Not My(August)self Today

“Thank you,” I said. “I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something lost, to reunite if not with my whole self, then with a piece of it. What I’ve discovered is that this thing is not here. In fact, it is nowhere. I have learned that my name is not my name. It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself. My mother is buried not far from this auditorium, and there are no words on her headstone. As I glance out now, as I feel the weight of this trophy in my hands, as I stand like a specimen before these strangely unstrange faces, I know finally what should be written on that stone. It should say what mine will say: I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.” –Percival Everett 

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

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H is for Teleology

In Percival Everett’s re: f (gesture), the abecedarian poem Zulus contains a multitude of allusions to a variety of people, places, stories, and more. In sifting through these many references, one in particular stood out to me among the rest. The speaker states, “H is for horrors, / so full of them we dine, / for humanity, / on bent Kantian trees” (Everett 22). I had never heard of a Kantian tree before, so using the logic of my last blog post (Archive and Intertextuality), I took to my favorite archive–Google–to see what I could find.

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Archives and Intertextuality

On Monday, Professor McCoy allowed us to take a mini field trip around campus with the mission of finding as many “archives” as we could. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an “archive” as “a repository or collection especially of information.” As my group and I would soon discover, these repositories can be found in a variety of forms, from the library to a bulletin board to a tree. We even discussed how people could be regarded as archives as well; their brains act as a repository for all the memories and experiences they’ve had in their lifetime. I was keeping a record of all the examples we discovered, and I became a bit overwhelmed; I could barely keep up with the quickly lengthening list. As my group member Liz put it, “The world is your archive!”

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“The Ship” (and Not Sidney?) are Not Themselves Today

During our class period on Friday, it became Susanna’s job to yell “The ship!” every time the philosophical problem of Theseus’ ship was applicable to some aspect of Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier. Indeed, Susanna said this on multiple occasions (and with amazing delivery!) throughout our discussion. In particular, I would like to examine how this pesky problem applies to the formation of Not Sidney Poitier’s identity in the novel.

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When the Ruler Can’t Understand the Ruled

While reading Frenzy, I frequently found myself exclaiming the age-old complaint of “That’s not fair!” Injustice seems to run rampant in the novel, and I can’t seem to resolve this with the usual justification of “Well, life’s not fair.” In our class discussions, I kept coming back to the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled as an explanation for this unfairness; how can a god, who lacks the propensity for human feeling, control the lives of mortals with any semblance of justice?

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Questions of Origin and Identity in English 203

“Thank you,” I said. “I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something lost, to reunite if not with my whole self, then with a piece of it. What I’ve discovered is that this thing is not here. In fact, it is nowhere. I have learned that my name is not my name. It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself. My mother is buried not far from this auditorium, and there are no words on her headstone. As I glance out now, as I feel the weight of this trophy in my hands, as I stand like a specimen before these strangely unstrange faces, I know finally what should be written on that stone. It should say what mine will say:

I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.”

–Percival Everett 

The first time I read this epigraph in the English 203 syllabus, I had little knowledge of what this class would entail, except for what I could extrapolate from the course description. In all honesty, I didn’t even know what the word “epigraph” meant. That being said, the quote still struck me; the exact thought that popped into my head was something along the lines of “huh, that’s relatable.” Everett, in this quote, captures the image of a person lost and searching to find themselves again. I think on some level, many people have been that person trying to “connect with something lost;” I know I have.

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