a scene taken from the movie “The Defiant Ones” Not Sidney decides to drive to Los Angeles to find his mother’s grave and to see where he grew up. Inevitably, Not Sidney was pulled over for being a man of color (48), like many men and women of color today he was racially profiled and charged for crimes that were not legitimate. He was arrested and in the process of being transported to the prison his bus gets into a car accident. Not Sidney and Patrice run away together because they were the only ones conscious and they were handcuffed together. Along the way, they meet a young boy who takes them back to his house, where Patrice falls in love with his sister and they decide to run away together. Arriving early everyone takes a nap except Not Sidney and when the train comes he jumps on alone leaving everyone behind. As preposterous as this situation may seem humanistic attributes are displayed; Not Sidney does not wake anyone up because there would be less weight to carry and was an every man for themselves situation. 

         In reflecting on my life, I know now that I am a lot like Not Sidney, but instead of running toward my roots I was running away from my roots. I could not imagine being home with family for much longer; I wanted to be free, run away from the constant tug of war in my house, and develop the person I have become today. As Everett stated in his interview no matter how absurd our reasons may seem it shows the human in us and the decisions we will make in and every man for themselves situation exerts this best. Walking into English 203 that summer’s day I was confused looking at a meme of suspicious pants, but I left my concerns and worries at the door, jumping onto the train into Percival Everett’s mind and blog post assignments that made me want to trash offices. 

Blog posts were my enemy at the beginning of the semester, an informal piece written based on something I found interesting in the class, and was published publicly. I have to admit that after receiving the grade from my second blog post I was a little unhappy; the truth was I really didn’t know what I was doing. But nothing stays the same forever, after meeting with my TA’s, Professor McCoy, and reading the helpful feedback provided on each post I began to receive better grades and I was grateful I didn’t give up. Everett said “[a] genuine intellectual curiosity should never be a casualty in any situation” and I believe this is explicitly displayed in re: f(gesture), in which Everett wrote three sections of poems based on topics that seem to not relate. The first section covered famous historical events with an alphabetical format, here it can be seen as Everett tackling common knowledge over a broad range of fields and adding a twist to a commonly used form. Exploring common knowledge in the first two sections of his book, “Zulus” and “Body”, he explores and develops his own curious interests while reminding his readers to think creatively. In his book his own intellectual curiosity was not a victim to some of the underlying heavy topics he seemed to have been addressing: common knowledge among fields, writers following their own curiosities, and breaking the stigma of liberal arts being seen as boring and useless “Oo you’re an English Major, I’m sorry”. Throughout the length of the semester I found it difficult to break my years of training in writing formal essays and adding my own creative spin on topics I choose. By my tenth blog post, I felt like I learned how to incorporate my own sense of creativity among my writing while following my own curiosities.  

English 203 is technically a prerequisite for the English major serving as a foundation class for all students, but I don’t see English 203-03: R&T:Percival Everett Intertextual as just another foundation class. Attending this class I believe I learned so much more than any other English 203 class would have to offer while making great friends in the process. On August 26th, I walked in as a normal sophomore ready to become a lawyer, the irony of the situation was that this was the path my parents were pushing me toward my whole life; coming in as a freshman, I wanted to be a surgeon and here I am three semesters deep and pursuing a career in law again. Now it is December 11th the closing of this class, in which I learned how to unpack my statements and now can no longer go back to hearing statements without asking for more details, where I learned to think creatively and logically, and I refuse to hand in a piece of work if it was not to the best of my ability. I learned that it was okay to start over if it’ll allow the reader to understand my point clearly and to be attached to my work but not fear the necessary changes that needed to be made for a better paper. So, in a way the class is a foundation but it spreads further than my major and further than Percival Everett; granted I don’t think I can read another novel without thinking of Everett and deepening my reading of the books with probing questions and wondering what the author is trying to say. Percival Everett’s novels opened a new world thinking to me in which I believe I can never go back on.

Final Reflective Essay INTD 203 – Understanding Suspicious Pants

On the first day of classes Dr. McCoy wrote a quote on the board from Percival Everett stating, “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood.” Being that it was my first day of class I jotted down the words without really giving much thought to their meaning. The class then broke into groups to discuss one of the syllabus course epigraphs which was a tweet containing a picture entitled “Suspicious pants.” My initial reaction to the tweet along with, I’m sure many of my group members, was puzzlement. Why am I contemplating a pair of pants on the first day of my first semester college?

I remember thinking that the exercise was rather peculiar, silly even, until Dr. McCoy mentioned that she believed all of Everett’s work can be wrapped up in this one tweet. Having never read anything by Everett before, I was confused and a little frustrated. Obviously if these pants are a representation of all of Everett’s work, I felt I must be missing something. I expected, as in many of my high school classes, that the “answer” to the meaning behind the pants would be resolved by the end of the class. Thinking back to this day and revisiting those same “Suspicious pants” has made me realize just how much my mindset has grown.  

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Is it funny?

The interesting thing about irony for me is that real irony is far more sincere than earnestness. To accept the absurdity of a situation is to accept the humanness of it. Utter sincerity suggests a kind of belief that one knows all there is to know about a given circumstance. That is not to say that one should ever make light of serious and grave and important issues, but that open and genuine intellectual curiosity should never be a casualty in any situation. Irony is not always funny. Humor is not always ironic.–

Throughout this semester, through every story and passage by Percival Everett that we have read and discussed as a class, I have learned to slow down. As well as the need to close read in order to understand what the words on the page meant. I’ll admit, this took me quite some time to get the hang of, but once I got it, I noticed something very distinct about Everett. Irony plays a big part in what Percival Everett writes as seen in the themes of his stories and the meanings behind his passages. In his interview with Yogita Goyal he makes it clear with how he uses irony as a literary device. This is evident when he says, “The interesting thing about irony for me is that real irony is far more sincere than earnestness.” Something I have noticed throughout his writings, is that Everett is very blunt, almost unapologetic, and usually does not sugar coat things for the readers. Before starting this class I hadn’t read anything in the way Percival Everett had written, and while at times it was startling, it was also very refreshing. Everett acknowledges when he goes too far in a topic and combats that by whipping out a reality check. In his stories he often writes about real things, which are sometimes dark and personal, however, he stops right before crossing the line and avoids desensitizing the subject.  

Looking back on these past few months, I can confidently say that I feel like I have grown as a student, as well as a writer. The focus on Percival Everett’s works and writing as many blog posts that we did was challenging and eye opening, strengthening my need for self discipline as well as writing in a conversational way. In the beginning I was quite lost, bouncing around from story to story that I didn’t fully understand until I went back, reread and made annotations. This took time to get the hang of, but once I did, that is when I started to fully understand what this class was doing, and why we were focused on Percival Everett’s works. Many of the readings that we focused on brought me out of my comfort zone, and while we did read a good amount of his writings, I can’t deny the fact that I Am Not Sidney Poitier stuck out to me the most. The quote I have at the beginning of this post mentions how Everett used irony, and I only felt that it was fitting that I would mention the Bedford Glossary’s definition of that word. “Irony is a contradiction or incongruity between appearance or expectation and reality…irony comes from the Greek eiron, meaning dissembling. (Bedford 217).” I mention that second definition because I feel that is exactly what Everett is doing in his writing. His novels at first glance appear to be something simple, but when one takes the time to dismember and dig into the words he chose, the tone and the themes, it almost becomes an organized mess on the pages. 

After reading the entire interview between Everett and Goyal, I feel like I have a better understanding of who he is, not only as a writer but also a person. In one of my previous blog posts I mentioned how I connected with Everett’s character, Not Sidney in his novel, I Am Not Sidney Poitier. As I continue my journey through reading Everett’s works I’m confident to say that I’m constantly learning something new about not only him, but myself as well. When one is reading something new, they’re most likely to enjoy the story more if they can see themselves in one of the main characters. I found this to be true while I got to know Not Sidney, relating to his grief and his need to be in control. Everett’s use of real situations, such as the racism Not Sidney encounters quite  often in the story, him running away when things become too much, and the use of Ted Turner as the mildly confused “neighbor” were all great devices to make the story relatable. In fact, Turner’s character in a way, gave some breathing room for what Everett was doing, especially during the aftermath of Not Sidney getting abused by his teacher. 

In the interview he was quoted saying, “Utter sincerity suggests a kind of belief that one knows all there is to know about a given circumstance.” For myself, this provides context for Ted Turner’s reaction to Not Sidney’s unfortunate encounter with Miss. Hancock. After the two go back and forth for a bit, Turner bringing up how he can tie his shoes with one hand while Not Sidney describes what happened to him, Ted finally asks Not Sidney if he is going to turn her in. Turner goes on to say, “It’s up to you, but I say report her. She’s contributing to the delinquency of a minor. And apparently giving defective blow jobs (Everett 33).” We see his character become serious for a moment, acknowledging that Not Sidney did go through something traumatic, but then reverts back to his usual self and makes that comment about Miss. Hancock giving bad blow jobs. I believe, now that I have that quote from the interview, that if Everett had written Turner’s character to be super concerned and straight forward, the dynamic between them would have been completely different. If that was the case, he would have stopped Not Sidney from running away, sent him to a college that he could get into-rather than just paying his way in, and he’d treat him like actual family. Everett wrote Turner the way he did because it wouldn’t have been as good if he kept him completely in the loop all the time. Turner’s ability to lighten the mood with random conversations within a conversation manages to level out what they’re talking about. 

“Irony is not always funny. Humor is not always ironic,” Everett continues in the interview as he talks about his works and he acknowledges the fact that sometimes things get real, and when they do, there isn’t always a spot to throw some humor into it. Throughout this semester while sitting in English 203, we often split up into groups to discuss the reading of the day and many times different opinions would pop up as we talked about what we thought of the story at hand. While we were reading I Am Not Sidney Poitier, I remember that I had said that I found the book funny and enjoyable, which then led to one of my group mates to disagree and state that they thought it was a bit too vulgar for their taste. I was reminded of this when I read that quote from the interview, because while there is humor in that novel, there is also serious and sometimes triggering subject matter, which in my opinion, Everett handles greatly. 

Everett keeps a nice balance between the themes he deals with in his works, giving attention to one sometimes over the other, and as an English major who delves deep into writing and literature, it intrigued me when we first began reading his novels. Essentially, that’s what drew me to Everett as an author, getting excited when we would start something new of his because he had such a way of dealing with certain subjects-as seen in his poetry book entitled, re:f gesture, where he focuses on the human body in great detail in one of the sections. The careful language that he uses in his writings combated with the real and raw subject material he writes about made me want to read more and to know who Percival Everett was as a person. I’m grateful for the time I have spent in this sometimes dusty classroom, grateful for the ability to bond with an author I’ve never met, and to have the opportunity to grow as a student and a writer. I’m horrible at ending papers, and I suck at goodbyes, so, that being said, “Good morning! And in case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening, and good night! (Jim Carrey, The Truman Show).” 

If I Am Not Myself Today, Then Who Am I? English 203 Final Reflective Essay

I’ve had an interest in English for quite some time, and I credit that to my teachers in high school. I was constantly encouraged by them to write creatively and find my own writing style, and I was usually praised for my work. With this in mind, I was certain that my college English debut would be just as spectacular as the one I had enjoyed in high school. But English 203 was different. Much different. I came into this class not knowing anything about Percival Everett. Or even what the exact definition of intertextuality was. Percival Everett Intertextuality has challenged me to look deeply not only into writing, but into everything surrounding literature. To find meaning in the meaningless. And while I had lauded myself in the past for having a decently analytical mind when it came to literature in the past, the level of analysis this class required was far beyond what I had done. And to match that pace, I had to change. I had to change both my writing style as well as my way of looking at literature.

One of the course’s epigraphs summarized this change well. The epigraph I chose is from Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier, which tells the story of Not Sidney Poitier, a boy who looks remarkably similar to the famous 1950s actor Sidney Poitier. At the very end of the book, Not Sidney has taken the place of Sidney Poitier, ignoring his past identity and embracing his new self, almost as if he has forgotten about who he was. However, when he is awarded the title of Most Dignified Person in American Culture at an awards ceremony, he gives following speech:

“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.”

This quote is the final line of the book, and also acts as a throughline for the book itself. For the majority of the story, Not Sidney is mistaken for Sidney Poitier; and when these people do learn his real name, they either respond with confusion or anger, like when he is beaten up by boys in town for simply introducing himself and explaining his name on page 13. So, when he is given the opportunity to throw away his name in exchange for a better one, it makes sense to me that he would seize it. And yet, as he says in his speech, he is ‘not himself today’. Despite the fact that things are better now, he cannot deny the fact that he’s putting on an act. The person who he was for the majority of the book is who he truly was—who he wanted to be. But the world didn’t want Not Sidney Poitier. “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.” The self that he’s talking about is unclear; after all, it is unclear which ‘self’ the people at the awards ceremony want to see, but Not Sidney tries to be the ‘self’ that they’ve imagined. And just like how he alters himself, I’ve had to alter the way I write in order to match the expected level of this class, and college in general. And while this new style that I’ve taken on in order to keep up with my classes has been noticeably better, I’d be remiss not to admit that it isn’t really me anymore. As much as I’ve tried to include my own voice in my writing, I’ve found time and time again that what works isn’t my personal style, but rather these new techniques that I’ve been taught. And through the constant use of these new techniques, just as Not Sidney’s identity has begun to change, so too has my personal style begun to alter. 

As I’ve continued to write in both this class and other classes, I’ve found that the line between my old and new writing styles has begun to waver. My identity as a writer has been thrown into question, and I feel that the character Vlepo from the book Frenzy, another work by Percival Everett that we read for class, embodies this feeling. Vlepo is an entity surrounded by mystery who acts as a spy of sorts for the god Dionysus throughout the events of the book. Though he is at first satisfied with his way of life, he begins to become more and more curious about his origins and who, or what, he really is. These feelings that he holds culminate when, after telling the woman he loves about his affections and she instead asks for his master, he goes to talk to Dionysus about his identity. The exchange starts with the following sentences: “‘I have a question about my origins.’ I said. ‘Yes?’ ‘What are mine?’ I felt the god observing me. ‘Where do I come from?’” (113) He is not given a real answer, but this question represents what Vlepo is truly concerned about. He doesn’t know who he is. His identity is only confirmed by the existence of his master, and his identity separate of Dionysus is unclear. And similar to Vlepo’s worries about his identity, I too have slowly noticed that I can’t really define where my old writing style stops and my new one begins. While I’ve never really had a trademark style to speak of, I’ve always had a pretty free-form way of writing. And while my new style feels a bit more rigid, I still notice hints of a freer style in my current writing. “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.” Not even I can tell what my writing identity really is. And my chosen epigraph reflects this sense of a wavering identity. 

Percival Everett’s works, or at least the ones that we have read in class, are quite varied. In terms of tone and subject matter, they are often so unalike that they seem as if they were written by different authors. However, the epigraph that I’ve chosen acts as a throughline through each of the works we have read. As I’ve shown, several of the characters in his stories have trouble with their identities, and Not Sidney’s speech is a prime example of this struggle. They are united by this struggle. And I feel that my writing has undergone the same struggle too. My writing has changed so much since starting. I feel that it has become more analytical and more concentrated, which has definitely been an improvement. But it’s different. My writing has undeniably changed. And in line with GLOBE’s (Geneseo Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education) message that all Geneseo students should have practice in the ability “To reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time”, my epigraph has helped me to realize these changes. The quote not only forces me to acknowledge the fact that my writing has changed, but also my view of learning. By becoming more precise with my reading, I’ve begun to take a more in-depth approach to learning about literature. And this improvement is really important to me. 

As a dual major in both Musical Theater and English, I have to do a lot of work in order to keep pursuing both of my passions. There are often times when I’m not entirely sure I can keep up with both at the same time. But this improvement stands as proof to me. It exemplifies the progress that I’ve made in my writing abilities; progress that I’ve made alongside pursuing Musical Theater. And by making me reflect on my progress, my epigraph has encouraged me to stay on my path, no matter the difficulties. College has forced me to change a lot. In the words of Not Sidney, “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.” I don’t think I can ever go back to the ‘myself’ I once knew. And, honestly, I think that’s ok.

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.

Reflecting on Pants

            In the beginning of this semester, I wrote a blog post about an epigraph in our course syllabus. The epigraph was a screenshot of a tweet; a picture of pants simply entitled “Suspicious pants.” My original post about the pants was all about perception and how by digging deeper into something, one can always bring out more information. However, not everybody will notice the same things that other people notice. When I looked at the pants, I saw a face looking back at me, but other people might just see pants; just as Percival Everett says, “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood”. This is a quote that was on the whiteboard on the first day of classes. I will be using the epigraph of the pants in this essay as well, for it explains the way that my writing developed throughout the semester.

            The class work really began when we read The Bacchae, an old Greek play by the playwright Euripides. I treated this book exactly how I would treat any book in the beginning of the semester. I read it one time through and went to class as if that was enough to prepare me for a discussion. During the discussion, I interjected with maybe one idea. Obviously, since I only read it through once, mostly due to procrastination and time limits, most of the class discussion was handled by other students in the class. After The Bacchae, we went on to read our first work from Percival Everett, Frenzy. During this reading, I am not proud to say it, or rather write it, but I handled it the same way I handled The Bacchae; I read it one time through and acted like that was enough for me to have an in depth discussion about the novel. Again, I was wrong, because I only interjected with one or two minor ideas while the rest of the class carried the discussion. If this book was the pants tweet, it would be as if I glanced at the picture for maybe a few seconds, and then decided I was ready for a discussion without even seeing a face. After this, I decided to get a little bit more serious about how I read things for class.

After Frenzy, we moved onto Percival Everett’s novel, I am Not Sidney Poitier. This time, I made sure that I knew what was going on in the book. As I read through the novel, I left notes in the pages. Whenever I found something that seems interesting, confusing, or important to the plot, I left a post it note right next to the line. This way, during the group discussions, I would have more to say. For example, when Not Sidney gets a girlfriend who has much lighter skin than him, and she wants him to meet his parents, I left a note that said, “He’s darker than her, will meeting the parents be uncomfortable?”. This way, if I need to write anything about any race themes in the book, I know where to look. I also set myself up a question, so I can know what to look for in the following chapter. In addition, I will have something to contribute towards the discussion. The more I say, the more I understand, and then the more I understand, the more I learn. Halfway through reading this, I remembered the pants; a regular pair of pants hung on a chair that if you keep looking at, becomes a face. The same goes for the novel. There are certain sections of the novel that I found very confusing, like the ending, or when he fesmerizes people. I would reread any confusing parts like those so I can make better sense of them. If I can see a face by looking at pants long enough, I can find information by rereading a confusing text. Maybe, I can even bring up a point in the discussion that nobody else found. Sadly, I didn’t find anything that anyone else didn’t find, but it still made me more prepared for the class discussion.

            Because both my writing and my awareness of the text improved after leaving notes in the book, I decided to keep doing it. When we moved onto the next book, re: f (gesture), right off the bat I would start leaving notes. Because this book is a collection of poems, I had enough time to read and reread all of them before class. Because I reread it, I had a better understanding of what the poems are about, and I get to notice any connections that I didn’t notice the first time around. For example, the middle section of re: f (gesture) is entitled (Body). This section goes through a celebration of life in nineteen poems, so, of course, these poems relate to each other. However, it is not too apparent the first time reading them. Originally, it just seems like nineteen poems about nineteen different body parts. After reading it the second time though, I realized that it sounds like he’s telling a story through the poems; a sort of celebration of life. I explained this in one of my blog posts; Celebrating Life. In my first five blog posts, except the collaborative one, I got around an 82 or 83 for a grade. Now thanks to a pair of suspicious looking pants on a chair, I got an 86. After looking at the pants long enough and coming up with ideas, I had a better understanding of what that tweet was about, because it began to look more and more like a suspicious face. Similarly, the more I focused on (Body) by rereading and leaving notes, the more information I began to understand, the better my grade became in the end. In the blog posts continuing after this one, I kept my idea of really reading a text and understanding it before writing anything about it. So, after post six, all of my blog posts have improved in quality, as represented by the slightly higher grades I have been getting for them.

            This is something that I need to hold onto in the future. Moving forwards, I definitely need to really focus on what I read in order to fully understand it. Tactics like rereading a text and leaving notes in the pages boosted my grade before, and with enough determination, it will continue to do so. I wish I can say that after seeing my grade improve with my sixth blog post, that I strived for more; that I felt rewarded and decided to shoot for an even higher grade, but sadly that is not entirely true. If it were, I would have defined whatever words we were assigned to define in The Bedford Glossary, I would have done the chapter readings from Literary Analysis, and I would have read the assigned pages for Reflective Writing. However, I am a student that will accept a mid-eighties grade, so I did not, and I know that it is a bad mentality to have, so starting next semester, I will definitely fix that. It just takes a while to shift your mentality; I have to keep practicing until it becomes natural to want those high nineties grades, and self-discipline is key. However, if I continue to not read any of those sources, it becomes clear that I did not learn a full lesson from the pants. So, while I am writing this, I still have not read any of those, but by the time I finish editing this paper, I will definitely read Reflective Writing, because I know that it will help me in writing this paper. I need to look long-term into my future too. I am studying English and adolescent education, so most likely, hopefully, I will become some sort of English teacher. In order for me to achieve my goals, I need to always remember the pants. Keep digging into what I need to do, and I will learn more. Keep digging into my classes, my exams, my papers, my practicums, and eventually, I will get to where I need to go. Then I can spread what I have learned to others. I will get students, and during the first week of class, they’re going to be staring up at a tweet of a pair of pants entitled, “Suspicious Pants.”

Connect the Dots- Reflective Essay

“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.”

-Percival Everett

During my first two weeks of Beth’s English class, I focused on this epigraph that came from the novel I am Not Sidney Poitier, by Percival Everett. We had to talk about what our chosen epigraph made us think about. At the time, I didn’t even know what an epigraph was. According to Cambridge Dictionary, an epigraph is “a saying or a part of a poem, play, or book put at the beginning of a piece of writing to give the reader some idea of what the piece is about.” Now, here I am at the end of the semester, with increased knowledge, and I will continue to discuss this epigraph because what I had once believed was the truth, turned out to be entirely wrong. As a writer, I think it’s important to reflect on how I’ve grown as an individual with the different pieces of literature we read and discuss the factors that led me to alter my beliefs.  

As a human being, there have been many situations that put me in a tough place where it was hard for me to admit I was wrong. Sometimes, I’d rather suffer than hear a simple “I told you so”. When I started working on my first blog post, there wasn’t anything that grabbed my attention and excited me enough to talk about. Looking back on the words I said, I can conclude that I was remarkably incorrect on where the epigraph originated from. Although it was academically, I was being put in a spot in which I had to accept that I stated wrong information. This was a turning point for me as a writer because after this incident, I became more of an open-minded person and someone who was able to admit their wrongdoings. I made an assumption based on what I had read just to later realize that the epigraph was nothing like I had once assumed. My initial understanding of this epigraph was that the words spoken were said by Percival Everett, not Not Sidney Poitier, who was the main protagonist of the novel. 

As the days went by, and we were introduced to Not Sidney Poitier, my original interpretations and thoughts had drastically changed. As I skimmed through the novel at the beginning to increase my background and what we were going to be reading, I saw the epigraph. A lightbulb immediately went off in my head and I was instantly reminded of my very first blog post. After we completed I am Not Sidney Poitier, I began to gain a better understanding as to why these words were spoken by Not Sidney. He was connecting back to what he had once known and accepting his name Not Sidney Poitier. He states, “I have learned that my name is not my name” (Everett 234). The first time reading this line in September, I skipped by it because there wasn’t a connection to be made. When we were divided into groups to make a collaborative blog post, we were able to use these words to focus on the importance of names and the labeling that occurs because of it. We were able to take multiple examples and tie them together to form an argument. 

After discovering that I had been wrong in my first post and after working in groups on a blog post, over time, I tried to pick a concept that connected all of the different works we did in class because I realized that if I did this, I could create a better structure for my posts and it would prevent me from making assumptions on little information. One approach I was able to take was with the term “intertextuality”. As defined by The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, written by Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray, intertextuality is  “The condition of interconnectedness among texts, or the concept that any text is an amalgam of others, either because… and so forth” (215). Throughout the semester and as I wrote blog after blog, I constantly used this term as a starting point. I believe that if I use intertextuality over New Criticism, which “…based their interpretations on elements within the text rather than on external factors such as the effects of a work or biographical and historical materials” (287), I can make connections to what I read and gain a better understanding of others and literature. 

When I first enrolled in this course, I was hesitant to speak up in class on the topics that were being discussed. I didn’t have the intelligence that I do now to confidently raise my hand and give someone feedback or give my own opinion. I didn’t even know what I wanted to achieve by the end of the semester. What was I going to take away from these stories we were reading and these movies we were watching? Everything had a purpose. Each class we were able to take what we learned and connect it to something we had done previously or even our own experiences. As the days went by, I was able to generate a common theme that life is all about connections. Literature is all about connections. By being able to retain multiple views on the world and what you’re doing, you can simplify the tasks and expand your mind to more ideas and intentions. In one of my recent blog posts a few weeks ago, I had pointed out that it is hard to avoid intertextuality as a writer and reader because of our surroundings as students. We want to make comparisons between what we know and what we learn. 

It’s important to have conversations and make connections in life because had I done this when I chose to use this epigraph for my first blog post, maybe I would have been able to unpack the epigraph in a way in which my mistakes could have been avoided. Mistakes are supposed to happen, especially in college, and if I wasn’t able to correct what I had said, I wouldn’t have been able to grow in the way that I did. Since then, I am able to see the world more clearly and use this circumstance to guide me in the direction to improve myself as a writer and even as an individual. 

I have taken the little things from inside this classroom to the outside. When I’m talking to my friends, for example, I frequently use the term I have come to love, as said by Beth, “unpack”. If they state something that baffles me, I tell them to unpack what they mean. Something so simple and straightforward, ended up having an impact on me.  It’s the little things that will change you as an individual and open up your own mind. 

“…yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself”. I set my standards low. I don’t expect the most out of myself as a way to avoid getting disappointed. This line stuck out to me in August in one way, and today it says something different. I know that I am always able to do better than I believe and people have continued to tell me this throughout my life. There are so many people out there that know me a different way that I know myself because other people set higher standards. This class is a perfect example. I had the people I needed in order to help me be successful. I used so many different pieces of literature to form valid arguments and connections in this world. This epigraph is only a part of all of the work that altered my perception in this class. It stuck with me this whole semester, which is why I had to end with it too. It opened my eyes in the world of writing and because of it, I have become someone new, someone better that can see the world in a way I couldn’t before.

Something About Pants

Who has the audacity to overlook the prompt, to shoot from the hip and run into an essay, head on, with no outline? Surely no Education major with a concentration in English would have the boldness to commit these crimes against the writing process. That is why I am suspicious of myself, not my current self, but my former self, before this course. I thought to myself “how could you be doing this poorly in a college English class after receiving straight A’s in high school English”? That’s when reflection came in, and it hit me hard. It “hit hard” not because I thought I was a bad writer, but rather I was unrefined. Unrefined, because of carelessness and thinking I knew it all. The suspicious pants at the beginning of the course meant little to me, and I had no other reason to use them except because it was the easiest epigraph to understand. Now I know fully what they mean to me and what they symbolize: the pants were suspicious of my writing. I know it may sound ridiculous, but these suspicious pants found in a silly old meme show me how I never cared to use my untapped potential as a writer. 

I am suspicious of how I got this far shooting in a direction before aiming. How was I ever supposed to make a basket without looking at the process of getting the ball to the basket? That is why, when I entered this course, the ball was swatted directly back into my face. Outlines, outlines and more outlines. I realized that I was missing this key piece that would make up my blogs. I loved the act of freely writing with no real direction and felt like I could never put the same energy into my writing while using an outline. I discovered the usefulness of outlines while doing our group blog. At times I felt that our group lost focus and would stray away from our thesis. Looking back at our group’s blog post entitled “The Power of Names in Establishing Characters,” our thesis statement was “Everett makes a statement about the power of names; names themselves can reveal an incredible amount about an individual’s characteristics and personal values.” To this day I believe our thesis statement summed up our argument well; however, we deviated from that thesis often. Our group frequently found ourselves going off on tangents that often did not lead back to our main idea; that is until slowing down and creating an organized plan came in. We collaboratively created an outline that showed the contents of each paragraph as well as the objective of each paragraph. This outline did nothing to hinder our writing, and in no way stifled creativity as I thought it may. Our group went on to write paragraphs that not only connected to the thesis, but also provided valuable information and developed an interesting talking point. 

The first blog I wrote in the class revealed the most. This first assignment was a blunder to put it lightly, mainly because I completely overlooked the prompt. I remember my actions during this moment well. I skimmed over the prompt, skipped over entire sentences, and assumed I knew it all. I oversimplified the assignment and did not check for understanding, because reading the prompt took more effort than I wanted to give in that moment. In “Reflective Writing,” it is stated that teachers or “tutors set tasks that are tailored to the needs and practices of the particular discipline you are studying” (8). This quote related well to my situation, as the assignment was “tailored” to my needs and was designed for me to learn. However, I opted out of learning that particular lesson because I chose not to read the directions carefully. I now know that reading and comprehending the prompt is crucial to writing the assignment, and is necessary before creation of the outline. 

My writing has greatly improved since the submission of my first blog post that was entitled “Suspicious Godly Pants.” Considering the prompt for the blog was to “select one of the course epigraphs (see above), and based on what you have read, done, and experienced during the first class periods, what does your selected epigraph get you to thinkING about?” the title of my blog seems awfully silly. I dumped all kinds of wild thoughts into that first blog post, expecting a good grade to accompany it. This post had silly humor such as, “These pants, had Zeus actually worn them” and “let’s pretend that the Greek gods wore modern day khaki pants and that these in particular are owned by the most powerful god of them all,” but that is about all it contained. The topic may have been interesting to some, however the significance of the work was nowhere to be found. I left out the answer to the crucial question of “who cares?”. Not only did this essay not follow the prompt, it also never told the reader why they should care at all about Zeus’s hypothetical pants. I could go on and on about the missing aspects of this blog and all the things that need to be added; however, that information was necessary to better my writing after reflecting on it. 

The pants were suspicious of me, and rightfully so, because before the class I rarely reflected on my past writings. Once I wrote an assignment and submitted it, the assignment might as well have been put in a paper shredder, as I felt no need to reread it. “Reflection” was not in my vocabulary. If I received a good grade, I’d write something similar for the next assignment; and if I got a bad grade, I’d complain about it for awhile and move on without trying to understand what I did poorly. This class may not have made me perfect at reflecting, but I know that I have taken a step in the right direction. I feel as though I now take the professor’s commentary with more than a grain of salt and genuinely care to improve my writing. I care more to improve my writing, not for grades, but rather to enhance my skills and feel like more of an intellectual. Grades in college will be important to me until the day I graduate, but I can say that I take great pride in my writing now. 

Finally, I wrote a blog entitled “A Reflection on the Subjectivity of Writing.” I wrote this blog to discuss how beauty is in the eye of the beholder and a piece of writing can be great to one person and horrible to another. Subjectivity, to me, is based on a person’s biases that they develop throughout their lives. Subjectivity in “The Bedford” is considered the “perceptions and thoughts arising and based in an individual’s mind” (430). I still find my original idea in the blog to be true, but I have revised my idea since the beginning of the semester. What I have revised about my idea is that a work of literature can be good, but likely isn’t great if it has not gone through revision. Revision, and proper usage of the English language, is necessary to make a great blog. I once thought that if I had good substance and interesting ideas that my writing would be great; however, I now understand that great writing requires outlines, pacing, preparation, and most importantly, reflections. 

The pants were suspicious of my work, but no longer. I have progressed as a writer, and I continue to improve with every blog that I write. Reflecting on the works that I have created have allowed me to not make the same mistakes again, and in turn my writing has benefited greatly. The only thing left to do is to keep writing, keep reflecting, and keep improving. 

English 203 Final Reflective Essay

At the beginning of the semester, I remember staring at that picture of pants hung over a chair, and thinking how is this relevant to literature? Throughout the course of the semester I soon answered my own question. The purpose of the suspicious pants epigraph was to represent interpretations and the uniqueness of everyone’s ideas and thoughts on the subject at hand. This epigraph and its meaning has stuck with me throughout the entirety of the semester, leading me to conclusions that I didn’t even think I could come to. The different ideas that I had come up with had come to me based on the uniqueness of my own interpretations of the literature in class. The idea of perspective and interpretation goes along with most things that we did in class this semester and it offered me so much growth along the way. 

In one of our first in class discussions, I recall having a war over whether or not it was pronounced elemen-tary or elemen-tree. This discussion brought about the idea that interpretations can differ depending on where someone may be from. For example, I personally say elemen-tary and I happen to be from upstate New York, while most people from down state New York often say elemen-tree. This just shows how easily an interpretation of something may differ. By looking at this interpretation in class and outside, I was able to write about these differing interpretations and what they mean in my first blog post. This first post was something that was extremely difficult to write for me, I was not used to having to pick my own topic on something and have to write something deep and meaningful about that topic. Needless to say it did not end well, and I was more than a little discouraged. I continued on throughout the first couple posts without any help, which only caused my grades to drop even lower. Once I realized that I needed help, my topics and interpretations of those topics improved greatly over the semester. 

One of those topics is that of the Common Core standardized education in the public school system and how it takes away the students right to interpret and internalize something in their own way. With standardized education comes the added consequence of a lack of uniqueness in students writing. Students are not able to form any opinions of their own, and are often taught for their final exam, rather than taught to learn and understand the subject. The unrealistic expectations of students is mentioned in Will Greer’s article, The 50 Year History of Common Core, which states that it is “mandated that 100% of students be proficient, or at grade-level, on state standards by 2014.” This expectation was completely unrealistic, and since students were more focused on learning for their exams, they lost the whole idea of interpreting something and formulating an important opinion on it. I had my own personal experience with this in the beginning of the semester, since I had come from a Common Core based education at a public school my writing was not up to the standard that it should have been. I thought that I could figure it out myself, but once I decided to ask for help, Professor McCoy’s interpretations and ideas given to me helped me out of the hole that Common Core writing standards had dug for me. 

The idea of rules was something that I had also spent a good amount of time interpreting and pondering during the semester. Mostly when looking into Percival Everett’s novel, I am Not Sidney Poitier, I looked into the idea of how the rules work in this fictional world. Most of the time, these rules were interpreted by corrupt individuals who used them against Not Sidney. Such as when Not Sidney was arrested for “sassin’ an officer of the law”(Everett) and also for simply being black. These officers had interpreted the laws how they wanted to, which was corruptly, and also gave them more power over Not Sidney. I interpreted the idea of rules as the concept I listed above, and this gave me the idea of writing about the idea of societal rules and how they can often dictate someone’s every move. This whole idea offered a wide set of interpretations along with it, and I was even able to make a blog post out of it. This was a post that I was sure was going to go well, but yet again I was disappointed with the results. This was the post that pushed me to go in and receive help, and it was also the post that showed me that it is okay to ask for help when you need it. 

Our lesson in the library about using our resources was also something that I will take with me during my whole time here at Geneseo. The lesson taught us how to properly use the library databases and how to use our resources to the fullest. Not Sidney, in I am Not Sidney Poitier, often found many lessons and resources in his local library. It was here that he found a book by an Austrian Psychiatrist which outlined a theory called Fesmerization: “a method of gaining control of a subject without the subjects awareness”(Everett). Not Sidney had taken this with him and used it throughout the whole novel to his advantage. He interpreted it in a way that he could use it during his whole life, and it boded well for him in many different ways. For example, Not Sidney had decided to join a fraternity, but when he realized how degrading the hazing process was he decided enough was enough. In order to get himself out of this toxic situation, Not Sidney had Fesmerized his roommate and asked him not only to kick Not Sidney out of the fraternity, but also to “start a recycling campaign on campus”(Everett). In doing this, Not Sidney had effectively started a campus wide recycling project, and he avoided joining an incredibly toxic group of boys, which saved Not Sidney from the degradation that he would have suffered otherwise. The great thing about most resources is that they can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the resource being used. Once I decided I needed help, I used my resources to better my own writing, and with all the resources available to me it seemed to improve from there. I began learning how to properly write a blog post once I learned that it’s okay to ask for help and to use resources. 

The entirety of our English 203 course was based on the idea of intertextuality and how Percival Everett used intertextuality throughout all his pieces that we looked at during the semester.  Professor McCoy also introduced to use the idea of New Criticism which is defined by The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms by Supriya Ray, as “a type of formalist literary criticism characterized by close textual analysis”. When comparing intertextuality and New Criticism, it all comes down to the interpretation of different literary texts. When looking at a piece New Critically you can only interpret it based on the work in front of you, but when looking at a piece intertextually you can interpret it based on other pieces of literature as well. The ideas of both of these concepts was something that drove me to write better blogs by incorporating other pieces of literature, but also being able to observe one piece and use it to my own advantage in the blog post assignment as well. 

Once I began to become more comfortable with the writing style of blog posts, I began to think of what to write about rather than how to write about it. This brought about the idea of writing a poem for my post titled Poetry, Everett Style!, which was about the 7 Deadly Sins and how Everett alluded to them in his final poem in his poetry book re: f(gesture). Poems in themselves have many layers, and are often complex to write and read. The beauty of poetry, is that it can be interpreted in many different ways, and none of them are necessarily wrong or right. In my poem I decided to write of the 8 Evil Thoughts, which is where the 7 Deadly Sins of Christianity are derived from. I depicted them in a way that was supposed to show a critique of the Christian faith, and how people often break the rules they are supposed to follow. This post in particular was a big growth post for me, as was really interpreting Everett’s poems and trying to capture his essence in my own work. 

In my final blog post of the semester I decided to write about nonsense, or more so the concept of nonsense and if something can truly be nonsense or not. I toyed with the idea that if something is nonsense, can we make it into sense just by educating ourselves about the subject at hand? I came to the conclusion that it is all based on interpretations of the subject; whether or not the reader or listener believe it to be nonsense or not. Professor Everett in I am Not Sidney Poitier is a prime example of someone who seemingly speaks nonsense, but has alot of education and knowledge to offer his students. Not Sidney learns many important lessons from his class called The Philosophy of Nonsense, and he often uses these lessons in his real life. Often times during class conversations, some things that my peers would say would go right over my head and I personally declared it nonsense. After class time, I would find myself pondering the conversations that had went on and educating myself on the subjects we were covering in discussion, and slowly the nonsense became knowledge for me. 

The blogging assignment in its entirety is something that was so incredibly useful in bettering my own writing. The whole idea of the blog post assignment was to find different ways of interpreting and connecting the literature we were given over the course of the semester, and to make intelligent claims from these pieces of literature. These blogs were something that caused a tremendous amount of growth in not only my writing, but my own confidence in my writing. And the suspicious pants seem to come full circle here, the idea of interpretation and how each person’s interpretation can be different was something that ran through the entire semester. There was a huge lesson to be learned simply by looking at the picture of the suspicious pants, and that lesson will stay with me during my entire college career.