Beyond the Bedford

Near the midpoint of Percival Everett Intertextuality, I was arguing with my classmates. Rather than arguing to learn more about our differing perspectives, I argued to win. I felt as if I were trapped in high school, when learning was a competition, and only one right answer, in one right format, could be accepted. It is during such times that I feel as if I “stand like a specimen before these strangely unstrange faces,” feeling both that I am betraying myself for the ideals of others, and that I have become trapped in myself, causing my classmates to hit a brick wall when attempting to build with me.

In the process of attempting to reduce my ego, I became more capable of appreciating diverse opinions. In Frenzy, the characters similarly have a variety of motivations, goals, and opinions. However, they are connected through the style of their thought processes. While Semele, Pentheus, and Agave seek limitless love, meaning, and escape from society respectively, they are bound by a desire to be more than what they are. Semele chooses to see Zeus’ true form even though she knows she cannot process it, because “the limits of [her] morality are excruciating, [her] wanting to give and give, and [her] power being finite” (Everett 14). Similarly, Pentheus seeks meaning, “in this dimension and in some others as well,” seeking a release from the confines of his mind (Everett 27). Agave wants Dionysos to “turn her free into the infinite dance of [his] spirit,” providing her a reprieve from her roles as “the mother of that king, the daughter of that king,” limits placed upon her due to her gender (Everett 44). All three of them want to reach beyond themselves and their roles. However, they each ignore the motivations of others, causing their fates. Their blind, individualistic determination causes each of them to suffer. For example, Agave ignores the fact that Dionysos will not protect her, and her belief that she and the Bacchants “are all free, and…are powerful” proves ironic when she is uninfluenced by Dionysos, but toppled by Kadmos (Everett 160). Agave would have more freedom if she were able to recognize Kadmos’ motivation to blame her for Pentheus’ death, and Dionysos’ lack of motivation to serve her needs. In the same way, I have been determined to succeed without considering my classmates’ similar motivations. We understood that we all wanted to gain knowledge, but I did not make enough room for their differing methods of achieving the goal of wanting to leave the class as more than what they had when they came in. If I had paid more attention to my classmates, I could have used more of our discussions as springboards for deeper analyses. 

I, like Pentheus, am sometimes trapped between ruminating about my life (or more specifically, my flaws), and believing that I alone can complete my goals. As Pentheus wishes to express to Kadmos, “be warned that finally you will die because I live and not in spite of it,” my confidence in my ability to succeed on my own merits often borders on hubris (Everett 27). In a sense, these feelings are accurate. I am flawed, and so is my work, but I am the only person who will ever complete my own goals. In order to succeed, I have to value my contributions. It is therefore difficult to work with others on the same piece, because we each have our defining goals and flaws that belong to us alone, even if we might be experiencing somewhat universal emotions. These flaws, strengths, and motivators define our work, so it is difficult for me to hand over something that has my stamp on it for someone else to flesh out. 

The consequence of my protectiveness over my work is that I ignore that writing is inherently an act of cooperation. It is impossible for a text to exist independently, as “its language inevitably contains common points of reference with other texts (Murfin and Ray 215). Novels such as I Am Not Sidney Poitier are in constant dialogue with other texts. Everett constantly alludes to movies in which Sidney Poitier has acted, such as The Defiant Ones (46), Lilies of the Field (Everett 170), and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Everett 153). The titular character, Not Sidney, is impossible to separate from the non-fictional Sidney Poitier, as he is constantly defined by the society within the novel by this connection (Everett 102). Eventually, he begins to view himself through the lens of society, calling himself “Sidney” (Everett 185). Although “[a] politically and aesthetically avant-garde cinema is now possible…, it can still only exist as a counterpoint,” and recognizing the ways in which I Am Not Sidney Poitier is a counterpoint to Sidney Poitier’s works is vital to understanding the themes of race and self present in the novel (Mulvey 59). To read I Am Not Sidney Poitier from a New Critical perspective and ignore the ways in which Not Sidney is Sidney Poitier’s Eidolon would be to lose the novel’s multi-faceted narrative. In order to write about I Am Not Sidney Poitier appropriately, it is necessary to view the act of creating as an act of borrowing materials to build something else. There is no work that stands alone; although many do not borrow ideas from other texts as blatantly as Percival Everett does, everything that is written is connected to culture outside the text. It would be plagiarism to claim that my works are the uninfluenced exception to this rule. I could not work on this essay alone; not only am I responding to the dialogue between me and my classmates, but I am also taking components of Percival Everett’s work and using them as tools for reflection.

I therefore want to not be myself while also genuinely expressing my views. In being “NOT MYSELF,” I allow myself to be in dialogue with different works, opinions, and time periods. However, I do not have to lose my own perspective in order to allow different factors to refine it. Through accepting that I can build off of others, I am able to create flexible paradigms that help me to better comprehend the breadth of the human experience.

It would be appropriate for me to slow down while discussing with others. I have a responsibility to take the time I need to fully form my ideas and understand what has influenced them. If I “unpack,” which is to explain one’s thought process and connect the points that it is comprised of for the sake of an audience, I will be able to shape evidence into a cohesive argument. Being patient with my writing process helps my peers to understand my perspective, so that we will be able to discuss our interpretations transparently. Transparency is vital to productive group conversations. Expressing one’s argument in a way that does not outline how one came to a conclusion often leads to group members to argue over similar interpretations in different packages. When I recognize what I am trying to convey and am clear about my thought process, my group has more opportunity to constructively respond to me. By unpacking, I will be better able to acknowledge my classmates’ substantially different perspectives and how their interpretations might open new avenues of understanding both a text and the world.

I hope to invert the way in which I am “NOT MYSELF TODAY.” Instead of feeling trapped by the varying opinions and standards of my peers and retreating into myself for answers, I will work toward cooperating with others and incorporating an accountability for my limited knowledge into my practice. While my peers cannot achieve my goal of insightfully dealing with literature for me, an awareness of outside perspectives helps me deal with the challenge. As displayed in Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle (Williams, Woolliams, and Spiro 91), the process of reflecting is that of being able to describe a concept before attempting to analyze and apply it. Instead of seeking individuality by means of focusing on my own perspective, I recognize that I am my viewpoints are not autochthonous, and that they have been created through my interactions with society. Instead of immediately rejecting perspectives that oppose the paradigm I have unconsciously developed, I will reflect on my others’ interpretations and analyze them, leaving myself the possibility of incorporating these interpretations as bases for further analysis. In doing so, I can deepen my comprehension of texts by accepting perspectives I would not have considered on my own into my works. I will reach beyond myself and make interpretations that are more than the sum of their parts.

Words Are Cheap, But They Can Turn Out Expensive

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.” (Percival Everett).

The quote above is an excerpt from Percval Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier. This was also the epigraph that inspired my first blog post this semester. Upon reflecting on this quote I can now see the full weight these words have on this course. The main message from this passage is the concept of identity. The passage hints at questions such as “who am I?” and “who am I to others?”. Identity is something that Percival Everett has talked about in numerous interviews. For example, in an interview on November 15th, 2012, Everett addressed his interest in identity stating; “Well I think that every work of art is about the theme of identity of some kind and there’s identity of the work itself. So, in that way I’m fascinated by it. I’m also fascinated by it, not only racially, but I’ve always been fascinated by that thing that is self-identity.”. It is easy to see the theme of “self-identity” throughout the works by Everett my class has read this semester. The novels Frenzy and I Am Not Sidney Poitier both depict characters searching for the idea of self identity.

In Frenzy the character Vlepo is who is searching for his identity. A being created by the god of wine Dionysus, Vlepo’s existence is dependant on the life of his creator. Neither human or god, Vlepo searches for his identity within the novel. This is shown in this interaction between Dionysus and Vlepo; “Dionysus smiled. ‘You’re not like them.’ ‘Then who am I like?’ ”(Everett 88-9). In I Am Not Sidney Poitier, the character Not Sidney Poitier struggles with his identity as a young black man who looks strikingly similar to Sidney Poitier, and even shares a very similar name. The character of Percival Everett says it best when he and Not Sidney are discussing Not Sidney’s identity. “ ‘I know, I know, you’re Not Sidney Poitier and also not Sidney Poitier, but in a strange way you are Sidney Poitier as much as you’re anyone.’ ”(Everett 102). Upon reading these two examples I became aware of the scope in which the literature we have read this semester emphasise the idea of identity.

This is my understanding as it is now, that identity is a crucial part to the works we have read; but what does this mean in terms of my take away in this course? Going back to that first epigraph I would like to note my original take away, so I may show the growth that has taken place this semester. I said in my first blog post “Many times it is hard to see an author’s perception of a story because we are so caught up in our own interpretations and ideas. My goal is to be able to read a work of literature and see the lens which the author is using to perceive an idea that has been said before.”. Looking at this now this is the exact opposite of what my feelings are now. Now, I have an understanding that it doesn’t matter what the author intends, it matters what the text is stating. Everett himself said in an interview from August 23, 2017:  “I never speak to what my work might mean. If I could, I would write pamphlets instead of novels. And if I offered what the work means, I would be wrong. The work is smarter than I am. Art is smarter than us.”.

My understanding of literature throughout this course has taken a complete 180, and I am happy because of it. I came into the first class of English 203 a scornful person who lived in a world of absolutes. I even defended scorn in class at one point. However, through class discussion and interpreting Everett’s work on identity I have grown to be able to see the grey in the world and the benefits of it. In all honesty I feel more emotionally fulfilled by the world around me when I view it in the way this course has taught me. My family has always known me to be a stubborn, fiery spirit, stoked with anxiety. This course, and Everett’s work has given me the ability to let things go. When something angers me, or makes me want to be scornful, I am more understanding and forgiving.  I have shifted from a predominantly fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

In Everett’s book of poems Re: f(gesture) the poem Zulus is a catalog of references to other texts, and events. One poem that is referenced is one title The Beasts by Walt Whitman. This poem follows a narrator’s desire to leave human torments behind, and their admiration for the animals. “They do not sweat and whine about their condition; They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins; They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God; Not one is dissatisfied- not one is demented with the mania of owning things.”(Whitman). My mentality at the start of the semester was akin to the human torments that The Beasts describes. I sweated over my condition, and I was dissatisfied. As I stand now, I am much more content with what, where, and who I am. 

In other words, this course has been a sort of therapy for me. Anxiety and the torments of being human clouded my sight to the beauties of humanity. These beauties are something I discussed in my post titled Subjective Perspective of (Logic). “There is a certain beauty in the fact that humans can even communicate at all, yet we fail to acknowledge it because it is so routine.” As a person with an anxiety disorder, it is easy for me to be frantic and hastey. My life was swept in the routine nature of day to day life, and I failed to see the beauties of life that I see now. Much of my growth that occurred during this course stems from the simple words Professor McCoy said in her comment on my first blog post; “SLOW DOWN. This REALLY applies to you!”. Professor McCoy in this case was referring to my writing but it was also what I needed to do with my way of life. I needed to slow down and appreciate the beauties around me. 

It is clear to me that over the course of this semester my identity has changed quite a bit from the anxiety ridden, close minded writer I once was. This change and growth of identity can only be credited to my peers, Everett’s writing, and Professor McCoy herself. By reading works such as Frenzy, I Am Not Sidney Poitier, and Re: f(gesture) I have a better understanding of what identity meant in this course, and how my growth in my own identity was a very Everettian transformation. This is my take away from Everett’s message of identity. Identity changes, as did my own identity did over the course of this semester. As has become somewhat of a habit in my blog posts, I will leave you with some lyrics from a song. This song I believe summarizes the message of self-identity transformation, and my take away from this course. It summarizes where I was before this course and leaves me with a message that is very Everettian. This song is called Tenderness by General Public from 1984.

“I don’t know where I am but I know I don’t like it

I open my mouth and out pops something spiteful

Words are so cheap

But they can turn out expensive

Words like conviction can turn into a sentence”

Links to previous blog posts mentioned;

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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A̖̘͕̳̻ͨͦ͛͑̎ ͑ͅis̘̬̼͍̻̠̓ͨ̋ͭ̈ͪ ̦ͮf̦̑o̽̒r̻̱͊̓͡ ̛ͫa̟̮̖̥̪̿ͤ̃͑̚͠p̹̙̞̫͇ͅp̻͉̠̠͓͇̯̑̍͆̆̈́̇̓l̙͉͇̽̐̚ḙ̭ͤ̉,̔́ ̊͌̒ͣͦͯͨB̗̰ͤͮ́ͅ ͕͛i̷͚͇̓̅s̪̘̰̈͗̒ ̜̟̰̗̱̮̣f͉̳͈̮͍ͅo̫̪r̠̻̩̯̪̳͖̈ͩ̌ͣ͗̈̚ ͗̀̇͋ͭḅ̩̬̱̐̏̏̏ę̘̖̩̪̗̅̈͋͋̚e̹̫̹͈͚̱͈̾ͬ͂̂̌͗ͣ͢,͑ͮ́̓ͦͤ̈́҉ ̸͖̖̩̬̟̫̅ͦ͂ͤͥͬC̟̹ͅ ̴i̡͉͖̲͚̯ͨͥ̋ͭ̏s̅ͦ ̪̭͇͚̲͜f̲͚͛̀̓ͅor̜̳̼ͦ͐ͭ̕ P͈̺̺ͨ̍̌h́͒̾ͦ̓ͯ͘’ͮ̅ͦ́n̂́͠g̜͊ļ̪͒u̫̜͓̠ͩͧ̆̏i̳̳͔̟ͤͪ̈̓ ̯̻͚̥̻̝̀m̿̑̓̄̋͏̻̱͓͙͈g̣͈̳͙̼͉l͏̹̱̜̣̺̰w͖ͬ’̺͎̰͎ͨ̌́ͣn̳͍̖̮ͨ̌͛̄a̩̝̻̺̺ͅf̖̅h̔́̾ ̦͍̦̲̖̻ͭͬ̂̈̃͌C͘t̛hͪͮ͆̃u̙̠̭̥̲̾̈̓͑̾lͬh͕͞u̵̟ ̿R’l̪̙͖̩̫̯̍̈ͮͥ̽ͭ͢y̼̣̲ͥ͑ͭe͔ͬh ͯͩ͆̐͛w͚̻̣ͬͨ̂g͑ͫ̉̋ͣ̈ͯă̈h͇̜̦̦̩͈̐̎̾͐̓̚’n̂͐͗̅ͩ̓ͭag͕̠̟̙͓ͪͬ̂ͨ̾l fh̹̮̥̺͉tͯ͐̐ͥͬ̚a̙̺͖̥͔̩͆̄ͥ͌̿ͦ͑ͅg͓͕n̛͎̣͙̥ͫ̍̎ͮ…̶

In recent discussions of structure, a controversy has been whether structure is an appropriate tool to measure how much knowledge is disseminated. On one hand, Shelagh Neely argues that “Structure reminds me of a foundation. A foundation that you start off with and work your way up the ladder of writing a paper, a poem, a book, or even a blog post.” From this perspective, set forms, such as the abecedarian, are solid foundations which allow for knowledge to be transmitted clearly. On the other hand, however, others argue that it is impossible for knowledge to be organized in a manner that expresses information coherently. In the words of H. P. Lovecraft, one of this view’s main proponents, “[t]he most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents” (1). According to this view, structure is inadequate because humans are fallible, and cannot connect information enough to discover Truth. In sum, then, the issue is whether we can trust that creative and informational works are created upon a trustworthy foundation, or if the limits of human knowledge are the true “walls” (Neely) that subjectively define our truths. Continue reading “A̖̘͕̳̻ͨͦ͛͑̎ ͑ͅis̘̬̼͍̻̠̓ͨ̋ͭ̈ͪ ̦ͮf̦̑o̽̒r̻̱͊̓͡ ̛ͫa̟̮̖̥̪̿ͤ̃͑̚͠p̹̙̞̫͇ͅp̻͉̠̠͓͇̯̑̍͆̆̈́̇̓l̙͉͇̽̐̚ḙ̭ͤ̉,̔́ ̊͌̒ͣͦͯͨB̗̰ͤͮ́ͅ ͕͛i̷͚͇̓̅s̪̘̰̈͗̒ ̜̟̰̗̱̮̣f͉̳͈̮͍ͅo̫̪r̠̻̩̯̪̳͖̈ͩ̌ͣ͗̈̚ ͗̀̇͋ͭḅ̩̬̱̐̏̏̏ę̘̖̩̪̗̅̈͋͋̚e̹̫̹͈͚̱͈̾ͬ͂̂̌͗ͣ͢,͑ͮ́̓ͦͤ̈́҉ ̸͖̖̩̬̟̫̅ͦ͂ͤͥͬC̟̹ͅ ̴i̡͉͖̲͚̯ͨͥ̋ͭ̏s̅ͦ ̪̭͇͚̲͜f̲͚͛̀̓ͅor̜̳̼ͦ͐ͭ̕ P͈̺̺ͨ̍̌h́͒̾ͦ̓ͯ͘’ͮ̅ͦ́n̂́͠g̜͊ļ̪͒u̫̜͓̠ͩͧ̆̏i̳̳͔̟ͤͪ̈̓ ̯̻͚̥̻̝̀m̿̑̓̄̋͏̻̱͓͙͈g̣͈̳͙̼͉l͏̹̱̜̣̺̰w͖ͬ’̺͎̰͎ͨ̌́ͣn̳͍̖̮ͨ̌͛̄a̩̝̻̺̺ͅf̖̅h̔́̾ ̦͍̦̲̖̻ͭͬ̂̈̃͌C͘t̛hͪͮ͆̃u̙̠̭̥̲̾̈̓͑̾lͬh͕͞u̵̟ ̿R’l̪̙͖̩̫̯̍̈ͮͥ̽ͭ͢y̼̣̲ͥ͑ͭe͔ͬh ͯͩ͆̐͛w͚̻̣ͬͨ̂g͑ͫ̉̋ͣ̈ͯă̈h͇̜̦̦̩͈̐̎̾͐̓̚’n̂͐͗̅ͩ̓ͭag͕̠̟̙͓ͪͬ̂ͨ̾l fh̹̮̥̺͉tͯ͐̐ͥͬ̚a̙̺͖̥͔̩͆̄ͥ͌̿ͦ͑ͅg͓͕n̛͎̣͙̥ͫ̍̎ͮ…̶”


There is snow on the ground. Those walking outside without mittens, jackets, and scarves might physically develop a condition known as “frostbite.” I know that to acquire frostbite is to have the tissue under one’s skin frozen. It’s a condition that could land one in a hospital. That’s science. That’s just how my body works. It’s my irrational mind that tells me to put on flip-flops while leaving my dorm. My brain is part of me that decides to make risky decisions that the spirit of frostbite (which hovers ten feet above Geneseo in November) loves. But is my brain not a part of my body? And although my actions are irrational, can they be separated from the organ that creates my risk taking behavior? Continue reading “Composbite”

What’s in a name?

Percival Everett’s abecedarian set of poems Zulus from his book re: f(gesture) comments on the importance of naming children. On two separate occasions, the speaker states, “Always name offspring” (Everett 20, 28). Zulus makes a statement on the power of names, and their necessity in forming identities; it highlights the tragedy that can occur when a name–the first gateway into identity–is carelessly left blank.

The cautionary phrase is first evoked in the “F” section of Zulus: “F is for Frankenstein, / who did not name his baby. / Always name offspring” (20). I have actually just read the romantic novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in my Nature of Inquiry class, and the speaker’s statement could not be more accurate. Many people think (myself included until I read the novel) that “Frankenstein” is the name of the re-animated monster in the story, mainly because modern-day media often portrays it as such. In actuality, Frankenstein is really the last name of the scientist who creates the monster, Victor Frankenstein. In the original novel, the monster is nameless, generally referred to as the “creature.”

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What I Am(./?)

Back on September 16th my fellow classmate, Ashley Kupiec, wrote regarding the nature of identity in Frenzy “It seems to me that both Everett and Dionysus are really talking about identity and the pesky question of ‘who am I?’ ”. This idea came to my mind as I continued to read our latest novel, I Am Not Sidney Poitier. The nature of identity is a major concept in the novel, as made clear by the title itself,  through its clear cut “I Am” statement. The “pesky question of ‘who am I?’ ”, as Kupiec states, also becomes a driving source of conflict, comedy, and philosophical growth in the novel. 

Not Sidney’s mother died when he was eleven, leaving him with only rumors and memories to answer that pesky question. “My history was shrouded and diced and soaking wet with hysteria and contradiction.” (Everett 29). He never knew his father, never knew any living family, and never even knew why he was named Not Sidney. The latter of these is particularly interesting. The first step toward understanding one’s identity is understanding one’s name and if not understanding it, then accepting it. For Not Sidney, this was a challenge. In highschool when Not Sidney would introduce himself by name as “Not Sidney” the confusion that followed would ultimately lead him to a beating. Not Sidney would eventually grow and become a man who would not take beatings anymore. However, Not Sidney would find that his name would forever be a source of discomfort in his life. Understandably, he came to hold a grudge against his own name. His identity had become tied with the difficulties he faced in life. For Not Sidney identity and name were directly related. “I accepted, then and there, my place in this world. I was a fighter of windmills. I was a chaser of whales. I was Not Sidney Poitier.” (43).

Despite the fact that Not Sidney found his identity tied directly to his name, his own existence is also directly conditional the existence of another person. Not his mother, his father, or his family, but Sidney Poitier himself. Not Sidney feels that his identity is directly tied to his name because the treatment he received from his name shaped the man he had become. However, the treatment he received existed in part because of the existence of Sidney Poiteir himself. In other words, Not Sidney’s identity is tied to Sidney’s existence. Not only does Not Sidney have a name that is contingent on Sidney, he also looks remarkably like Sidney. This idea of dependent identity is also shown in Frenzy through the character Vlepo. Vlepo asks Dionysus, their God, if they were created by Dionysus. Dionysus responds, “I might say your existence depends on me, but nothing more than that.”(Everett 88). Vlepo’s existence, in a much more literal sense, is dependent on Dionysus. Vlepo can only be themself if Dionysus exists. In a similar way Not Sidney can only be Not Sidney if Sidney Poitier exists. But as Dionysus puts it, “It’s not much of a life though is it?-representing a thing.” (49). Dependency on name is a key to Not Sidney’s understanding of identity, but it is an unhealthy existence.

Not Sidney operated under this mindset for some time, until he made his way into college and met Percival Everett, his college professor. Not Sidney takes Everett’s class on “The Philosophy of Nonsense” and finds that it shakes his notions of name and identity. Upon initially meeting and getting to know Not Sidney, Everett sees Not Sidney as many people do upon their first introduction to him, as Sidney Poitier. Everett expresses this to Not Sidney. “I know, I know, you’re Not Sidney Poitier and also not Sidney Poitier, but in a strange way you are Sidney Poitier as much as you are anyone.” (102). As Everett comes to know Not Sidney’s true identity he has an understanding that Not Sidney doesn’t have, that a name does not determine your identity. Everett can be objective about who Not Sidney is, in a way that Not Sidney cannot understand. It is through this objective understanding that Everett sees who Not Sidney is. “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.”(123). 

Everett undermines Not Sidney’s fragile understanding of his identity, but for better or for worse, we have yet to see. I predict for the better. Understanding who you are is hard to do when you’re dependent on someone else. Everett in a way is freeing Not Sidney from his 18 year identity crisis. 

Now to answer the important question, who cares? Why is identity independence important to us? This idea is crucial for my fellow college students and I. For many of us our identities have been dependent on our family, friends, and loved ones. Many of us are taught what we like and who we are to become. Now we find ourselves in a situation of almost entire independence. We are swimming in a vast ocean of knowledge and opportunity with no anchor. This is our chance to explore new things, and find out what we enjoy. This is our chance to find out who we are, and who we are to become. There are lessons to be learned from Not Sidney’s struggle for independence. Now is the time to begin to answer that “pesky question of ‘who am I?’ ”.  The only thing I can hope to do as of now, and what I would advise my peers to do as well, is “Be yourself. Unless you can think of someone better.” (124).

I am a writer of music. I am a blogger of posts. I am Kevin Reed.

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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Passion For Perception

A day or so ago I found myself struggling to finish a song I was writing. I just felt like I was saying something that had been said before. So I gave up my grip on the song I wrestled with and turned my attention onto some work that I had been assigned for Professor McCoy’s English 203 class. We had been instructed that since this (the post you are reading) would be our first blog post of the semester we had to use an epigraph as the basis of our writing. I lethargically skimmed through the epigraphs my professor provided. On the verge of sleep, I read something in the epigraphs that caught my eye. “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. “(Percival Everett). I noticed immediately how Everett expresses a fascination with perception. He is intrigued by the fact that everyone’s vision of him is unique. He knows himself in one sense, yet others know him in a way he might never know. Everett doesn’t only show this fascination in this one quote, he also shows it through his literature.

Everett’s book Frenzy is a call back to a classic greek play, The Bacchae, using many of the same characters and essentially the same story arc. In Frenzy, Dionysus, the god of wine, shows a keen interest in how others perceive the world and himself. His interest is so significant that he creates an entity called Vlepo (an Everett created character) to see into the minds of others, to understand their perception. Vlepo, strangely enough, is ancient greek for “to see”. At one point Dionysus expresses his interest in perception to Vlepo. “I want to know how I make a woman feel. I watch the Bakkhanal unfold and I watch them love each other, and often I see, not the same excited completion I can make in them, but something else, perhaps something more.” (Everett 17). This idea could be a blog post itself, but for the sake of brevity I simply use this to state the point that Everett’s writing is evidence of his fascination with perception. From the fact that Everett creates a character named “to see”, to the fact that Dionysus has a deep desire to understand how he is seen, Everett clearly has a fascination with perception, even within his literature. If one simply looks at the idea of Frenzy conceptually it is itself a modern perception of The Bacchae through the lens of Percival Everett’s mind. Perception is an interesting concept, sure, but why is it significant? This is a huge question to answer. If one just looks at its effect on literature, one can find a more digestible answer. 

This brings me to the revelation I had lazy eyed in my bed after struggling with a song. The revelation was simply that everything has already been written. Every emotion has been had before, every story has been told, and every idea has been thought. Moreover, what makes literature a timeless art is not that there are infinite concepts to write about, but finite concepts that can be perceived through unique lenses. Every human is different, each of us with a mind that is like no other. Consider the idea that if we were put in front of two images one filled green and another red, we can never know for certain that we are seeing the green or red in the exact same way. Perception is a beautiful key, invaluable to what it means to be human and, for our purposes, what it means to be literature. It does not matter what we write about, but how we write it. It doesn’t matter that Everett wrote a retelling of The Bacchae it matters how he wrote it. 

This idea rang in my head like a rousing bell. This is just what I needed to understand. Of course the song I was writing had been said before, it didn’t matter. What did matter is it hadn’t been said by me. So, my advice to my fellow classmates is simple. Do not fret and worry about what you write about, just make sure you write true to yourself. In turn, you will find that your voice is what people want to read. 

After scraping up a few hours of sleep the night before, I found myself in McCoy’s classroom discussing my revelation with her. Once I had finished my piece she sat, an intrigued look in her eye. She said that my idea was interesting, but I needed to ask how it connected with my goals for this course. I told her that my goal for the course was to be able to see when and how an author’s unique lense is altering a familiar concept. Many times it is hard to see an author’s perception of a story because we are so caught up in our own interpretations and ideas. My goal is to be able to read a work of literature and see the lens which the author is using to perceive an idea that has been said before. I believe that Percival Everett’s passion for perception will facilitate my growth as I seek out new perceptions and lenses.