After class the first week, I looked over the courses epigraphs, pondering which lucky quote I would choose to open my blogs with. While reading them over, one in specific jumped out at me. I had spotted a small-scale recursion!
In the quote, “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice,” Dionne Brand repeats the word “notice,” circulating a word three times to emphasize a theme. Similar to how one topic can start a class and end a class, recursion can also occur in a single sentence.
While the repetition of the word “notice” may not be a mathematical example of recursion, I believe that is fits the definition of a recursion. In the book African Fractals, author Ron Eglash describes recursion as “a sort of feedback loop, with the end result of one stage brought back as the starting point for the next.” (Eglash, 8) The last word of the Brand’s quote alerts the reader to “notice.” The word “notice” made me go back and notice the repetition of words, and after that, notice the overall message.
While the literal construction of this quote applies to class, its overall message connects to material we have worked on thus far as well. The quote reminds me to take the time to read deeper into text. In class we dissected Alice Walker’s short story, Everyday Use, which dove into the complex themes of interpreting African American culture. While one character, Wangero, is a college educated African American who has experienced life outside of her original home, Maggie, Wangero’s sister, has lived with her mother her whole life. The two characters have very different perspective on African American culture. Later in the story, when Wangero asks to take one of her grandmother’s quilts, her mother denies her the quilt stating, “You just don’t understand.” When Maggie questions this, her Mom replies, “Your heritage.” (Walker, 1725)
After reading this short story and discussing it with friends, my overall read on Wangero as a character was negative. Throughout the entirety of the story she was presented as an entitled college student who seemingly interpreted her culture incorrectly. After I had interpreted the text this way, Dr. McCoy pointed out that the short story was written from the Wangero’s and Maggie’s mother’s point of view. Without hearing Wangero’s side of this argument, readers cannot completely understand her views. After thinking more about the story’s perspective, I realized that Wangero may have had a completely different view on culture, but that didn’t make her view invalid. It was wrong of me to judge her view of her own culture without noticing the story’s point of view. Truly noticing the details of this short story changed the entire way I viewed the overall message.
I believe that the circularity of Brand’s quote and the message of circularity that it produces has helped me to create some goals for myself this semester. In the past, I have taken classes and forgotten material once I received a grade. However, it is important to continue contemplating ideas and materials from the past and bring them into current class discussion. My goal for this year is continue contemplating readings and ideas once the class itself is done talking about them. Like Brand’s use of the word “notice” in his quote, I hope to bring back older ideas from the beginning of class and allude to them later in the semester.
Additionally, I believe that this quote challenges me to search for smaller details. If there is anything that I have learned from taking a few English courses, it is that most small details of a writer’s work are intentional. It is important to notice the smaller details in stories because they could change the whole meaning of a work.
Although it is important to focus on current readings, discussions, and classes, Dionne Brand’s quote, along with the topic of recursion, has inspired me to look back at times. If you look back, you may notice more.