Final English 203 Essay

Throughout our course this semester we have read different works of literature and learned how to comprehend them on our own. At the beginning of the semester, we had help understanding what we were reading. By the end of the course, we were able to work through understanding the texts on our own. We were given course epigraphs when we started the semester and we were asked to write about one. The same epigraph that I chose in the beginning of the year still speaks to me. It 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.” This epigraph still stands out to me because it talks about reconnecting with something that you have lost. I felt that I lost my ability to learn in school after freshman year, but this year and this course has helped me to gain it back.  After reading I Am Not Sydeny Poitier this semester I have realized that the whole novel is about connecting with himself and not just this quote. This novel as a whole has stood out to me because I can relate to it. 

Starting our course was a little difficult for me because I felt uncomfortable sharing my thoughts with my group mates because I was afraid to be wrong. We were reading texts that I thought were hard such as The Bacchae. I was afraid of having a wrong interpretation of the text and I was scared to share my thoughts. As the semester went on, I got very comfortable working in our groups and started sharing my specific ideas. This has helped me to reconnect with my education. Before joining this class I felt as though I was going through an identity crisis. In high school, I was very good at math but that did not reign true in college. I did not know what subject I could excel in. This is why I connect with this epigraph so much. It talks about connecting with a piece of yourself if you cannot connect with your whole self. That is exactly what this course did for me. It allowed me to be able to connect with my writing and be able to think more in depth about literature. For example, learning about identity crisis this semester has helped me to overcome my own. I Am Not Sydeny Poitier by Percival Everett has a theme identity crisis. Not Sydney struggles with his identity being a rich boy with a very odd name and he has no mother.  There is an important quote in the novel about being yourself. It reads: And be yourself” “Who else would I be?” “I don’t know. You might decide all of a sudden that you’re Sidney Poitier. You’re not, you know. Though you do look alarmingly like him. Tell me, whom do I look like?”  This quote talks about how Not Sydney is his own person and he should act that way. This is how I feel after taking this course. I have realized that reading and being able to think about literature is something that I can see myself doing for the rest of my life as an English teacher. Not Sydney’s identity crisis is the reason I chose this epigraph because I feel it represents my journey in my education. 

This epigraph also connects to other texts that we have read throughout the course as well. For example, in The Bacchae Dionysus struggles with an identity crisis as well. In the text he changes into different forms symbolizing that he does not know who he is. This relates to the epigraph because it talks about not knowing your name which also symbolizes not knowing who you are. The epigraph says at the end “I  know finally what should be written on that stone. It should say what mine will say: I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.” This quote reflects how I feel after taking this course. I have enjoyed working in groups and listening to other people’s ideas. Along with that, I feel as though I found my own voice this semester. I am comfortable talking in groups now and I feel that I am a better writer than I was when I started the semester.

Being able to reflect on my work this semester is something that is very important. Reflecting on work helps you to improve on things that you didn’t do as well as you could have. I set goals for myself in the beginning of the semester and it is important that I reflect on if I achieve them or not. In the first essay that we wrote, I wrote about finding my voice in writing. My goal was to do well as an English major and be able to enjoy writing. Over the course of this semester I feel like I accomplished my goal. I am able to relate different works to each other and think about a deeper meaning behind each work that I read. The course epigraph helped me a lot throughout the semester. I reread the epigraph multiple times throughout these last few months. I related the epigraph to each work of literature we have read and thought about how I can use it to improve my thinking and writing skills. This course was all about finding my motivation to do school work again. I struggled immensely freshman year of college and needed to find a passion. This epigraph embodies me finding my passion as well as the other works we have read this year. 

ENGL 203 Final Essay: Dimensions

By Nina Avallone-Serra

“It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean something, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.”–Percival Everett, Erasure

My very first attempt at an essay addressing Percival Everett’s words fell embarrassingly flat. I had hoped to use this epigraph as a way to voice my confusion with the Bacchae, our first formal text in the course and in doing so only confused myself further, grinding to a halt at a quarter of the anticipated word count. I felt highly aware of the many directions I could take this quote, my inability to elaborate on these directions ironically capturing the spirit of the quote itself. In spite of my many thoughts and feelings about this particular epigraph, I felt daunted by the sudden free rein I had to make whatever I could out of Everett’s words. I touched on some of my trepidation about this departure from rigid interpretation in my original essay, discussing the beginning of my journey with “think[ing] critically about my criticism” and my concern with whether I should hold on to the insular and standardized analytical approach of my high school education or broaden my horizons to include the wider approach of intertextuality, which the Bedford Glossary defines as “… the condition of interconnectedness among texts or the concept that any text is an amalgam of others…”. 

Though I failed to expand upon Everett’s thoughts in a way that would not only do them justice but help to emphasize their resonance with my own thoughts as I had hoped, my encounters with this epigraph did not end with our first self-reflective essay. It was referenced repeatedly throughout the course, whether to express confusion with a text or laughingly uttered in response to a misunderstanding in class. I found the phrase popping up in my head both in and out of class, stringing multiple pieces of my life together through an endless, complex web of alternative meanings and misunderstandings. 

Despite my perilous first attempt at an essay with our fourth and final course epigraph, I find that this particular quote has held true and shown to be a very reliable throughline for this course. The act of not only accepting but embracing misunderstandings, wildly varying interpretations, and scattered thought processes as part of the admittedly hard work of learning and thinking has proven to be one of the most rewarding takeaways from Everett’s work. This premise is one of the foundational elements of the intertextual conversations initiated in the course. This method of thinking, this freedom from singular interpretations has opened pathways to link subjects as varied as education, Sidney Poitier films, Greek mythology, religion, and anatomy to each other and to ourselves. 

Our reading of the Bacchae and the following discussions remain a shining example of the truth of this epigraph. An ancient Greek play with complex references, unique vocabulary, and no visual aids set the stage (ha ha) for a perfect demonstration of the concept: “It’s incredible a sentence is ever understood.” In each group discussion, interpretations of the events of the Bacchae varied wildly as if each of us had read a different play. In one particular discussion, (with Beth’s help) we reread the scene in which Pentheus is dismembered by his mother, having totally missed this huge detail with our first reading. We even had to write out a list of Dionysos’ many, many names and craft a family tree for the characters (which was conveniently provided for us later in Everett’s Frenzy) in order to simply understand the plot of the play. In my own reading, it took me until quite a ways into the play to be able to distinguish between names of places and names of characters and then figure out their corresponding significance in Greek mythological canon. Several rereadings helped me learn that Lydia and Phrygia are in fact old territories in the Asian portion of Turkey, that the Dirce and Ismenus are rivers, that Maenads are the female followers of the great Disonysos, and so on.

Both independently with our own reading and in our groups, we managed to think up a very different set of circumstances than the ones drafted by Euripides through mere misunderstanding. Without even meaning it, we created alternate dimensions to the Bacchae – ones where Pentheus’s corpse remained in one piece, ones where Dionysos was aided by multiple other entities of equal power (in which Bromeus, the Thunderer, Zagreus, etc. are all different characters). Without meaning to, we crafted in our heads alternate versions of the Bacchae, much like Percival Everett’s creation of Frenzy.

But despite the connection between our version of the Bacchae and Everett’s version of the Bacchae, my chosen epigraph still found relevance in our work with Frenzy. In fact, Frenzy felt even more befuddling than the ancient Bacchae because of its quick shifts from character to character, its increasingly complex references to Greek mythology beyond the immediate world of the Bacchae, and its intense philosophical and ontological conversations. As we read through Frenzy, we had a lot to unpack – first of all, deciphering which character we were following as we were thrust into the minds of new and unfamiliar characters like Sibyl, the object of Vlepo’s affections, and Ariadne, Dionysos’s betrothed. Not only was it necessary to get a feel for each of their individual identities and how they contributed to Frenzy’s broader existential conversation about free will and what it means to be human, it was also necessary to reconcile Everett’s vision of the Bacchae with our own. The rearranging of events and the shifted personalities of the original characters clashed with our impressions of the original work and forced us to rearrange the play to fit Everett’s vision. To me, the malleability of the Bacchae served to reinforce Everett’s assertion that any arrangement of words can have any variety of meanings, either on purpose or by accident.

Clearly, Everett’s quote creates a solid throughline for the course so far, but nowhere is it as relevant as it is with our reading of I am Not Sidney Poitier. I am Not Sidney Poitier encapsulates the spirit of the quote, introducing Not Sidney, a confusing, somewhat paradoxical character (who could possibly be Sidney Poitier – or Not) and weaving a bizarre narrative from an intertextual patchwork of plots from movies starring the actual, honest-to-God Sidney Poitier. Everett performs the same kind of magic as I and my classmates did with our accidental creation of alternate versions of the Bacchae: he opens up parallel dimensions to existing narratives like those of Lilies of the Field and The Defiant Ones to create a broader story. The existence of the whimsical world in which Not Sidney lives is based entirely on a choice to take the original stories of separate works and to deliberately interpret them in such a way as to place them in conversation with each other and with Everett’s own original ideas. 

And beyond the literary world of I am Not Sidney Poitier, the real world of our classroom continued to exemplify the spirit of the epigraph. We found ourselves once again baffled by yet another of our texts, tasked with untangling the threads of I am Not Sidney Poitier: learning about the movies referenced in the novel, breaking down the “Not” which made our title character so attractive to bullies, interpreting allusions to things like popular culture and religion, etc. With such a wild plot Frankensteined together from multiple other story plots and with the use of nonsense characters like Ted Turner and Percival Everett as a tool for communicating whatever it was Everett was trying to communicate, we were very much encouraged (if not forced) to “make our own meaning” of the novel. This was especially the case in our NUNSENSE collaboration, in which we had to break down the names of the nuns in I am Not Sidney Poitier in relation to their counterparts in the Lilies of the Field movie. We had to take in information, decide what we thought might be meaningful or not, and provide the names with a significance which Percival Everett may or may not have intended. The vast expanse of possibilities for literary interpretation across genres, contexts, and mediums is, in my mind, at the heart of Everett’s quote. The flexibility to allow for misinterpretations, connections, and creations is the central characteristic of the intertextuality which is so integral to Everett’s work and the formation of new meanings in accordance with this literary approach is what truly ties the course together. The use of this epigraph as our throughline creates that crucial link not just between texts and films, but extends it to our own lives. We can find intersection between our own processes of learning and thinking and the ways in which our characters learn and think, and we can grow more having established that connection. Having the power to create meaning apart from what was supposedly intended, whether deliberately or purely by accident, and the confidence to embrace those meanings broadens the mind to a point where the nonsense of I am Not Sidney Poitier or the existentialism of Frenzy might actually begin to make sense.

I Am Who I Choose to Be

“It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean something, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.”–Percival Everett, Erasure

What is a sentence? A set of words that are strung together to form a statement. Or is it a question that is used for clarity? Sentences can be rhetorical. It can also be a way of expressing strong emotions or feelings. It is an opinion, a demand, a question, or a fact. It can tell an entire story. Sentences can be one word. It is also a concert fact and can be left up to interpretation. It can end with a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point. It can also end with freedom or invertible death. A sentence must be true or false. It can be read from left to right, right to left, or top to bottom. A sentence’s comprehension is only given access to a select few with jargon. Sentences are meant to be shared or hidden. They are confusing and concise. You can take the time to make them rhyme. Sentences can start with but or because. But one thing is true about them all, sentences must always have an ending.
This semester has proven to us how versatile a sentence can be. We’ve used texts written by Euripides and Percival Everett, to reframe our image of ourselves as scholars. To many, these texts have portrayed twisted and confusing storylines that make it easy to get lost in the plot. This, however, has forced us to dig deeper and break the habit of looking to the teacher for the answer. The Bedford Glossary was a vital tool throughout the semester in trying to further connect with the texts and understand the reasons why the authors chose the language that they chose. We’ve been encouraged to focus on problem-solving and self-discovery to not only focus on the text but to use this lens and zoom out on the broader understanding of how and why the story is told the way it is. Yet, somehow in trying to find meaning in the text with the use of external materials we can never truly have a definite understanding of the text. Just as the text we have tried to decipher is intricate and complex, the materials we’ve used also exhibit these same patterns.
To start with Euripides, The Bacchae can be described as a play that explores the concepts of the struggle with power and poetic justice. For much of the play we are witnesses to Dionysus, the half-mortal, and half-god son of Zeus, and Pentheus, the king of Thebes, as they battle each other over the loyalty of the people of Thebes. We use the words autochthony, which is described as something being native to the place where it is found, and allochthon, defined as originating in a place other than where it is found, to determine the place Dionysus has in the city of Thebes. we are asked to determine whether the punishment ascribed to Pentheus at the end of The Bacchae is justifiable for his “crimes”. Without the knowledge of the alternative definitions of the words allochthon and autochthony means, it becomes confusing in conceptualizing how we apply them in the context of The Bacchae. When looking up the words allochthon and autochthony, also refer to geological terms on the rock formations of large blocks either being rooted to the basement block or being relocated from their site of formation. The versatility of these two words calls to question whether we can fully understand The Bacchae. In the play, Dionysius goes by multiple titles and it makes it confusing to understand the play to the full extent. The Bacchae being written around 400 B.C. only allows us to interpret the full meaning of what was truly happening. Reading The Bacchae sets us up for the rest of the semester on how we should approach the dissection of all other pieces of writing going forward. We are then forced to take a broader look at how we were treated as scholars throughout our k through 12 education and in higher education and ask if the penalties we received were beneficial to our education. For many of us, we often experience an assertion of power from the teacher with the idea that they are the ones that are the holders of knowledge, and we are the seekers for their guidance.
This concept of refining the relationship between the teacher and scholar was further developed with the analysis of Frenzy by Percival Everett. In the novel Frenzy, we were reintroduced to the characters in The Bacchae, but from the perspective of Percival Everett. Everett uses the Play and retells it in it the way he feels it should have been told. This is to say, we now see the situations Dionysus encounters through the eyes of his loyal servant Vlepo. We now are forced to disregard what we knew about Dionysus and reinterpret and redefine who he is as told in Frenzy. To revisit the epigraph, which discusses how “meanings need not and does not confine itself to that intention”, we must do the same for the character Dionysus. Through reading both The Bacchae and Frenzy, we are exposed to new layers of Dionysus and must weave them into the idea of who we thought he was. Through this novel, I interpret Everett as trying to illustrate to his readers that no one story is gospel and that we must never believe something without any doubt. As scholars, we are taught that the knowledge that we are given is the truth and to not question it. This causes us to create the habit of only seeking the answers through others. We don’t question what we are taught because doing so creates a false sense of security. We are scared to challenge what we know because if things are not what they seem, and our identities revolve around what we know then who are we?
This is what I assume is the concept Percival Everett is trying to relay in the novel I AM Not Sidney Poitier. Throughout the novel, Everett alludes to numerous films starring the real-life actor Sidney Poitier while the protagonist, Not Sidney, is depicted professing just how much he is not Sidney. It was hard to fully understand the message Everett is trying to convey as the text becomes convoluted without the background knowledge of these allusions. The novel becomes just a bunch of sentences put together attempting to mean something that can never be understood without the literary context of the allusions. In the novel, Not Sidney takes a course by Professor Everett on nonsense where Everett reveals to Not Sidney just how much nothing really matters. This is something Not Sidney finally realizes at the end where in his acceptance speech he declares “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY”. It is only then at that moment that Not Sidney accepts that he is whoever he wants himself to be. He seems to no longer confine himself to an image that others perceive him as. It is at this point that Not Sidney chooses no longer to confine himself to the meaning of his name and the intentions of others. My final analysis from what I have learned as a scholar this semester is to not take things for what it seems and we as people must do our due diligence and not take things for face value. We must learn to assess everything using our own interpretations.

Road to Self-Acceptance

Through college and the courses that I am enrolled to take I have come to confront myself as a person. Specifically, in Dr. McCoy’s class, I’ve learned to think about my work ethic and what I contribute to a classroom and those around me. At the beginning of the year, I was overconfident, and I came into this classroom thinking it would all come together without much thought. When I originally met with this prompt, I chose the third epigraph which 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 (Percival Everett).” To be completely honest, I didn’t choose that because it meant anything to me even though I managed to relate it to myself in a way, I chose it because none of the others stood out to me in the first place. When writing my original essay, I connected those words to how I struggled to understand a book called the Bacchae which is written in such an old-fashioned way that I couldn’t comprehend what was written. A section in the Bacchae that gave me a tough time stated, “Ho, my band of worshippers, you women who left Tmolus that stands guard over Lydia! I brought you from among barbarians and you have been my companions on the march at rest (The Bacchae).” I used to idea of the Bacchae throughout the piece to explain how words can be very confusing and complex, but we only find meaning in them because we look for meaning. The first time I read the Bacchae I realized that I needed to really put in effort into my work and I suppose looking back at my progress is what makes this course’s second epigraph make so much sense to me. “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.”  

Through this class I’ve learned to put more meaning into the process of the work and less into the grade that comes attached. My whole life I’ve put so much of my self-worth into the praise I got for receiving a high grade that I always neglected what I was gaining from what I was working on as well as the conversation that could come along with it. Throughout Dr. McCoy’s ENGL 203 course I’ve developed a greater respect for English as a subject. When I first came to SUNY Geneseo, I had purely chosen English as my concentration because I was good at it. In high school I was someone who always had nineties as an overall grade, and essay nor test never usually being less than a ninety percent itself. I had never doubted my abilities in English classes when even honor’s classes came easy to me, so when college rolled around, I didn’t doubt that I was meant to concentrate in that same subject. The first time I stepped into this classroom I felt I was ready, and it would most likely be my easiest class to take. Once it came time to go over the syllabus however, I started to become frightened, and I felt way in over my head, but I chose to come back because I wanted to believe I could do well. 

Even though I felt frightened I was still confident that I was just overreacting, never considering that I could slow down and reevaluate myself. I don’t believe I would have ever actually dropped the class, but I chose to ignore my own worries and push on forward. I feel that in my first essay I show my unwillingness to take things slow and my overconfidence to think I must know better than everyone else because well, I’m good at this subject. Through middle and high school, I’ve received high marks and was given the opportunity to take honors and AP classes. Being recognized for my abilities in English always made me proud, especially since when I was in elementary school English was my worst subject. In my writing, I had taken to saying,” 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.” I had originally been forewarned of this likeliness but as the strong-headed person I can be I chose to ignore the warnings. That was the first time I had received a reality check in this course, and I slowly began to realize that I needed to take a step back and let myself be given as well as take in advice. I think at that time I began to feel lost because I felt that I was less then I was just because I no longer believed I could be good at English just because I couldn’t understand one thing. 

“I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY (Percival Everett).” Words can be interpreted in many ways and those words themselves are an open yet closed book that forms many different meanings. During the earlier classes I felt demotivated, and like an imposter within my own body. I put so much heavy emphasis on doing well that when I felt I wasn’t succeeding I felt foreign to myself. I find it quite humorous and ridiculous now, but it didn’t feel ridiculous in the moment. That is what the meaning of that section of the epigraph holds to me. Looking back at myself I think if I really investigated the quote that I would have found solace in the meaning the I derive from it. When looking back at a book we read during the semester called, “I Am Not Sidney Potier,” I can in some ways find similarities between the main character, Not Sydney, and myself. Not unlike Not Sidney, I found it was hard to be myself in a society I did not feel like I fit into. I as someone who comes from a mixed background, being both Puerto Rican and Jamaican, growing up in a town with both these backgrounds I didn’t actually feel like I fit in. Kids who were the same ethnicity as me were much more connected with their cultures and spoke Spanish or Jamaican patois. Neither of my parents really passed on their culture, so I never learned anything about a couple of traditional foods which in my opinion pushed me away from wanting to learn about where my family came from. Not Sidney’s connection to his peers reminded me of that lack of connection I had to those around me. When he had tried to make friends with the kids around him and they got frustrated with him just because of his name being a negation. Not Sidney as the book goes on is put in many situations but always feels like an outsider. In my opinion he often sometimes doesn’t feel like he himself fits in his own story, slowly becoming Sidney pottier as the story comes to an end. It doesn’t seem like he ever forms a connection by just being himself, all of it coming to him because they think he’s someone else or because he’s fulfilling a role that is not his own. 

As the semester progresses, I believe I started to find my own footing. With my own personal reflections and the group work that I was fortunate to participate in I started to understand myself more. I gave more weight to the process of writing and started to truly enjoy group interactions. There were times when I was excited to come into class and participate, taking care to make sure that I never missed a class because I didn’t want to miss anything. “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 (Percival Everett).” That idea definitely felt truer in the beginning, however once I found what holds more value to me, that being my own opinion instead of my grades, I felt more connected with myself. A lot of my life I found it difficult to be myself around people because I felt if I was myself people wouldn’t like me. Even now I struggle with the need to feel liked by my peers and as a result I’ve felt a lot of heartache. Therefore, I’ve felt the others know me better than I know myself because I didn’t really know myself. Placing so much value on other people along with my grades ended up with me not placing my own feelings of worth on myself.  

Though maybe not in direct correlation to this course, the college experience has forced me to look at myself differently. In my opinion, it started in this classroom where I had to start looking at myself. The instance with the Bacchae started a domino effect of my questioning myself and my behavior and made me realize the one set back isn’t a reason to start doubting my own abilities. I know that I will never be the greatest writer in the world, and I don’t strive to be that. I strive to be happy with my writing and take in the criticism that will help me be a good writer. Being enough for myself is an end goal that is possible to reach, it’ll just take a bit of time. 

Epigraph 4

Looking at the different course epigraphs Professor Mcoy has given us, I decided to choose the fourth epigraph. I chose this epigraph because I felt I related to it the most out of all the course epigraphs at this point in my life. In the beginning of the semester, I chose the epigraph from the novel: “I am Not Sidney Poitier” written by Percival Everett. I decided to choose that epigraph at the time because I related to it the most then. Not Sidney is stating how he does not feel like himself anymore after returning home to find something he once lost. While writing that essay, I had just recently moved away to college and had felt very similarly to how he did at the end of that novel. However, since living in Geneseo for 5 months, and getting used to being away from home, I have come to realize I no longer feel the same way as Not Sidney did. So when writing this essay, I decided to choose a different epigraph this time that I better relate to. 

For this essay, I have chosen the fourth course epigraph: “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, Erasure). This statement made by author and professor of english, Percival Everett, is stating how amazing it is that a sentence is ever understood by anyone. He is saying that even if you believe you are speaking clearly, there is no guarantee that the person you’re speaking to is aware of what you are saying. 

This epigraph that I have chosen does create a throughline to the varied texts we’ve engaged with throughout this course. The epigraph I have chosen does this by Percival Everett stating how a sentence is ever understood. If you are trying to say something to another person, and you know what you are saying, that doesn’t mean that the person you are speaking to will also understand what you are saying. In addition to that, this epigraph creates a throughline to the other texts we’ve used throughout the course because even if all the students enrolled in this course read the same exact text, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every student will all get the same thing out of the text. Not every person in the class that reads the text is going to understand what they just read, or that they have the same thoughts or ideas generated from the text. As well as that, there isn’t a promise that all the students in the class will have the same opinion based on what they just read. For example, when we all read the “Bacchae” by Euripdes, I think the majority of students in the class were very confused as to what they had just read. Among other things, everyone in the class had different interpretations about what had happened in the “Bacchae”. Personally, I know I was confused after reading “Bacchae” for the first time. After rereading different sections of the text that confused me, and hearing my classmates’ ideas about what was happening, it was very helpful and helped to further my understanding of the text. Even when we read through Pervival Everett’s rewriting of the “Bacchae”, which he titled “Frenzy”, I was confused from time to time. More specifically, I was confused about the passage where Vlepo is in the maze. Even when we read “I am Not Sidney Poitier ” written by Percival Everett, I had moments when my thoughts or interpretations were different from my classmates; not necessarily when reading the book, but when discussing the novel’s plot and when writing our group essay. For instance, my opinions on the ending of the book as well as the meaning behind Percival Everett changing the nuns names in the novel were vastly different from my group mates. I thought the ending of the novel was that the real Sidney Potiter was the man that was murdered, and not the protagonsit, Not Sidney Potitier. I also believed the nuns’ names being changed in the novel was more significant than what my groupmates thought. I thought their names being changed to scholars and historians from their original names exemplified them to be the opposite of who these characters were. These women were depicted in the novel to be trivial and simple-minded, not intelligent and wise like the scholars they were named after. This relates back to the epigraph because of the confusion and differing interpretations my group and I experienced while discussing the ending and name change in “I am Not Sidney Poitier” because Everett is stating how “…a sentence is ever understood” (Everett, Erasure). Even though our group was communicating clearly, and explaining our thoughts well, the members in the group still weren’t sure what the other people were saying. As well as this, we all had different ideas pertaining to what we thought Percival Everett was trying to tell us in “I am Not Sidney Poitier”. Everett states this in the epigraph: “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”. (Everett, Erasure). This relates to this part of the epigraph because we do not know what Everett was trying to tell us. The end of the epigraph: “…but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” (Everett, Erasure) is saying how the meaning of one thing does not always mean what we think it means. We don’t always know exactly what an author, or even a person we are having a conversation with, is saying unless explicitly stated. 

According to GLOBE’s statement, it is important for Geneseo students to be able to reflect “upon changes in learning and outlook over time.” (Office of the Provost, GLOBE). I would have to agree with this statement. I do think it is very important for students at any college or institution to be able to look upon changes in their learning, reflect, and learn from these adjustments. I know I have personally learned the most whenever I have been asked to look back on my past experiences, learning or otherwise, and I have always learned more at these points. For example, in this class I feel that I have learned quite a bit, just from being asked to reflect on different points in the semester. For instance, whenever we’d introduce a new topic or idea, Professor Mcoy would ask us to reflect back on different topics and incorporate them into our work. More specifically, when Professor Mcoy introduced us to “The Ship of Theseus Paradox”. This paradox is from Greek legends, where there was a big wooden ship and after returning from Crete was fairly destroyed. The Athenians repaired the boat by removing old, destroyed planks from the ship’s body, and replacing these planks with new planks. Anytime the planks would get destroyed, these planks would be removed and replaced. However, the planks that didn’t need to get replaced, didn’t. During some new lessons, Professor Mcoy would bring this paradox up from time to time during class. She’d have us ponder this paradox and how it would fit into our lesson that day. This gave us the experience to not only think, but to learn how we can take previous topics we’ve learned about and incorporate them into our new lessons.  

As we can see, the epigraph pertaining to Percival Everett’s statement about the English language and speaking, relates to different points throughout the semester of this course. We can see how his statement relates to the different texts we read throughout the semester as well. More specifically, the epigraph relates to my experience of the course as well as the readings we dealt with. All in all, I believe that the course epigraph was vastly important to look at and understand as well as being able to relate it to the different experiences I have encountered throughout the semester. 


In English 203, I learned about interpretation. Coming from a previous STEM major, there were often many ways to find a solution, but it was important that all students arrive at the same conclusion. When I first entered this class I expected that it too would be like most other English classes I have taken. The class reads a novel, we discuss the novel, and we all come to a similar conclusion. Going back to my junior year in high school, I decided that I wanted to push myself and take AP English Literature and Composition. In this class we read the novel As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. This novel was an interesting read but it was hard to understand. I remember numerous times in class when I would raise my hand to speak about what we had read and I would explain my interpretation of the text. On many occasions my teacher told me, ‘No, that is not what the author is trying to convey’.  This made me lose confidence in my ability to interpret a text as I would worry my interpretation and ideas were wrong. Over time I learned when students read a book for the first time they often read the passage from a lens that reflects past life experiences, as we try to use previous life experiences  to try and relate and understand.

Before I arrived at SUNY Geneseo, I attended SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), where I previously was a Biology major. One of the major differences between SUNY Geneseo and ESF is how we arrive at a conclusion. At ESF, when we were doing an assignment it was a more linear track, there was some movement but it was especially pivotal as all students arrived at the same conclusion. Science is both predictable and unpredictable. When I look back at my time as a STEM major I look at experiment’s which I saw as hands-on ways to prove the science that we study.  An experiment has three variables, a control, manipulated, and responding variable. In order for an experiment to be valid, these variables must be able to be identified.

In my eyes, I view science as simple when I compare it to English. With science your goal is to measure and observe your results. Versus English, it cannot be measured, and when you break it down to its very core it is just a bunch of lines.When these lines are combined together they take shapes of letters which form words, which form sentences, which form paragraphs. Any paragraph someone writes can be interpreted a million different ways but for it’s interesting how most of are minds are wired so similarly that we come to the same conclusions. English doesn’t have a single result, it as an infinite number of possibilities.

The idea of a sentence ever being understood comes from a Percival Everett quote which states “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” . This statement was brought up many times by my professor and other students but it would go right over my head. When I now look at this quote I think about interpretation.

English 203 has taught me that if you can support your reason on why you view something a certain way then it’s impossible to say your interpretation is wrong. This realization  hit me when I was writing my first essay titled Irony which discussed my interpretation of  The Bacchae by Euripides.  In the essay I wrote how the ruler of Thebes, Pentheus, could be viewed as an leader who only wanted what was best for his people. I argued that “Pentheus did not like the idea of a strange man (Dionysus) entering his domain and claiming to be a God. Think about it, a random man wanders into town and people begin to blindly praise and follow him. “ Even further, I would argue that Dionysus had some sort of mind control over the citizens of Thebes. Looking back at my essay it definitely had some personality to it, it needed more evidence but my statements had validity to them as it was my interpretation of the Bacchae . 

After I finished my essay, we would discuss the Bacchae in the following class. When I spoke about my interpretation, I felt like an outcast, no one had arrived at the same conclusion I had, and instead my group had very similar interpretations. The student from high school felt embarrassed as my ideas was so far off from everyone else’s, and part of me wanted to not submit my essay, but after some conversations with my Professor, Beth McCoy, she reassured me that my essay wasn’t wrong, it couldn’t be, those were my thoughts and although they were different that how I interpreted the Bacchae. From that day onward I realized the power of interpretation.  

Right now, I’m caught at a crossroads. As an education major at SUNY Geneseo, I need to pick a concentration to pursue along with my degree. I’m torn between a natural sciences concentration or an English Concentration. The creative freedom that comes with being in an English class was something that had never clicked with me until this year. The countless areas of study, and the idea of going wherever your brain takes you as long as it can be supported with evidence. This is a passion that I didn’t know that I had a passion for. I can either follow a passion, or continue to follow the path I have already invested in.

The Infinite Scalability of Seemingly Waisted Lines

Back in September, a lifetime away, our class was assigned an exercise where I chose to discuss the Suspicious Pants tweet.  My initial thoughts on the inclusion of personified pants as a course epigraph was as short sighted as the immediate arousal of suspicion as said pants. My Professor, Dr. Beth McCoy, shared a tweet depicting a pair of pants thrown over the back of a chair. The resulting image gave the impression that the pants were looking back at the viewer with a caption “Suspicious Pants.” This created a split interpretation; were the pants suspicious of others or were they suspect themself? I expanded on this in my blog post, Suspicious Pants and Greek Gods, where I compared the pants to the Greek God Dionysus in The Bacchae and the recommendation of reading the play at least twice for the class. I demonstrated that there are many factors that lead to deciphering the meaning behind the suspicious pants. I questioned both sides of the argument. What does the reader have to be suspicious of when referring to the pants? Likewise, what could the pants be suspicious of themselves? I addressed the notions of peritext and epitext and their relationship with the subject matter attributing their definitions to Professor McCoy herself. She describes peritext as literary elements that the author can control versus epitext, elements the author cannot control. These concepts were key in deriving meaning from The Bacchae. First I had to read the play and find some understanding. Then I had to research what I had read like the Greek names, certain relationships, and various unknown words. Next I read it with my new found knowledge which lended itself to  more understanding. Finally after our in class discussion, a new fuller understanding formed. This process allowed the time and space for our own thoughts to mature before combining them with others to create something new entirely. A process that I believed was the idea behind the Suspicious Pants and was a satisfying conclusion to the difficult read. 

That is, until we read Percivial Everett’s version in Frenzy. This reopened the journey of understanding as we now had another text, a reimagining of the same story, to compare the original to and a deeper understanding to identify. The entire process reset but from a different starting point. I had believed these contrasting ideations was a concrete introduction to a course on identifying and understanding texts. I believed Beth wanted us to look beyond our instinctive reactions and consider the alternative narratives. I believed we were supposed to look into our own prejudices while also seeking others’ understandings as a means to gather a fuller comprehension of a given text. I was right. But as the essence of such an idea dictates, I was also so wrong. Although I was on the right path to finding out how wrong I was, it took a semester to discover the scalability of such a truth. This led to the discovery that the scalability of this truth is inherently infinite. The pursuit of true understanding is like scaling a mountain only to find that once you’ve reached the summit, you’re actually in the valley of another mountain. One may choose to stay in this summit valley hybrid, but for each new mountain they climb, they achieve a higher sense of understanding and the opportunity to keep climbing. There may come a time when they reach the summit and see nothing but clouds around them. It isn’t until another source, whether it be textual, the thoughts of a peer or the simply the passage of time and furthering of life experience, reveals a clearing in the clouds from their perspective that the climber may continue their ascension. 

Before I give the examples that come to mind, as the nature of the narrative I am developing it is important to express some prejudices in my thesis and the examples I give. There of course are the baseline prejudices of how I was raised, the culture I grew up in, and the education I have received up until this class. But there is also the notion of how the information was expressed during the class. The choice of books to read from Percival Everett’s oeuvre plays the biggest role in this. The inclusion of some referenced material from within his works, like the choice to watch Lilies of the Field and The Defiant Ones over any other of the films written into I Am Not Sidney Poitier. Then there is the order they were presented, the classmates that I shared the experience with, and the nature in which our Professor presented the material day to day. All of this combined came to affect how we climbed our mountains of understanding and also what we saw once we finally reached the top. 

Given the pieces we worked with, it is apparent that Everett enjoys modernizing pieces he is referencing while also making it a point to express the darker or intense scenes with the brutality he believes they deserve. From The Bacchae to Frenzy, Everett makes sure nothing is lost in translation when rewriting the ancient Greek play. He explicitly describes delicate intimacy the characters share when they fall under Dionysos’s spell. He also writes out the vulgar truth beyond their more barbaric actions like when the Maenads rip apart the flesh of man in the same manner they tore a cow to shreds. It is also important to note he changed the name of some characters but specifically Dionysos’s name. Although it isn’t wrong as Dionysos goes by many names and Dionysos is an acceptable spelling, it is different from The Bacchae’s spelling of Dionysus. This single letter lets in the thought that he is consciously making each change, no matter how small, with precise and deliberate motives. The changes do not stop there. He goes as far as to introduce new characters and even fully fledged storylines like the inclusion of Orpheus, the renowned poet. He chose to share Orpheus’s story of falling in love with a woman only to lose her to a snake bite. He then traveled to Hell to get her back, only to give into his desire, breaking the deal with Persephone by looking back to see if Eurydice was following him out of the underworld, losing her forever. Consequently, he fell into such a deep depression that when frenzied Maenads demanded he sing them a song, he refused, so they killed him by tearing him apart. Although a classic tale, one might lose sight of its meaning within the confines of the story or rather why Everett chose to include it when he reimagined a play that already worked without it. After a semester of critical thinking growth, I can think of two reasons why he would, especially after considering he himself is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California according to his page. I believe that the inclusion of all these changes are a requirement when taking any literary pieces from the past and bringing them to a modern stage. This goes beyond adding clarity for concepts lost in translation. We as a society have grown accustomed to digesting so much media and content that when revisiting older works, whether it’s a Greek play like The Bacchae or even a film from 64 years ago like The Defiant Ones, the mode that the information is transferred has become almost obsolete. Storytelling has evolved to the point where these narratives seem basic in comparison to what we are used to. Naturally, Everett must enhance these stories in some manner to make them more digestible to today’s average literary consumer. He does this because they still have value in the themes they portray and this leads to my second point. He wants to challenge us. He wants to educate us. He wants us to grow as communal individuals so we may grow as a whole. If you as a reader take the dive into trying to understand as much as you can from his stories, you will find yourself climbing a mountain the likes you’ve never seen before. That climb will make you stronger just like it will make another reader that much stronger too. So once you finally ascend to your personal Mt. Evere(s)tt and you find another reader waiting for you at the top, you can combine your understanding and climb even higher than ever before.

The phrase “perpetual student” is a phrase that is usually tied with a negative connotation. It describes a person who continually attends classes at a college in order to avoid having to enter the workforce and get a real job. A Capitalist’s worst fear. But the perpetual student mentality can be one of the most valuable tools for self growth. The concept comes from the idea that education is always available to us in some manner, usually as simple as taking the time to ask why, and those who access this education will continue to develop their character. The pursuit of understanding is much like the pursuit of perfection. Many consider it a black and white topic. You’re either perfect or you’re not. You either know something or you don’t. But in reality, the winning side of these arguments are those who don’t stop that pursuit. They may slow down, even take a break, but it isn’t until you refuse to carry on that you begin to “lose.” This argument breaks down a little here because the point of it all isn’t to win or lose, it is to grow. This growth comes from trying, failing, and trying again. It would take a lifetime to fully dissect each word written by Everett, or any author really, and find the meaning behind it all. But that’s not the point. By finding one aspect of Everett’s works and deciding to climb that specific mountain of understanding, you will find yourself with a heightened viewpoint of everything else. 

When it comes to the question of whether or not the Suspicious Pants are suspect themselves or suspicious of something else does not matter in the end. Much like asking why a picture of pillows were included in our final assignment. Is this what the pants were looking at? Do we finally get to rest? Is this the post journey pillow talk? What matters is the act of questioning it and trying to find reason. We as a class had questioned it in the beginning, some even chose sides, but climbing that mountain of why is what led us to our next climb. Another why. The scalability of asking questions and seeking understanding is infinite. Understanding that at first can be daunting. But in time, it becomes comforting. One step at a time, we will all grow as long as we only stop to smell the flowers. 

A Journey to Intertextuality

Intertextuality: The condition of interconnectedness among texts, or the concept that any text is an amalgam of others, either because it exhibits signs of influence or because its language inevitably contains common points of reference with other texts through allusion, quotation, genre, style, and so forth. -(The Bedford). The definition of this word that has come up so many times over the course of this semester never fails to turn the gears in my head. As students, and as a person, this word is so very important because its the foundation of connection. Connection not between two things, but connection to everything. It has taught me that everything has means, and if there appears to be no meaning then the no meaning is in fact its meaning. Nothing can exist without a reason and a story behind its existence. I believe that many assume to connect two texts, or connect two beings, they must be similar. However, that many don’t realize that to connect there also must be contrast and differences.

In reading I am not Sidney Poitier written by Percival Everett, I leaned a lot more about myself than anything else and in which I still have loads to continue learning. As the plot is about the life of a rich black man who looks exactly like popular actor Sidney Poitier. His whole life he is compared to the actor, and was even named Not Sidney by his mother. His life consists of a bunch of twisted, slightly different stories that carry the same plot lines of Sidney Poitiers movies. These movies are Lillies of the Field, The Defiant Ones and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. But the purpose of the novel is for this character to go through his life continuously compared to this actor, and thus unfortunately having himself perceived as nothing more. He is Sydney Poitier to everyone else, and himself. This is until he realizes that he is his own person, and so he wishes to be perceived the way he is, not the way everyone expects him to be because of a name and a face that don’t belong to him.

I have always allowed others to perceive me however they wish. In my family, I am one thing and one thing only. I sing. It’s the one talent, skill, passion, that I am recognized for at every single family gathering, family dinner, phone call to grandma, text message to grandpa, small talk with uncles and aunts. “So when is your next performance?” “Hows the singing going, kid?” “Gotta get that voice ready for college.” It’s endearing, and used to make me feel seen and heard and admired but now it’s just a reminder that I am a shell of a person to them. They don’t really know me like they know my siblings and my cousins because once I realized that I wanted to be someone other than the girl who sings, they act like they don’t even recognize me. There is nothing for them to say. I was branded from the day I started singing around the house at the age of 3 until the middle of mu senior year in high school when I felt like everything was falling apart and I had no idea where I was gonna be a year from then. I switched my plans to English, got rid of the broadway playbills that were cluttering up my bedroom, I focused on writing and reading and changed who I always thought I was entirely because I don’t think I even really knew myself. So if I didn’t know myself, how could anyone else? What was my personality? My likes and dislikes? I couldn’t tell you because I wasn’t able to tell myself. I was having an identity crisis at 17 and nothing anybody was telling me was able to change that.

I’m still trying to master the idea that I am a person with thoughts and feelings underneath the way others see me. I think I like this person I’ve found within me a lot more than I like the person I was for 14 years of my life. One of the course epigraphs for this class has stuck out to me since the very beginning of the semester when I saw it for the first time, and really reminded me of this breakthrough I’ve had in myself:

“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:


A quote from I am not Sidney Poitier. When reading this, the words “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY” hurls themselves into my brain and twists and crams their way until it’s all I’m thinking about. Why these specific words, I’m not entirely sure, but I think it’s because who even is themself these days? In a class full of young adults, I see every single person there struggling to figure out who they are in this world because there is not a single person out there who actually knows the answer. We as people evolve continuously. Our brains are trying to keep up with us as we go through the big changes in life, the ones that stick to us when we turn 16 up until we’re established beings who know where we belong.

I am working on the answer to this, just like everyone else. The story of Not Sidney, although supposed to be humorous, has truth within it like everything else. This is the story of how many of us feel on the inside every day. Who can really know us better than ourselves, yet so many appear to act like they do. So, like everything in life, I am not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett is connected to its readers even when it doesn’t mean to be. It touches those a little bit with every word, every phrase, and every experience Not Sidney has.

We Grow Together

Like most people I went into the semester with excitement, and with excitement there is always just a little bit of fear. The exciting thing is not knowing what is to come, which also happens to be the scary thing. I didn’t know what I would get out of this class and I certainly didn’t know what to expect. What I also did not know at the time, is how taking this one path would have such an impact on me. I have done plenty of thinkING and reflectING throughout the course. I have learned about myself. I have learned to understand my peers and to work with them. The most important thing I have learned from this semester is to think, and to keep thinking. Thinking never stops. There is always something more to learn; always another perspective to consider. At the beginning of our time together, the class was introduced to our course epigraphs. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms defines an epigraph as such, “A passage printed on the title page or first page of a literary work or at the beginning of a section of such a work.” Epigraphs are often meant to give the reader a taste of what they are getting into or a theme that is meant to be taken away from the text they are soon to read (223). When reflecting on my time in this course, the course epigraph that will most definitely stick with me is from Percival Everett’s Erasure. He writes, “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean some thing, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” 

To me, this sentiment is about how so many different people, lives, and experiences come together and teach one another. That is what we have done this semester. Most of our time has been spent working with one another. If I had been told this before I came into this course I may not have been thrilled about it, but I have learned that working through literature with other people is an experience unmatched. It is incredible to hear how people interpret the things we have all read, and how each interpretation can be so different and yet lead to wonderful discoveries. 

This brings to mind our first official mini-collaboration. In small groups, we were to write about Percival Everett’s Frenzy. Frenzy is a novel based on the Greek play, The Bacchae. To me, both the Bacchae and Frenzy were confusing to read. The Bacchae, of course, because it was first written in Greek in 405 B.C. and later translated into English. Frenzy is a modern novel, but Percival Everett has a writing style that takes some getting used to, and that is a journey everyone must make individually. This was the first of a few times that my epigraph actually came up in class discussion. We were exploring the play, and sharing our confusion when “It is incredible a sentence is ever understood” was uttered. Each of us were not alone in our confusion, and were then told to dig deeper and “unpack” our thoughts and theories. Here comes the mini-collaboration. The remarkable thing about writing for this class is the amount of time we have the opportunity to put into our work. Here we are encouraged to THINK. My group had numerous theories regarding our topic on Frenzy. We went back and forth, we had those “a ha!” moments, and we had uncertainty. But one thing I remember is how one’s thoughts lead to another’s ideas that lead to more thoughts. When working together we are actually just teaching each other. Letting each other see the part of ourselves that led us to draw the connections in the book that we drew. And that is how sentences are understood. It is also how they are amplified. In the second part of the epigraph Everett writes, “Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean some thing, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” He is saying that when a sentence is spoken or written it may have one purpose, but it is not defined by that purpose. Every person is different, and in that same way every sentence is different. Throughout all our class time we get to learn through each other, and that is one of the best parts of learning at all.

At the end of each of these collaborations is the great big question: “Who cares?” This may be the hardest task because it brings up a good point. Why is what we are talking about important? What will be remembered about it? As Geneseo students we are encouraged to “reflect on [our] learning, and reach beyond [our]selves by exploring the diversity of human experiences, cultures, and viewpoints,” (par. 2). In a way, this is what I interpreted Everett as saying when he wrote the lines of the epigraph stated at the start. It is important to reflect and come back to what we have previously read because the meaning of a sentence can change over time, and we won’t know how until that time has passed and that change has occurred. In fact, we were encouraged to reflect on our past work in this course often, and to look back at our epigraphs to remind ourselves of their importance. As we grow, so will our understanding.My overall experience in this class environment has not only taught me how to learn in the classroom, but also how to learn in life. Most importantly, because it is incredible that a sentence is ever understood, if you are feeling lost that only means you are on the right path. That is something Professor McCoy said in class one day. There is more to think, more to learn, more to experience. A conversation between two of Percival Everett’s characters in I am Not Sidney Poitier will always stick with me. It goes “‘One more thing, don’t imagine that you have limitations.’ ‘Don’t I?’ ‘I’m sure you do, but don’t imagine it,’” (112).

Myah Dombroski-ENGL 203: Final Self Reflective Essay

Throughout my previous education experiences, I’ve always felt a pressure to choose, not what opinion or idea I have, or write how I felt comfortable writing it, but what the teachers wanted to hear or expected to be done. For our first essay of ENGL 203, we were prompted to choose an epigraph from this course, and to write an essay on what it gets us thinking about. I was so scared to mess it up or to be wrong. As a new student here, not only had I never written an essay for Dr. McCoy, this was my first essay I was assigned.  Originally, I chose the epigraph “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. For this essay, I decided to challenge myself and chose a new course epigraph to use. In the first essay, I felt as if I chose for the wrong reasons. I chose it because it seemed quick and easy,  it was the shortest one to write about. In high school I had so much work, I would write papers fast right before it was due to get it done, then move on to the next, and now I have learned to slow down and think deeply before responding. Though the original epigraph does reflect and make sense for the course, I felt as though there was another one that made sense as well. The new epigraph seemed to be very wordy and overwhelming in the beginning of the semester. From being in Dr. McCoy’s courses, I have learned so much and now know how to unpack this epigraph and know there is no wrong answer, because there are no wrong ideas when it comes to reflective style writing we have been practicing throughout the semester. My chosen epigraph for this essay is “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.– Percival Everett.”. This epigraph has spoken to me after the last collaboration we did in class for I am Not Sidney Poitier. 

In our last collaboration assignment, my group focused a lot on the irony throughout the novel I Am Not Sindey Poitier by Percival Everett. In the novel, irony is scattered throughout. Irony is, as defined by The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms on page 217, “A contradiction or incongruity between appearance or expectation and reality. This disparity may be manifested in a variety of ways. A discrepancy may exist between what someone says and what he or she actually means, between what someone expects to happen and what really happens, or between what appears to be true and what actually is true.”.  This begins even within the main character of the novel, Not Sidney Poitier, who is both Not Sidney Poitier, as in his name and not Sidney Poitier, he is not the actor Sidney Poitier, though he looks like him. This creates lots of confusion and ironic conversation throughout the novel, which also connects with my original epigraph “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood.”. Throughout the semester, we’ve read a lot of Everetts works, including two novels written by Everett, but were stories predating his works. These were works retold by him, by changing names and small plot lines, used in both Frenzy and in I am Not Sidney Poitier. An example of this is Everetts use of the stories of the movie Lilies of the Field and many more Sidney Poitier movies. He uses the irony of Not Sidney’s name to include the plots from many of the famous Sidney Poitier movies. At first, I did not understand this epigraph. Throughout the course though, I’ve grown as a reader and writer and I feel pretty confident with this epigraph and understanding that irony can be funny, but does not have to be. For example, In I am Not Sidney Poiter, the names of the nuns are ironic in what each name means, as we wrote about in our last collaboration, but that does not mean that it was funny. We discussed and wrote about how all of the nuns were called stupid by the people who knew them, but they were named after pretty important philsophers. I think Everett uses these ironies that you don’t understand unless, either you know your early philosophers, or you get to research it, as a way to learn something new. Which, in essence, is what this class has done for me, and even us as a collective. The use of Reflective Writing in contrast to writing to get a grade and having the teacher’s opinion affect grades, we focus on how we feel and expand upon that and create beautiful pieces by embracing the confusion and unknown, and building off our ideas. We have all learned from this process. On page 5 of Reflective Writing, it says “You can see the tension, the opposite pulls, in reflective writing required as part of a college programme”. In many collaborations, we’ve talked about how Dr. McCoys class has been hard for us based on how we were forced to tackle work all the way from Elementary school until you graduate high school, and even in most college courses. We are used to a check list of do this, this and this, when we should be slowing down to really understand and craft our works. One of the best assignments I did in a collaboration was our Nun-sense Essay. We thought we were doing so bad, we needed more time and extra help and many days, even out of class and felt like we would get somewhere, then backtrack and end up where we started again and again. What we didn’t know is we did just as the Reflective Writing describes. On page 53 it says, “Research is an iterative process – you go backwards and forwards, but also onwards and upwards, and reflection drives it.”. We were doing it right the whole time and felt as if we were failing. We just needed some help to see this. If I am being honest, I never read the Reflective Writing until right after that assignment. And boy, did I regret it. It was like a key to the whole class, and everything clicked. Maybe this speaks to the irony of the course. We all came in expecting a regular old English class where you read the book and pump out a paper and move on, never to look back, and look at what we got. In every assignment, every collaboration, we learned as the Reflective Writing says on page 57, “Being able to apply new ideas or information from your courses or reading is what learning is about.”.