I’ve recently become very aware of context. Specifically, how easily something can be taken out of context. A few semesters ago, I took a class on Northern Irish Poetry. It was–and remains–one of my favorite classes that I have taken here at Geneseo. Because I was so in love and absorbed with the content of the class, the themes began to carry themselves into other areas of my life. I started to see myself making connections with the course everywhere that I went. In this case, it wasn’t a negative thing! I stayed thinkING throughout the semester.
I have a lot of experience with the Bible and Christianity. I’ve read the whole book through a few times in and out of class. I’ve grown up in a Christian family and have gone to church my whole life. In reading such a well-known text over and over again, it has become easy for me to read other texts through a Biblical lens, specifically when names are concerned.
In Big Machine, we see a number of Biblical names pop up: Solomon, Cain, and Judah are the ones I’ve noticed. When I was introduced to these characters, I assumed that Solomon would be a wise character, and Cain would somehow be involved with a murder. I figured that Judah would have something to do with the theme of legacy. I haven’t finished the novel yet, so I can’t say if these things are true or not yet, but my presumption surprised me. When I brought up my assumptions of the characters to my group, and where they came from, I was asked by them to explain the Bible stories that the names might be referencing. Another group member mentioned that their exposure to H.P Lovecraft caused them to interpret Big Machine in a way that I would have never thought of with my very limited knowledge of Lovecraft. This wasn’t the first time that I was made aware that not everyone had a common language, but it was the most influential instance for me.
At Geneseo, we all have to take Humanities as a way of establishing a common set of texts that we can pull examples from; a second language is established within our English language. When I was wading through pages and pages worth of Machiavelli, I struggled with finding the value in having access to these common references, but when I went into my classes after Hum, I was able to notice how often these texts show up.
I think that Big Machine has shown me a new thing to love about literature: everyone interprets the material through their personal training and experience. Maybe this is what Suzan-Lori Parks meant when she wrote, “Read with yr whole bod.” Our background shapes our interpretation of a story, a poem, a novel, a play… This means that although the physical text is unchanging, the experience is ever changing, ever developing, ever expanding. How cool is that?