ENGL 431: Reflective Essay

Throughout the entirety of this semester the one person who made me begin to think about a lot of situations differently was Octavia Butler. Butler continued to amaze me throughout the semester since she made me think in different forms about truly being “independent”.  At the beginning of the semester, I thought that focusing on just one author was going to be boring and repetitive, but this class really proved me wrong. This class also honed in the ideas of being independent and overall make me think strategically about the course. Reading Butler was a way for me to overall change my course of action this semester, especially during a pandemic. I was able to truly understand the meaning of thinking deeply about a topic, through literature. I think the main topic I felt through both novels was adapting to change. The change that has occurred not only because of living through a pandemic as a college student, but also the metaphorical change of finding peace in literature, when the world is in complete chaos. 

The first part of Butler’s work that was interesting for me was the setup of her novel Lilith’s Brood. I felt as though separating the novel into three sections, caused me to think independently about each, and then see the overarching plot. One piece of the novel that I agreed with and saw myself drawing back to it, was Lilith trying to band everyone together, even though multiple groups were trying to tear her down. I think for me I kept thinking about my personal struggles, and how I kept defying all of them. How all of the choices I have made since being in college, overall have made me into an independent thinker, and how that has also been shown in my responses to anything occurring on campus. Butler’s portrayal of this character overall deepened my independent thinking and caused me to develop my own ideas about life throughout this semester. Developing my own ideas helped me focus on the central course questions for this course. 

The central course questions or epigraphs listed on the syllabus are, “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not….Habit is persistence in practice. Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”–Octavia Butler, Furor Scribendi. “Learn and Run!”–Octavia Butler, Dawn. “I chose a spot near the river. There I prepared the seed to go into the ground. I gave it a thick, nutritious coating, then brought it out of my body through my right sensory hand. I planted it deep in the rich soil of the riverbank. Seconds after I had expelled it, I felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life.” –Octavia Butler, Imago. I think one point that struck me at the beginning of the semester was habit is persistence in practice. 

Habits for me have always been a struggle, and I didn’t fully understand how to either break the bad ones or adapt the good ones to make them a habit to keep for the rest of my lifetime. Habits can bring and bind people together to achieve the central goal for this course. I think that one habit I gained from reading Butler this semester was to never give up. Lilith went through a difficult series of challenges, to be able to tackle every obstacle that the Ooloi tried to throw at her. Every detail that any character gave to her throughout this novel, made it easy for Lilith to just give up, and stop trying to fight this war.

“I felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life”. This portion of the epigraph for this course brought me back to one of the reasons I decided to attend college in the first place. The independent moves I made in my life have shown me the habits that I needed to break and why. Throughout my three full years at Geneseo, I can’t say that I truly cared for other students more than I did in this class. While being a student in the middle of a pandemic has its challenges, it has shaped me even more into being an independent human, and how to adjust to chaos if needed. 

Care for me has always been evident in this course. The entire novel of From Here To Equity, is all about caring for the future generation and bringing them the knowledge to deal with almost anything that might come their way throughout life. Part 3 of this novel is titled Alternatives to War and Slavery, which is a nice title to show what else we can do when conflict arises. This can however also cause harm to society. Should anyone read some statements the wrong way, we might end up in a world like Lilith. 

“The aim of a substantive program of reparations is to produce a race-fair America instead of an America that is unable to acknowledge and confront persistent racial inequality” (pg 47). I think the quote talks about the harm that racism is bringing to our society and country as a whole. Recently multiple events have caused harm to black people. Wrongful deaths have been an issue for black people for as long as I can remember. The color of your skin should not be the reason for fear and chaos to roam around the country. The recent Black Lives Matter movement is evidence to me of who is causing harm in this country, and who is caring for everyone that they can. I think that is where this course really comes into play with this issue. In my opinion, the Ooloi is the harm and Lilith is the care that society needs to take over the world. Lilith’s Brood as a novel made me see that Butler cared for her audience. She wanted everyone to know that this novel is her caring for being joy and an overall adjustment to everyday life. Being able to build habits, and start to care for your society, is a main point Butler was trying to get across. 

I have overall been prepared to be changed from this course because of Butler’s choice words in her literature. I think overall the way that she told Lilith’s story really helped me change my outlook on all literature and what can be told throughout a series even if only mentioned once. “He did not argue. She resented his silence, but accepted it. He wanted to go that badly. His feeling that he was on Earth was that strong.” This quote from Dawn was one that meant a lot to me, since it reminded me of having to leave Geneseo at the end of Spring semester. I think that the habit of being changed from this course, is preparing me to leave the school entirely. If I had not been so engrossed in Butler’s literature I don’t think I would be saying the same things about it now. But, Butler was able to rope me into Lilth’s story and from there I was encapsulated by everything Butler mentioned. The story brought back a lot of mentions for me to think about in our society today, and I am forever grateful. This course has made me the woman I am today, and I honestly wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

Goal Setting Essay !

The first epigraph that starts to get me thinking about this class critically, is Butler’s quote from Imago. The part that makes me think critically is the idea of planting the seed. That sentence has helped me think about Dr. McCoy giving us as students an idea, and just letting us run with it, whatever way we want to. I think that is evident with Dr. McCoy’s idea of the forums posts. It lets us as readers decide what parts of the novel are captivating to us, and then describe them to others. “…the tiny positioning movements of independent life” I think that this being the end of our epigraph leads to critical thinking in class. For me at least, the significance of independence makes this class feel like I can use my voice however I would like too. This quote makes me think that I can speak freely now about things, and even in the future as long as I have some evidence to back it up. 

One section of Litih’s Brood so far that has been difficult for me to understand is part IV in Dawn (The Training Room). This is where I thought more about the Learn and Run epigraph. When reading page 199 in Dawn at first I was able to imagine what the room looked like. But the next paragraph mentions bromeliads, lichens, mosses, etc then became a struggle. It was difficult for me to understand the imagery first, let alone what the plot points were for the chapter. I then thought about learning about everything, like the epigraph says, Learn and Run. So I searched up and learned about most of the foliage mentioned on 199, and it became easy for me to understand the rest of that chapter. 

Learn and Run in Dawn also helped me see what parts of the novel really bind people together. I can see throughout the chapter that the influence brought me to be able to understand that people can be brought together through knowledge.I think that being able to learn from multiple perspectives of a novel, helps me think successfully about the class. When I first started reading Dawn I was confused as to the main plot point. But talking with other students, and just being able to discuss in posts online so I can always go back, has helped me be able to run with the idea and develop my own ideas throughout the novel. 

I think the next point I want to mention is the Oankali, specifically the Ooloi definite description. The Ooloi were hard for me to understand from the beginning until I finished this section of the novel. It was hard for me to think of the Ooloi as a sex type since on top of that all of the Oankali had tentacles all over their bodies. For me I kept thinking of the Ooloi as a separate entity and not a part of the Oankali until I reread most of the novel and could see where the similarities lay between both descriptions. I was then able to run with the idea of understanding what is going on throughout the novel. I think that without thinking about the Learn and Run epigraph again here, I would not have fully understood the novel. 

The last epigraph to talk about is “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not… Habit is persistence in practice. Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent” – Octavia Butler, “Furor Scribendi”. This epigraph has helped me develop into Lilith’s character throughout the novel. Since Lilith is one of the only humans mentioned throughout all 250 pages of this novel it became easy for me to only relate to Lilith. I think that the habit aspect of the epigraph correlates to her disgust for the Oankali. I think that Lilith’s link to Nikanj overall made her more dependable on her habits than feeling inspired to make earth habitable. 

Although Lilith agrees to interbreed, and kills Joseph, the humans are sent to earth without her. This to me is also an illusion to the “Learn and Run” epigraph again. The humans have to learn how to live without their “leader” to tell them when to grow (learn) and when to run away from situations. I think this was one of the turning points for me to be able to think critically. What if Butler had let Lilith go to Earth with all of the humans? Would things have turned out differently, or was the reasoning for keeping Lilith away from the humans to force them into the Learn and Run epigraph? 

The last paragraph of this novel also affected me, which made me excited to continue reading Adulthood Rites. “She would have more information for them this time. And they would have long, healthy lives ahead of them. Perhaps they could find an answer to what the Oankali had done to them. And perhaps the Oankali were not perfect. A few fertile people might slip through and find one another. Perhaps. Learn and Run! If she were lost, others did not have to be. Humanity did not have to be. She let Nikanj lead her into the dark forest and to one of the concealed dry exits”. This entire paragraph brought me back to the critical question of putting Lilith on earth, would things have ended up differently. This paragraph made me think of the humans taking over the thought of the epigraph. The humans now have to learn how to live their lives, and run with living without Lilith. 

Overall, I think that these epigraphs have overall helped me improve my thinking about this semester. I have been able to go back to them, and overall try to see what was confusing to me, and how to fix that. I have mostly focused on the learn and run epigraph, since it has been the easiest for me to use. I have been able to think freely for myself, which has made the readings for this class educational and fun at the same time.