Self Discovery Through English

Before starting this class, I was very nervous because I expected the course to be packed with reading books and writing papers about the books we read. I assumed that we would be writing papers due to the fact that all of the English classes I’ve previously taken were essay based. I have never taken a course where there is so much focus on THINKing and caring for our peers. I was super nervous for this course because I have always struggled with English classes. Reading books and sharing my opinion has always been hard for me. Throughout highschool I was always scared to share my thoughts and ideas with my peers because I feared that they would be wrong. However, this course felt different than past English classes. Professor McCoy welcomed us to the class, and made it clear in the beginning of the course that there were no right or wrong answers. Although I was still nervous at first, I slowly warmed up to the class. My classmates were very friendly and helpful throughout the course. I talked to some of them about what I was struggling with in the course and it helped me realize that I was not alone and that other students were struggling with similar things. Throughout the semester, I was dealing with many outside issues and started to miss class. I was extremely thankful for my classmates because they would help fill me in on what I was missing in class. I was also extremely thankful for the Regular Sunday Announcements from Professor McCoy. They provided all of the information from every class and were so helpful when I was struggling. 

After looking back at the first paper that I wrote in this course, I feel very disappointed in myself as a student. I don’t feel like I achieved what I wanted to throughout this course. My first essay talked a lot about me wanting to grow as a reader and a writer. I wanted my creative abilities to grow, and I wanted to become more comfortable with sharing my own opinions on things even if I don’t understand them right away. I continued to struggle with all of these things throughout the course and in some ways I feel like I became worse at all of those things. After missing some classes, it was extremely hard for me to get back into the groove of going to class. I was scared of coming back to class, I knew I messed up and was behind my peers. I felt like I had missed too much and that it was too late for me to start going to class again. I was embarrassed for missing so many classes when it was so easy for my peers to go to class everyday. I also felt like everyone in the class worked so well together and knew each other so well, even though that was just my anxiety telling me those things. I really wish I could have gone to all of the classes and created better relationships with my classmates. This could have helped me force myself to go to class and feel comfortable talking to my peers. Another thing that I really struggled with was the readings during this course. The literature that we read was much harder than anything I had read in previous classes. When we were reading Frenzy or The Bacchae, I found it very hard to understand the story lines. I wish I could have realized that my peers also were struggling with similar things that I was, and I could have worked with them and talked to them and it would have helped me understand the readings so much more than I did on my own. I was very upset with myself because looking back on this course, I think that this course was what I needed to finally step out of my comfort zone and become comfortable with sharing my ideas even if they are different from my classmates. I wish I could have taken advantage of this course and its focus on caring for our peers. It was much different than any course that I have taken, and I am nervous that there won’t be another class like this in the future. This was a comfortable classroom that I could have used to grow as a student and a person. 

However, I still feel that I have grown a lot as a person throughout this semester. The epigraph that stood out to me in the beginning of the semester was “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY”. This epigraph still stands out to me but in a much different way than before. This year I have experienced many ups and downs. One of the biggest things that I learned is that healing from something does not mean that you go back to the person you were before it happened. I went through a lot last year and I had been waiting to go back to my old self, but I never realized that I would grow as a person and change. Which was another thing I had to learn, that change is okay. The second part of this epigraph was, “I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something that I’ve 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.” In the beginning of the semester, I feel like I was looking for things to go back to how they were before I had gone to school in Arizona last year. Now, I have accepted things how they are, and am much happier with myself at Geneseo. I think these epigraphs were perfect for this course. I love how the epigraphs don’t make complete sense when you first read them, and now that the semester is coming to an end, they make much more sense and have many more meanings then they did before. 

I think that this class will help me in the future in many ways. One huge thing that I have learned from this class is to take advantage of any opportunities that I get from future classes that I take. I have a lot of regret for how I did in this class, and I wish I could take it again, but I am thankful that I could learn this lesson even though I learned it the hard way. Another thing that I have learned from this class is how to connect with my peers, and work with them in a way that helps all of us succeed together. I have learned the THINKing process, and how to write by taking my time. I learned that it’s good to go slow, to put all of my ideas out there and take the time to get a final product that I am proud of. I have learned that moving forward, I need to prioritize school, and form connections with my classmates so that I am forced to attend class due to loyalty with my peers. I need to take chances and let my brain focus on where I am, and not where I am going. Thinking too hard about the future causes me to stress and shut down, which is something that hurts me in the long run. I am extremely grateful for this course, and even this self-reflective essay, for opening my eyes and helping me learn so much more about myself. I am very hopeful that this class will help me in future classes. 

The Journey Of Self Discovery

“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, I am Not Sidney Poitier 

At the start of this semester, I was unsure of what to expect from this class, but I knew that after talking about suspicious pants on the very first day, it was going to leave an impact on me. I have done a lot of learning and thinkING this semester. From the conversations I had both in class and out of class, the readings we have discussed, and the self exploration I have experienced this semester, I have a much better understanding of myself and my peers. 

I have experienced many ups and downs throughout this semester. Coming here this fall from a small town community college that was mostly spent in the middle of a pandemic was a big transition. Having to start over in a new environment with new people and places, sharing a room with someone I didn’t know, and living on a campus with more than three buildings, it is easy to lose your sense of self. Throughout this semester, I have experienced many moments where I have felt detached from my identity. Due to a variety of health issues both physically and mentally, I have not felt like the person that I have always known. I felt stuck. I no longer knew myself as a student or as a person. This class helped me realize that it is ok to slow down. Sometimes things make sense, and other times they make no sense at all. I was able to reflect on this point a lot when looking at Percival Everett’s work. As a class, we looked at a large variety of Everett’s work. Oftentimes, his work was very complex and did not make much sense. It allowed me to have discussions with my peers and ask the question, “does this have purpose?”. Of course his work has purpose, but was it his intention to make the reader confused? Was he trying to get the readers to slow down? Did he want us to THINK about what he was writing? Being able to slow down and think was my greatest struggle this semester., both in and outside of the classroom. 

I was able to recognize elements of my personal struggles in the novel I am not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett. The main character, Not Sidney Poitier spends the whole story trying to figure out his true identity. Not Sidney’s struggles with figuring out his identity are very different from mine, as a lot of his are rooted in racism he faced throughout his life, but being able to see a character go through the journey of self discovery and acceptance was very moving. 

The Epigraph that I have chosen is from this book, and a line from the epigraph that stood out to me was “ It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself.” This part of the quote is one of the main reasons why I chose to write about this epigraph. I find it to be extremely relatable, as I feel like many times in my life, other people knew me better than myself. Coming to this new school alone made me realize how I have been so dependent on other people throughout my life. Once I was here and was in a position to make choices for myself, I began the journey of finding who I really am. I know longer felt the pressure to be someone I wasn’t, and felt a sense of power that I had never felt before. Of course overtime, the reality of independence set in and as I was trying to figure out who I was, I realized that I had no idea where to start. From being told how to act, who to be friends with, and who to be your whole life to suddenly being in full control is an adjustment I was not sure I was ready for, especially considering this is a self assessed course. Even though I had struggled with identity issues in the past, I was feeling an overwhelming sense of self doubt and confusion I had never felt before. The discussions I had in class with my peers allowed me to better understand myself and my thoughts. There were times in which I did not understand the reading, and I was able to have meaningful conversations with the students in my class, many of whom also had issues understanding the readings, and as a group we slowed down and discussed our thoughts. Being able to slow down and have these discussions with others helped me realize that I am not alone. There are times when you will be confused. There are times when things do not make sense. And there are times when you need to pause and reflect. 

One of the first readings we discussed in class was the Greek Tragedy, The Bacchae. This piece of writing discusses the life of Dionysus and his rise to power. When first reading the Bacchae, I found it extremely confusing. This was my first time reading a Greek play, and between the language and the different names (not to mention the constant changing of names), I found it very hard to follow. Reading Percival Everett’s Frenzy gave me a much better understanding of what was going on in The Bacchae. Frenzy is a retelling of the Bacchae, and because it is a more recent version with different language, I found it much easier to understand. Similar to what is mentioned in the Epigraph, by reading Frenzy, I found myself  being able to “connect with something lost”, which in this case was my understanding of The bacchae. Being able to look at a different version of something helped me better understand it. After reading both versions, I was able to go back and reflect on what I knew then versus what I knew now, and compare the differences between the two. Similar to finding my self identity, coming into this semester I did not fully understand who I was, but being able to look at myself in a different perspective and see how much I have grown has allowed me to see how much I have developed. 

I still have a lot of work I need to do, as growth is not completely linear, and does not happen overnight. which is something I was not used to. I was unsure of what to expect, but I realize that it is ok to be unsure. This class has taught me more than I expected. I have learned that not everything is supposed to make perfect sense, and sometimes you need to go back and reflect on the past in order to move forward. I have learned to slow down, even if it is just a little bit. And finally, I have been able to gain a new understanding of myself. I better understand some of my wants and my needs, who I am as a person, and who I want to become. As a human, you never stop learning, and although I still have a long way to go, I know much more than I did before.  

It’s Incredible That an English Course is Ever Understood

This semester in Dr. McCoy’s English 203 course we discussed a variety of Percival Everett texts, including Frenzy, I am Not Sidney Poitier, and re:f (gesture). At the start of this semester, during the third week of the course, I wrote an essay on the Reader and Text Blog entitled, “Feeling Comfortable Feeling Uncomfortable”. In this essay, I discussed the course epigraph, “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. In this essay, I explained my interpretation of the chosen epigraph based on the pieces of literature we discussed during the first classes of the semester. In the essay, I wrote “Like the epigraph stated, a sentence is never understood. A sentence can have multiple meanings based on who said it, their tone and their intentions. It can have even more meanings when you are the one who is hearing or reading the sentence”. I based my original essay on the idea of interpretation, and the variety of interpretations that can be associated with a single piece of literature based on the class discussions regarding the Suspicious Pants tweet, and “The Act of Scaring” by Laura Skrzpczyk. My essay also discussed the idea of searching for the “intended meaning and interpretations” of literature, set forth either by the professor or the author, instead of having confidence and belief in my own understanding. I wrote, “We felt comfortable and familiar with the routine of searching for the answer the instructor already knew. The concept of creating our own interpretation felt foreign.”

Along with my interpretation of the epigraph, my essay also discussed my goals for my work in English 203, and for myself. My main idea while constructing my essay was that throughout the semester, I wanted to work towards adjusting to having different interpretations of literature than those around me. Meaning, that if I believed an author had a different intention in a piece of literature than my peer, my goal was to not fall back into the mindset of assuming I must have interpreted the work incorrectly. Not to dismiss my own interpretation and findings to adhere to what those around me interpreted and follow their lead. Instead, I wanted to work towards developing my own interpretation and understandings, without trying to find what I believed was “expected” of me to discover and interpret, either by my peers, teacher, or by the author. 

When I wrote my first essay, I was confused and worried. I was confused because the first essay, though it had a prompt, did not have a set structure of what to write. I was confused on where to start and how to explain all my thoughts in a cohesive way when we, as students, were given a large amount of freedom with what we chose to write. The prompt for essay one read, “does your selected epigraph get you to thinkING about anything?” (McCoy). The freedom of structure led me to rushing through my essay, and submitting without even proofreading, due to fear of completing the assignment incorrectly, or different than my peers. I didn’t love my first essay submission at the time I submitted it, because I was doubtful of myself and my skills. I did not know exactly the approach to take and having a final product that was different than my peers worried me.

Now, looking back on my first essay, after a semester of group discussions and collaborations, as well as dissecting a variety of literature written by Percival Everett, my perspective on the course epigraph, “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood” (Percival Everett) has shifted. As defined in the Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, an epigraph is, “A passage printed on the title page or first page of a literary work or at the beginning of a section of such work. Epigraphs, which tend to set the tone or establish the theme of what follows, are generally taken from earlier, influential works by other authors.” (Bedford Glossary, 146). In terms of our English 203 course, this specific epigraph can be applied to a variety of the texts we engaged with throughout the semester. 

In I am Not Sidney Poitier, by Percival Everett, Not Sidney’s entire identity is based on the idea that he is in fact both Not Sidney Poitier and not Sidney Poitier. The confusion in conversations between Not Sidney and those he meets are a continuous idea relevant throughout the book. “‘Are you saying that ‘you did not’ or are you saying ‘you did, Not’?’ I asked. ‘I did not say untiringly twice, Not.’” (Everett, 11). It creates a feeling of confusion, anger, and miscommunication for those he meets. “‘My name is Not Sidney Poitier.” ‘I can well imagine.’ She studies my features. ‘You do look a lot like him. Now, what is your name?’” (Everett, 41).   In doing so, we would often have to question who exactly our group members were referring to. We also found ourselves frequently saying “Not Sidney is both Not Sidney and not Sidney”, which would lead to us laughing at our own words and the comical sentences that we had just said. 

Another common confusion while discussing this book was the character Percival Everett, the nonsense professor at Morehouse College. However, him also being the author of the book created the same common confusion. While participating in a group collaboration essay on the book, my group and I would often have to stop each other and say, “Percival Everett the author, or the character?”. This aspect would become confusing specifically for myself as the meaning of the sentence could become completely altered based on the intention of the sentence. The miscommunication aspect could result in a sentence having a completely different meaning. 

In Percival Everett’s re:f (gesture), the section entitled “body” describes in detail specific parts of the body. While describing the larynx, Everett writes, “her throat is smooth and her organ lies narrow, placed higher in relation to her cervical vertebrae..” (Everett, 55). He further describes other parts of the body such as the nasal fossae, the tongue, and the sternum. Prior to our group discussion on the book, most of the class had no reasoning behind why we thought Percival Everett wrote about body parts in such detail. Dr. McCoy explained to us how “body” was resembling sex. Everett wrote about each muscle and body part related to intimacy. 

In both works, we were found attempting to understand the sentences placed before us. In I am Not Sidney Poitier, the confusion of the character’s names led us to become disorientated within our own conversation. In Frenzy, the detailed description of common body parts caused us to overlook the overarching idea of intimacy. To refer back to the course epigraph, a sentence is,  “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. Typically, for a sentence to be understood, both the speaker and the listener must understand the meaning of the sentence. However, this course epigraph helped me to acknowledge that you can understand a sentence without understanding the meaning. 

For example, in Frenzy, I fully understood that Everett was breaking down the details of body parts. However, I completely missed understanding the meaning of the work. In I am Not Sidney Poitier, as a group we understood that Not Sidney was not Sidney Poitier, but we did not understand Percival Everett’s intention behind the complication of names throughout the work. After dissecting the book throughout the course, we recognized there was potentially a greater significance behind naming the protagonist Not Sidney. The conflict that arises based solely on a name, as well as the repeating idea from those he meets that he resembles Sidney Poitier. We can assume the potential deeper meaning behind this move was to have a theme of identity throughout the book. A sentence within itself can have one meaning, but the meaning is not restricted to the individual sentence. The meaning behind a sentence can be far beyond the sentence itself. 

As I look back onto this semester, I will continue to strive towards the goals I set for myself at the start of the course. I also plan to continue practicing the skills I acquired throughout the course. I am confident that I have changed since the start of the course. As I read and reread my first essay, I noticed that I switched from “a sentence is ever understood” to “a sentence is never understood” in the middle. At the time, I saw it as a typo, but since then, I have realized it was due to the act of wanting to get the essay done, rather than focusing on what I wanted to achieve through my blog post. As I write this essay, I have found myself slowing down, thinkING instead of rushing, and appreciating the process instead of the product. I will continue to slow down, and understand that there is beauty in the confusion and the unknown. 

Reflecting on Changing Perspective

At the beginning of the semester we were learning many new terms from The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, one of them being the word epigraph. Within the text it defines the word epigraph as, “A passage printed on the title page or first page of a literary work or at the beginning of a section of such a work. Epigraphs, which tend to set the tone or establish the theme of what follows, are generally taken from earlier, influential texts by other authors” (Murfin and Ray, 309)”. For our first essay, we had to pick from our course epigraphs and write how we relate it to this class. I chose the epigraph from Percival Everett’s book Erasure, “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”(Everett). I thought this epigraph was really interesting as it made me truly think deeply about what the author was trying to claim.We had just finished reading The Bacchae which I also related back to our course epigraph. I related the epigraph mainly to myself as well as the expectations and perspectives in this class. In my essay I wrote about how expectations for this class could be perceived differently by each student including myself. For example, I spoke about how Professor McCoy had made it clear she wanted honesty from her students. In my essay titled “Finding Goals Through Perspective” I interpreted Professor McCoy’s expectations with honesty in a different way, “This involved being honest when missing class or asking for an extension. When I first heard her explain how she wanted us to be honest with her I just assumed since this is an english class, she meant do not plagiarize. This is an example of how I took what she was saying about being honest and saw it from a different perspective”(Donahue). Professor McCoy had stated that she meant that she wanted us to be honest with her in so many other aspects. I found it interesting once she clarified her expectations. I questioned if I would have truly understood what she meant without her clarification in my writing,“It is interesting to me that if my professor never further explained what she meant by being honest with her, if I would have ever come to the conclusion that she meant in every aspect and not just with my writing. This is a great example of what Percival Everett was talking about in his epigraph” (Donahue). I also wondered if my peers had understood her or if they viewed her ideas from a different perspective than me. By talking about this I realized that perspective is a huge part of this class and life. The course epigraph that I chose explained the ideas behind differing perspectives well with the insanity of a sentence ever being understood. When I first read that epigraph I did not interpret it the same way I would after reading it multiple times. Just like anything in life, my interpretation changed over time. I eventually saw it from different perspectives and was able to relate that to more than one idea in this course. In my first essay, I truly emphasized perspective through my chosen epigraph. I found that Percival Everett’s epigraph about the incredibleness of the comprehension of any sentence, helped me see how important perspective is to this course through interpretation of texts and discussions with peers. 

After reading multiple pieces of Everett’s collection, I have come to new interpretations on what his writings could mean. The course epigraph that I chose forms a through line for all of the text that we have read in this course as it truly emphasizes the intentions of a speaker and perspective of a listener. Oftentimes when reading Everett’s work, the readers can get lost in communication. While analyzing his work with my classmates, we learned that Everett’s writing can sometimes be interpreted as nonsense. This idea later tied into his book I am Not Sidney Poitier, as it is the title of the course taught by the character Percival Everett. In the book I am Not Sidney Poiter, Everett writes about Percival Everett, the character, in the book rambling in his lecture, “I suppose what we’re talking about in this class is art. If it’s not, then I’m lost, but of course I’m lost anyway. At least I’ve been lost before and it looks just like this. Let’s consider art as a kind of desacralization, perhaps a sort of epistemological discontinuity that is undoubtedly connected or at the very least traceable to an amalgam of very common yet highly unusual sociohistorical factors” (Everett, 100). Getting lost in translation could also be a common occurrence when first reading some of Everett’s texts and can be seen in this quote. When in small groups, we would discuss how he liked to ramble. He would go off on tangents and we would sometimes get lost in his way of communicating. We saw this a lot in I am Not Sidney Poitier.

 When reading re: f (gesture) on my own, I found myself very lost due to the terminology being used. In the book, there is a chapter titled “Body” that consists of nineteen different poems. Each poem is an unfamiliar name for a body part. The terminology caused a lot of confusion initially. For example in the poem “The Astragalus”, I was unaware of what the word Astragalus meant. This poem briefly explains what the astragalus is by stating, “Bolster the tibia, that vertical post, support all of it, pushing against gravity. The footfalls down the grade are heavy strides, so receive the blows, the echoes throughout,” (Everett, 45). When I first read this statement, I initially thought it was the leg but after the class discussion and some outside research I was able to learn that the astragalus is the ankle. Once we read together as a class and analyzed each poem piece by piece, it was much easier to interpret but I did notice my perspective changing with help from the class. When I read this the first time I interpreted it completely differently than when we read it as a class.  

Although we did not read Erasure in this course, the epigraph from that book may help Everett’s readers interpret and understand him as a writer. This specific epigraph forms a through line for all of the text we have read in this course due to the emphasis on perspective as a reader and the writer. After reading The Bacchae, Frenzy, and I am Not Sidney Poitier, we often went into small groups to discuss what we read and how we interpreted it. In our small group we would talk about how sometimes we were confused by the wording. This relates back to the epigraph as it explains that a sentence is not always understood in the way it is meant to be. For example, when we first started reading I am Not Sidney Poitier, I found myself lost on differentiating the two characters Not Sidney and Sidney especially within discussions with peers. In the book, Everett writes about a situation where the name Not Sidney can be confusing, “ ‘My name is Not Sidney.’ ‘Okay, Not Sidney.’ she rather nicely said. ‘Just what kind of name is Not Sidney’ ”(Everett, 21).  I felt that my classmates grasped onto this idea much easier than I did. I found that sometimes my classmates had such differing perspectives of what they read. The epigraph that prefaces the book Erasure, emphasizes how words can be understood so differently depending on the reader. Everett also wrote about how incredible it is that stringing sounds together can somehow make sense yet it does not always meet the intentions of the speaker, “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). Since all of the text for this course could be perplexing at times, it is important for the reader to be aware of their perspective and how others may differ. 

This specific epigraph can be connected to many texts but relates to Everett’s as they can often be miscommunicated. The epigraph from Erasure allows the readers to start thinking about how it relates to themselves, the text they are reading, and even life. I felt that this epigraph was chosen as one of our course epigraphs due to its prominence in so many of the texts we read in this class, as well as the constant communication occurring between classmates and the professor. The reason I chose this epigraph is because I felt it was so universal to all of the texts we have read and learned about in this course. Having this as one of the course epigraphs allowed me to reflect on my interpretation of its meaning at the beginning of the semester and now at the end. SUNY Geneseo has stated that one of their learning outcomes is to, “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time”. I reached this goal of reflection through writing the first essay and comparing it to this essay. After drafting ideas for this essay, I was able to reflect on my perspective of the epigraph changing. Reflection is a crucial part of any class but was extremely beneficial for me in this course as it helped me see how much my perspective changed over the semester.  


Donahue, Brianna. “Finding Goals Through Perspective.” Reader and Text- September 16, 2022

Everett, Percival. Re: F (Gesture). Red Hen Press / Black Goat, 2006. 

Everett, Percival. I Am Not Sidney Poitier. Graywolf Press, U.S., 2010. 

Murfin Ross and Ray Supryia, Bedford Glossary of Critical & Literary Terms, 2017. 

“Globe: Geneseo Learning Outcomes for a Baccalaureate Education.” SUNY Geneseo,

Final Self-Reflective Essay. Epigraphs and Learning

“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, I am Not Sidney Poitier

At the beginning of this semester we were introduced to our course’s epigraphs. Then we learned what an epigraph was. An epigraph is a short text placed at the beginning of another text. The epigraph is often a text from some outside source that does not seem connected to the main text that we are viewing. Part of what we learned about epigraphs is that they should make more sense to you after the completion of whatever they are attached to. So in this case, our course epigraphs should have some more clear meaning after the completion of the course. I was unsure of their meanings at the beginning. However, throughout the course all the little bits and pieces from the texts have come together to fit the puzzle in my head.

Following our discussion of the course epigraphs we wrote an essay about one of them. The essay was about what we were thinkING about following our reading of the course epigraphs and what sort of goals we could set for ourselves after thinkING about them. The essay was easy to write, and it wasn’t. The part of the essay that I found easy was being able to write about my opinion, my goals, and being able to write it in my voice. I find that if the essay allows me to write with my own voice I am more easily able to get my thinkING and writing flowing. The part that wasn’t easy was finding my start and being confident in my writing. Because I was slightly unsure about what to write, especially at the beginning, I had trouble starting my paper. Also, as I wrote it I felt slightly unsure if it was even relevant enough to the prompt. It was an interesting challenge that’s hard parts felt like the reverse of other essays I’ve written. During my first essay I focused on a different course epigraph that felt more relevant and interesting to me at the time. However, after coming to the end of this course I have found a different epigraph speaking to me more.

The epigraph I am focusing on for this essay is a quote from Percival Everett’s novel I am Not Sidney Poitier. I realized while reading the book that Everett’s use of contradictions, negations, and oxymorons was extremely captivating to me and this excerpt from the end of the book is full of the negations that I love. Furthemore, I feel that I have already expanded too much on the epigraph from my previous essay. Though I love the quote from Erasure, I found that I am Not Sidney Poitier as a whole text made such an impact on me that I can’t help but delve deeper into Everett’s book.

Throughout the semester we have looked at the texts I Am Not Sidney Poitier, re: f (gesture), Lilies of the Field, The Bacchae, Frenzy, and The Defiant Ones. Through each of these texts I believe the epigraph can apply in one way or another, especially when looking at them through an intertextual lens. The first text that comes to mind when looking at this epigraph is the text that it’s from, I Am Not Sidney Poitier. The book follows the story of a character called “Not Sidney Poitier” as he goes through trials and tribulations in his life. Already from the title we notice negation. The character’s name is Not Sidney Poiter, and he looks identical to the actor Sidney Poitier, however, he is not Sidney Poitier. The book is full of contradictory sentences that make it sometimes difficult to decipher meaning. For example, one important part of the story is that Not Sidney is wealthy beyond belief. Where did he get his fortune from? An inheritance from his mother who invested in the Turner Communications Group, a television broadcasting company. This is interesting because she hated television, in I Am Not Sidney Potier she called them “evil picture boxes” (Everett 16). If she hated television so much, why did she invest in it? It made her rich, yet she still doesn’t like or trust it. She believes in books. There is a lot to be unpacked from this small detail. It might show us that she believes that books are more important than television for learning, but she recognizes that TV is an unstoppable force that she can profit from. On the other hand, this contradiction could just go further to help illustrate her eccentricity. It might also be reflective of how Everett himself feels about television. There is no end to the amount of ways you could interpret this use of contradiction, and that is why I find his writing to be so fascinating. By adding the one line about her thoughts on television it gets you thinkING about things from inside the book and outside contexts.

I Am Not Sidney Poitier is about the life of the character Not Sidney, but many events in his life mirror the plots of the actor, Sidney Poitier, films. At one point in the book, Not Sidney is arrested and taken to Peckerwood County Correctional Prison farm. When he and a group of prisoners were being transported via bus, the bus crashed allowing Not Sidney and Patrice (another prisoner he was chained to) to escape. They then go on the run to try and find safety and become unchained from each other. This section of the book follows closely with the plot of The Defiant Ones, a 1958 film about two prisoners (one black and one white) on the run from the police after their prison bus crashed. There are a lot of contrasts in the book to the movie. In the book, Patrice is a “Peckerwood Hick.” He is nasty, racist, foul-mouthed, and a terrible speaker. He has a thick accent that is shown to be sometimes incomprehensible in the book. However, in the movie, his corresponding character “Joker” is a more genial character. He is definitely racist, but he’s not quite as raging and small-minded as Patrice. This decision to change Joker from a more open-minded white guy who has a change of heart, to a small-minded southern man who stays nasty throughout the novel gets us thinkING again. It might be a criticism of the way Hollywood tried to “solve” racism in the 1950s through small gestures and packages wrapped up in a neat little bow. It could be showing a more realistic version of the story, while occurring within a fantastically fictional setting. All of Everett’s contradictive choices in his texts are important because of how they get us thinkING.

As we can see, the epigraph’s contradictory aspects have followed us throughout the semester. Obviously, it is found a lot in the text that it’s from, I Am Not Sidney Poitier, but it can also be seen in the contrasts between texts like The Bacchae and Frenzy too, because Frenzy is a retelling of the classic story. It’s clear that a major reason for the epigraph is to get us thinkING and that’s what we’ve been doing all semester. We have learned how to learn, how to unpack ideas. We’ve become so good at it that we came to the conclusion that there is no end to learning. Through this course my perspective on learning has changed and is constantly changing because there is no perfect way to learn. That is one of the biggest takeaways from the semester. Learning is a constantly changing process. All of this can be found through the course epigraph. The epigraph itself represents what it means to learn. When looking at the epigraph with no context you can try to unpack as much meaning as you can, but it can be mostly impossible to understand. That is one level of learning. As you move further and you gain context, you can find more meaning in the quote and have a more solid understanding of what it means. Then you can look at outside contexts that can affect the meaning of the epigraph. The course epigraphs created a lens to interpret our whole course through. Moving forward I will always be thinking about the way I am learning and paying attention to what I like about writing styles because of the course epigraph.

The Complexity of Understanding – Final Essay

Perspective is constantly changing. When the semester first began I had written about Irony in my essay called Epigraph Essay. I believe that I had first interpreted the epigraph I had chosen as “Words are words. It is the meaning behind the words that matter.” (Myers). As the semester has continued my perspective has changed significantly. I originally had thought deeply about what the meaning was and now I see it differently. I thought that people can take things too seriously when they are not intended to be.  When the semester began my focus was on irony. I used the epigraph to explain a couple of things about the class, the readings, and also about myself. Dionysus wanted to gain the trust of his people, to prove a point, while also being distrustful. “But if the people of Thebes, growing angry, take up arms and seek to drive my followers from the mountain, I shall engage them, leading my maenads into battle. This is why I have assumed mortal shape and transformed myself into the likeness of a man.” (Euripides). This on its own is ironic because a person cannot expect trust from people while they are actively being deceitful. That is not how you gain trust. I do still believe that words are just words and that there is a sense of irony behind them. Now I believe that there can be multiple meanings behind what is being said. The thing about words is “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood. Mere sounds strung together by some agent attempting to mean some thing, but the meaning need not and does not confine itself to that intention.” (Everett, “Erasure”).

Throughout the rest of the semester, I found myself repetitively coming across this epigraph by Percival Everett. One of the times that I found myself thinking about the epigraph is within the novel, I Am Not Sidney Poitier. There are many instances where words or phrases are not understood or they are simply taking things too seriously. Not Sidney’s name was being taken too seriously by many. He struggled to get across that his name was simply Not Sidney, and people found it too complicated to understand which led to the many instances where Not Sidney was bullied. “I would receive the kiss and then say, ‘My name is Not Sidney Poitier.’ Unfortunately, the looser girls often would and could be more violent and fierce than the boys, and so they would offer up an entrée of whup-ass with sides of hair pulling and scratching.” (Everett, “I am Not Sidney Poitier”). These types of incidents were common for Not Sidney. It is also complicated for readers to understand other parts of the story involving his name as well. At the end of the novel, it mentions, when they are viewing the dead body, that the man looks a lot like Not Sidney. Through this, I have interpreted that the dead man is not, Not Sidney. This being a double negative inquires that the man who has died is Sidney Poitier. “He looked just like me, a fact that was apparently lost on Donald and the Chief. I wanted to say, ‘That’s me.’” (Everett, “I am Not Sidney Poitier”). Then when the story ends with Not Sidney taking place of Sidney Poitier, alludes to Sidney being dead. The way Percival Everett took Sidney Poitier and made him a completely different person made the story very complicated and hard to follow as a reader. This is why the epigraph “It is incredible a sentence is ever understood..” (Everett, “Erasure”.), is very prominent for this character’s name. 

When professor Percival Everett is teaching or simply talking with Not Sidney, he is not being fully understood for it is hard to keep up with what he is saying. His sentences are so complex and intellectually driven that it is hard for those who are not of the same caliber as him to understand what it is that he is meaning. “The students looked at each other, shrugging, scared, frantically trying to carve out something to stick in their notes. I knew that he was uttering gibberish, but what wasn’t clear was whether he knew it. I don’t think he did.” (Everett, “I am Not Sidney Poitier”). The words that Percival Everett the professor may be clear to himself; however, to everyone who is attending his lecture is wondering what on earth he could be meaning.  This is a common occurrence also through Percival Everett the author when he writes. It is a conundrum for him as the professor and he as an author both are intricate with their words that many might not be able to understand. The words that Percival Everett the author is writing are also the words that Percival Everett the teacher is saying. “Let’s consider art as a kind of desacralization, perhaps a sort of epistemological discontinuity that is undoubtedly connected or at the very least traceable to an amalgam of very common yet highly unusual sociohistorical factors.” (Everett, “I am Not Sidney Poitier”). This sentence, to a person who is not a well-educated art person, would have struggled to understand the words and meanings behind them unless they carried a dictionary with the and was able to quickly look up each word as he went on through his lecture. It is not realistic that a person without prior history of the subject to be able to understand long complicated sentences right off the bat. The complicated intersection between the character and the author is what makes them so intriguing and hard to understand. They are the same yet they are different just like Not Sidney and Sidney. 

Within re: f (gesture) the section called Zulus, there are many instances that may be insinuated by readers who have not read any of Percival Everetts’s books before, that all the sentences that are being put together for the alphabet are merely gibberish. Without the outside knowledge of what he has written about, you would think that. Having read a couple of his stories, it is easy to pinpoint that he may be writing this poem while also including his previous works in it. “L is for “the Lilliths oft I feldt’..” (Everett, “Re: f(Gesture)”). This is a homage to his story I am Not Sidney Poitier, where he used the movie Sidney Poitier was in as an experience Not Sidney went through. This is not something that would be known to someone who not only watched the movie, knew the actors, but also read to book Percival Everett wrote as well. In previous discussion within this course, there was a couple of occasions where we talked about New Criticism. “According to New Criticism, works of literature are self-contained (autotelic) art ‘objects’ that exist independently of the world around them; art objects have no link to the reader’s feelings, to the historical context in which the objects were produced, to the author’s intentions or biography.” (McCoy). This is saying that you cannot use outside sources to understand what the text is saying. You can only use what is on the page in front of you. One of the things that make sentences hard to understand is when you do not have all the knowledge you need to understand what is being said. For a lot of Professor Everett’s lectures that is what is happening. 

During the end of the semester there were many instances where, in the group project, we had been going back and forth on what we were doing and what different things meant. The common thing going on was the misunderstanding of words. The whole point of the epigraph by Percival Everett is that it is crazy words can be understood. This was one of the toughest things I had encountered this semester for not only was I confused by what people were saying but vice versa. It could have been a simple misunderstanding but due to the way one may have said something it had sent us down a spiral going in the opposite direction. Due to the fact that there were six or seven people within the group, it is going to be hard for everyone to be on the same page, so it is understandable that what one person got from a sentence was completely different from the other. The greatest lesson from not only this experience but also the epigraph itself is to take time and understand that what you are saying may not but what the other person is hearing. 

Works Cited 

Everett, Percival. Erasure. Graywolf Press. 

Everett, Percival. I AM NOT SIDNEY POITIER. Graywolf Press. 

Everett, Percival. Re: f(Gesture). Red Hen Press. 

Euripides. The Bacchae and Other Plays. Penguin Group. 

Myers, Hannah. “Epigraph Essay.” Reader and Text, 16 Sept. 2022. 

McCoy, Beth. “McCoy, ‘New Critical Formalism.’” Canvas, 

Final Essay- Natalie Houston

Natalie Ann Houston

Professor McCoy

20 December 2022

ENG 203-03

“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

              Coming into this class, I was very nervous and was sure this class would be full of reading and writing essays based off the books. I thought we would be writing more papers rather then THINKing and caring for ourselves as well as my classmates. I have never come into a college course more worried then excited but as the course went on, I became calm, relaxed, and cared for which helped me as an individual and a classmate. My peers were loyal, always there to help me when it was needed and Professor McCoy as well. The process of THINKing helped me become open minded and succeed in writing in ways I struggled with before taking this course. Recognizing my peers and their worries relating to mine made me feel a thousand times better as an incoming student.  I will never forget the first day of class, coming in as a transfer student with no idea where to sit. I was welcomed and felt like I was in a safe place after Professor McCoy talked about what we will be doing within the course. We then discussed the epigraph “Suspicious pants”, we looked it over and discussed with our group what the meaning of these suspicious pants are and why Professor McCoy would demonstrate it to the class. As soon as I recognized what the specific reason was, I was mind blown. It was a pair of pants folded over the back of a chair, the buttons on the pant pockets looked like a pair of eyeballs which provided a “sus” look. After taking more time to think and care for the course I realized that this demonstration had a deep meaning behind it which is what I wrote about in my first essay. I took this epigraph as a way to acknowledge that it is much easier to visually see things when there is a caption to it because it helps others see exactly what is there because we are looking for it from the caption. For example, when we dig into social media, we notice that every time somebody posts a picture, they throw a caption to that picture underneath it. This is because it helps outsiders recognize their photo in the way they want others too, which is exactly what the “Suspicious pants” gave me. I did not notice anything when the pair of pants was put on the board but after I read the caption “Suspicious pants” that is when I noticed it immediately. Professor McCoy explained to the class that it is crazy “a sentence can never be fully understood” which was also directed from Percival Everett. Another thing I felt was extremely important to me was understanding paratext and epitext, paratext includes “non-textual” elements with which authors imbue their texts, which was stated in class and an epitext includes the inscription of the date in which something was written. It could also include biography. Paratext informed my reading in so many grand ways throughout the semester and understanding the epigraphs on deeper levels.

Based on my first essay, after reading it over and allowing myself to reflect on the student I am and the growth I have experienced within this course, I noticed how I spoke on the epigraph of the suspicious pants which I talked about above. I have recognized that this epigraph has had the most significant effect on me, and I feel like this is because I can relate to it in so many ways and the meaning behind it. As I stated in my first essay “When you think back in your life or any type of scenario you realize life would be a mess without some sort of explanation”, which is how I still feel at the end of this course. “After hearing my classmates communicate what they thought the picture of the pair of pants was and then seeing the caption “Suspicious pants” it all added up to us. This is prime definition that we need writing to understand what is happening in any situation”, this sentence is another sentence I stated in my first essay and its amazing to look back and see how my classmates and I reacted to this epigraph. The most important thing I took out of my first essay was recognizing my growth from then to now.

 After carefully letting go of this epigraph we jumped into “The Bacchae and Frenzy”. The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy, which was written by the Athenian playwright Euripides Frenzy is a tale of Dionysos, and the darkest gods seen through the eyes of his servant, Vlepo, which was written by Percival Everett. I never truly knew who Percival Everett was until this class, according to google Percival Everett is an American writer and Distinguished Professor of English, he liked to write literature & fiction novels as well as poetry, he was a spontaneous individual and wrote 19 books within his 22 years. This was one piece of literature that completely lost me, the language was very confusing for me, and I could not seem to stay on track like I wanted to. I felt myself falling off the mountain rather than climbing it as I read this book in class and outside of class, I caught myself having to look up definitions and the true meanings behind many words and sentences as I read the book. I found myself having to read certain pages over and over again to truly understand what was being presented to the readers. Another book we jumped into was I am not Sidney Poitier which had an impact on me in ways I did not think it would. I am not Sidney Poitier shows the life of a character named “Not Sidney Poitier”, his life is a struggle, c and the social hierarchy must balance his wealth with his skin color.  This book described color, struggle, class, and identity which was an immaculate story seeing what Not Sidney Poitier had to go through. On page 13 it quotes “What’s your name?” a kid would ask “Not Sidney” I would say “Okay then what is it?” “I told you. It’s Not Sidney” “Aint nobody called you Sidney” “No its Not Sidney”. This part of the book relates a lot to the epigraph I decided to use “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.” Which was directly from Pericaval Everett. Sidney Poitier clearly struggled with allowing others to understand his name being “Not Sidney Poitier”, relating this to the epigraph I used I can clearly see how a sentence can be understood and I also relate this to life as well as the epigraph of the Suspicious Pants because the picture of the pants could have been taken in so many ways especially without the comment stating “Suspicious Pants”. Individuals take so many things differently based on a sentence, and it can be taken the complete wrong way because everyone sees and takes in situations differently.

This course has allowed me to open my mind in so many different ways. Digging deep and taking chances has always been one thing I have struggled with, but this class has provided nothing but positivity in my day to day in this semester. Jumping out of my comfort zone and accepting change to be a difficult but mysterious thing has been exciting and touching. As we end the semester, I can proudly say I understand myself more and on a healthier level then before I took this course. I would say working with my classmates and challenging myself with the Bacchae was my favorite part of the course. Even though I struggled tremendously with The Bacchae I made sure to push through and not back down on what I felt was impossible. It was great being able to understand Percival Everett and who he is as a person as well as digging into novels I would have never looked into unless I took this course. As a student I struggle with managing time and anxiety, the beginning of the semester was so hard for me. I found myself skipping classes due to mental health or just unmotivated which was something that hurt me more than anything because I was not holding that loyalty with my other classmates and showing up for me, or them. moving forward, I will learn to take chances and be more open minded, take risks and allow my brain to focus on where I am not where I am going. I feel so much better as a reader, classmate and student after this course, and I am excited to see where my feet take me next. This is my journey, and I will do everything to enjoy this journey, called life.

Self Reflection Essay

Throughout the course, I have found the epigraph that best aided me in the assignments throughout the coure was the suspicious pants. The feeling I had towards that task carried through most of the reading and work completed this semester. When we first examened “Suspicious Pants.” I was frustrated and confused because I saw no point in it, to me it was amost ridiculous and didn’t answer any questions but made me have more questions. It was grueling to place meaning in a joke on Twitter. For me I saw a pair of pants laid out on a couch ironically. That was that with no reason to think deeper about it. If it would have appeared on my twitter feed it would be something I scrolled by and never thought about again. However, I couldn’t do that and I had to analyze it. Throughout countless assignments, I felt exasperated because they required deeper thinking and a lot of explaining/examples and it was hard to find the words, and get the work done. I procrastinated quite a bit. I had to get out of that headspace of just trying to find a quick answer like I had in high schooI and had to find a new headspace and understanding that the work if going to tke me more time than in high school, I have less help, new expectations, and new pressures. Looking through a different set of eyes can sometimes bring the ah-ha moment when you realize you were overcomplicating a situation and bring relief when you find the answer after doing so much work. 

There are a few things to note about my high school. First, my high school is microscopic, so it was always a very small intimate setting that allowed the teachers to be hands-on. Second, it was filled with class clowns that the teachers tended to butt heads with so if you were a quiet, shy person they got along with you well and would give you extra help just because you took off some of the stress and pressures from dealing with trouble. Third, the kids are all close because we have always been together so finding help wasn’t a challenge. All these things made it easy to find answers without searching too hard. Going back to the first point, the teachers were able to build connections with each student, and have an individualized approach to how to help them. I loved this about my school. I am a very anxious person that needs a lot of reassurance. I struggle with overall confidence so often teachers would give me obvious hints and very specific criticisms to take off that layer of pressure I applied to myself. This helped with that overthinking, but they probably could have pushed me more to get over that anxiety and find answers/problem areas myself. This can also go along with my second point, I caused no trouble, I was so quiet the principal didn’t even know my name because he never had to deal with me. To him I am Jenna, I have no idea who Jenna is. So teachers said to me as a break and would reward me by helping me out, I again didn’t have to fight for answers. This doesn’t mean I didn’t try to find answers, I did. I hated asking for help. I felt like a nuisance when I did this, but they helped me nonetheless. To my third point, if you were confused or needed the answers to something we could text anyone in our grade and most likely get the work to copy. Especially in my case because I have a twin brother so we would help each other out quite a bit. As for my school as a whole, they had to teach us just to know the answer and get it down as quickly as possible, we didn’t have the luxury of time to dig deeper. Our state examinations were timed. You had to be as fast as possible, writing essays in only 40 minutes, there isn’t much you can do in that time. The teachers did what they could but had to be mindful of those expectations of the state and of us students so sometimes we had to sacrifice one thing to ensure we could live up to the state’s demand. There was just simply no time to make kids sit there, slow down, and think. You always had to be on the move. I do not blame my school for any of this, and this wasn’t always the case I did have to do a lot of work under pressure and had a lot riding on the work I did but this way of learning almost set me up for failure in a course where the answers are not always right in front of you, thinking abstractly about things is the norm because that is something I did not have a lot of experience with. It’s a whole new ball game, and demands a lot of change from me that is uncomfortable but necessary to do to thrive in a college setting where you do not have the luxury of building such tight relationships with your teachers/professors. If in my high school a teacher would have asked my classmates and I to find meaning in a tweet about a pair of pants we could have looked at the teacher like they were insane. It would have made no sense, but as it turns out it doesn make sense and can teach you to change your way of thinking and take the easy way out.   

After suspicious pants, we soon moved on to the Greek tragedy,  The Bacchae That has to be one of the most perplexing stories I have ever read. Shakespeare would have been easier for me to dissect, and that infamously gives people difficulty. Because of this I would get frustrated, when I wasn’t able to find the answer or meaning at the snap of a hand. I just wanted to get an answer down and hated the feeling of being confused. From high school, I was so programmed to read something and understand it, and if I didn’t ask for help someone would explain it for me. So I had to get out of high school thinking and I kind of put myself in that fictional Greek setting to understand the mythical aspects, the feelings they had at the time, etc. One example of something that was significantly confusing was in The Bacchae which stated, “Then streams the earth with milk, yea, streams/With wine and nectar of the bee,/And through the air dim perfume streams/Of Syrian Frankincense: and He,/ Our leader, from his thyrsus spray.” Reading this I have no idea what’s going on. What does any of this mean? The lakes of the earth are made of milk? It seems random and complicated to me, like when people try to sound intelligent so they throw out words and none of it makes sense. But after reading it a few times, understand this is fictional so there is no need to be so literal, moving from needing answers right away, and gaining a new perspective just like the tweet with the pants I can either move past it and use context clues as to what they could mean or two truthfully understand exactly what is being said. People won’t always know what someone exactly means so working for meaning in nothing will take time, but will be beneficial in the end. 

    One of the next texts we worked with was Percival Everetts, “I Am Not Sidney Poitier”. This book wasn’t confusing per se but it is not my kind of reading. I didn’t enjoy the characters, some of the plotlines, etc. So to me, it was hard to work with because I found it to be very random and there was so much happening in the character’s life that was so unrealistic I couldn’t transport myself into the narrative. So I had to dig deeper, get over the fact that I didn’t enjoy the book, or it wasn’t my forte, and work with it anyway. I had to work a little harder to paint a picture of the settings, how all the characters must have felt, and move past the fact that his living with such bad luck seemed almost unrealistic because it is a fictional book. I needed to stop trying to put him into the real reality, it is just a book after all and based on movies so it is going to be dramatic, and cinematic. For example, Everett wrote, “It was also, as one might suspect, a bit of a hysterical delivery. My mother’s wailing caught the attention of a nearby woman who called another neighbor woman and soon there were three of them huddled like conspirators around the spread-eagled legs of my mother, staring at her privates and believing that nothing would be forthcoming. One of them had a notion to summon the doctor from down the street, and so she did. The short, waddling doctor, bleary-eyed and out of sorts, arrived and asked a reasonable enough question: “What week are you in?” “One hundred and four.” This came from the first woman.” To me her saying she was pregnant for that long is so far-fetched, to her naming him Not Sidney, and then when she passes he goes off to live with Ted Turned and Jane Fonda. The entire story seemed too comical for some of the events taking place. But I had to get over that and look at what happens throughout the book and not get hung up on the more absurd ideas. Just like with the pants, instead of sitting there getting angry over not getting it or liking it, but I had to dig deeper anyway. 

One final piece I would like to discuss is the very last one we worked with, Re: F(gesture). In all honesty, I thought the last poem, Body, was eerie. The way Percival Evertt used the anatomy terms for the body parts instead of the more common slang words, and describe their functions all while describing sex seemed like something you find in a serial killer’s manifesto. I had never read a poem like that so it was uncomfortable in a schol setting. This would have never been read in my high school so it was unexpected. Though an easy read you still have to get quite far to make out what he is talking about, and with the first two poems Logic, and Zulus I found myself having to look quite a lot of information up to truly be able to understand what he was talking about. Instead of getting frustrated and skimming purely because I don’t know certain words or phrases and looking around for what they mean was a little out of character for how I would normally approach something like that. I feel I finally grew out of the answer being right in front of my face like in primary and high school and did some work to be as informed as I could be. For example, in Zulus Everett stated, “Nam tua res agitur,/paries cum proximus ardet.” Unfortunately, all I speak is English and the smallest amount of Spanish so to understand I had to translate to find how this fit, and what it means.

  My perspective entirely changed on how to approach essays, readings, and any other assignment. Especially because college is paced so differently than high school so you will have to grow and adjust accordingly. People can get comfortable with the old way of doing something and gain a new perspective on things such as whether a pair of khakis is suspicious or not. If I was to stay in a headspace where I don’t want to put in the work and I think everything is meaningless then I would have not been able to work with others, cocmplete any work, and move on from high school learning. 

Reflecting on the Semester- Olivia Ells

“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. Over the course of this last semester I’ve had the pleasure of taking this course and expanding my knowledge of English and how there is so much that goes into writing and even more that goes into understanding the writing. I found myself being able to understand a lot throughout the course but also found myself stuck and confused a majority of the time as well. Not only within the course content but within the course itself. Coming from an education history where I took a course, followed an assignment outline, turned in the assignment and got a grade. The given assignment outline was one of the strictest things I encountered throughout my highschool experience, every rule or expectation was written down for us to follow; from where the heading needed to be to, what font and size font was expected, from what quotes we needed to include. Even how we worded different transitions within our writing. We were given zero creative freedom. Maybe in a way it was easier for our teachers if every paper they read was the same? easier to grade? We never really knew. All we did know was that all of the papers my classmates and I wrote were practically identical to each other. And our creative brains were practically destroyed. But that was what was expected from our teachers. We were applauded for following a standard of rules, for being just like our peers. 

So my first day of this English class was definitely a surprise, having it be a very creative thinking course was definitely a struggle for me for the majority of the semester. Opening up my creative brain again and being able to have creative freedom when it comes to my writing was very exciting but also very nerve wracking. I continued to have anxiety about whether I was doing assignments correctly because Professor McCoy allowed us to write based on our interpretations, but I was also afraid of being wrong. When in reality none of our different interpretations of our readings or the different things we did in class was wrong. It was a big shock that how I used to be taught in highschool was not how this course was going to run. Hearing from Professor McCoy that this would be a self graded course gave me a rush of different feelings, from eagerness, fear, anxiety and even joy. I didn’t know how to do such a thing, it was not in my nature to be able to grade my own work and ability, it was unfamiliar territory and I wasn’t sure how it would go. It was quickly learned that I didn’t have much to worry about as long as I did the readings and taught myself how to really slow down and unpack my different thoughts. The first day of class was a very interesting one, coming in with the impression it would be an essay heavy class but it has been the complete opposite. The first week of class, we looked at a specific epigraph titled “Suspicious Pants”, I think I can speak for the whole class when I say, we were all very puzzled and confused on why we were trying to figure out the meaning behind a random tweet of a pair of pants. As our class groups began talking and unpacking our differing opinions on the epigraph we determined it had a deeper meaning. That meaning being that we all interpret stuff differently. This especially happens in that scenario when a caption is connected to the picture, it makes you see things you might have not necessarily seen without the caption attached. Being able to talk with my group and explain my different thoughts towards this specific epigraph helped a lot with stating the basis of this course. 

Throughout the semester we did a heavy amount of group discussions and collaborations. They really allowed me to unpack my thoughts, slow down my thinking and really explain my thoughts with my classmates about different course topics and pieces of literature written by Percival Everett. Such as “I am not Sidney Poitier”, “re; f (gesture)”, And “The Bacchae.” Learning about Percival Everett was different from anything I have ever done as a student, in college. The complexity of his writing and the meanings behind it made it extremely difficult to understand most of the time. This is where I tie in how the epigraph I chose, “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.”, and how it connects to what we have discussed in class this semester, regarding different pieces of literature. Percival Everett is a great writer and how he shows his thoughts through his writing. He is an even more complex writer, leaving many of his readers stumped or confused about his intentions behind a piece of writing or the meaning behind what he intended for his reader to get out of it. One example I have of this was in the “I am not Sidney Poitier ”, When we find out that the main character’s name is “Not Sidney ”, and he wasn’t saying that his name wasn’t Sidney. Beginning the book, the majority of us were confused at this, we were not sure if it was a double negative or if he was trying to avoid being called Sidney Poitier by those around him because he looked like him, and he wanted to be his own person, but his name is actually “Not Sidney”. This is the best example of how I can tie both “I am not Sidney Poitier ” and the epigraph “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.”. 

This not only relates to some of the literature we have studied in class, but also connects to my growth and time here at Geneseo. I feel as though I am in a boat, at sea trying to figure out which direction is land, Land representing my future degree and field of work. I am lost with no map, or sense of direction, just trying my best to find my way through everything. Trying to find land. This really is the best analogy when it comes to me explaining how I feel here at Geneseo. Yes of course I have wonderful friends that help me through things, but for the most part I’m alone, in my journey. I’m away from home, my family, my boyfriend, everything I have ever known, thrown into this unfamiliar place, trying to find my way. It really is a blessing I’m able to be here, chasing my dreams, and doing what makes me happy, but there are hard parts too. Struggles I have had to overcome, with friendships, classes, health, professors. It is crazy to me that I am still able to stand here at the end of the semester with my head tall, and be able to say that I’ve accomplished what I came here to do. I came here to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher, to make lasting memories and friendships, and to overall pass all of my courses. It has been difficult doing so, due to my health this semester not being the best but I was able to push through and conquer my classes and be able to pass, finally able to say that I did what I needed to do, I accomplished my dreams, and I am one step closer to my dream job. 

This class has been a learning experience, with how much time and effort I was able to put into everything, from group discussions, to reading our different pieces of literature, to participating in group projects and essays. Such as the Nun-sense Collaboration, the Bacchae Let’s Collab! Reflection!, and even through the Assignment Care for My Growth Check-in. I have learned a lot, the main thing being; to slow down and take care of my reader, through my writing. To make sure that I give enough detail and light to what I am saying so they are left with no unanswered questions. This has been a tough thing for me to do this semester, because of what I mentioned earlier about my previous education experiences with not being able to use my creative brain, and I am proud to say that I think I finally have the hang of it. Unpacking my thoughts and slowing down has been one of the biggest things I’ve gotten out of this course and I really look forward to being able to put that knowledge and practice into my future endeavors. 

A sentence is Never Truly Understood. -By Nicole Barnes

English 203 has truly challenged me. Through mental blocks and failure as well as lightbulbs illuminating throughout my brain, this course has felt similar to Not Sidney’s life journey from I am Not Sidney Poitier. When I first approached this class in September, I discussed the importance of self-advocation, acknowledging frustration, accepting confusion, and slowing down in my “Nothing Will Come of Nothing” essay. As I depart from this class, I have simply concluded that this course has no right answer. Through my personal experiences, the sole purpose behind this class is to teach students how to slow down and grow through what they go through. This essay will dissect my journey and thought process based off of this course epigraph; “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.” 

In my first essay (Essay #1- Nicole Barnes ), I based my thoughts off of this epigraph; “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.” I chose to describe the ironic ways in which my personal experiences related to my initial first thoughts of this course, and how my personal goals cannot be achieved if I do not take initiative. One of the biggest takeaways from this essay is resorting to old habits in my current education journey. As a high school student, I was forced to reach specific lengths, to always have one right answer, and to rush my thought process. When defining irony according to the Bedford, it states “a contradiction or incongruity between appearance or expectation and reality.” This definition alone feels ironic when referring to my last statement about my experiences in high school. As students, we were pressured to meet unrealistic expectations, with perfect results while only focusing on the grade we will receive. Truthfully, an individual cannot always perform perfectly under pressure and be correct one-hundred percent of the time. This created a toxic environment for many students throughout their education careers in high school. Another idea I stressed in my “Nothing Will Come of Nothing” essay was the idea of practice over procrastination. Learning how to reach out for help was something I always struggled with through my education, but I have learned that receiving help does not make me weak or stupid, rather it educates me more and allows me to challenge myself. 

After experiencing this class, the epigraph for this essay I have decided to write about has changed from my first essay. I have chosen to base my essay around one that seems more fitting as I wrap up my work in this course. “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.” Often, sentences can be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and sometimes not understood at all. This occurs throughout my daily life, where misunderstanding is very apparent and tends to lead to frustration. Considering our advanced technology in today’s world, texting can become a prime example of where a sentence can be interpreted differently by all parties included. Much anger can result in texting back and forth where body language, voice intonation, and facial expression are all absent. Sometimes even the improper use of punctuation can lead to misunderstandings. An example of this can be the use of the word “okay.” In today’s generation, this word followed by a  “period” is often used to express that I am angry or upset. In my mom’s eyes, she sees nothing wrong with this, and she wouldn’t tie anger to this single expression. Therefore our interpretations of whatever conversation is occurring would be completely different. She could think I am content, when really I am infuriated. Much goes into analyzing a single sentence, and if not enough detail is provided, a sentence with exciting intentions could be understood as a horror story. 

 This epigraph stood out to me because it sparked a connection to an experience I had in class. Group work can become something very frustrating, confusing, and diminishing. When working on the Nunsense essay (Nunsense Essay ), my group spent many days stuck in a hole. We felt lost, cycling through the same ideas with nothing deeper attached to our words. We all disagreed on one single movement, which discussed the meaning of the nun’s name changes. After much arguing, confusion, and annoyance, we came to the conclusion that this sentence does not need to have one right answer. Therefore, we each took our own opinions and provided these in our essay. I believed the names were nonsense, hannah believed it was a lesson on learning and interpreting, Maddie believed this name change had no deeper meaning in general, Myah saw it as working in good faith and turning nothing into something, and Jordan believed that ideas on a surface level can hold deeper meaning if you chose for it too. This exact experience is what led me to believe that a sentence is never truly understood, in terms of everyone being on the same wavelength. Therefore, a sentence is hardly ever perceived in the same ways, and can hold many different meanings depending on how one views it. 

Our character Not Sidney in I am Not Sidney Poitier has an experience much like my own. Not Sidney enters a class about halfway through our novel titled “Nonsense.” This class stumps him and his classmates as he tries to depict what his professor Everett is trying to teach him. Much like my first impression of this course, Percival Everett states on page 100, “the students looked at each other, shrugging, scared, frantically trying to carve out something to stick in their notes.” My first experience in this class was talking about suspicious pants… I thought I was going crazy. To me, this conversation truthfully felt like nonsense. I questioned why we were discussing this and what it had to do with English class. Well, in conclusion the main focus of this was to discuss how we all viewed the picture in different ways. Some saw the pants as suspicious, others saw the person viewing the image as suspicious, and some just saw the picture as it was. Again, we see this re-occurring theme of perception, and how this concept differs from person to person.
The epigraph I chose for this essay does form a through line for the texts we’ve engaged in this semester. A sentence that really stuck with me when doing research on Percival Everett’s work was found on a website titled “chrisgregorybooks.” It states, “…the fact that Everett is having a lot of fun himself without much regard for the reader. He’s going to include his esoteric interludes and semiotic tangents, and to hell with you if you don’t like them.” This stood out to me because I think it describes much of Percival Everett’s work. On a surface level, a reader wouldn’t really understand his work, and it can become frustrating to read. When we took the time to slow down and think about his literature, we as a class made a variety of interesting discoveries that would have flown over our heads if we didn’t bother analyzing. Furthermore, these discoveries varied among each individual in the class which allowed us to bounce many ideas off of one another. 

An example of an analysis from class that describes this process was when we examined Dionysos in Frenzy. At first glance, Dionysos portrays a Greek god of fruitfulness, vegetation, wine, and ecstasy. He was the master of Vlepo, who was his “seer” where he was placed into multiple minds of characters at Dionysos’ demand. Working in a group, we dived into Dionysos’ affect on Vlepo, and we compared it to the education system. In our essay “Theories of Education as seen throughout Frenzy” (10/3 ENGL 203: Vlepo Dionysos Regurgitation Mini-collaboration) Allison Tober discussed her prior knowledge on progressivism and essentialism. Essentialist professors limit creativity and interpretation of their students. During this form of teaching, we stated in our essay that “students placed in this form of learning yearn to achieve what the teacher is asking of them, even if it doesn’t align with their personal perspective. They do what they are asked in order to achieve good grades.” Similarly, we see Vlepo trying to impress Dionysos throughout all of Frenzy. Vlepo has never experienced viewing someone under his own opinions and perceptions, therefore when he comes across the opportunity to form his own opinion on someone, he states, “It felt odd, viewing her without charge from my master, not trying to record my observation for later regurgitation.” If we dig even deeper, many students can relate this experience to their own educational experiences. In high school, many of my teachers took an essentialist approach on teaching, which connects to my point in paragraph two, where I explain why I was trying to force my thoughts and opinions to match with my educator, even if I knew deep down that I perceived things differently. 

I do believe this epigraph matters when forming the consistent theme of various perceptions among individuals. Geneseo Learning Outcomes for a Baccalaureate Education stresses the importance of their students encountering a broad range of knowledge and skills that involve critical thinking, leadership, and collaboration. Furthermore, according to the criteria expected for integrative or applied learning a student should experience; authentic educational approaches, continuous improvement, structured reflection, and constructive feedback. With all of this in mind, this course has allowed students to stray away from prior educational experiences that were rushed and unrealistic. When enrolling in this course, it helped me find what educational practices work best for me, including slowing down, diving deeper and thinkING. This course follows the values of GLOBE and has allowed me to express my own ideas and thoughts while feeling welcome, included, and validated. Therefore, I feel as if my chosen epigraph brings together the objective of an individual being able to express themselves and their opinions freely, just as GLOBE preaches.

In conclusion, the new epigraph I have dug into has helped me conclude the main objective that I learned from this course which included freedom of thoughts and opinions in a safe educational environment. Through our novels such as I am Not Sidney Poitier and Frenzy we can recognize the ways in which we can dig deeper than just the surface, and produce an endless amount of ideas that varied among each student. This course helped me slow down and produce work that involved much process and progress, rather than producing something that didn’t even scratch the surface, reassuring that a sentence can never truly be understood by all, under one definition.