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.

Change starts with You

Throughout the semester in my English 203 class, there were always these thoughts in my mind, “Am I ok today?” and “Is this really WHAT I want?” These two questions rise in my mind every day now… The first question rises in my mind due to the blog posts we had to complete for this class. Some days, I didn’t have the motivation, or even the slightest idea of what I wanted to write. I would write down ideas after ideas of a blog post. They would be deleted and then that would be undone. The second question would rise in my mind due to the thought of dropping out lingering in my mind every day I would be stepping foot on the Geneseo Campus. The reason for that would be… I am not my true, real self when I step foot on campus. When I’m here, I do feel happy. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery here is gorgeous, and the people here are amazing. The thought of dropping out, scares me a bit. I am talking about dropping out because, well, I’m not myself today.

When I first started college, which was right out of high school, I was expanding my horizons, going on my own path of school, doing what I wanted. I started this journey off at Genesee Community College. I was going to be graduating late, which was fine. I enjoyed my time at GCC, it was a lot of fun, I met a lot of people that are now my close friends. I finished at GCC a year ago in the Fall, and I went off on my own path again. I applied to 3 colleges that offered my major of choice. I applied to Brockport, Buffalo State, and Geneseo. Applying to Geneseo was a decision I made on the spur of the moment, I wasn’t expecting to get accepted at all. A month or so passed once I applied to these three, and I never heard anything from Brockport. Buffalo State and Geneseo reached out to me, they wanted my transcript and some other documents. A week later I got accepted into Geneseo, the day before we were going to go to Open House. I cried that day when I got the acceptance letter in the mail, my mom cried, my dad too, and I never see him cry. All three of us were surprised and over the moon that I was accepted into my dream school. 

The ball got rolling in January 2019, I was put into a total of 6 classes, which was a lot for me. I’ve never been in that many classes at one time before, unless it was in high school. Once my plan was filled out and ready, I had to wait to start the semester. Here we go. I was nervous, I was scared, I had no idea what the future held for me. When I started in the School of Education, they pushed onto me to apply to the School of Ed., so I did. I got accepted, and I had to keep my GPA above a 2.75, I told myself, “Oh, that won’t be that hard.” I did it at GCC, why can’t I do it here? There was a lot of pressure on my shoulders. Classes at Geneseo were a lot more harder than I anticipated, they have a big reputation for their Education majors, they are known for them. The classes were fun, I haven’t laughed as hard as I did when I was working with fellow Education major students. 

Once the semester ended, and finals came around the corner, I knew I wasn’t going to do so well. I struggled through midterms, and through the rest of the semester. I questioned myself a lot throughout the semester, and I kept asking myself, “Do I want to put myself through this?” I ended the semester with the lowest GPA I’ve ever had, and I failed 2 classes. I decided to take one of those classes over the summer, I grew a lot during the summer, I learned a lot about myself during this summer. I learned how great of a writer I am, and I still am learning on how to grow on that. Since I didn’t do so well in the Spring 2019, I was dropped from the Education classes I was scheduled in due to my GPA, and had to take general education classes. I was kept in the classes that wasn’t pertaining to my major, English 203 was one of them.

English was my concentration as an Education major. I’ve always found English an amazing subject to look into. I’ve loved it since high school. I’ve always been the bookworm, and the one to expand my thinking to great lengths. Throughout my first 2 weeks in this class, and in my other 3 classes, the thought popped into my head on if I should change my major, so I looked into it. I decided, as of September 2019, I would be changing my major to Psychology. It was set in stone, I made up my mind. The change was nice. I do miss my Education friends and my classes, but Psychology is so interesting, and I had full support from my family. 

The thought that was in my mind throughout this whole semester, should I drop out once I’m done with this semester? Is that something that I want to do? I have done a lot of thinking throughout this semester, especially these last 3 months, I have decided that it is in my best interest of my mental, and emotional health that I will be dropping out of college. I am going to be going out into the workforce for a while. I have full support of my family, and I over the moon grateful for that. 

         “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 strange faces, I finally know what should be written on that stone. It should say what mine will say: I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.”- Percival Everett.

This quote is taken from Percival Everett’s book, I am not Sidney Poitier. I find myself being like Not Sidney in a couple ways. Not Sidney went back to some place he had a lot of connections with, he wanted to find peace and solidarity there. I continued into my college career after earning my Associates to see what I could handle. I wanted to push my limits, I wanted to try a 4 year school in a way. I was testing the waters. I found quick that I pushed myself too far, and I scared myself on how bad I did. Geneseo is definitely not like GCC. Geneseo pushes you, Geneseo makes you work for what you want, Geneseo tests you in many ways. Change is good for the heart, and when I came to Geneseo, that’s what I was honestly looking for. I expected so much out of myself to put towards Geneseo, and I didn’t do that. I failed myself, but I learned so much about myself in many ways. 

When I’m on Campus at Geneseo, there’s days where I really don’t feel like myself that day, and there’s other days where I’m excited to be on campus and see my friends. I’ve learned that my true self isn’t here on the Geneseo campus, sadly. As of right now, I really don’t know where my true self is. I know that part of it is in the Education major, and working with children is my passion, that’s where my roots are. I uprooted myself when I changed my major. I remember my mom telling me, “You’re going to end up going to Education. It’s your passion, that’s where you’re meant to be.” I think that’s where I’m meant to be too. When I leave, I am going to be going back to my roots. I am planning on looking for jobs in the Education world. I may not be able to be a full fledged teacher like I dreamed of, but I will be able to still work with children, and that’s something to look forward to. 

“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socretes

A Step Back From The Semester

Honestly, trying to sit down and write this blog post has been a lot more challenging than I anticipated. All of my other final assignments have just been a regurgitation of facts, so switching gears to form my own opinions has been weird. I can tell you why Pluto is no longer considered a planet and trace the path of Alcibiades’ capricious loyalties all through Ancient Greece. My brain physically ached for a while from so much cramming, although that’s not even possible since the brain has no pain receptors. But, a broad question like “What has the point of this semester been?” is a whole different playing field. I drew a mental blank for three days before I even tried to sit down and write. Continue reading “A Step Back From The Semester”

A Reflection Post on Reflection


Image result for vintage photos of people readingI remember vaguely from five months ago,  sitting next to my adviser and picking classes. When discussing the required classes for my major, she firstly offered up “Reader and Text”.   I remember asking her what the course entailed and after reading the description, still clueless as to the meaning behind “fluid readers and text” was, she offered little to no help on demystifying the course’s entails. When entering the class, the first assignment we received was to analyze the reader in the painting Young Girl Reading, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.   For the first time in my scholastic career, I was asked to analyze the anonymous “reader” behind the book. Over these fifteen weeks, the importance of the fluidity of readers became more and more obvious. It is important to have fluidity in a reader, for if not, the puzzle pieces of the narrative may go undetected. Even in class, the witness of how each person interprets a plot, or character decisions, and how a work affects someone is individual to each one of my peers.  Continue reading “A Reflection Post on Reflection”

Thursday theme – When You Dream

Today’s theme song in ENGL 203-04 is “When You Dream,” from the album Stunt by Barenaked Ladies, released in 1998. Lyrics here.

The speaker, watching their new son sleeping, asks, “When you dream, what do you dream about?”

Reading the Alice books has made us ask a lot of questions about dreaming. Can I know when I’m awake and not dreaming? How do I know that I’m not part of someone else’s dream? Can the person in whose dream I appear be someone who’s also part of my dream? (Alice proposes just that possibility in the final chapter of Through the Looking-Glass.) Do children have a special relationship to dreams and to the fount of dream-creativity, imagination?

But in Tuesday’s class, we also asked some questions about the word about. What does it mean to say that the Alice books are “about changes?” Or “about the special relationship between children and imagination?” Or “about the inevitably fluid and unstable nature of conceptual categories”? Or just “about a little girl named Alice who has adventures in an imaginary Wonderland and on the other side of the looking-glass”? Continue reading “Thursday theme – When You Dream”