The Last Class Notes! We Made it!

Housekeeping

As a refresher for the end of the course, please read Professor Belli’s blog post above this one: “Wrapping Up The Semester”. Some reminders for us all are:

  • Essay 2: The Handmaids Tale due tomorrow, Friday December 15th at 1pm. 30% of our grades! Please submit your essays through the dropbox link available in the “Assignments” tab
  • Reread and edit your essays before submitting them! When you believe you are finished writing, print the essay and read it aloud slowly to catch missed errors, (grammar and spelling wise), formatting and sentence quality. This is strongly encouraged by Professor Belli!
  • REMEMBER: Submit essay 2 as a word document! Not a PDF or anything else so that the professor can have access to it
  • A 1-page cover letter is REQUIRED! Essays without cover letters will not be accepted or given a grade. The cover letter must be a thoughtful and detailed reflection on the revision process of Essay 2. The cover letter is written after finishing the essay and should be the first page of the document
  • Course reflections are due in the dropbox on Tuesday, December 19th by 2:30pm! The dropbox link for handing this in is also in the “Assignments” tab. This is also our last official day of class!
  • Final course grades should be available on CunyFIrst by December 27th @ midnight! All grades are non-negotiable but feel free to email Professor Belli with questions regarding the breakdown of your grade, or even help for your academic future
  • Please review the writing resources available to you on the site! Use all that you can for great essays

Today’s Mini Essay Workshop

 

What is background info?

  • Short and to-the-point summary
  • Concise and relevant
  • Comes at the start of the essay, promptly following the introduction paragraph, (First body paragraph)
  • Background info may be included to explain certain claims and arguments within your body paragraphs.

“Summary is not bad, but just summary is bad.” -Professor Belli

More Reminders

-Margaret Atwood’s introduction of the book shouldn’t be taken into account in your essays, as it is Atwoods own interpretation of the novel.

-An introduction is an overview of your essay; not an overview of the novel. It is also known as your thesis paragraph.

-When citing quotes from the novel, only the number is needed! This means it should be : (4). Not: (Atwood 4).

*REVERSE OUTLINES ARE HELPFUL AFTER COMPLETEING YOUR ESSAYS! This is when you read through each body paragraph and create a topic sentence, (5-10 words), to sum up each paragraph.

 

Lastly, I want to wish everyone a successful finals week and a happy holiday season as we conclude this fall semester! Good luck to all! 🙂

Wrapping Up the Semester

We made it! We’re just about through with the course, so I’m sharing a few things to keep in mind as we wrap up this semester:

Essay 2
This final essay, worth 30% of your overall course grade, is due on F 12/15 at 1pm. Submit via Dropbox as a Microsoft Word document (label correctly!). Refer to the Essay 2 page on our site for details on this assignment and the submission link. Also, refer to our in-class writing workshops (your notes, and the class notes about them), the feedback from me in our conference(s) about your draft, feedback on Essay 1, and the Writing Resources page on our site. Also, check out the blogs I made on Tips for Revising Essay 1, which also apply to this essay.

Final Course Reflections
Individual Final Course Reflections, worth 10% of your final course grade, are due by the start of class, 2:30pm, on Tu 12/19. You will be submitting the reflection privately (only I will see it) via Dropbox, as a Microsoft Word document (correctly labeled) and you will also bring one printed copy to our last class. Refer to the Final Course Reflection page on our site for details on this assignment and the submission link.


Final Assignment Grades + Final Course Grades

The deadline for professors to submit final course grades for the Fall 2017 semester is W 12/27 at midnight. Please wait to view your course grade online through CUNYfirst (I will not be giving out final course grades via e-mail). Final grades are non-negotiable, though I am always more than happy to discuss them / your work with you at any point in person, to review the breakdown and the grades’ rationale. If you would like to discuss any of your grades and / or receive additional feedback on your Essay 2 or Final Course Reflection, e-mail me to do so (we can always also schedule an appointment to discuss your work in-person when we return to campus at the end of January, when the new semester starts up).


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, & beyond. You all worked incredibly hard this semester, and I really appreciate your consistent effort and good cheer each week. I hope you enjoyed yourselves and learned a lot about literary fiction and critical thinking / reading / writing / reflection, and that you enjoyed reading some great short stories and novels. Have a wonderful winter break & happy holiday season (best of luck in 2018!), & don’t hesitate to be in touch /stop by my office in future semesters to discuss your work in this course and beyond, chat literature in general, or just say hi  :)

 

Class Notes 12/12/17

  • The last day of class is on the the 19th of December. This is also the due date of our reflection papers
  • Essay extension, deadline due on early afternoon Friday.

The differences between The Handmaid’s Book, Movie and Hulu series.

Hulu Series:

  • Somewhat close to the book
  •  Contains large amount of violence and religion.
  • The visuals/cinematography themselves are able to bring more emotion and feeling to a scene.
  • Intro place emphasis on your typical nuclear family which is a bit of a generic big money Hollywood trope. This sort of emphasis isn’t seen in the book.
  • The series is influenced by modern day ideologies. mixed race families for example like Offred’s is a good example

Movie:

  • Luke is straight up killed in the first scene. He’s dead, and i mean like, dead dead. So now any sort of dillema Offred had in the book when it came to Luke potentially being alive is squashed.
  • Offred runs after Luke when he is shot dead but for some reason leaves her child to wonder off
  • Woman are overtly being treated as livestock. Subtlety seemed to be lost in the move (or at the very least, from what we’ve seen so far of the movie)
  • The whole atmosphere of the woman who were going to be trained from bus to training facility seemed like a stifling prison
  •   Scenes of importance:
    • Offred and Moria’s first meeting in the training facility (The Gym)
    • Supermarket Scene when Offred is picking oranges
    • The ceremony
    • Hospital scene where a baby is kidnapped (27:00)
    • When Offred meets the commander for the first time

Book:

  • The women weren’t allowed to talk to each other in the gymnasium but they found ways to circumvent that rule without being caught.
  • The first word of the book says “we” The we is supposed to be offred and the woman of Gillead.

A smothering world

The television series, The Handmaid’s Tale that created by Bruce Miller which was based on the novel written by a Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood was released in April, 2017. This television series highly restored what exactly telling in the book and reflected a creepy society with totalitarian. The authority of divine rights, imaginary freedom and the absolute authority of men and different ruling classes were vividly showed in this television series.

A smothering atmosphere was fulfilled in the entire television series, the first episode started with a violent scene which was several armed men chased a woman named June and her daughter, Hannah and took away her daughter from her eventually. She was also taken to the place called red center and trained by Aunt Lydia to be a handmaid. As June, now was named Offred mentioned, “I had another name, but it’s forbidden now. So many things are forbidden now.” Here strongly shows how exactly she feels from this place which full of imaginary freedom. And in the scene of giving lessons to the handmaids by aunt Lydia, she complains about the old society in United States on the birth control pills, morning-after pills and murdering babies as the reasons for downward of birthrates. The word “ordinary” later conclude how they live after in this world. As Offred tells at the end of the episode, “someone’s watch, here someone’s always watching, nothing can change, it all has to look the same.” The world here has restricted their real freedom and fool them with their imaginary freedom. This is not what they desired but they can just accept this .

The second episode was even worst than what it showed in the first, Offred used a lot of flashbacks and aside to reflect what she feel from bottom of her heart. She is not feeling comfortable in this world at all. She was convinced to join Ofglen because she feels comfortable talking to her, however, Ofglen was replaced by another woman at the end and Offred feels extremely dissatisfied with that. They don’t have the rights to read and talk about the news, between them, they can only discuss about the weather and some word from the bible such as “Blessed be the fruit” and “May the lord open”. They  were always being watched by the “Eyes”, not only women, and some other men from lower classes were being judged by them also. There was no privacy and no choice for them at all. Through out the whole episode was just a smothering atmosphere of society, a society that full of the smell of deaths.

 

 

Friendly reminder: You can actually watch The Handmaid’s Tale for free on this link attached below, just ignored the all Chinese words surrounded and click on the episode number only to watch whatever episode you wanted.It was with mix subtitle, English and Chinese. There was 65 seconds for the advertisement, too. Just be a little patient.

http://www.dnvod.tv/Movie/Readyplay.aspx?id=WO1hj4KpVOw%3d

 

What Did I Just Watch

Comparing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood to the Hulu series I am actually disappointed. It is understandable that the book and the show/movie will never be the same, some details will always be left out. Maybe I will always prefer the books over the series/movies so I might seem somewhat bias. However in my opinion too many details were left out or added in. The actual story to The Handmaid’s Tale is no longer how it was written in the original book. I do not remember ever reading that Luke was shot while they tried to runaway. In the book, Offred continues to keep hope that both her child and husband are alive and somewhere safe. He is never actually presumed dead in the book. The Commanders and their wives are described as very old in the book, on the other hand the show portrays them as young. Now when you think of old you can imagine sterile but in the show the Commanders and their wives are both young erasing that image. It also takes away from the idea the book has that men can ever be sterile regardless of how old they get. The problem can only be within the women and never the men. But since the Commanders and their wives are shown as young that idea no longer makes as much sense as it did in the book. The disgust Serena Joy feels towards Offred does remain thankfully in both the show and the book. But the way that Nick interacts with Offred is completely different. That touch of the foot in the book is not shown within the series. That part in the book is actually very important since it is basically the start of Offred and Nick’s relationship. The touch of the foot is the affection Offred, does not realize in that moment, needs. But that scene does not exist in the series. If I am not mistaken, the handmaid’s are not supposed to interact that openly in front of anyone according to the book. Yet in the series, Offred and Offglen seem to be speaking without a worry. They are supposed to whisper but in the series they are speaking at a normal volume. The idea of “Mayday” also does not exist in the series so far and that was a good chunk of the book. The word “Mayday” played the role of a secret word that becomes the reason that Offglen and Offred become closer. Mayday is the reason Offred gets an insight to a whole different world in the book. In the series, they jump to giving her that insight. I also do not remember Offred spilling her entire story to Offglen in the book, but she does in the series. Lastly, the significance of the Ceremony and giving birth is completely lost in the series. When Janine is shown in the moments building up towards her giving birth the wife is no where to be found in that room. Aunt Lydia and all of the handmaid’s are the ones that are there with her. In the book, the wife is meant to hold the arms of the handmaid during the ceremony as well as when she is giving birth. That act is meant to symbolize a kind of togetherness. The handmaid is the path for the wife’s destination which is the baby. Holding the handmaid’s arms during birth is to show that the wife herself is also feeling what the handmaid feels. It makes the wife a part of the process. That doesn’t exist in the series.

The Hulu series is not awful, but for someone who has read the book and is now watching the series it’s almost like torture. I would like to rewrite their entire script for them.

Handmaid’s Tale the Series; Differences and Similarities.

After reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and upon watching the first two episodes of the adapted series i have to say that there are definitely different approaches that the directors decided to take compared to the novel. The story stays true to some degree while only changing the timeline in some events; for example, On episode 2 Oflgen has been replaced by a new Ofglen, the memories of her trying to escape with Luke and even her time in the red center and memories of Moira are given to us much early on in the show. Ofglen as we should all know was a form of whisperer in the sense that she had some form of network and at the very least pretended like she knew something. Perhaps she did and that was the reason she was replaced. i was surprised to see her memories of everything that had happened to her so soon but i can see that it can allow us the people watching the show, whether we have read the book or not, to become aware of the consequences of rebelling to the authority of Gilead. One vicious scene that showed the people watching the stakes of rebelling was when Ofwarren had said a smart remark towards Aunt Lydia and even giving Aunt Lydia the good old F Bomb, The consequences was to become completely broken and having an eyeball plucked out from her eye socket. Moira is a character that has been so full of life and ready to speak her mind yet she herself is complying to the rules because she understands the stakes. Rebelling can lead to death. These kind of consequences are very similar to the novel. A lot of things can lead to death and i can appreciate that because it can lead to a lot of suspense as we watch these characters struggle to keep their sanity. One surprising difference however was actually the very beginning. The series heavily implies that Luke had died trying to escape but in the novel it still is implied that he died but there were no gunshots fired, in fact Offred is more sure that he is dead in the series while in the novel she has hope that he survived. The scenes where we get to see the commander and Serena Joy are a bit different as well. To begin, Offred meets them basically at the same time while Serena gets her first piece telling Offred ” if she gets trouble she’ll give trouble”. The commander looks fairly young in the series as well not like as if he was in his twenties but the novel certainly makes him appear older than how he was shown in the series. This is clearly an adaptation to appease some type of audience somewhere. I can appreciate their efforts.  I also appreciate how certain quotes from the novel are salvaged into the series since some of these quotes are powerful. One of the powerful quotes was when Offred is describing the furniture in her room and the shatterproof glass and how it only opens a little bit, that it is not because they are afraid that the handmaids will run because they will certainly catch them but they don’t want the handmaid’s to take the easy way out with suicide using shattered glass. This to me is so powerful because it tells the viewers that the handmaid’s are definitely valuable yet they don’t care how they feel and that there is no easy way out. Overall as someone who has read the novel and now watching the show i can see the changes made for the series and do appreciate the content given.

a better picture

The Hulu series of The Handmaid’s Tale was much different than the novel, as expected. It was more face paced (in the first two episodes, which is all I have seen thus far). I enjoy how Offred is portrayed, it’s better than I imagined while reading the novel. She seems so strong but she doesn’t hide the care she has for some of the characters that she is surrounded by. The ceremony, on the other hand, was much more awkward than I thought it would be. The anger and tension between the commander’s wife and Offred are off the charts. In the novel, I do recall how Offred was treated but it was never this bad. My favorite scene was in episode one when the handmaids punish the man that raped a woman and lead to her having a miscarriage. This was only my favorite scene because of Offred’s burst. She wanted to let out a scream from the beginning since she had arrived in the society. At that very moment, she FINALLY was able to let out all of her anger, sadness, and pain onto another man, Causing him pain and death. I honestly think that although it is obvious that she blacked out the moment the whistle was blown, she didn’t mean to cause that much harm to the man. I think she just wanted someone else to feel as hurt and dead inside as she does.

Another interesting thing was what happened to Luke, I don’t recall him being shot in front of Offred and their child in the novel, but, if that was something new then if definitely kept me interested to see what happens next with Offred and how she’ll handle situations.

I also liked how the characters were changed to fit into the show better, it’s small details but it’s very noticeable and enjoyable. Although this novel/show is not my type… It wasn’t that bad.

The Importance of Science Fiction

On Wednesday, December 6th City Tech held the second annual Science Fiction Symposium. I’ll be honest I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the second session due to school and work. The talks during the second session covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from science (obviously) to politics, philosophy and even design.

One of my favorite parts was during Adam Heidebrink-Bruno’s, “Structural Violence of Late Capitalism and the Limiting of Radical Imagination” when Bruno critiqued the “ideological purity” of capitalist goals. Bruno’s talk was very interesting, I was glad to hear that others had about similar sentiments about capitalism, and could concisely describe the points that made it that way, such as, the superficialness and manipulation. Out of all the talks, this is the one that I took notes on the most, furiously, if I might add. Bruno’s talk was saturated with analysis, and despite not having read the text he was describing I could picture exactly what he was referring to. His suggestion that people were made uncomfortable by seeing a reflection of themselves in something that they disagree with, stood with me, I learned that writers will purposely try to instill their readers with this feeling so as to expand their critique into readers lives; it makes sense, they push the boundaries of storytelling and writing and give themselves more space to manifest their ideas. This ability gives them the opportunity to provide the readers with more to take away, and possibly, to even make an active change in their lives or the world around them.

At the symposium, I learned that there was more to science fiction than I initially believed. I, of course, knew there was a degree of importance to science fiction given that some of the greatest known literary works are science fiction pieces (e.g. 1984, The Handmaids Tale, Fahrenheit 451), however, I believe that I underestimated the subtle nuances that are necessary to have a good science fiction piece, as well as severely underestimating the limits of the topics that science fiction could cover, which are, as I learned duringKimon Keramidas’ talk, literally infinitesimal, given that science fiction can cover anything in the past, present, or future. I was also pleasantly surprised by Leigh Dara Gold’s talk to see that philosophy is a topic that can be so present in science fiction. I almost embarrassingly realized that my original views of science fiction were quite narrow and limited mostly to tropes of overly complicated science or gatekeepers trying to make sure that you’re a “real fan” of anything vaguely geeky. I came to find out that a lot of things I was interested in, that I wouldn’t have even thought of as science fiction, actually fell under that category, pieces of media like Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, Black Mirror, and one of my favorite short stories of all time Folding Beijing by Hao Jingang.

Given our current political climate, I believe analysis and discussion, like the kind displayed at the Science Fiction Symposium, should be not only encouraged but viewed as necessary in order to generate a more comprehensive understanding of the world we should be moving towards.

Below I’d like to include a list of some of my additional favorite sci-fi works:

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingang
Black Mirror
Kin by Bruce McAllister
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adam
Stranger Things
The Twilight Zone

Science Fiction Symposium, 2017

I had the opportunity to attend the science fiction symposium a few days ago, and I enjoyed my time there. Some of the subjects that were covered were known to me, and I got to learn about several other works of literature. We had several speakers at the event, but since I only had time to attend two sessions, only four speakers really had my absolute attention. I was really interested in what they had to say for different reasons, so much so, that I had to constantly remind myself to take notes for this blog.  Before I get into details about my time at the event, I would like to acknowledge the presence of Prof. Jill Belli & retired Professor, Samuel R. Delany. Unfortunately I couldn’t be present during their talks, however I met Prof. Belli and we had time to talk in between the sessions.

The first speaker who had my full attention was Adam Heidebrink-Bruno, a graduate student in Lehigh University’s Literature and Social Justice program. He had my full attention because of the specific work of Literature he was talking about. He went into the different types of conflicts in a book by Dave Eggers titled the circle. It’s a good work of Literature, it’s not for everybody, but I enjoyed watching the movie they made about it. In fact, I watched the movie the night before the symposium, with no knowledge whatsoever about what the talks would be about. The fact that I watched the movie the night before, the immersive storytelling and diverse conflicts in both the book and the movie, ( ex: Humans vs Technology) are some of the reasons why Adam had my absolute attention. For anyone who doesn’t know anything about it, hopefully the following quote will get you started, “ Privacy is a human right “.

The second speaker who had my full attention was Kimon Keramidas, associate director and clinical assistant professor in the Center for Experimental Humanities in New York University’s Graduate School for Arts and Sciences. He had some of his students work on science fiction storytelling related video games. I thought that was a very interesting approach to video games,  because most of the video games I know of, aren’t known for there storytelling, they are packed full of actions with no story to back them up. I always appreciate a good immersive story in a video game, and I long for more of them. He also mentioned one of his students video game, about the female body image which explores the saying, “ you’re not good enough “. I thought that would be an interesting video game experience for me. I will finish this section by including a direct quote from Kimon, “ Much of science fiction predicts the science of the future “.

The next speaker who had a significant influence on my thoughts after I left the event, was a chemist who doesn’t really like science fiction since much of his work is related to physical science. This is one of these moments where I was so immersed in the talks that I failed to write down the name of the speaker. I could relate to this chemists opinions about certain science fiction works of literature, because of their very nature. An example of such literature is the Harry Potter series, don’t get me wrong, I love these works of literature, I grew up wishing I could be a part of their world. My only concern with these types of literature is that I have no place to insert myself in, the older I get, the more out of place I feel in them, I have no place in them, because of how incredibly impossible they are. I have an active imagination and I really appreciate some science fiction literatures such as the one’s about Harry Potter, but most of the times, I feel excluded in them. There is a saying that brushes on the types of literature I’m talking about, when a narrator mentions something that’s practically impossible, in the world of literature they call it “ An Act of God “.

The last speaker I had time for that really caught my attention, was an art historian working on the creative nature of robots. Her research is mostly about the drawings of ancient times, however, she has a background in robotics, and has a bachelor in computer engineering. She had my full attention when she started talking about a man named Cohen Harold, who taught an AI called AARON, to draw and program images, then went on to teach it about including colors into the drawings. She had very interesting things to say about the AI, but as I mentioned before, I wasn’t focused on taking notes, I was focused on all of the new and interesting information I was getting from the talks. I also would like to mention Jean Pierre Hebert, he is an independent artist of algorithmic art, drawings, and mixed media. He co-founded the Algorists in 1995 with Roman Verostko. I believe his work was being used to teach AARON to draw, program and add colors to images. I will leave you with a quote from a man I admire, “The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast—it is growing at a pace close to exponential. The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year timeframe. 10 years at most”. Elon Musk

Adaptation to the big screen

The Hulu series of The Handmaid’s Tale differs in many ways from the novel. The Hulu series which was created by Bruce Miller, in my opinion, has done an excellent job in portraying what the novel was intended to say. The first 2 episodes take a rather fast pace to those who have read the novel. The episodes go through several chapter and including the ceremony. I feel like the creator had to do this in order to keep people watching past the pilot. In television, as well as novels, have to engage the reader into staying around until the end. The creator of the show had to take what was most interesting about the show and incorporate it into the pilot. In this case I think one of the more interesting aspects of the novel definitely is the ceremony and the strange aspect of it. This with the little backstory we get to see in the form of flashbacks from Offred do well into telling the viewer what is going on without giving too much of the story away.

With every television or film adaptation there has to be changes made. This is for both creative and time purposes. In this case I believe it was more of the creative process that had to be changed because the novel is long enough to create a series of multiple episodes without adding something of ones own. This can be seen already in the first 2 episodes of the series. When the Salvaging is taking place there is a big switch from the novel in which Offerd can be seen not wanting to participate at all in the act but in the series she is portrayed as someone who will take matters into her own hands. In the series Offred is the first one to deliver the first blow to the accused rapist. She is the one who is seen making the kicks and punches count and blood can be seen covering her robe and face. I think this is a very important and drastic change which changes the way the viewer sees Offred. In the novel despite everything that she gone through in the end she does not see it in herself to hurt someone else. She can not bring herself to hurt someone who she knows most likely is innocent. In the series one can say Offred is not afraid to lay the first punch and is seen as a much stronger character. This changes the tone of the series and makes it that much different from the novel. It puts a nice twist to the characters and makes it interesting to see how this new Offred will react to other situations.

I will continue to watch the series and see what other changes have been made. I do feel like the characters were changed to fit the narrative of the series. Some of the more notable are Serena Joy and the Commander, they are portrayed much younger than in the novel, I do not mind the change but it is there nevertheless.