English 3402: Topics in Literature (OL80, 29045)                   Spring 2022
Tuesday / Thursday 10:00am-11:15am                                        Classroom: ONLINE
New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Professor: Dr. Jill Belli
jbelli@citytech.cuny.eduOffice Hours: Tuesday 12:30-1:30pm & by appointment

OpenLab Course Site: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/belli-sp2022-eng3402/
OpenLab Course Profile: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/groups/belli-sp2022-eng3402/

Zoom Link (synchronous class meetings): https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84959476509
Zoom link (office hours): https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84787542508

*Using these Zoom links requires entering passwords. If you wish you to join with one click, use the Zoom invites sent to you via email.


Do you dream of having more happiness, success, or love? Of getting better grades, jobs, relationships, or sleep? If so, you are not alone! Countless people want more from their lives and from others, and they turn to self-help to make their dreams reality. Some doctors even prescribe self-help books for their patients! What is this obsession with self-help? What does it offer us? Why do we keep reading it?

This course is an introduction to “the American love affair with self-help”[1] through its literature, industry, benefits, and critiques. Though self-help is often dismissed as providing low-brow, quack remedies for the masses, this course considers it in earnest, exploring what makes the genre so compelling, and why and how self-help matters, to individuals and societies. Students will read self-help texts; try their techniques; reflect on their methods, effectiveness, promises, and problems; and create their own self-help texts for others.


 Course Description (3 hours, 3 credits; Prerequisites: ENG 1121 or a 2000-level literature course)
“This course explores a specific idea or theme in English-language literature. Discussion and analysis of texts related to the course topic. Topics change each semester and have included humor, vampires and zombies, transnationalism and homesickness, utopias and dystopias, culture and identity, and graphic novels.”

*Writing-Intensive Course; Fulfills “Creative Expression” Category for Pathways

Learning Outcomes
See Topics in Literature – ENG 3402 Learning Outcomes document for General Education and English Department Course Learning Outcomes

 Required Texts

  • Most texts will be provided in-class on our OpenLab course site. It is your responsibility to access, read, annotate, save (and print, if you’d like) these texts—the specific versions listed on the Schedule—and bring them to class. You can print for free at City Tech. 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 and professional career).
  • I always attempt to keep the cost of course materials for this semester to a minimum. Whenever possible, freely available texts are used; other times I will link to material that is part of a subscription service (articles free to students via the library, media on streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, or Kanopy—free to City Tech students). At times, you may be required to purchase an inexpensive text, rent films, or attend local, relevant events and exhibitions for this course. Given the ongoing pandemic, most of these events are virtual (and many are free), but sometimes there may be associated transportation and admission costs.



Final Course Grade Breakdown:

  • Participation: 25%
  • OpenLab Composing: 25%
  • Meditation Assignment: 15%
  • Research Project: 25%
  • Final Reflection: 10%

Late Assignment Policy: All assignments are due on the dates/times specified. Except in extenuating circumstances (discussed ahead of time, ideally), late assignments will not be accepted.

Revision Policy: I teach (and believe in) writing as a process, and there will be space in the assignments for this process and feedback on writing in-progress. Therefore, final drafts will be treated as that – final drafts (and no further revisions offered, unless otherwise noted). Substantive revision should occur prior to submission, and you should submit your best work at the deadline. Of course, I am always happy to discuss your work at any point in the process; see me in my office hours to get additional substantive feedback on your work.

Professionalism: A consistent display of organizational, logical, syntactical, and grammatical errors in your work disrupts your writing and will lower your grade. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the many online resources (provided on our OpenLab course site) as well as services offered by the City Tech Writing Center.

Feedback: I strongly encourage you to visit me during my office hours throughout the semester to discuss your work in the course. If you ever would like more individualized feedback on your work in the course (including readings, annotations, concepts, blog posts, freewriting, research, presentations, projects, etc.), you should come see me to discuss your work. 

Plagiarism: Any plagiarized work will automatically fail for that assignment (and may result in a failing course grade). See the College Policy on Academic Integrity below.

Attendance / Missed Classes: Consistent absence/lateness will significantly impact your participation grade (and indirectly will likely affect the quality of your other assignments, and overall course grade). If you must miss a class, it is courteous to let me know ahead of time (if possible). It is your responsibility to complete missed assignments, review Class Notes, contact a classmate to find out what you missed, and see me during my office hours if you need further guidance. *Note: it will not be possible to make-up in-class work (including freewriting, discussions, group work, and peer review). Coming to class regularly and being an active participant is critical to your success in this course.

Participation counts as 25% of your final course grade and includes:

  • Consistent and punctual attendance
  • Timely completion and thoughtful engagement with of all reading (reading blog posts, comments, and materials posted on OpenLab is part of course reading)
  • Reading and annotating all texts, and them in class with you on the dates they are to be discussed (I encourage printing texts)
  • Active participation in-class (our synchronous Zoom meetings)
  • Taking Class Notes (1-2x during semester) & posting them on OpenLab in a timely fashion
  • Miscellaneous homework assignments
  • Announced & unannounced in-class quizzes and writing exercises based on prompts, activities, and readings
  • Presentations
  • Collaborative group work; pre-drafts; peer review
  • Conferences with the instructor outside of class (in my office hours, held via Zoom); tutoring at the Writing Center, as necessary
  • Respectful attitude toward your instructor, peers, and coursework
  • Engagement and improvement throughout the semester

 OpenLab Composing counts as 25% of your final course grade and includes:

  • Blogging (creating your own posts)
  • Reading and commenting on one another’s blog posts
  • Active participation in our digital (OpenLab) Class Discussions

Our OpenLab course site is 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 readings/films, 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, which is your writing, will become part of the required reading for the course and 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 Web), so you should spend time and take pride in composing your posts and comments there. Please see the Blogging Grading Rubric and Guidelines/Expectations on our OpenLab Course Site (under Assignments). 


Class Policies

Attendance and Lateness Policy
As required by the college, your attendance is recorded and reported to City Tech. Being in class, on time, is important for all graded aspects of this course, not just for your participation grade: we will work together during class time on the various writing assignments (blogging, essays, projects) throughout the semester. Consistently being late or absent will lower your final course grade, as you will not get credit for missed work done in class.

*If you stop attending class and don’t return for the rest of the semester, you will receive a grade of WU.

Emailing Etiquette
I encourage you to email me as soon as possible with any questions, concerns, or requests for conferences (outside of my regularly scheduled office hours). Please write a proper, respectful email, addressed to me and signed by you, including your name and course and the issue at hand. Provide as much detail as possible, so that I can help you as much as possible. If you’re having tech issues, including screenshots would be helpful.

*Note: I will do my best to respond to emails within 24 hours during the weekdays (if you email over the weekend, expect a response the following week).

Synchronous Class Sessions
Our class is fully online and designated in CUNYfirst as “synchronous.” According to the college, “Synchronous classes meetings resemble traditional on-campus In-Person classes in that students must be (virtually) present at the same time. Though they are conducted virtually, synchronous classes meet in real- time. Students must commit to scheduled class times and sign onto their virtual learning platform on schedule. During these classes, students will engage with the instruction during online lessons and presentations and even have virtual class discussions.”

Please note that you should set aside this time just for class, and be prepared to actively engage with the professor, your classmates, and the course material (reading, writing, discussing, collaborating, presenting, etc.). If you have a conflict that will otherwise occupy your time or attention (such as a work shift), then you will need to be absent from class, just as you would in the before-times.

Technology & Materials

  • You are responsible for having a working, accessible City Tech e-mail and for checking this account daily (all announcements, notifications, and emails from me and from the OpenLab—including those related to our course site—will go to your City Tech email).
  • If you don’t already have one, you must sign up for an OpenLab You should also join our ENG 3402 Course and check our course site regularly.
  • You should always come to class prepared with a writing device of some type, all relevant assigned texts for that day, dictionary (it can be one on your phone, tablet, or laptop), and writing utensils (pens, pencils, and highlighters). All course materials (including in-class freewriting, quizzes, handouts, readings, essays, peer review, exams) must be kept in a folder (physical and/or digital), and brought to each class session.
  • All assigned texts should be accessed, read, saved, brought to class, and annotated (marked up with highlighting, questions, comments, notes, definitions of words you don’t know). If you do not have your annotated readings with you on the day they are being discussed, you will lose participation points for that day.

Classroom Community & Care

  • Disagreement and (constructive) criticism are encouraged in our class and on our OpenLab course site. However, you must always be respectful of the work/opinions of others, and conduct yourselves (in person and online) in mature, respectful, and generous ways. Our class is a community, and all of your contributions to it should reflect that ethos.
  • You are not allowed to record, in any manner (audio, video, image, screenshot) class sessions, office hours, or conversations, without the explicit knowledge of me (and your classmates, where relevant). Please be respectful of everyone’s privacy and safety.


College Policies

Online Synchronous Classes Statement
“Synchronous classes resemble traditional on-campus in-person classes in that students must all be (virtually) present at the same time. Though they are conducted virtually, synchronous classes meet in real-time. Students must, therefore, commit to scheduled class times and sign onto their virtual learning platforms on schedule. During these classes, students will engage with the instructor and each other with online lessons, presentations, breakout rooms, and/or discussions. Active participation is an essential part of the learning process and is required of all enrolled students. A student who, for any reason, engages in non-class related activities during scheduled class times forfeits and loses the benefit of the education being provided.”

Accessibility Statement
“City Tech is committed to supporting the educational goals of enrolled students with disabilities in the areas of enrollment, academic advisement, tutoring, assistive technologies and testing accommodations. If you have or think you may have a disability, you may be eligible for reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments as provided under applicable federal, state and city laws. You may also request services for temporary conditions or medical issues under certain circumstances. If you have questions about your eligibility or would like to seek accommodation services or academic adjustments, you can leave a voicemail at 718 260 5143, send an email to Accessibility@citytech.cuny.edu or visit the Center’s website at http://www.citytech.cuny.edu/accessibility/ for more information.”

Academic Integrity
“Students who work with information, ideas, and texts 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 CUNY 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.”

*According to City Tech policy, all instances of plagiarism must be formally reported by the faculty member to the college.



  • Always consult the dynamic Schedule on our OpenLab course site for the up-to-date version of the Schedule, access to readings, and more detail about assignments.
  • Unless otherwise noted, all reading and writing assignments are due at the start of class (10am) on the dates listed.
  • Most texts will be provided in-class or on our OpenLab course site (including readings on writing process/strategies to accompany our in-class writing workshops and help you with your assignments). It is your responsibility to access, read, annotate, save (and print, if you choose) these texts and bring them to class with you (note: you can print for free at the college’s computer labs). It is mandatory to have the assigned texts read, annotated, and accessible in class when we are discussing them.
  • Additional texts/assignments may be added throughout the semester to supplement the texts listed here.
  • Some weeks are lighter in workload while others require a heavy amount of reading and/or writing, so plan accordingly.

[1] Salerno, Steve. Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless. Three Rivers Press, 2005. 7.