Isn’t it Ironic?

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

Irony. It’s all around us, in plays, movies, school, and relationships.

Irony is especially important in the literary world. This is evident from the Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms’ four-page-long definition and examples of the word. The general definition of irony from the Bedford is “a contradiction or incongruity between appearance or expectation and reality.” (Ross Murfin and Surpryia M. Ray, 217). What I get out of this definition is that irony is unexpected for the person experiencing it, and that it is often something that occurs in the opposite way than the person’s original intent. When I think of irony, I think of a humorous blunder of one’s words backfiring against oneself. However, as listed in the Bedford, there are many different types of irony that can have various effects. 

One example is dramatic irony. This specific type of irony is often involved in theatrical experiences where the reader or audience is aware of an important plot point while a character or actor on stage is not. One can see this play out in the famous Greek tragedy, the Bacchae, written by Euripides. In the play, Greek god Dionysus plans to cruelly punish the town where he was conceived that didn’t recognize him as a god. We can see dramatic irony in the play when Dionysus spitefully encourages the king Pentheus to visit the women of the town that have run to the mountains under Dionysus’ influence. Dionysus dresses Pentheus in women’s clothing as a disguise and lures him to where he will order the women to attack him. All this time, Pentheus does not know Dionysus’ true identity whereas the reader/audience does. Thus, it is dramatic irony.

Tragic irony is complementary with dramatic irony in the Bacchae. Tragic irony is when a character’s previous ideas or words end in the character’s tragic end. We see this when Pentheus’ hate towards Dionysus comes back to haunt him as he is murdered by Dionysus’ followers at the end of the play: “… with unending shrieks, fell Pentheus. For he realized his fatal hour had come.” (Euripides, 1110, 157)

           After experiencing the different aspects of irony from the Bacchae, I am not surprised that one of the epigraphs Dr. McCoy offered for our class to use for our first blog post assignment is a quote from author, Percival Everett, about irony.

            In this epigraph, Everett looks at irony candidly with an alternative perspective. Even though irony can sometimes be a bad thing, as seen with the gruesome death of Pentheus in the Bacchae, Everett argues that irony is essentially human and that viewing life with an ironic perspective is healthy. He believes that irony is actually quite genuine — even more so than utter sincerity, as it recognizes the imperfections of life. He does emphasize the difference between irony and humor, by stating that irony should never “make light of serious or grave and important issues.” (Everett)

            I agree with Everett’s perspective on irony. I believe it is true that the only thing humans can know for certain is that they don’t know anything. Perhaps irony is a way of realizing this absurdity of life and accepting it. In my daily life, I experience irony. I may want to do one thing but I end up doing another. A funny example of this is the story of how I became an education major. Both my parents are teachers. Naturally, I never wanted anything to do with the field of education because I didn’t want to be the girl who does exactly what her parents do. But after realizing my love of helping others, especially children, I knew I had to be an elementary school teacher. Thus, is the irony of life.

            I can apply irony to school, in particular, to this class. Especially with writing, as subjective as it is, one may believe he or she is making one point, but the reader could interpret that same point much differently than intended. I will do my best to clearly illustrate my ideas while keeping in mind another Everett idea, that “it is incredible that a sentence is ever understood.” (Everett, Erasure) It is also ironic that sometimes, when I write, I am more focused on achieving a high final grade than actually progressing my writing skills. I know that this is not a method that will help my personal growth. In this class, I will strive to better my writing abilities to promote further self-growth instead of constantly trying for a perfect grade.

I can tell just by this short epigraph about irony, that Everett is a wise man who doesn’t pretend to know everything, as some “wise” men do. He affirms the importance of irony by explaining that it is not just a tool for humor or a literary device, but an outlook on life. I am looking forward to reading more of this wise man’s works and excited to try pushing new boundaries in the classroom where I will always keep in mind the irony of life.           

Is the Feeling of Emptiness from Dionysus or Percival Everett?

 “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:


 — Percival Everett 

The epigraph allows me to perceive Percival Everett as being lost and empty; he doesn’t know who is even though he has gone home to try to find out. This main idea immediately got me thinking of Dionysus, who in a sense is depicted, as empty and lost, in the novel “Frenzy”.  During my reading of Percival Everett’s “Frenzy”, I saw Dionysus as a God who knew what he had to do but felt like it was not him. For example, on page 19 of “Frenzy” Vlepo was sharing the women’s point of view of having sex with the God; Vlepo said that “She wanted more. Some part of you” to this Dionysus responds with “You make it sound so empty. It’s that what I, too, am feeling, Vlepo?”. In this conversation, we see that Dionysus is trying to understand his feelings. By comparing the empty feeling, the woman had felt after they had sex to the empty feeling he feels on a daily basis. Everett talks about returning to his home place in an attempt to get to know himself and Dionysus in a similar way returns to Thebes where his mother was executed by Zeus’s lightning bolt to get in touch with himself. Returning to his homeland was Dionysus’s way to reunite with his mother and better understand the emptiness and lost feeling he was experiencing. My analysis and comparison of the emotions displayed by Dionysus in “Frenzy” and by Everett in his epigraph made me wonder if some of Everett’s feelings, emptiness, was displayed onto Dionysus. This being a question that intrigues me I will continue to read the novel “Frenzy” with a sharp eye in hopes to figure this out.

Misunderstandings in writing of all forms

Over the past two weeks, I have found myself thinking about suspicious pants more and more. When I first looked at the pants, I could not understand why they were so special, nor why they were on the syllabus for my English 203 class. Since it was summer, I pushed the pants out of my head and went back to relaxing by the pool. I didn’t put much more thought into the pants until the first day of class. After being told to interpret the pants, I was left stuck. I mean, they were just pants. What is so special about a pair of pants draped over a chair? Neither I nor my group understood that it was not the pants that we were interpreting. But the caption. The twitter post was captioned “Suspicious pants.” I didn’t pick up on this at first, but the sentence can be interpreted in many ways. Were we suspicious of the pants, or are they suspicious of us? When one of my classmates brought that up, I started to understand the beauty of the pants. It was at that point Profesor McCoy quoted Percival Everett’s Erasure “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood.” This resonates with me because not only did it make the pants assignment make sense, but it also got me thinking about how, with social media, it is becoming harder and harder to get the real meaning. Still using the pants example, if you heard the caption spoken, maybe you could decipher its meaning.
My mother always used to tell me to never text your friends about important things or during arguments, because you can easily misinterpret what they are saying without hearing their voice. Now everyone always knows that your mother is always right, but it was at this moment I realized how right she was. The Odyssey Online wrote an article discussing how, through social media, miscommunications are becoming more common. This is due to the many parts of unspoken social cues that drive the conversation. For more on nonverbal communication and the science behind it, check out The Nonverbal Group. When things are written, it is very easy to misinterpret a text, tweet, or even a book due to the missing conversational cues. I’m sure everyone has read a book for school and come in to discuss it and find out that they misinterpreted the entire thing. Although recently Professor McCoy has discussed that there are many interpretations and none of them are wrong, I have definitely had my fair share of way off the mark interpretations. Some of my worst interpretations, however, were not based on literature. I’m sure everyone has misread a text in a way that made the sender seem mad, or passive-aggressive. It these misinterpretations that cause arguments and end friendships. I think that the tweet in reference shows just how easy it is for a message to get lost.
It is at this point that I am wondering whether this was a problem back in the letter-writing days. I’m sure it must have been. Even though the language is always changing and evolving, language couldn’t have evolved too much over the past 50 years. Not enough to have really made a difference in our understanding of writing. But also, if language could be understood so easily 50 years ago, why would we struggle with it today? Have we gone backward since the days of writing letters? Or maybe it is not the writing, but the proofing. If language was understood years ago, maybe the act of proofreading made it easier to understand. Today, very few make sure their texts make sense before the send them. Very few check their grammar and spelling before posting a tweet. Maybe that is what my mother was always talking about. If one reads over their message or post before they send it, they can clear up any grey area in the message.
I doubt this would solve anything. Everyone thinks differently, which I believe is the point of the exercise Professor McCoy had us do on the first day of class. To show that everyone has a different mindset and point of view. No one will see anything the same way. We all bring different things to the table. On the discussion of the pants, I questioned the meaning of the account name, while my group member, Kevin, discussed how humans see faces in almost anything, which leads us to see the face in the pants. Both are different interpretations of the same thing.
If we can have so many interpretations of something as basic as a tweet about “Suspicious pants,” then imagine what other things people can see in different ways. From pieces of art to the dress from 2015, everyone sees things differently. The most important thing when interpreting things is to remember that everyone has their own interpretation and they are all valid. If we can open up and listen to other people’s interpretations, even if they are about pants, you can learn something new, and maybe even get a blog post out of it.

Art and Discipline

Art and discipline are akin; these two branches of expression and practice work together in order to produce structure and allow the expression of an idea through that structure. Some may believe it obvious: art and discipline’s interdependence, but the two are often described as  completely different forms. The typical connotations associated with discipline and art are strict regulation and extremely liberal and raw expression with little form, respectively.

I was once aware of both the detachment and coalition of art and discipline, conscious that the two were related somehow,  but I was unaware of how different and how indifferent they were. I recognized that an artist needs practice to better their ability of expression through a medium, but I was not aware of the rules and absolute structure that stopped art from actually being “raw expression” with little form. Concepts like lighting, the horizon line, and perspective are essential parts of the foundation needed for the creation of a proper composition in an area like visual arts; artists follow these basic rule to connect their art and simultaneously explore the options and possibility surrounding these rules. Continue reading “Art and Discipline”

Course Reflection on English 203

I just transferred to SUNY Geneseo at the beginning of the semester from a community college in my hometown. I found my classes at Corning Community College to be at the same difficulty level as the ones I took in high school. In particular, my English classes were introduction levels and the books that were on the syllabus I had already read in high school. Therefore, I didn’t have to push myself to learn new things because I had previously learned them. As a result, I was a little nervous to transfer to Geneseo because I had heard the reputation of their academics and I knew it was going to be challenging. During orientation I was so excited to be put into English 203 because at home I loved to go to our local theater with my Grandma and watch Broadway shows. Back in high school we always had to read old literature, such as Shakespeare, which wouldn’t be my first choice when choosing a play to read. So when I read that this class would consist of reading contemporary plays that I had already heard of, I couldn’t wait to get started. As promised, we read so many great contemporary plays during my time in this course. Reading the plays was my favorite part because it let me use my imagination to create a picture of what was happening in my head. I love watching plays, but it’s like when reading a novel is better than the movie itself. However, I did enjoy watching some of the plays after reading them to confirm that what I had imagined was correct. In high school and at my community college I was never forced to analyze a text too deeply because of the time limit set for each book. For the first time in this course I was challenged to examine the texts and relate them to modern issues in America, such as race, immigration, and gender identity. This was also one of my favorite parts of the course because we could relate it to what is happening in the world around us now. I’d say the least interesting part of the course for myself would be writing the reviews. Never before in any course I have taken did I have to use my opinion to analyze a text. Since this was my first time writing reviews it wasn’t one of my strengths and I think that is why I didn’t enjoy it as much. I have been used to thriving without really challenging myself, but I appreciate the fact that this course got me out of my comfort zone and taught me a new skill. I didn’t get the grade I expected on my first review, but as I kept writing and learning new things about how to write I got better and that makes me excited to continue in the English concentration and improve my writing skills.

Review on the play Topdog/Underdog

In the documentary, The Topdog Diaries, Suzan-Lori Parks states that while writing Topdog/Underdog she did not strategize to form a theme based on race. Many people have asked her “What’s [the play] about?” and “What are the issues you’re trying to defend?” She opposes with “Black people when they hang out is it an exploration of race, just two black people in a room together?” Though I concede that Parks did not intend to write a play on racial issues, I still insist that Topdog/Underdog portrays exemplary examples of discrimination in America today. To kickoff this theme, the characters, Lincoln and Booth, are named after two historical white men and are played by two black actors. This is an ironic start to the play and automatically delves into the social history of the United States and slavery. Booth, the underdog, does not have a job, is striving to be the best hustler in three card monte, and boosts every item that he owns. These actions contribute to the African American stereotypes in large cities today. On the other hand, Lincoln actually has a job that supports both him and his brother. However, the only way Link could get this job was to put on white face and it consisted of dressing as Abraham Lincoln and getting “assassinated” daily by paying customers.
The black man playing the Great Emancipator just adds to the racial satire in the play. I believe the title, Topdog/Underdog, is also tied to the act of reversing black and white characters and all of the undertones on race. It could be interpreted as the white population being the topdogs and African Americans being the underdogs. Unfortunately, we live in a dog-eat-dog world and our nation’s history has contributed largely to discrimination among African Americans. Although Parks did not intentionally write this play based on the explorations of race, I argue that these issues are what embody the play most.

final meeting reflection

Shakira Browne

In the class I have learned that people are allowed and able to make a story. In a Christmas carol there was a part where his flashbacks added to detail in the story. I learned that there is no right way of looking at something because of the way that people were raised and their background may impact their beliefs. A fluid reader needs to have an open mind that is good at interpreting through not only the eyes of a reader but as well as the eyes of the author. When there is an issue in the Alice books sometimes becoming real isn’t always something that comes easy to Alice. For example when the red king was asleep Alice was told by the Tweedledee that she was only there because the king had a dream of her but Alice sees that her crying is actually proving that she was real. In a Christmas carol scrooge tries to interact with the people around him but since he was apart of Christmas past and future he was not able to talk to them physically but he knew that he was real.

My Final Self Reflection: Understanding Connection

This semester as a whole has been a challenging and interesting experience; I’ve explored branches of education that were entirely new to me, participated in courses that exposed me to countless new methods of interpretation, and gained a renewed appreciation for key pieces of English literature. My time in English 203 this semester has been a substantial part of these experiences and the conversations I was a part of there have led to me asking bigger questions about not only the texts and their intended meaning, but also about the very study of literary analysis itself. In fact, I would say the most pressing questions asked by this course are: What does it mean to engage in literary criticism and why do we do it? Questions like these continue to be challenging to answer but they all lead into the idea of what my time in Fluid Readers and Fluid Texts was actually about. “About” in this case meaning a purpose, a single, but not uncomplicated, summation of everything this course has taught me. What’s one word, one concept that weaves together all of the novels, movies, and essays we’ve analyzed and discussed this semester? For me, the theme that the course emphasized the most, the theme that brings all of these materials together is the idea of connection. Continue reading “My Final Self Reflection: Understanding Connection”

Feedback, Feedback, Feedback

For me, writing is like trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together.  There are many different components that act like the pieces, such as: the language being used, spelling and grammar, supporting evidence, a sound structure, the list goes on.  When these pieces come together, the writer should be left with the big picture, or the overall message trying to be conveyed in their writing.  Reflecting on my writing in English 203 this past semester, I have noticed a trend where the claim I have tried to express does not appear clear to the reader.  In solving this issue, I look at the feedback given by Professor McCoy and my peers, that would give supporting detail on how to revise my claim.

While I feel I have presented the pieces of the puzzle well, in that I provide evidence, revise for spelling and grammar mistakes, write in a formal and orderly fashion; the overall claim I have attempted to display has become lost in translation in my blog posts and formal essays.  This observation is critical in addressing, as the claim trying to be conveyed in a writer’s work is the most important goal of writing.

Continue reading “Feedback, Feedback, Feedback”

Making These Books Belong to Me: My Final Reflection

In my first blog post, I wrote about how as I biology student I learned that there is a right and a wrong way of interpreting something.  I explained how even though in a research setting curiosity is encouraged, in terms of studying for test we must learn the way the professors teach the subject or it is wrong.  I have usually been apprehensive when it comes to sharing my ideas in an English class because I am afraid of sharing an incorrect interpretation. However, I have learned throughout this class that books belong to their readers and that no two readers could possibly read the same book, because they are able to make their own personal connections to the text and are able to associate their own experiences with what they are reading.  I have seen this while working in groups. Even though we all read the same passages, everyone has something different they can contribute. The ability for every reader to have a different experience reading the novel gives them a sense of ownership.  To the reader, their own interpretation will likely be the one that it most important to them because it is the one they can relate to the most. I have learned that it is essential for students to have their own interpretations of the text. By bringing their own experiences, the reader is able to form a deeper connection with the book they are reading.  As a person who likes to have a clear answer, it can sometimes make me feel overwhelmed with how many connections someone can make when reading a text. Initially coming into this class, I was unsure if I would be able to match the level of complexity of the interpretations of some of my peers. However by learning how to connect the works with outside sources that I found interesting, whether it be with other texts, in class, group work, different fields, or personal experiences, I was able to form a deeper connection with the texts.

Continue reading “Making These Books Belong to Me: My Final Reflection”