Category Archives: Class Notes

The Last Class Notes! We Made it!


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! 🙂

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


  • 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


  • 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.

Dec. 7th


  • Homework #1: Watch the first two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tail Hulu series by Tuesday, Dec. 12th 
    • NOTE
      • You must’ve already have read the novel. 
      • Be sure to take notes as you watch and if you want to mention a scene in class to discuss a scene, write the episode number as well as the minute/seconds of where the scene is at.
      • Think of the adaptation. Don’t just make a list of differences. Describe how these differences change the narrative or how these new choices/changes effect the story and characters as a whole?
      • (Optional) Extra Credit of this due Monday December 11th– You can write your notes and thoughts on the blog. 
  • Homework #2 due Tuesday December 12th– Make a “Two-Part title; Separated by a colon” 
    • EXAMPLE: ______;_______
  • Essay #2 due Thursday Dec. 14th 
  • Extra Credit blog based on your experience of the City Tech Science Fiction Symposium due by Sunday Dec. 10th


Writing Tips~! 

  • Vocabulary- Transitionthe process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.
    • NOTE– Using a transition in almost every topic question is key yo answering those question
  • You can look up more on transitions at:
  • Using transitional words can help validate your argument. Such as “First, Second, However, Alternately…”  



Jezebels- Starting at Section XII pg 199 

  • Gentlemen’s club where the Commander goes to
  • Going here requires costumes/certain attires. An illegal fashion for a Handmaid to wear.
  • The outfit Offred wears (pg 231) ; more exposing compared to her usual attire; skanty
  • The commander, he’s excited to take Offred to Jezebel’s as if they were attending some kind of part. Though Offred feels exposed with this type of clothing, she get’s a hard time applying the make up due to the fact she hadn’t done it in so long. She feels like she’s in someone else’s skin, unable to recognize herself.
    • Her emotions seemed all over the place, she’s confused yet feels preserved freedom.
  • The atmosphere- speakeasy, illicit, and nostalgic. (a longing to the past that Offred can’t seem to let go) [Paragraph 4, pg 234]
  • This chapter, while it teased freedom for Offred, it begins and ends with Offred being reminded of her ownership to the Commander.


Moira– reintroduced at 238

  • Moira was the symbol of strength and freedom to Offred.
    • But her description now, this is not the same Moira Offred had looked up to, she is now performing an identity that she hates. She’s wearing an odd articular of clothing and high heals, which is something Offred remembers
    • Moira’s story is told second hand to the narrator and to us, the reader.
    • Her strong character that we were lead to believe is now broken down to be frightened and weakened.
  • The Narrator’s final comment of this “new” Moira, wanting to shape this ending into an ending that fits to her liking an ending that feels right to her. This returns to the narrators META story righting.


Dec. 5 Class Notes

Upcoming Assignments-

  • Essay 2 is due Thusday, Dec 14 before 2:30PM, worth 30% of grade. Upload on dropbox, paper copy not needed. Must have a satisfactory cover letter one page long that is a reflection on writing process, NOT SUMMARY. Papers with unsatisfactory cover letter will not be graded. TIP: Keep a log of what you are doing while writing the essay; will be easier to write the cover letter. See Assignment page for more info. If you want comments on the graded essay, email the professor. OPTIONAL: Email professor to schedule a meeting, bring two copies of a 4 page draft, must have an intro paragraph. Students attending a meeting will have essay grade bumped up a letter grade. First come, first served.
  • Final Course Reflection, worth 10% of the grade. Due Tuesday December 19. Finish Essay 2 before working on this. Submit on dropbox. See Assignment page for more info.
  • Extra Credit Opportunity: Scifi Symposium Blog Post. See Post for more info.
  • No new HW for Thursday except reading the Assignments.


Topics of Discussion: Historical Notes; Ending of the story; The Salvaging (Ofglen and May Day); Commander/Offred Relationship, Offred/Nick Relationship; Serena Joy finds evidence of Commander’s adultery; Moira/Jezebel’s

Continued Discussion of Historical Notes:

Many of the academics attending the Symposium dismissed the value of the Handmaid’s Tale, questioning its authenticity. On Pg. 300, Professor Pieixoto says the talk is about determining the authenticity of the Handmaid’s Tale. The Professor is only interested in information about Gilead, does not care for the plight of the Handmaiden in the recordings. He wishes instead for historically substantial information from the Commander’s private computer to better describe the Gilead Empire.

Discussion of Ending:

Feelings on the ending: Cliffhanger; Resignation; Abrupt

Offred considers suicide, regrets how she didn’t act out a plan of escape or rebellion (Pg. 293). Apprehensive of Nick when he asks Offred to trust him, despite of saying “Mayday”, the codeword of the resistance. Offred decides to trust him, because that is all she has left. “But I snatch at it, this offer. It’s all I’m left with” (294).

Last paragraph is left to interpretation, Offred has no way of knowing if her capture is a good thing or a bad thing. “Whether this is my end or a new beginning I have no way of knowing: I have given myself over into the hands of strangers, because it can’t be helped. And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light” (295).

Discussion will continue on Thursday, take note of the scene(s) in Jezebel.

Nov. 30 Class Notes

Handmaids tale discussion sheet continued.

Class impressions on the handmaids tale :

  • Bad for it’s unanswered questions yet great to some to leave imagination conclude the story
  • U:nexpected/Jarring for its dehumanized content in the historical notes.

Symposium – Academic conference.


  • Tues 12/19 is now the last day of class
  • Watching the series is not required just work on Essay 2 and re-read historical notes.
  • Bring back essay 1 on Tues 12/05
  • Extra credit due on 12/06; SF symposium + blog.

Class Notes 11-28-17

Group discussion/handout on, The Handmaid’s tale and the historical notes
– discussed topics/themes/questions based on the novel for our upcoming essay.

**(If you have not finished the novel and read the historical notes, make sure to catch up on time for essay #2)** 

-Continue reading the novel if you haven’t finished yet

-People’s post choice is due 11/29

-Finish group work handout at home if it was not completed in class, it will help you with essay #2!

Class notes 11/16/17


*During the break next week, create a running list of moments where the narrator talks about changing her narrative or call attention to the fact that she’s telling a story.

*If you are interested in a Literature course for spring 2018, please contact Professor Belli, she has information on which courses are available and perhaps she can help you choose a course or even give you some information on which Professor would best fit your needs and requirements.

*Congratulations to Kina, she was chosen as the winner of this week’s “People’s Choice Post”

*There is no class next week and we don’t have anything due during that time. The next time we will meet is on Tuesday the 28th of November. Use this time to either finish the book, review some of the information to refresh your memory, or catch up if you’re behind. Do not skip the historical notes in the book.

*Reading Response #12: The Handmaid’s Tale, Parts XI-XV & Historical Notes (due M 11/27)

*Keep in mind, Essay #2 is due on Tuesday the 12th of December, it would be wise to start working on that right away. Further instructions about the Essay will be given when we come back after the break.

*Make it a habit to check the syllabus and schedule daily, add any information and important dates on your calendar or notes whichever one you consult regularly.


Class discussion

The three primary relationships of Offred.

*Luke, her husband, whom she often experience flashbacks about, flashbacks which involves sexual interactions or intimacy one way or another.

*Nick, a chauffeur, more specifically one of the guardians. Towards the end of the novel she may or may not get more involved with him.

*The commander, head of the household, active participant in her ceremonies, and a potential ticket out for Offred, given their recent interest towards each other.


The women Offred has a relationship with.

*Ofglen, Moira, Rita, Cora, Janine, Aunt Lydia, Serena Joy, her daughter, her mother, the previous Handmaid.


What does the narrator mean when talking about reconstruction?

* “This is a reconstruction. All of it is a reconstruction” (134 1).

* Important paragraph for answering that question (134 3).

* “That is a construction too” (140 4). “That” ( Demonstrative pronoun ).


Keep in mind that the story is being told by Offred, therefore the reader only knows her side of the story.

Is Offred striving for accuracy?

*Before answering that question, know that victims of painful or horrific events often repress those memories, it’s one of the defense mechanism of the brain.

*During the retelling of stories, they are often broken down only to be reconstructed with either an additional or missing piece. Meaning that when a story is being retold, the narrator may intentionally or unintentionally include or exclude an event or two. Not even counting the times when the narrator might have forgotten all about the events.


Free writing period in class

Take 5min to write about each of the following character regarding their relationships with Offred, while giving a quote depicting a specific moment or scene you deemed to be a good example of what their relationships is like.

*Luke, Nick, and the commander.

*Take four more minutes to write about the storytelling in the novel. Especially towards the end of the book.



*Mediated: A:acting through an intervening agency  B: exhibiting indirect causation, connection, or relation.

*Reconstructed: building up or forming (something) again after it has been damaged or destroyed.


Class Notes 11/14/17

Class Notes 11/14/17

HW: Class Discussion #10: People’s Choice Posts for ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ Parts IX-X due Wednesday 11/15/17

Free Writing: write down one what you find most interesting or you have a question on and give a reason why.

Class Discussion: The questions or what people found interesting

Correlation between The commander and Luke

Offreds curiosity of previous handmaids

Latin phrase in the closet


Relationship with Offred and Commander (What does he want?)

Who are the Commander? Purpose?

Offreds courage

Her Daughter= her motivation

A rat in a maze Offreds lust for power

Offred leaves the Commander?

Offred relationship with the commander

Offred questions about her daughter

The world of the novel

What happened to the government

How offred takes narrative in the novel

Offred manipulating the commander

Offred and her relationships

Offred and Ofglen

Offred and Ofglen discuss about each other’s thoughts page (168)

Commander calling Offred into his office. He acts more human

Why does Offred steal from him

Mystery of the military code

Offred give up hope to save Luke and might stay with him

Is Offred forgetting about Luke

The relationship between Offred and The commander

Offred seeing the humanity in the Commander

Group Discussion: Get into groups and discus the main questions that people had.

Topics ‘

Offred and Commander


Offred manipulating and rule breaking

Down fall of society

Offred daughter

Luke and The Commander

Offred and Ofglen


Class Notes 11/9

Homework for 11/14

  • ESSAY #1 DUE BY TUESDAY 11/14 AT 2:29PM. **Remember that the essay must be uploaded to Dropbox by the deadline regardless of class attendance on 11/14** – bring in printed copy to class.
  • Reading assignment for The Handmaid’s Tale Parts IX-X with blog due Monday 11/13 by Midnight.


  • Check requirements for Essay and read through Guidelines before submitting essay.
  • Submit essay with (First name, Last name, Essay #1)
  • Use ONLY novel as source
  • Check “How to revise” post for help
  • Tomorrow 11/10 is the last day to drop class with a grade of W.


  • Look over pages 93-94 (where ceremony takes place) and how it juxtaposes the birthing process in page (109) importantly the interaction between Offred and the commander’s wife.
  • Think about and look over

1. Objectify-  To turn/treat something like an object (in the novel how Offred is being treated as an object by Serena Joy and the Commander.

2. Commodify- To make something (in this case someone) into a commodity.

3. Devalued- To make something less valuable (Offred during the ceremony)

4. Perfunctory- An act/gesture done with minimal effort (not doing it for pleasure or because you want to)

5. Desexualized- deprive of the qualities of sex (the notion that sex is done for pleasure, with a loved one)

6. Functional/Transactional- Ceremony made into a transaction.

  • “Household” and how it is described and translated in novel (81) “that is what we are. The Commander is the head of the household. The house is what he holds. To have and to hold, till death do us part. The hold of a ship. Hollow.”
  • The rest of the household is involved in the ritual (Rita, Cora, Nick) but all seem to have a different tone/feeling towards the ceremony. Rita and Cora are annoyed, resentful because they could be doing something else and demanding.
  • The small interacting Nick and Offred have before the ceremony is an important piece in which Offred has a heightened, arousal with a simple touch. *The touch (nonsexual) was more intimate than the actual sexual act which occurred afterwards.
  • Look over the phrase which grounds Offred “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” which loosely translates into “dont let the bastards grind you” *the translation does not really matter at this point but what the finding of this phrase means to Offred and how it brings her pleasure because of the secrecy.

Class Notes for 11/7

Free write which counted as a quiz: Think about a theme or recurring theme; the idea of narrator’s storytelling of the book, “The Handmaid’s Tale” base on what you have read so far. (Hints: words, languages, audience and communications.)

Friendly reminder:

Mid-Semester Grades: If you have NOT heard from our lovely professor Belli, then you are off the hook. She called out the names during class, if you did not attend class, email her just to be safe. If you want to know about your grade whether you are passing or failing.

Have a sense on how many blogs you’ve done so far and email professor if you can’t see her at normal timing when you want to have a chat with her about any assignments including the essay. Don’t forget to bring the printed materials with you!


-People’s choice on the blogs about part III to part VIII, it’s due on November 8th, this coming Wednesday.

-Catch up on the reading in order to keep on track.

-Continue working on the Essay#1 and it’s due November 14th, next week, Tuesday.

Story Telling: Page 39 – 40:

“It isn’t a story I’m telling but it is a story I’m telling.” mixture of past and facts.

  • Hierarchy – color of dresses
  • Epigraphs
  • Descriptive
  • Imagery ( the book uses a lot of descriptions and imagery.)
  • Narrative
  • Table of contents – Functional (sort of like a journal, what happens, not so much like a list.)
  • “Night” – has an importance in the book

Page 37:

“The night is mine, my own time, to do with as I will, as long as I am quiet. As long as I don’t move. As long as I lie still.”

  • Night is the freedom, as long as she is quiet.
  • Memories – She reminisces about her daughter Hannah and Husband Luke.
  • Meditation – During the day, her life is about waiting to be told what to do. She has lots of free time.
  • Time travels through Offred’s mind, she retains control of her mind while all else has been lost to her.
  • Subjective Narrative – All she has is that cannot talk freely.
  • Constantly revises the way she tells her story. Gilead, Red Center.
  • Propaganda – To persuade you to change your opinion.
  • Narrator thinks back to how commander reads bible by ceremony.
  • Free association: Something that makes you think about something else, and on and on… (Offred’s Style or the signature of the author)
  • Author is very attentive to detail.
  • Offred was hungry on everything, such as news, nail polish in the stores.
  • The system in Gilead was set up, but there was no more loyalty left because people loved each other and desired on each other, the emotion in people’s mind was getting much stronger than the system itself.
  • “I need to be very clear, in my own mind.” (Page 33)
  • “I wait. I compose myself. My self is a thing I must now compose, as one composes a speech. What I must present is a made thing, not something born.” (Page 66)

We will continue what we left off on Thursday 11/09/2017 🙂