Final Self-Reflective Essay

“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

At the beginning of this semester, I remember coming into this class thinking it would be more essays and writing than thinking, processing, and understanding. I came into this class with little understanding of the kind of work we would actually be dealing with. I thought it would be more about writing essays rather than caring about the process that takes place before actually taking a seat and writing one. This process of thinkING – over time – gave me bigger opportunities to succeed in writing a good analysis or whatever the inquiry was. I would’ve never expected there to be so many of our class days to be filled with brain-powering and mind blowing discussions. It feels like it was just yesterday when we first went over the course epigraphs, specifically the “Suspicious Pants” tweet. This tweet is a picture of a pair of pants with the caption “Suspicious pants.” It has buttons on the back that make it look like it has eyes, and wrinkles under the “eyes” that make it look like eyelids.  Even though the readers know it’s not real, we still put a face and perspective on this pair of pants which leads to the term ‘pareidolia’. According to Merriam-Webster, pareidolia is “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous pattern.” To sum it all up, the point that Professor McCoy tried to get across was the idea of perspective and how “it’s incredible that a sentence could ever be understood.” – Percival Everett (Erasure). Some of us believed that the pants were suspicious of something or someone as if they were their own person. The rest of us thought that the pants were suspicious as if they committed a crime. I remember those conversations so clearly that day, as they made me thINK deeply, and it gave me opportunities to process the other perspectives that my peers had. Sitting here writing this trying to “string” the sounds and thoughts together from all our previous conversations is so complicated, making everything about this final essay so ironic – “it’s incredible that a sentence could ever be understood” – Percival Everett (Erasure), much less words, sounds and thoughts.

The next deep dive into literature that we took was The Bacchae & Frenzy. The words were complicated and the sentences felt like trying to read a book in an entirely different language, without any previous knowledge that the language existed. The Bacchae is a Greek play involving mythological gods and creatures. When I first started reading, I didn’t really know how to process the information because its complex word usage, including names and places, tripped me up several times. The Bacchae was first written in 405 BC in Greek. It was translated to English at some point and was clearly different from the way it has been written now, in innumerable ways. The translation definitely could’ve mixed up how the story is written in English, which could be a valid reason for the confusion while reading. Now Frenzy is a little bit different. First of all, it was written by Percival Everett who, according to wikipedia, is a distinguished English professor at University of Southern California. Second, he rewrote Frenzy so that it was more legible for students in the 21st century. He incorporated the same characters in Frenzy as The Bacchae, but changed the names. 

I have just realized that we’ve actually seen this before with the name changes between the 1963 film Lilies of the Field and the short scenes in the end of I Am Not Sidney Poitier. In the previous collaborative essay, we talked about the name changes that Percival Everett made were nonsense, which they very well could be. But being able to finally see a pattern in Everett’s writing style is quite interesting. It allows the readers to be able to connect his stories from his separate pieces and incorporate them into the way he expresses his work. Now looking back on it, realizing that there were name changes in several of Everett’s works does point to some sort of importance. Why he made those changes is still not completely clear, but acknowledging that they are there in the first place is a good start on the path to comprehension. 

In my experience, it needed to be read over and over again in order to at least partially understand the story. There were conversations taking place in and out of the classroom – everyone tried to decipher the sentences all together because of the complexities of the words. It’s even more ironic because the words throughout the story weren’t the hardest part to even understand; it was the end product of the words “strung together” that created even more complicated sentences. I discovered later on that I wasn’t able to fully understand The Bacchae without first understanding Frenzy. For example, in The Bacchae, it says “Newly arrived in this land of Thebes, I am Dionysus, son of Zeus, child of Cadmus, once bore, delivered by the lightning-flame.” (128) At first, seeing the density of the play was very overwhelming. I felt like not even one sentence could help me understand the background of the story. However, in Frenzy, the play is set up like a novel, while the play itself is contained in a book. “Dionysos was Bakkhos was Iakkhos was Bromius was Dithyrambos was Evius. He was the product of the looseness of Zeus, god of imprudent tool, and of Semele, daughter of Kadmos of Thebes.” (Everett, 1) It may first start off in a confusing way – where the words feel never ending – but the background information afterwards is much easier to read rather than a constant loop of names being presented to the readers like in the beginning of The Bacchae. In short, Frenzy was Percival Everett’s full comprehension of The Bacchae. I never thought that trying to understand a singular story would be so difficult, even in the simplest way – just reading, re-reading, and having conversations about the unique perspectives that each of my peers had about the plot of the story in the first place. Anyone invested in this would ask me what the importance is. Well, as my peers and I have discovered time and time again, there is no true understanding of anything if there is no time to process, think, and talk about it; as we have been taught to write ideas without truly thinking and processing them throughout middle and high school. If something is truly important and has some kind of meaning, then there’s always going to be growth. There will be growth in understanding until the moment you fall back into the deep abyss of confusion. But, as Percival Everett says in Erasure, “it’s incredible a sentence is ever understood.” I have never heard anything more true in my life before this ENGL 203 class. Every time Professor McCoy says that one line, my perspective changes on everything. Once again, sitting here writing this trying to “string” the sounds and thoughts together from all our previous conversations is so complicated, making everything about this final essay so ironic – “it’s incredible that a sentence could ever be understood” – Percival Everett (Erasure), much less words, sounds and thoughts.

Are we sure that we completely understand what’s going on? What anyone is ever saying? Are we ever sure of anything?? We may never know, and I guess some people would call that Nonsense. The next book we read was I Am Not Sidney Poitier. Honestly one of the most interesting, most mind blowing books I’ve ever read. According to wikipedia, Sidney Poitier was the first black actor and first Bahamian to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. He’s played in several movies, including but not limited to: The Defiant Ones, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Lilies of the Field, and No Way Out. While reading, I have found myself constantly asking my peers what was going on because the plots and settings changed so much so fast. I know that we all started to question why, and the reason being is that Percival Everett decided to take the plots from each of the movies that Sidney Poitier played in and submerged them into the already tangled inner workings of the book. You’re probably wondering why Everett would do such a thing – make the story even more confusing. Well, the main character’s name is Not Sidney. The thing about perspective here is all in the title. I Am Not Sidney Poitier. It either comes off as Not saying he is himself, Not Sidney, or he is not the actor, Sidney Poitier – and at this point it could be either, depending on the reader’s perspective. The title of this novel definitely reminds me of the first epigraph we went over within the first few days of class; “Suspicious Pants”. Within the simplicity of the wording of both the tweet and the title of the book, there’s some complexity coming from the perspectives that readers tend to get confused by, and don’t discover that others  may be reading and processing the same title differently. While reading through this, I have found myself to be confused as well. The thing is, it’s very hard to put something into words when no one, including myself, will ever fully understand what anyone else is saying. Hence, “it’s incredible a sentence is ever understood.” – Percival Everett (Erasure) 

There’s only one week left before the semester ends and I must say that this class will always be a reference for future classes, careers, and every life direction out there. The knowledge itself is not the only thing I will gain from this class to use in my future. It will be of good use for management, organization, success in leadership, and most importantly, perspective. It will allow me to ask questions about the real meaning of concepts and conversations, places and miscellaneous objects. It will give me a broader snapshot of reality and beyond. 

Did I Look More Closely Still?

For our first major assignment in this course, I wrote an essay titled “Looking More Closely Still”. In this essay, I focused on the Suspicious Pants tweet epigraph, which we examined in class during its first few sessions.

I explain how through class discussion, each of my peers and I had differing opinions on what we saw in these pants. As I mention in the essay, this notion parallels the concept of each individual reader analyzing texts in their own unique ways. Some people will have specific quotes that resonate strongly with them, while others may read that same quote and have a total opposite understanding. Furthermore, I affirm that it is important to allow the opinions of others into your mind in order to learn yourself. I then related the Suspicious Pants to the reading of Euripides’ The Bacchae. The Bacchae tells the story of Greek god Dionysus, who returns to his homeland of Thebes in search of revenge against those who spoke ill of his late mother. His authority as a god is not taken seriously upon his arrival. As I mention in my first essay, “Dionysus began to curse the women who spoke against him, who happened to be his mother’s sisters. These Maenads, as they were called, brought havoc to Thebes, which greatly angered Pentheus. Pentheus locked up Dionysus, which resulted in the derangement of the Maenads. Agave, one of the Maenads, was under the possession of the Bacchus, which caused her to kill Pentheus.” I focus on line 1281 of the play, which reads “Look more closely still. Study it carefully.” Agave returns to Thebes exuding with pride over the supposed lion that she thinks she killed. In line 1281, Cadmus speaks this proposition with hopes of bringing clarity to Agave and her action.

When I originally analyzed this quote back in September, my thought was focused on being open to the interpretation of literature from peers. I explain in my essay “It took Cadmus saying for her to actually look at it in order for her to realize she was the reason her son was dead. Her close minded viewpoint relates to those suspicious pants—if you only look at things from only your own perspective, you restrict yourself from gaining valuable insight.” Through discussion with my groupmates about the Suspicious Pants and studying the pants carefully, I was able to notice details that had gone unnoticed upon first glance. These details include but are not limited to: the wrinkles in the pants creating eyelids, the buttons in the pocket looking like eyes, and the stitching along the beltline resembling lips.

While I still agree with this interpretation, now that I’ve gone through this course, I’ve realized that this quote also applies to both the concepts of New Criticism and New Historicism that we learned this semester. According to The Bedford, New Criticism is defined as “a type of formalist literary criticism characterized by close textual analysis”. In this course, I have quite literally looked more closely at the texts we worked with, practicing the close textual analysis that The Bedford describes. This work was done through diligent reading of the course materials, as well as providing specific textual evidence in writing the mini-collaborations, such as the Frenzy regurgitation piece from October. As I have spent time reading for this course, I have studied each text carefully, as Cadmus suggests. Coming into class, I was prepared for the discussions that would ensue. I feel as though I was able to focus on thinkING and understanding by doing this, which is what I stated was a goal of mine in my September essay. Looking “more closely still”, however, is not just limited to the New Criticism perspective. 

New Historicism, as I have learned, demonstrates another connection to Cadmus’ line in The Bacchae. According to The Bedford, New Historicism “assumes that literary works both influence and are influenced by historical reality, and they share a belief in referentiality, that is, a belief that literature both refers to and is referred to by things outside itself.” The careful study that has taken place throughout this semester was mostly done in a New Historic manner. We went outside of the texts through watching films, discussing laws about films such as the Hayes Codes, and reading author interviews in order to more carefully study our course materials. I now realize that in order to “look more closely still”, you need to educate yourself on the influences that affect a piece of literature so a more well rounded understanding can be achieved.

Those Suspicious Pants that we examined in class have formed a through line, connecting all of the work done this semester. Every time we started a piece of literature, I found myself feeling a recurring sense of confusion, as I did on day two of this class while looking at the Suspicious Pants. I see now that this tweet embodies what this course is all about. At first glance, literature seems daunting. Especially in this course, I was initially overwhelmed with the language of Frenzy and reading the picaresque novel I Am Not Sidney Poitier. Percival Everett’s style of work was not something I was familiar with prior to starting this course. However, the longer time you spend working with a text, you begin to have bits and pieces of understanding. This remains true for the study of The Bacchae and Frenzy that were done in this course toward the beginning of the semester. As I explain in my first essay, when I read The Bacchae for the first time, I understood the gist, but realized I had missed key details after talking with group members. Slowing down, going back into the text, and re-reading after discussion allowed me to realize where I had missed. Furthermore, I was able to have a better understanding of the plot of The Bacchae after reading Percival Everett’s Frenzy. In Frenzy, Everett teaches his readers the story of The Bacchae through his unique adaptation of the characters and the plot. His inclusion of the narrator, Vlepo, as the “seer”, gives readers a first hand point of view in actions and thoughts of characters, which are then reported back to Dionysos. For example, Everett writes on page 17 of Frenzy “Dionysos looked to me. ‘I will put you into a woman and you will tell me what is felt.’ Before I could offer my opinion, I was in the body of a woman, feeling her delirium, walking toward a freshly killed deer from which others were tearing strips of flesh.” Everett’s adaptation of The Bacchae allows the reader to gain a new understanding of a more ancient text.

The experience of reading The Bacchae first, followed by Frenzy, was important in my understanding of the importance of viewing literature from a New Historical lens. Had we not gone outside the text and read The Bacchae, as a new historicist would do, the plot of Frenzy would’ve made little sense. I would have viewed it as an isolated piece of literature, unable to achieve a deeper understanding. Everett’s weaving of Euripides’ work into his own, without plagiarism of course, demonstrates intertextuality. This term is defined in The Bedford as “The condition of interconnectedness among texts, or the concept that any text is an amalgam of others, either because it exhibits signs of influence or because its language inevitably contains common points of reference with other texts.” Intertextuality is the basis of the New Historic way of looking at literature, and taking this course has allowed me to understand this.

This entire semester, we have been working on the concept of intertextuality. We have done this through “looping back”, as Dr. McCoy says to previous works we studied and finding the connection between them and the current piece. As I look back on my time in ENGL 203, I realize that those Suspicious Pants set the foundation for what we would learn about in the class. All that we have done ties back to those first few class meetings and discussions.

In the conclusion of my first essay, I state that my goals for this class include: refraining from focusing on my end grade, honoring the thoughts of my peers, and slowing down. As I reflect on this course, I believe that I can say I achieved my goals. Although I thought avoiding the pressure of the grade would be a significant challenge, it was actually a refreshing experience. Back in September, I believed this would be the case because of my former educational experiences. I have always strived for perfection and placed unrealistic expectations on myself for a grade. Removing the looming thought of the grade from the course seemed impossible at the time, but I am glad that I met the challenge. Experiencing this course free from the grade made me engaged without pressure or fear. Achieving these goals did not occur without reminders of the purpose of the course, though. As Dr. McCoy would say, the “ghost of previous training” did make its appearance quite often throughout the semester. At times, I found myself operating through moves in a checklist fashion, just trying to get things done. Slowing down was the hardest part of this course for me, but the challenge was rewarding and allowed me to learn how to “take care of readers” —another one of Dr. McCoy’s phrases— in my work. By taking time and focusing on the process, I feel as though I have been able to craft better, more coherent work. As I continue through my collegiate career, I will remember those Suspicious Pants and all that I have learned in this course.

Final Self-Reflective Essay

Mackenzie Gillen

This semester was my very first college semester, and I did not know what to expect. When I first learned that this class was all about the 2008 housing crisis, I thought how could a whole class be about one specific topic that I have never even heard of before. We started reading many different books, and I did not know what these books had to do with the 2008 crisis. The books we read ranged from many different periods of time and various genres. We were given many course concepts to help us navigate these readings and to connect them to each other. As we read these books we noticed a common theme of expulsion, which we can then relate back to how the homeowners of 2008 were also expelled. By the end of this course I was surprised to learn that I could actually connect all of these stories to one topic when I took the time and thought carefully. 

The 2008 Housing crisis began with cheap credit and loose lending standards. Loans were given out that required little documentation and featured various interest rates to help people to buy their houses. These loans ended up being more than people could afford with their incomes. When the housing market crashed it caused a great recession which cost many people their jobs, homes, and savings. The citizens did not believe that these big corporations would act in bad faith and provide them with contracts with terms they did not understand. This is demonstrated in The Big Short, “We took them through our trade but I’m pretty sure they didn’t understand it.” These CEOs and banks knew they were acting in bad faith but had no issue in doing so which in the end resulted in an abundance of people being expelled from their homes. The lenders hold the responsibility of the global financial crisis because they were the ones who lended out the loans to people with a high risk and poor credit because they were only thinking of themselves. 

One of the first books that was presented to us was The Big Short by Michael Lewis. This book focuses primarily on those who were potentially benefiting from the 2008 Housing Crisis. This provided us an inside perspective on the financial crisis and the creation of the credit default swap market. The Big Short takes place mainly in a corporate setting and involves characters who are employees of the financial institutions. This shows us the business side of the crash, going in-depth of how it occurred and discussing how risky the subprime mortgage bonds could potentially be, and the eventual result it had on the economy and millions of people across the country. This book does not involve the personal aspects in which the effects of this event had on families. This book was more difficult for me to read and understand because The Big Short is written by an economist about business aspects, using terminology and phrases that most readers would not be familiar with. This makes the situation feel more distant from us, while in reality the 2008 Housing Crisis was one of the most devastating events that hit the American Economy within the last few decades. 

The next book we read was The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, which is a fictional book about a Detroit family with 13 children and how they respond to the economic downfalls of their city. This novel sheds light on a more personal perspective on how people were affected by the financial crisis. It also depicts how each sibling is affected in different ways and individually shows their thoughts and feelings. The Turner House shows the reader how the issues presented are applicable in real-world scenarios.There is a large amount of siblings within this reading, and many of them hold different views on what should be done with their childhood home while living through the 2008 recession. While discussing what they should do with their childhood home, the fifth Turner child, she states, “If you sell the house I will never forgive you… do this and you break my heart” (198). This quote provides an example of the emotions that come along with the idea of selling the house caused by the recession. This issue causes emotional conflict for siblings making the decision much more difficult. I enjoyed reading The Turner House as it was a more understandable and relatable story, which made the book itself more effective. The book provided a clearer understanding of the situation for readers who didn’t have a firsthand experience with the crisis.

The next book A Mercy is one text that helped shift our understanding and viewpoint of the 2008 housing crisis. We can see that a story written in a setting from hundreds of years ago with fictional characters relates back to the housing crisis of 2008. Florens represent those who were affected by the housing crisis. Even though Florens had the physical ability to read and interpret text, she was unable to read and understand specific situations that ultimately ended in her being expelled more than once, just like those who were expelled by the 2008 housing crisis. During that time period, many people signed contracts and mortgages not knowing what lies in the fine print. These people did not understand and interpret how people would offer contracts to them in bad faith, so they did not understand the severity of the situation. One article we read in class shows a situation where a, “Baltimore resident says he missed in the fine print was that by accepting the cash, he was granting the company, MV Realty of Maryland, LLC, the long-term exclusive right to list his modest Park Heights row home. If he sells with someone else, he stands to owe the company thousands of dollars.” This quote shows how one of many people who were unfortunately reeled into contracts that they could never understand on their own, and the consequences of this were pricey. We can see that oftentimes, we put our trust and good faith in people, just like Florens did, but may end up in a disadvantage by those who worked in bad faith.

The most recent book we have read is Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. This book is a science fiction that was written in 1993, but takes place in the future, 2024 to 2027. While reading this book I immediately saw expulsion and could relate this story back to the 2008 crisis and how the homeowners were also expelled. The novel follows a young girl, Lauren, whose mother abused drugs while pregnant to cause Lauren to be born with hyperempathy, an abnormally strong and visceral response to others’ feelings, and also died while giving birth. Lauren also frequently writes about God, developing statements of her own beliefs, the main idea being that God is power, but he is also change. God cannot be resisted, but he can be “shaped and focused” by human action. She then creates her own religion called Earthseed. Lauren’s neighborhood is blocked in by walls, but soon turns to chaos. There is an outbreak of a drug called “pyro” which makes the feeling of setting things on fire euphoric. Lauren has to escape her town to remain safe with a few others and states, “I’m going north. I planned to go anyway once my family was back on its feet. Now I have no family, and I’m going” (169). As she travels up north she meets more people on the way to add to their group. Along the way they persevere through many battles, shootings, fires, and earthquakes, and they even lose a few members. Lauren finds a love interest within her group, and they decide that they will travel to his land to live. When they arrive Lauren has seeds that they plant, in honor of the ones that they have lost, and they build the start of a community called Acorn. 

Reading many different texts we have been able to find many common patterns of how people may become expelled. One of the main key concepts I have taken away from this course is that even though I put my trust in someone in good faith, they may still act in bad faith which can lead to expulsion. Recently, I have worked on various group projects for my other classes. I have trusted my colleagues in good faith in that they will contribute to the project and work as hard as I am for a good grade. I have found that some of my group members have worked in bad faith, not helping with the workload and just being dragged along by the rest of us. Although I have still got good grades on my various projects, the group members working in bad faith can lead us to expulsion by allowing us to drown in the work and receive a bad grade, which affects our overall grade and can lead to failing the class. 

We can reflect upon and learn from the many books throughout this course, which connects to Geneseo’s GLOBE. This is a new curriculum for an education of a connected world. It allows us to find perspectives and skills to engage in the complexities and possibilities of the connected world. We will encounter many areas of knowledge to develop habits of critical thinking, reflection on our learning, and to explore the diversities in the world. From this course we have read texts from many different time periods and cultures, and I have been able to connect these books to each other, reflect them upon myself, and learn from them.


Hannah Myers, Nicole Barnes, Jordan Wilson, Maddie Bigelow, Olive Niccoli, Myah Dombroski, Hanna Proaper

When trying to find meaning out of nonsense, it has become ironic that our group’s journey has looked similar to Not Sidney’s experiences throughout the novel. Through frustration and confusion, we have taken pieces of the novel that have no specific importance and realized how they can change the whole perspective of the book and our thought process. At first, our group came up with nothing. When discussing moves two and three, we researched the names of the nuns which seemed to have no purpose at all. As readers, we tend to overlook things as simple as a name. When given this prompt, we dug deeper into our thinking and how these names can have more connections and symbolization than we thought to believe. In the end, irony resulted in the fact that similarly to professor Everett in the text, we as a group had to make something out of nothing, just like Not Sidney. We will be unpacking our journey as a group, the names of the nuns and their significance, and how this all ties into I am Not Sidney Poitier

When discussing where to start with this essay, our group felt utterly stuck. We had a whirlwind of thoughts swirling around, yet we couldn’t seem to pinpoint a single idea. In I am Not Sidney Poitier, Not Sidney comes across Professor Everett along his path, and his experiences with him are quite odd. Everett presents a lecture that is described as gibberish and useless. A  quote is given that sums up a unified feeling our group has felt the last few classes; “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” (Everett 100). From this, we can see that Everett’s students were seeing nonsense in its full effect. Similarly, we have felt that all of our ideas for this task have been nonsense when in reality we have truly made so much meaning out of nothing! Professor Everett reminds us of our own professor, Beth McCoy, whereas Everett encourages his students to slow down and think. Furthermore, he stresses the importance of interpreting things under your own impressions, because there is never one correct answer in a class that depends heavily on the analysis of the text. This journey of the students felt personal to our journey on this assignment, as we have had to slow down, think, and truly interpret this text in ways that our group believes are best understood.

When reading through the book the first time, looking at the names of the nuns in the novel didn’t seem very important. The names of the nuns in the novel have been changed from the names of nuns in the movie. The names of the nuns in the books are the names of bishops and historians. Reading through the book the first time, the name change as well as the significance of the names don’t seem like they mean much. However, once we went back and looked at the names again, and researched them, we saw that the names had more significance than we originally thought. In the book, the nuns were written to be seen as not very intelligent as well as not being important characters. However, their names were the names of scholars who were well-educated people. This then shows that the nuns, and the name change, may appear to have  more meaning than we originally interpreted. Though there is no absolute reason behind the name change it is through us looking at the meaning of the names and what we previously had known about Percival Everett that led us to believe that he could have meant a lot more than just the basic idea of changing the names. 

I, Nicole, believe that the names of the nuns are fully nonsense. They have no specific meaning, nor was I expected to know that they had a deeper meaning. This matters because it defines the idea that interpretations can be up to one’s perception. Percival Everett once said “it is incredible a sentence is ever understood.” Under my own interpretation, a sentence can never be fully understand the same way by every single individual, therefore it is impeccable a sentence can ever be understood at all. When it is, it is understood in multiple different ways, which is completely okay, and makes for so many more ideas to bounce off of. 

I, Hannah, found that everything can be interpreted differently. Throughout the novel, there was irony in many parts including the name change once research and thinking took place. It can be exhausting going through what others may be thinking for there is not an exact answer for what one could mean. This matters for people to learn that there does not always have to be one interpretation or one exact meaning to the things being said. The Nun’s name change could just be a way of Percival Everett changing the story so as to not be copywriting, or it could mean something different like a lesson in learning and interpreting. Slowing down and really connecting what we researched with the names brought me to a point where I have an interpretation of what the meaning could be, though there is not a definite one. 

I, Maddie, believe that not everything has a deeper meaning. Sometimes authors just have to give names to characters, make people do certain things to keep the ball moving. Not everything has to be directed and analyzed to such a high extent. You could change those names or that place, that action and it really wouldn’t have affected the plot much, or at all.I think the nuns names just fit that religion, you have to look at the nuns themselves to compare to the move not their specific qualities, and names, because they are very different. When you pick things apart too much I think it changes the point of the story. As far as move 4 I think there are no clear answers as to who cares because if it doesn’t affect the plot nobody should but the author. Sometimes things don’t mean anything, or happen just because. Not everything has a clear cut, precise answer. 

I, Myah, believe that nonsense doesn’t necessarily mean that something is meaningless, it’s what you take from it. For example, taking Beth’s class you can either use it as a resource to better yourself and your thinking process, or you can just do the bare minimum and do the work like a checklist lor worksheet. By slowing down, talking and thinking together, we are practicing working in good faith, we are expanding our thought processes for completing work meaningfully. Many people from our group had said in many ways, Professor Everett in the novel is much like Professor McCoy, and I agree. Beth allows us to think for ourselves and have our own thoughts, opinions and outlooks. We can think as deep as we wish with these essays and can either write in our responses as a checklist, or allow ourselves to deepen our thinking and create our own meanings to the “nonsense”.

I, Jordan, believe that we put worth into things that mean something to us. At first glance the name changes of the nuns from the movie “Lilies of the Field” to the novel I am Not Sidney Poitier originally meant nothing to our group. Everyone had their own interpretation of why this was done or how it affected the book, but honestly the only person who truly knows why this was done is Percivial Everett himself. I myself learned through this assignment that it was all about finding meaning in the nothing. Everything on a superficial level can have little to no meaning. When you dig a little deeper you find meaning in something that wasn’t originally there, and you can continue to build off that. When I use this assignment to reflect on my education at Geneseo it makes me realize that with everything in life, you only get what you give. If you put minimal effort into something you aren’t going to receive the results you want. But with a little effort, you can find meaning in things that others cannot.

My Name and My Identity

Leah Harper, Emma Griffin, Hannah Philgence, Emma Pozak, Amanda Hibbard 

I am Not Sidney Poitier, written by Percival Everett, is a novel that serves the purpose of putting a comedic twist on films starring 1960s actor Sidney Poitier. These films include Lilies of the Field, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and The Defiant Ones. This novel unravels the story of the character Not Sidney, a boy who looks strikingly similar to Sidney Poitier and is continuously compared to the actor. Before his mother died, she named him the unfortunate name of Not Sidney. This name connects him further to the actor he wishes not to be associated with as he deals with the power imbalance of being a rich black man. 

While reading I Am Not Sidney Poitier, we connected the novel back to the film Lilies of the Field and noticed both the similarities and the differences. In the film, we are introduced to nuns from Germany who seek to build a new chapel, as their current church is in a parking lot. Our main character’s name is Homer Smith, a baptist traveling the world. As he stops at the desert where the nuns’ Mother Maria, Sister Gertrude, Sister Agnes, and Sister Albertine are located he asks for water. The nuns end up roping him into helping them build up their new chapel. Homer, the independent man he is, decides to help but expects payment in return for his services. Mother Maria refuses, forcing Homer to try and leave. But, his kindness and care for the nuns push him to continue working and further build their connection. I Am Not Sidney Poiter references this movie heavily, however, Percival Everett changes the nuns’ names. The names in the book are Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, Firmillian, and Chrysostom. These are very catholic names in origin and are not commonly recognized in the U.S. Not only do we see these name changes, but we also do not see the relationship develop between Not Sidney and the nuns as we did with Homer and the nuns. Homer taught the nuns English to try to connect with them better, as well as help them connect with others. He taught them new religious songs to sing instead of the traditional catholic music the nuns would normally perform. Homer taught the Nuns how to live and experience life in a way they seemed to never have before, but this connection is lost in I am Not Sidney Poiter. The nuns’ names seem to be extremely religious names to actually characterize them as nuns, but the actual character development that we see in the movie is lost in the novel. The personalities of the nuns in the book are lost, and the character that we expected does not define what we were given in the book. This later foreshadows the end of the book when Not Sidney defines himself as his own person and the character he was put out to be. 

In our course epigraphs, we are introduced to the quote “ I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY” written by Percival Everett in I am Not Sidney Poiter. If you haven’t read the book yet, it wouldn’t make sense as it does after dissecting this literature so deeply. We think a proper synonym for this is “CHARACTERS DO NOT DEFINE A PERSON”. Not Sidney throughout the story acts the way everyone else thinks he should. He is ashamed of his name, he is ashamed of the character other people made him to be. It isn’t until the end when he accepts who he is, he accepts his name and breaks away from other people’s definition of who Not Sidney is. 

“I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY” is not the only quote in I am Not Sidney Poitier that reflects heavily on the theme that Not Sidney is his own person, and should be seen as who he makes himself out to be rather than the character others see him as. 

“And be yourself”

“Who else would I be?” 

“I don’t know. You might decide all of a sudden that you’re Sidney Poitier. You’re not, you know. Though you do look alarmingly like him. Tell me, whom do I look like?” 

This quote is a scene between Not Sidney and Professor Percival Everett, as author Percival Everett had inserted himself into his own novel. This quote feels as though Professor Percival Everett is trying to help Not Sidney see that each and every one of us could be compared to a movie star, however that doesn’t make us that movie star! We are still our own people, time and time again. We can look and act like anyone in the world but that does not change the fact that we are individuals with different thoughts and feelings from everyone else.  The character does not define a person, is something that is relatable throughout this course and throughout our experiences at Geneseo. We all came in with set characters and we all experienced life at its own pace. Being first-year students, we all had our “characters” defined by our past high school experiences. Geneseo allows us for the first time to redefine ourselves and allows for a fresh start. At the beginning of our course, we had an in-depth discussion about what literature we experienced in the past and we took part in the frenzy mini collab. We discussed how classes in our past defined our characters today as well as how our “characters” have changed since college. To relate this idea to this class, we are graded solely on our effort and “character” rather than on how smart we are or how well we can regurgitate the professor’s ideas back to them. All of the students in this class use all of their different experiences, whether that be our majors, races, or how long we’ve been in college to come to the realization there is no right way to learn or interpret something. This ties into the point Everett is trying to make with the class on nonsense.  The class on Nunsense is also up to the students’ interpretations of their coursework. The students in Everett’s class are looking to their teacher for guidance, but the class is about what they think, not about getting the right answer. This is very similar to the way Professor McCoy structured the class, it is not about the right answer. It is about thinking for yourself.

Identity and Interpretation

Brianna Donahue, Olivia Ells, Natalie Houston, Alissa French, Jordyn Stinar, Cameron Kramer

In Lilies of the Field, The actor Sidney Poiter plays the character Homer Smith. Homer Smith was a very intense and driven worker. He stops at a farm to get some water, where he meets a group of German, Austrian, and Hungarian nuns. The Mother Superior, Mother Maria, asks him to fix their roof, and offers him to stay for dinner. During dinner they are all speaking German and call Smith, Schmidt, which is the German equivalent. As they are speaking German, he begins teaching them English, so the language barrier is less prominent. In the morning, he asks to be paid for his work on the roof and he explains that he works only for money, but the Nuns are convinced he was sent from God and want to repay him in other ways. Smith expresses that he’s always wanted to become an architect but never could afford the schooling. He then applies for a job, as a contractor. He eventually agrees to build the church for the Nuns. Since he is living on their property he is spending a lot of time with them. He drives them to where they hold their mass, he eats dinner with them and then after teaching them about the English language. A strong bond between Smith aka Schmitt and the sisters over this period of time. Smith drops the sisters off at mass and goes for breakfast after. He goes to the same place every time where he befriends the owner. The sisters get materials for Smith to use for the church. The town comes together to build the church with Homer Smith. Over time, the church slowly gets built, the sisters get better with their English, and Smith gains respect for the Nuns. Once the church is fully built, Smith writes his name in the cement in front of the cross. He does this by himself because he is proud of what he has completed. After building the church the dynamic between the Nuns and Smith is now mutual respect for one another. Smith leaves and Mother Maria is shocked by her sadness since he is leaving, and neither of them expected the relationship they ended up having.

  The main character in Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier, Not Sidney, experiences something similar to Homer Smith’s story in Lilies of The Field. Percival Everett changes the nuns’ names from Lilies of the Field in the book I Am Not Sidney Poitier because he is trying to differentiate between Sidney Poitier and Not Sidney Poitier and give the nuns’ names a deeper meaning. He changes multiple aspects of the movie in the book. This is due to the fact that he is living Sidney Poitier’s life but in Not Sidney’s own way. One decision that Not Sidney makes that is different from Sidney Poitier is that he puts up $50,000 to build the church when in the movie Homer Smith builds the church himself. There are differences between the book and the movie, regarding why Percival Everett changes the names of the nuns. One of them being how he changed the names of the nuns to new names that related to the individual’s characteristics and personality from the movie. For example Mother Maria is the Mother Superior in the movie Lilies of the Field but Percival Everett changed her name to Irenaeus. The Wikipedia page on Irenaeus explains who he was: “Irenaeus was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in the southern regions of present-day France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology.” This being said, we can conclude that Irenaeus was a leading figure, similar to Mother Maria. Percival Everett changed the other names of the nuns as well, though none of these changes were as predominant as Mother Maria’s. He changed the original names of Agnes, Gertrude, and Albertine to Origen, Eusebuis, Firmilian, and Chrysostom. All of the new names were from Christian narrative. 

Percival Everett changed all of the original female nun names to prominent male figures of Christian history. The female names in the movie make sense for the character as they are foreign. In the book, after the names are changed they become ironic as they are no longer meaningful to the characters origins. All of the new names come from different areas like Turkey, Israel, and Egypt.  Was Everett trying to play into the origins or was he trying to strengthen the power of the female characters? Power comes into play when all of the new names are those that hold prominence in the traditional Christian ideals, specifically with them being male. Mother Maria’s name was changed to Irenaeus, who we now know held a lot of power for the Christian community at that time. In the Britannica article titled “St. Irenaeus” it is discussed how influential his writing was to the people of his time frame, “In the course of his writings Irenaeus advanced the development of an authoritative canon of Scriptures, the creed, and the authority of the episcopal office.”(Wingren, 2012). Everett possibly chose this name to replace Mother Maria’s name because Mother Maria held authority and influence over the other sisters. It seems that Mother Maria or Sister Irenaeus acted as a leader for all of the sisters. 

As the author, Percival Everett shows a constant theme in this book I am Not Sidney Poitier. This recurring theme revolves around Sidney Poitier vs Not Sidney Poitier. There are so many aspects of Sidney Poitier’s roles that are changed in the book through Not Sidney Poitier’s life. The character Not Sidney has a constant battle with his identity. He is often mistaken for the actor and must explain the origin of his own name. Everett uses this theme of Sidney Poitier vs Not Sidney Poitier to differentiate the characters as a whole. This also helps the reader understand the difference between the two and how Not Sidney wants to be recognized as himself and not mistaken for Sidney Poitier. Everett changes many aspects in the roles of Sidney Poitier as a way to separate the two. For example, in the movie Lilies of the Field, Sidney Poitier builds the church with his hands and takes time to do so, but in the book, Not Sidney Poitier just tries to pay for the church to be built. Everett changes the names of the nuns in the book as another way to differentiate the characters by changing aspects of their stories. He wants to make it clear that they are NOT the same person, ironically why the character’s name is Not Sidney Poitier. Author Percival Everett is giving Sidney Poitier’s life to Not Sidney, but changing the story, using as many aspects that he can that revolve around Sidney Poitier and Not Sidney Poitier, while still keeping their stories similar all the way down to their names. Everett as an author tends to write nonsensically. This all relates back to the course being taught by Percival Everett, the character, titled Nonsense. In the book on page 100, Percival Everett exemplifies just how important the title is to its course, “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). Throughout the writing, Everett The Character, has a tendency to abruptly change the direction of the course and go on rambles. This is proven on page 100, when Everett’s speech has a lot of length but not a lot of sense and meaning that anyone but himself can understand. This goes back to the course’s title of Nonsense. During his ramblings on page 100 Percival Everett The Character appears to be speaking a lot about nothing. But in reality, there is a meaning behind his words that nobody else can understand. This is possibly the reason for the name changes throughout Everett The Author’s writing. He appears to be changing these names to be confusing or different, when in reality they could have a meaning that no one understands. Based on what we have read and learned from this course and reading I am Not Sidney Poitier, we have found that Percival Everett, the author, enjoys controlling what he writes but likes to leave the perception up to his readers. This explains many of his ideas that occur in the book. He leaves his readers thinkING and curious about the meanings behind his words.

There are many reasons why Percival Everrett could have changed the nuns’ names in the book I am Not Sidney Poitier. He could have changed names with the intention of having meaning but confused the readers with nonsense. His meaning could have been to compare Sidney Poitier vs Not Sidney Poitier. Whether or not the reader understands his decision, his writing choices have meaning. Percival Everett was trying to convey many of his ideas through the book I am Not Sidney Poitier. He changed so many of the concepts due to the main idea of Sidney Poitier vs Not Sidney Poitier, the nuns being one of them. When we first started reading the book, we did not really think too much about the name changes of the nuns but after we started this assignment and started thinkING, we truly began to analyze it. We found that Percival Everett had multiple themes that he might have been trying to convey to his readers. The most prominent being to play into the theme of Sidney Poitier vs Not Sidney Poitier. One of our course epigraphs is a quote from Erasure written by the author Percival Everett, “it is crazy that a sentence can ever be understood”. This demonstrates how Percival Everett’s writing can be connected to our course, because it doesn’t always seem like he has a specific rhyme or reason for doing the things he does. He often leaves it up to his readers on how they want to interpret his work. In this course, we as students are able to make observations and come to conclusions about topics in the books we read. We also get to discuss with our peers our opinions and ideas and share how we came to those conclusions. We did that for this collaborative essay, we came together and shared our ideas and came up with our own opinion on if the name changes for the nuns was important. Any of the different interpretations listed above could be the reason Everett changed the nuns’ names, but in the end, it is up to the reader to decide what they believe.

Confidence With Identity: I Absolutely Am Not

Brian Malgieri, Allison Tober, Nina Avallone-Serra, Kevin Malone, Heirut Miller, Caitlin Crowe, Amber Ellis

Lilies of the Field is a 1963 film starring Sidney Poitier as Homer Smith, a down on his luck handyman. The movie starts with Homer’s car breaking down on the property of German-Austrian-Hungarian Catholic nuns in Tucson, Arizona. Mother Maria and Sisters Gertrude, Agnes, Albertine, and Elizabeth saw Homer as a gift sent from God intended to continue the work in their town, including building a chapel. One of the main conflicts of the film is Homer’s expectations of compensation for his services and the nuns’ lack of funds. Even after realizing he will not be paid, Homer consistently, though reluctantly, helps out the nuns with their chores and the construction of the chapel. As he spends more time with them, Homer begins to form a connection with the nuns through educating them on the English language. As the movie begins to draw to an end, Homer begins to solely work on the chapel, initially refusing help from the townspeople. Ultimately, he ends up setting aside his ego and accepting their help. The chapel and its construction brought everyone together, and the film’s final scene displays the word “Amen”.

Throughout the film, many different thematic points are demonstrated. The main theme portrayed is the idea of people from different cultures and ideologies coming together for the betterment of each other as a whole. Each set of characters are derived from their own unique identities. Catholics and Baptists, English, Spanish, and German speakers, German immigrants, Mexican Americans, white and black men and women were all living within the same town. Homer and Mother Maria both had pride in their cultures and ideologies, but it wasn’t until they set them aside and worked together, along with the town, that the chapel was able to be built. This theme is solidified in the closing scene in which the Catholic Nuns enthusiastically joined Homer in singing a Baptist Hymn with the movie closing with “Amen” to represent the solemn gratification and agreement between the two parties, a meaning of “amen” as defined by Themes involving identity and religion are the most prominent in the film and can be seen in I am Not Sidney Poitier.

In I am Not Sidney Poitier, Percival Everett encompasses multiple Sidney Poitier movie plots, including Lilies of the Field. Not Sidney experiences a similar situation to that of Homer Smith, the difference being that he does not contribute to any physical work and instead donates a large amount of money to the nuns for construction of the chapel. The chapel ultimately goes unfinished in the end as Sister Irenaeus and Thornton Scrunchy try to flee with the money. The names of the nuns from the movies also undergo a change within the book, and Percival Everett uses the nuns to make specific references to various religious and philosophical figures of the 3rd century. On page 171, we are introduced to the nuns with the line, “She finally introduced herself as Sister Irenaeus. She introduced the others as Sisters Origen, Eusebius, Firmilian, and Chrysotom.” Why would he change these names? In the movie, other than Mother Maria, the sisters are essentially one mass background character. They aren’t individually developed characters and can all be referred to interchangeably. The fact that he decided to change them must have some meaning to it. This implies that one should also question any other artistic decision made throughout the book.

According to, these names all correspond with various Saints, Bishops, and scholarly figures who bore similar ideas surrounding an ideal quality of life, stressing the importance of faith and an acceptance of a humble lifestyle. They also had the similar goal of not only nurturing their faith, but also taking part in spreading it. Mother Maria’s corresponding character in the text is Sister Irenaeus, a name that means peace, according to Wikipedia. This change presents an ironic twist to Mother Maria’s character in the film, as she acts bitterly toward the fellow sisters and Homer. 

With an interesting play on names throughout the movie and the book, Percival Everett is able to put interpretations of the characters beneath the real name. For example, in I Am Not Sidney Poitier, when Not Sidney meets his girlfriend Maggie’s family for the first time, he ends up sleeping with Maggie’s sister, Agnes, creating an ironic contrast with the name’s meaning, which according to a site called Behind the Name, means “chaste” or “pure”. Agnes was the one that went up to Not Sidney and told him she wanted to have sex with him in the first place. Everett’s intentional play on name meanings skew other interpretations by characterizing those in the book and movie as the opposite of what we, the readers, interpret them to be. 

While it may never be known why Percival Everett decided to change the nuns’ names, it is clear how this decision resembles the overarching theme of the novel: identity. Not Sidney Poitier struggles with his identity throughout the entirety of the novel. He is constantly compared to and seen as the actor Sidney Poitier, and Everett pushes this struggle further by forcing Not Sidney to live out altered versions of Sidney Poitier movie plots, including but not limited to: The Defiant Ones, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and No Way Out. In a reference to the latter film, Not Sidney has a dream in which he is a doctor who experiences racist remarks from a white man when his patient dies, blaming the death on him. This implies another identity crisis about who Not Sidney is, who he desires to be, and who other people think he is. As Kevin pointed out in our group conversation, the nuns in the book would not exist without the Lilies of the Field movie, therefore their identity is dependent on the film. This remains true for the protagonist, for Not Sidney’s journey would have no relevance without the background of the classic Sidney Poitier movies. His name being the negation of Sidney Poitier would have no importance.

It is noteworthy to mention along with the changing of these names that character’s themselves also struggled with remembering the names of the Sisters. On page 184, Diana, an employee of the diner, states in conversation Homer “Yeah whatever. And that’s another thing, who the hell can say those names, much less remember them? There’s Oxygen and Firmament and then the others?” This quote develops the idea that while the change of the names was a deliberate choice, there really isn’t any meaning behind it. After all, if the characters within the novel don’t think the names are worth remembering, why should it matter to us? The thing that should matter to us is how we process the information. We could simply read the names, assume that they’re something religious, and move on. We could even choose not to think about their names at all and keep reading because they don’t affect the narrative. However, because we researched the names and unpacked as much meaning as we possibly could, we found ourselves thinkING and learnING. The names are just nonsense used to drive our thinking, nothing more than words that originally hold no surface level meaning without thought. 

Through our group discussions, we’ve come to realize that this concept ties back to our involvement in Dr. McCoy’s ENGL 203 course. Many of the works we’ve studied this semester can be arguably defined as nonsensical, as The Bacchae, Frenzy, and I Am Not Sidney Poitier, have brought us all confusion when read in a new critical manner. According to The Bedford, New Criticism is defined as “a type of formalist literary criticism characterized by close textual analysis.” However, after taking the time to step back and probe deeper, we’ve been able to make meaningful connections out of this alleged nonsense. These connections occur when viewing the texts in a new historical manner, which the Bedford defines as how “literary works both influence and are influenced by historical reality, and they share a belief in referentiality, that is, a belief that literature both refers to and is referred to by things outside itself.” The meanings we find are arbitrary; it’s the process of finding the meaning that is most valuable. To look past the text itself and interpret why the text was written gives the reader a further connection to the text. Although ultimately, this final interpretation’s value is less than the attempt of interpretation itself. Real value comes from questioning and trying to understand rather than the answers you find as true understanding is impossible to achieve. The only way one could achieve true understanding is to limit themselves to their initial isolated interpretation. Consequently, as soon as it is shared it loses its value as true understanding because it opens the possibility of an alternative understanding. This cross contamination between New Criticism and New Historicism is where the value of nonsense resides. 

Conversation amongst the group has been the catalyst to uncovering the value of nonsense. Our understanding of Percival Everett’s artistic decisions as an author changed with every discussion. The incorporation of nonsense in I am Not Sidney Poitier, including the changing of the nuns’ names, creates a theme of an ongoing pursuit of understanding through collaboration and intertextual discovery.



According to Oxford reference, irony is defined as the “expression of one’s intended meaning through language which, when taken literally, appears on the surface to express the opposite”. Percival Everett wrote that” Irony is not always funny”, this quote is made abundantly clear in The Bacchae by Euripides.

At first glance, Dionysus, also known as Bacchus, is made out to be a God that has turned himself into moral flesh and has come to Thebes to bestow his blessings from the heavens. Things become chaotic when Pentheus, the ruler of Thebes, publicly shames Dionysus and his followers, the Bacchants. Was Pentheus an unjust leader, or did he just want the best for his people?

            At first glance the reader may think Pentheus is a jerk for his treatment of the Bacchants, but can we really blame him? Pentheus did not like the idea of a strange man entering his domain and claiming to be a God. Think about it, a random man wanders into town and people begin to blindly praise and follow him. Now, did these people truly believe this man was a God in mortal flesh, or did Dionysus have mind control over these people the whole time? One could argue that this is a blessing, a God walking amongst the people. If these citizens were under Dionysus’s control, then was it a blessing or was a God on a power trip looking for any reason to punish humans?

 Dionysus’s father, Zeus, had him hid away from the rest of the other Gods. Dionysus never got appreciation from his Godly brethren, so he decides turns to the humans for praise. Because Dionysus didn’t get love from this mortal’s leader, Pentheus, he has his Bacchants murders him tearing him to pieces. The hand that dealt one of the killing blows was Pentheus mother, meaning she had a direct hand in her son’s murder. It’s ironic how a mother is the giver of life, and now she is a taker of life

Pentheus murder, in a way could be considered a blessing, which is ironic because a blessing in disguise is often ugly in the beginning, but in no way can one expect this, as the consequences are unimaginable. Pentheus’ mother, for the rest of her life will always remember that she herself, was one of the many to take her son’s life.

Another could say Dionysus is on a power trip because Cadmus, Pentheus’s grandfather, who was loyal to Dionysus the entire time, was punished by his association for his relationship with his grandson. Cadmus praised Dionysus and wanted his grandson to do the same, but instead is now punished for his son’s actions. For this, Cadmus is turned into a snake and his spouse, Harmonia will become a beast in the form of a serpent.

There can be such a thing as over analyzing (or is there?), and I almost decided to not put the next series of thoughts in this essay, but I thought this rabbit hole was interesting so it’s worth a shot. Could The Bacchae have been Euripides way to warn people to not falsify the Gods? Previously mentioned, some could argue a God walking amongst man is truly a blessing. Blessings tend to be viewed as beautiful, but Pentheus’s murder was beyond brutal. Euripides described “the ribs lay naked through the mangling, and all the women bloodied their hands, playing with Pentheus’ flesh. The body lies in pieces, some of it hidden under rocks, some in the deep-wooded foliage of the trees”. Pentheus’s murder was a way to show brutality of the Gods, but humans love violence so brutality and murder could be beautiful to some eyes. This could be used to warn the young children to live proper and respect the Gods or you’ll die like this guy. Or in other words, follow the Gods or perish.

 I’m not sure how Euripides wanted people to read or interpret this text. This makes me realize if you are debating on certain topics there is no wrong answer. If you look at the surface, there may seem to be a clear answer but if you delve deeper there can be many morals and deeper meanings that can be found. This class makes me realize how far our thoughts can take us, as our thoughts let us dissect a text based on previous the knowledge we have acquired. The Bacchae could be infinitely more difficult to interpret if you had zero knowledge of Greek Mythology.

Writing starts with a jumble of thoughts. It is the goal of the writer to tear those thoughts apart and turn them into something legible enough for others to read. Ironic, the Bacchae is about a king getting torn to shreds for not worshipping a God.

Essay 1

Hanna Proaper 

For this essay, I’ve selected the epigraph “I am not Sidney Poitier” written by Percival Everett. This epigraph talks about returning to a place to try to find something to reconnect with, not knowing who you are as a person, not knowing your own name, and the loss of your identity. I decided to choose this epigraph because it interested me the most after rereading it as well as being the most thought provoking epigraph.

After reading this epigraph, it made me think about a few different things. I think Percival Everett brings up a few good points throughout the epigraph. Firstly, the fact of returning somewhere to try to relate, or to reconnect with something, and not being able to because it no longer exists. After moving out and going to college, returning home is always nice, but it feels much different than it did before. Driving around the familiar streets is a strange feeling after not being home for an extended period of time, revisiting with family and friends that I haven’t seen in a while is also very strange. As well as that, returning to your childhood bedroom is another odd experience. Where you spent a whole 18 years of your life in and now you just return there on holiday breaks or long weekends. When I first returned home after moving to college for the first time I felt like my bedroom wasn’t my bedroom anymore. Of course, nothing had changed, it just no longer felt like home to me. Now, after living at college for a little over a month, my dorm also doesn’t really feel like home to me either. So at this point in time, I feel like a nomad, a person who doesn’t have a set home. I recognized in Percival Everett’s text: “I am not Sidney Poitier”, the main character also feels like when they returned home. A quote from the text to support this statement is: “‘Thank you’ I said. ‘I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something lost, to reunite with my whole self, then with a piece of it. What I’ve discovered is that this thing is not here. In fact, it is nowhere.” (Everett, “I am not Sidney Poitier”). To me, this quote means that when the main character returned to some place they had been before in hopes of trying to find something that they’d be reunited with, is not where they thought it would be. In fact, what they were hoping to find is actually nowhere. I relate to this quote a lot because whenever I return home, I feel similar to the way the character is feeling. I thought this part of the epigraph was very interesting.

The next point that Percival Everett brings up in this excerpt is how the character, Sidney Poitier doesn’t know who they are. They do not know their name and they don’t know who they are but everyone around them knows who they are. I can relate to this section of the epigraph because I  have also had moments where I wasn’t quite sure who I was as a person. I feel like growing up teaches you a lot about yourself and that you learn more and more every day. But up until that point you don’t really know who you are completely yet. A quote to support this statement from the epigraph is: “…I have learned that my name is not my name. It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself.” (Everet, “I am not Sidney Poitier”). I think what this quote explains is that the main character of the novel, not Sidney Poitier, doesn’t know who they are quite yet. The person states “I have learned that my name is not my name.” meaning that they have realized that the name they’ve gone by throughout their lives is in fact, not their name. They have realized that they do not know who they are as a person. Not Sidney Poitier states that: “It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself.” This quote explains how the character is feeling about returning to a place where they’d hope to find something to connect with. Because they were not able to find what they were looking for, they now feel very lost. They no longer know who they are as a person, let alone knowing their own name. Not Sidney Poitier has felt like they’ve lost their own identity. 

The final point Percival Everett brings up in this epigraph is that the character in this story is explaining how their mother is buried not far from where they are. They state how there aren’t any inscriptions written on their tombstone. A quote to support this statement is: “…My mother is buried not far from this auditorium, and there are no words on her headstone. As I glance out now, as I feel the weight of this trophy in my hands, as I stand like aspeciment before these strangely unstrange faces, I know finally what should be written on that stone. It should sway what mine will say: I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.” (Everett, “I am Not Sidney Poitier”). This quote is just showing how not Sidney Poitier does not feel like themself for the day. They have lost their identity, their name, and what they know about themselves as a whole. I thought this part of the epigraph was interesting because the word “epigraph” has two different meanings. One meaning is a short paragraph before a chapter in a story that explains what is going to happen throughout the chapter. The second meaning to the word “epigraph” is an inscription that is written on an object. This portion of the epigraph made me think a lot about the different meanings behind certain words. 

After reading through the epigraph, and thinking about what the author was saying, I thought about how this could affect my class experiences and how I can set some goals for myself because of it. I considered how I would do this. I took into consideration how I would go about setting these goals for myself and how I would achieve them. Working with my own thought process, and how I think about being able to achieve certain goals, made me also think about the process of writing this essay and what I would say. I thought about how I would structure the essay as well as what words I chose to use. I also considered what my goals would be. I decided that my goals for this class should be: how to write better/more fluently, how to be more concise, and to make sure I am able to better understand the texts we have to read throughout this semester. This epigraph made me consider not only what Percival Everett was really trying to show us, but also made me think about this course and how I can set goals for myself through reading this text. 

After reading this epigraph several times, thinking about what I thought it meant, and considering what Percival Everett was trying to say, I can say I have learned a lot. I learned a lot about the thinking process and about setting goals for myself for this semester through the thinking process.

Essay 1, Maddie Bigelow

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

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

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

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