Two FREE “storytelling” events tomorrow (W 1/8) in Manhattan!

Happy 2014 everyone!

I hope that the new year is treating you all well so far, and that you are enjoying your break. I know our course is over, but I just want to let you know about two wonderful (free!) events happening tomorrow evening, both of which are related to the themes of our course (conflation of fiction/fact, narrative truth, storytelling). The first event below even features Gish Jen (who wrote the short story, “Who’s Irish?” that we read in class).

I’m hoping to go to the second event (the film at MoMA), but if I can’t get tickets, I will be at the Ozeki/Jen event. Perhaps I’ll see some of you at one of these events!

The Interdependent Self: A Reading with & Conversation with Ruth Ozeki & Gish Jen

  • Tickets are free to this event (just RSVP via Eventbrite)
  • Wednesday, 1/8, 7pm @Asian American Writers’ Workshop (Manhattan)


Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley), film

  • CUNY students get in free to MoMA (did you know this? you should take advantage of this amazing amazing museum!). I believe this applies to the films as well, but you can call to doublecheck if you’re interested in going.
  • Advance tickets are sold out, but MoMA will release rush tickets tomorrow (W 1/8) at 9:30am, either person at the museum or online (at the link above)
  • Wednesday, 1/8, 6:30pm @MoMA (Manhattan)
  • Click here to read the New York Times review to learn more about the film

Wrapping up the Semester

Can you believe it?? This coming week is the final week of class! Below is everything you need to know about what needs to happen between now and the last day of the semester.

Last Minute Office Hours
In addition to my regular office hours on Tuesday (12-2pm), I will be on campus tomorrow, M 12/16, in the afternoon, and have some availability to meet to discuss Essay #3 (or Lying more generally). Please e-mail me if you would like to schedule a conference with me for Monday or Tuesday.

Final Exam
As discussed in class, your final exam will take place in-class on Tuesday, 12/17. The final exam is on Lying, and will include short responses and an essay (you will have a choice of questions/prompts). I strongly encourage you to review your notes from our in-class discussions of the text, read through all students’ blog posts on the different sections, and review the discussion prompts I distributed/we discussed on Part 3 and Part 4 + Afterword.

The final exam is worth 10% of your overall course grade.

Please remember to arrive to class on time on Th 12/17, as we will begin the exam promptly at the start of class and will end exactly at the end of class. If you arrive late, you will not be given extra time to complete the exam.

Essay #3
The final draft of Essay #3 on Lying is due no later than Wednesday, 12/18 at 1pm. You must submit your essay (complete with Cover Letter) to Dropbox and drop off a hard copy to my mailbox (in the English Department main office, N512, which is open M-F, 9am-1pm & 2-5pm) no later than 1pm on Wednesday. If your essays are not submitted both ways by the due date/time, you will receive no credit for the assignment.

*A number of you still need to e-mail your thesis/paragraph + outline for Essay #3 to me. If you are one of these people, please do so ASAP.

Course Reflections
Your Individual Final Course Reflection is due in class on Th 12/19 (this is a mandatory–not optional–assignment). Please visit the Final Course Reflection page on our site for more details on this assignment.

Final Class
We will hold class on Thursday, 12/19, and we’ll use this time to finish our discussion of Lying. We will also have a little end-of-the-semester/holiday party, so please feel free to bring in goodies (food, drink, etc.) to share with your classmates.

Final Course Grades

The deadline for professors to submit final course grades for the Fall 2013 semester is 12/26. Please wait to view your course grade online through CUNYfirst (I will not be giving out final course grades via e-mail). Once you see your final grade posted online, you should feel free to e-mail me for a breakdown of your grades (including what grades you received on these final assignments).

Final grades are non-negotiable, though I am always more than happy to discuss them/your work with you at any point. If you would like to discuss any of your grades/receive additional feedback on the final assignments/exams, you should e-mail me to schedule an appointment to discuss your work when we return to campus at the end of January (2014).

Thank you, & stay in touch!
Finally, it was a pleasure to work with you all this semester. I wish you the best of luck wrapping up the semester and on your final exams, and in your future endeavors at City Tech and beyond. You all worked incredibly hard this semester, and I really appreciate your consistent effort and good cheer day in and day out! I hope you enjoyed yourselves and learned a lot about reading fiction, critical thinking, and writing. Have a wonderful summer break, & don’t hesitate to be in touch in future semesters to discuss your work in this course/beyond, and/or to just say hi  🙂

Professor Belli Sick: No Class Today (Th 11/21)

Dear Class:

Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it into campus today. I’ve been at home sick for the past few days, and am still dealing with flu-like symptoms and a 103 fever, so I’m taking a sick day today to get better and not infect my students/colleagues.

I’ve arranged for alternative assignments to make up for the missed class time, and will be posting it to OpenLab by tomorrow afternoon, so please check back then. Of course, don’t hesitate to e-mail me with any questions/concerns.

We will also be moving ahead, as planned, with reading Part Two of ‘Lying’ and blogging in response for next week.

Also, just in case your classmates don’t check their City Tech e-mail accounts on a regular basis, can you pass this e-mail along (via personal e-mail address, call, or txt) to anybody in class whose contact info. you have, so that they know class is cancelled?

Many thanks for your understanding, and see you on Tuesday!

Professor Belli

Reminders: Essay #2, Peer Review, ‘Lying,’ + the Literature Roundtable

Hi everyone:

Just a few quick reminders about what’s coming up (and what’s due) over the next week:

  • As requested (you can thank Lorrelle for speaking up on your behalf!), I have given you an extension for Essay #2. Essay #2 (on Lolita) is now due Tu 11/19. Before class on Tuesday, don’t forget to update your Cover Letter/essay to Dropbox, and to bring to class your final draft of Essay #2 with Cover Letter + the peer review (that your classmate did for you in Thursday’s class (please staple this all together, with the Cover Letter/Final Draft on top).
  • Thursday (11/14) Professor Rosen will be subbing class, as I will be in Charleston, SC presenting at the Society for Utopian Studies conference.. As we discussed, you will peer review Essay #2 in class this day. Make sure that you show up to class, on time, and bring two printed copies of your complete essay draft and one printed copy of the peer review guidelines/assignment (you can download this document from the top of the Essay #2 page on our course site). You may also want to bring highlighters, different colored pens, etc. to class to help you as you go through your peer’s draft. Make sure to read through the guidelines/assignment thoroughly before class to familiarize yourself with it, so you don’t have to spend time in class going over it. This class period/peer review will provide invaluable feedback for you as you work on Essay #2 (and your Cover Letter for the final draft should definitely take into account your experiences in peer review).
  • We will begin Lying on Tuesday (11/19), so make sure that you have read Part One and blogged (by Monday night) Reading Response #11. Remember, we made a deal in class: I give you the essay extension, but everyone still moves forward with the new reading/blogging. Therefore, as we agreed, if you don’t read Part One of Lying + blog in response by Monday night, you will receive no credit for Essay #2 (that was the deal!). I think you’ll like Lying, and it is a much more accessible book in many ways than Lolita. I look forward to hearing what you think of it.
  • As discussed in class, the Literary Arts Festival will take place on Thursday (11/14), right before class, during club hour, in the Atrium Amphitheater. The discussion will be on Tim O’Brien’s short story collection The Things They Carried, but even if you haven’t read it you should still go and check it out and talk literature with other folks. There will be a short text handed out/discussed there, and since you are now such awesome experts at close reading/analysis/elements of fiction, you should go show off your skills and participate in this conversation! And … as a little motivation (we know how you love incentives!) … anyone who goes to the event and blogs about it will receive extra credit (it will count as an additional blog post towards your blogging grade).

Good luck writing/peer-reviewing/revising your essays … I look forward to reading them when I return next week, and also to beginning our conversations on Lying.
Have a wonderful week/end! 🙂

Cheers,Professor Belli

Crowdsourcing Quilty (comment due by M 11/11)

Thanks for a really interesting conversation in class today about both the characterization of Quilty and the role he plays in Lolita. We threw a lot of fascinating ideas around: that Quilty is Humbert’s doppleganger, that he is the ultimate “Master” (because he got what Humbert could never get: Lolita’s love), that he is the unfortunate source of Humbert’s misguided revenge, that he is the part of Humbert (the straight up pedophile, without the beautiful narrative/memoir to justify his actions) that Humbert hates/regrets/wants to destroy, etc. etc. etc. …

This post is a space for us to continue this conversation, especially in terms of places in the text that (on a re-reading of the novel) foreshadow Quilty’s major role in the plot as well as how Humbert and Quilty are aligned in many ways (their characters fuse at various points). Therefore, before Tuesday’s class (so by Monday night, 11/11), everyone should make a least one comment here, with both a piece of textual evidence (quote, with citation/page number) and analysis of what this quote signifies in terms of our understanding of Quilty in the novel.

*Feel free also to start new discussion threads (new posts) about any other aspect of the novel that we haven’t gotten to yet in class or that you want to discuss (for example, we still haven’t really talked about Rita!), and hopefully we can get some good virtual discussions here to help you think critically about the text as you work on drafting your essay on Lolita.

Reminder: new ‘Lolita’ blog due W 10/16 (+ optional extra credit blog)

I hope that you all enjoyed your day off this week (I’m having a fabulous time in Iceland … when I get back to NYC, I’ll post few photos of the amazing display of the Northern Lights that I saw on Monday night!).

Just a few quick reminders:

For our next class, you should have read Lolita, pages 97-142 and blogged in response (Reading Response #7). This blog, as all reading responses, is due the night before class (so in this case, Wednesday, 10/16).

There is also an optional (extra-credit) blog due on Lolita’s impressions. If you opt to do this blog, it is due before class begins on Thursday (10/17).

Please remember to continue to contribute to our ongoing class archive on Humbert’s narration (you can drop a comment here at any point).

Next week we’ll review for our mid-term exam on Tuesday (10/22) and then have the exam in-class on Thursday (10/24). We will pick up with the next section of Lolita and our blogging the following week (10/29).

Giving Lolita a Voice

As John Ray informs us in his Foreword, Lolita’s “first name is too closely interwound with the inmost fiber of the book to allow one to alter it” (4), and indeed the story both begins and ends with Lolita’s name.  And yet, we only see Lolita through Humbert’s eyes, through his desire, through his insanity, and through his memory.

Humbert tells us, “I would like to describe her face, her ways – and I cannot, because my own desire for her blinds me when she is near” (44); Humbert seems to be so wrapped up in his passion for her that he cannot see her clearly. Therefore, even though he spend many pages meticulously describing her body, personality, and life, the Lolita we see is through Humbert’s gaze, not Lolita herself (or as she sees herself) …

So, here’s your opportunity to give voice to Lolita, to re-tell the story, the same story, but from her point of view. There are no rules, no word limits, nothing is off-limits, nothing you should do, except to tell a particular scene/aspect of the text from little Lo’s perspective. Does she focus obsessively on Humbert? Does she totally ignore him? Does she love him? Does she hate him? Is she scared of him? Does she know what he’s trying to do? Does she care? (etc. etc)

*You should complete this post (no word limit, but I encourage much longer than the normal 250 word minimum) the night before our next class (Th 10/17), and categorize it as “Lolita’s impressions. Please make sure to indicate what scene/part of the text you are re-telling (provide section & numbers).

*This is an optional blog, but if you choose to do it, you will earn extra credit (it will make up for one missed blog if you missed one already, or it will give you extra points if you’ve done them all). We’ll vote on the most convincing/creative post next week … so have fun with it 🙂

Crowdsourcing Humbert’s Self-Conscious Narration

As part of our reading of this Lolita (and the overall themes of this course), we are exploring the un/reliability of the narrator/narrative, the conflation of fact/fiction, the revision of memories, the reconstruction of experience, the ways in which storytellers attempt to portray their own, individual, personal truths (which may not be the same as the objective truth). Lolita is a rich text for performing a close reading around these “self-conscious” moments in the narrative. Consider the following:

Though Humbert Humbert tells readers that he is “no poet … only a very conscientious recorder” (72), we cannot forget that he has in the past been housed in many “sanatoriums” and that he is currently writing his narrative from a restricted prison library, on trial for murder.  Is he “reliable” as a narrator?  Humbert claims to produce an accurate reconstruction, “courtesy of a photographic memory” (40), but he often mentions that parts of his story are “omitted” or “amended.”  In fact, when Charlotte discovers Humbert’s secret desires for Lolita, he frankly omits his intention to change his story/lie to escape the consequences [“Rewrite.  Let her read it again.  She will not recall details.  Change, forge” (96).]  Similarly, his constant use of foreshadowing seems contrived.

And, though it is easy to forget, readers must remember that Lolita is not only a beautiful and painful memoir but also a “confession,” written by a “demented diarist” who needs to go to a “competent psychopathologist” and whose tale could be a classic “case history” in “psychiatric circles” (5).  Before we are introduced to Humbert’s voice, we come upon a “Foreword” by his lawyer, and readers’ attention is constantly called to the fact that this narrative is very much a “defense” (of both his irrational and illegal love for Lolita as well as his murder of Quilty).  He addresses his audience frequently [“Gentlemen of the jury!” (69)] and references his “criminal craving” (23) and “satanic” handwriting.  Who is his audience and what is his purpose with this memoir (keep in mind that there may be multiple audiences and purposes)? How does his self-conscious narration affect our understanding of the story? Can we trust his memoir?

In preparation for Thursday’s class (10/10), everyone should post at least one comment as a reply to this post (though I encourage many more) that provides one place in the pages we have already read (through Part One, Section 22) where Humbert explicitly draws attention (in a meta-fiction way) to the fact that he is carefully/consciously constructing a narrative and controlling his reader’s reception of the text. Your comment (reply) can be just a few sentences: provide the quote/citation and a quick explanation of how/why it functions. Feel free to post multiple comments, and also to respond to others. If you’ve already discussed some of these instances in your previous blogs, you should feel free to draw on that material.

We’ll add to these comments with each new section of the book we read, until we have a class-generated archive of all of these instances in the text.

Reminder: Essay #1 due this Thursday, 10/3

Hi everyone.

Just a friendly reminder that Essay #1 is due before class begins on Thursday. We discussed strategies for writing argumentative essays (for close reading of a short story) in class last Thursday, and I’m meeting with some of you individually to discuss your work during my office hours. These brief meetings have been really productive/generative, and I’m happy to meet with others before Thursday if you’d like (but please e-mail me ASAP if you’d like to set up a time to meet).

If you haven’t done so already, it is essential that you read the Essay #1 Assignment carefully before revising/submitting your final draft. Also, make sure to review the Essay Formatting Guidelines and the Dropbox submission requirements (all of this contributes to your grade on the essay).

You should also visit the Writing Resources section of our course site if you need a review of essay elements like thesis statements, topic sentences, incorporating quotations, MLA citation, etc. And don’t forget about the Elements of Fiction reading on our Course Schedule (look at 9/10), which provides useful strategies for understanding fiction and writing about it.

Happy writing! I look forward to reading your essays 🙂