*Click here to download a PDF of the syllabus.

2000, D526 (20217)
Perspectives in Literature
Spring 2014
New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Thursday 8:30-11:00am
Classroom: Namm 406

Professor Jill Belli
Office: Namm 520 (mailbox: Namm 512)
(718) 260-4974

Office hours: Tuesday 5-6pm, Thursday 11am-12pm, & by appointment

OpenLab Course Site:


Utopias & Dystopias
This course is an introduction to literature through the lens of “utopia,” or the desire for a different, better way of being. Through exploring short stories, novels, poetry, songs, advertisements, films, TV shows, the news, social media, and our own experiences, we will critically examine the blurry line between utopia & dystopia: when/how/why various utopian impulses (such as happiness, progress, technological advancement, efficiency, stability) that are intended to improve society can go (and have gone) terribly awry.

We will look at how thinkers have historically imagined some of the more frightening and perhaps unforeseen and unintended consequences of “utopia”, and then we will apply these fictional visions to the real-life contemporary world in which we live. We will ask ourselves the difficult (but unavoidable) questions that emerge from such a study: what are the values behind our actions? How do we conceive of/build for things such as happiness, progress, knowledge? How does our increasing dependence on science and technology (often viewed as utopian tools capable of leveling the playing field, sharing diverse ideas, bridging distances, and uniting people from different backgrounds/races/cultures) have the potential to transform into frightening methods of control, censorship, conformity, and isolation?  Are our virtual connections/lives/memories displacing our sense of the “real”?  Have we retained (and if so, can we continue to maintain) “humanity” in this “post-human” age of commodification, cybernetics, and catastrophe?  Will the environment withstand our relentless abuse of it?  Will people withstand our relentless abuse of one another?  In our attempt to answer these questions (and others) throughout the semester, we will develop critical perspectives that are an integral part of becoming competent thinkers, readers, writers, and citizens of the world.

Course Description
Readings in and writings about literature across genres, eras and locales. Themes include family, the individual and society, good and evil, gender, faith, and “the human heart in conflict with itself.” Essays and exams based on readings. 3 hours, 3 credits

Writing Intensive Course; Satisfies Flexible Core: Individual and Society

Prerequisites: ENG 1101


General Education Student Learning Outcomes

  • Engage in an-depth, focused, and sustained program of study
  • Show curiosity and the desire to learn
  • Discern multiple perspectives
  • Derive meaning from experience, as well as gather information from observation
  • Gather, interpret, evaluate, and apply information discerningly from a variety of sources
  • Resolve difficult issues creatively by employing multiple systems and tools
  • Make meaningful and multiple connections among the liberal arts and between the liberal
arts and the areas of study leaning to a major or profession
  • Discern consequences of decisions and actions
  • Work with teams, including those of diverse composition. Build consensus. Respect and use 
  • Show ability to contribute actively by applying knowledge to the identification and analysis of 
societal and professional problems to enact solutions


Required Texts and Supplies

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited. New York, NY: Harper Perennial. 2005. [ISBN-13: 978-0-06-077609-1; ISBN-10: 0-06-077609-9]

Zamyatin, Yevgeny. We. 1972. Trans. L Mirra Ginsburg. New York, NY: Eos, 1999. [ISBN-10: 0-380-63313-2]

*the above novels are both available at City Tech bookstore; you must have hard copies (no e-books) of these texts (these editions) for class

Additional texts will be provided in-class or on our course site (including readings on writing process/strategies to accompany our frequent in-class writing workshops). It is your responsibility to print out these texts and bring them to class with you. You may print up to 25 pages per day in the City Tech computer labs, but if you do not have a printer at home, you may want to invest in one (remember: you have minimal costs for texts for this class, and a laser printer is a good, long-term investment for your college career).

You should always come to class prepared with a notebook, folder, binder, and writing utensils (pens, pencils, and highlighters). All course materials (including in-class freewriting, quizzes, handouts, readings, essays, peer review) must be kept in a binder, and brought to each class session.

Your final course grade is calculated according to the following breakdown:

Participation: 10%

OpenLab compositions (blogging): 30%


  • Essay #1:15%
  • Essay #2: 20%


  • Midterm Exam: 10%
  • Final Exam: 15%

*extra credit: Read Lynn Nottage’s play, Intimate Apparel, attend the English Department’s Literature Roundtable mid-Spring semester (date TBA), and blog/present about both the play and the event.

Participation counts as 10% of your final course grade and includes (but is not limited to):

  • consistent and punctual attendance
  • timely completion and thoughtful engagement with of all reading and writing (composing on the OpenLab course site has its own grading category)
  • having the assigned text(s) in class with you (on the dates they are to be discussed); presentations
  • active participation in-class and in our digital (OpenLab) discussions (via commenting)
  • miscellaneous homework assignments
  • (often unannounced) in-class quizzes and writing exercises based on prompts, activities, and readings
  • group work
  • pre-drafts
  • peer review
  • conferences with the instructor
  • additional work (and tutoring) at the Learning Center
  • respectful attitude toward your instructor, peers, and coursework
  • improvement throughout the semester

Course Policies
You are responsible for having working accounts for City Tech e-mail, OpenLab, and Dropbox, and for checking these accounts daily.

If you don’t already have one, you must sign up for an OpenLab account and join our course site, where you can find everything you need this semester (all announcements, updates to the schedule, posted readings, reading responses, and online discussions will take place here). However, this is not just a place where you will come to find information and read what I have already written. Instead, you are expected to consistently and actively participate in creating content on our course site such as posting responses to the reading, discussing ideas with me and your classmates, reading and commenting on what others have posted, and linking to interesting/relevant material you have found through everyday experience as well as outside research. This material (your writing) will become part of our class meetings: we will discuss excerpts from student posts (both to facilitate writing workshops and to use as a jumping-off point for the day’s reading/discussion). In addition, everyone in the course will be reading your writing (and our course blog and all of its content is become public to the larger college community and anyone on the Internet), so you should spend as much effort as possible composing your writing there. Please see our course site for detailed blogging guidelines (under OpenLab Composing).

Consistent absence/lateness will lower your participation grade significantly. If you must miss a class, it is your responsibility to contact a classmate and to find out/complete missed assignments; however, in-class work (including quizzes, freewriting, discussions, peer review, and in-class essays and exams) cannot be made-up.


All assignments are due on the dates specified. Late assignments will not be accepted.


Disagreement and (constructive) criticism are allowed and encouraged in our class and on our course blog. However, you must be respectful of the work/opinions of others.


A consistent display of organizational, logical, syntactical, and grammatical errors in your work disrupts your writing and will lower your grade. Students are encouraged (and may be required) to take advantage of online resources (linked through our course blog) and available services at City Tech.


I encourage you to visit me during my office hours throughout the semester to discuss your work in the course.



Attendance and Lateness Policy
According to College attendance policy, a student may be absent during the semester without penalty for 10% of the class instructional sessions. Therefore, if you miss more than two classes, you may not pass the course.

In my class, lateness (of any amount … even a few minutes) will negatively affect your grade.

New York City College of Technology Policy on Academic Integrity
“Students and all others who work with information, ideas, texts, images, music, inventions and other intellectual property owe their audience and sources accuracy and honesty in using, crediting, and citing sources. As a community of intellectual and professional workers, the College recognizes its responsibility for providing instruction in information literacy and academic integrity, offering models of good practice, and responding vigilantly and appropriately to infractions of academic integrity. Accordingly, academic dishonesty is prohibited in The City University of New York and at New York City College of Technology and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension, and expulsion. The complete text of the College policy on Academic Integrity may be found in the catalog.”

Always consult the dynamic schedule on our OpenLab site (under Schedule) for the most up-to-date version of the schedule, access to readings, and more detail about assignments.