Critical Reading, Critical Writing

Dec 2016

Professor Szell is a national treasure. She was my professor for critical writing which I took my sophomore year. The class was a lot of work with extensive reading each week and weekly discussion posts. She had each student lead the discussions twice per semester. Professor Szell is brilliant and knows so much about literature and writing. Her feedback on our essays was thorough and she graded very fairly My only qualm was that she talked a lot during class and some classes (which were two hours each) felt more like a lecture than a 9 person seminar. All in all, I loved the class and loved Professor Szell's teaching style.

Mar 2014

Maybe it's because I'm close to graduating, but I'm starting to get sentimental about college these days. Thinking about the best classes I've taken, thinking about the classes that really meant something to me, well, Pedatella's was one of them. Critical Writing is a required class for Barnard English majors, and honestly I wasn't expecting much from the class; but Pedatella's section was a revelation. The sheer amount of his enthusiasm, passion, and genius made me feel like there was no more important thing in the world than what we were doing when talking about literary theory around the conference table. He always had these incredible readings of the texts (no one should graduate from Barnard without having taken a class on Pride and Prejudice with him), yet somehow class always felt like this collective effort that we were all a part of. It's weird to me to see some reviews below that talk about how he's resistant to alternative readings of texts; I can't think of another professor I've had who is MORE open to students' differing perspectives. Huge added benefit: he's just a really nice human being. It's been rare for me to come across a professor who seems genuinely interested in getting to know you. Even though it's been a while since I took his class, whenever I bump into him on campus he always takes the time to ask me about my "career" (which is hilarious to me, since I'm about to probably never have one... But that's another story.) Brilliant class, brilliant professor.

May 2013

I Cannot speak highly enough of Professor Pagano. He is not only brilliant, eloquent and a fabulous instructor, but he is kind and also extremely funny. He cares a lot about his students and makes an effort to get to know all of them intellectually and personally. He is very passionate about literature and it's wonderful to hear him speak about it. He also encourages participation and doesn't shoot down comments that are off. That being said, he is good at mediating discussion so that it stays on track. He went to Columbia and was pre-med for a while, so he COMPLETELY understands the grade anxiety thing and does his best to help you do well in his class.He is NOT a hard grader at all. I wrote one of the worst essays I have ever written in my life for him. For any other teacher it would have been a C. He gave it an A-. Also you are allowed to revise each essay for a better grade. if you don't come out of the class with some form of an B or an A, it's your own fault. Most people got As. He is also VERY flexible with deadlines. Just an overall great guy.

Nov 2011

I picked his section of Critical Writing completely randomly, and I'm so glad I did. Prof Abu-Manneh is incredibly intelligent, if not altogether wise--he goes on rants about everything from campus problems to middle eastern political conflicts, in a way that is both sensitive and insightful, and hilarious to boot. Despite being a thursday morning class, it was a joy to listen to him go on (sometimes for over an hour), and I left every lecture feeling inspired. That said, this is a very unconventional lit class. There is a minimum of actual 'critical writing', and you read no works of literature directly. Instead he structures each class around one major school of literary theory, with two students presenting readings on it that are largely summaries of the greats (everything from Barthes to Saiid). The class is completely discussion based and sometimes falls flat if your classmates aren't into it (the material is very dense), but he's always willing to slow down and explain tricky points, and is super flexible about the syllabus. He's also very accessible outside of class if you're struggling, and as a previous reviewer said, its totally worth it to drop by just to get to know him--when I was freaking out about the final paper, he basically just told me to chill and it would work out, and it did! If you do the majority of readings you will have a pretty solid background in critical thought by the end of this class, and if you rise to the occasion he definitely will too. He's a fair grader, and you can definitely get by slacking off on the readings if you have to; he will never call on unwilling students, and if the class dynamic that day isn't working, he will talk about something unrelated instead, and just cancel whatever classes/subjects he has to. All in all, this was a great section for critical writing!!

Mar 2011

Taking an English course with Constance Brown was one of the most refreshing academic experiences I have had at Barnard. Because I waited to declare my major in English, I had to take Literary Criticism as a junior. Needless to say I was dreading it somewhat. However, Professor Brown neither rambles nor wavers. She does not take nonsense responses to the questions she puts to the class. She showed that there are some aspects of studying literature and poetry that are simply not subjective. Just knowing these fundamental rules for writing and criticizing in an English class has been utterly invaluable to me as a major. If you think you can take a little criticism, take this class - Professor Brown more than does her job.

Oct 2009

Best TA I've had at Columbia. I think the previous reviewer's hatred for graduate students unfairly colored his/her review of an enthusiastic and brilliant instructor. Discussion sections were generally informative and interesting. Alicia has a great sense of when a concept needs to be further explored and when it's time to move onto something else. Although the course was a bit of a hot mess, Alicia taught an excellent section I found to be about as enjoyable and productive as an hour fifty minute night class can be.

Oct 2009

Mary Kate is a cool cat, very laid-back and a lover of English. You don't have to read ANYTHING to go to her discussion section and enjoy it. Sometimes, it would get a little long and boring (it was 1 hour, 50 minutes straight), but the class--on the whole--was nevertheless enjoyable. She graded papers fairly easily and was extremely interested in seeing her students explore and reframe the criticism texts assigned. For the final paper, we had to analyze critically (with any of the various critical -isms we studied) any of the literary works we read: a neat, open-ended assignment that provides a great culmination to an enlightening course.

Aug 2009

AHH STAY AWAY!!! Mary Kate is totally unqualified to run any kind of discussion of literature. I realize CRCW is already a terrible class, but she made is so much worse. The textual analyses she presented were totally shallow and contrived--she pretty much presented reading on a middle school English class level, talking about class power and authorship. Class sessions were painful. No one was at all engaged in the material, mostly because the questions Mary Kate posed to the class were simplistic and meaningless. CRCW is a very theory-based class, but Mary Kate exacerbated this by being concerned only with recapitulating theoretical texts we read. There was no focus on students' debating their opinions on the theory, or even talking about the theories' advantages/drawbacks (in fact, she cut off discussion when it entered this realm). The paper assignments were about applying theory to a fictional text, again precluding what you think about the theories. This grad student is so buried in theoretical bulls**t she hasn't seen sunlight in years.

Aug 2009

A diffident and mediocre lecturer, but you weren’t really expecting more from CRCW, were you? Of course, the quality of a lecture is inversely proportionate to your requirement to be there, so you don’t have much choice. Her energy and enthusiasm are genuine enough but quickly fizzle into inarticulate apologies for her own, well, inarticulateness (Is this making sense? Do you guys get it? Am I doing OK?) And so on. These blandishments capture the timbre of the lecture much more accurately than her bursts of dynamism. She’s solid on the poetry and the drama, but for someone ‘famously averse’ to narrative fiction – novels in particular – she sure likes to talk about it. Molly is approachable and nice. If you’re taking CRCW your relationship with your seminar leader will be much more important for determining what you get out of the class (in terms of learning and grades), and I certainly wouldn’t recommend against taking the class on account of Molly’s lectures.

Aug 2009

The kind of person that would be attractive if she weren’t a graduate student. It’s insulting enough that Columbia won’t provide full professors to teach its required (and therefore most ‘critical’) classes, but Alicia – you call her Alicia – is palatable as far as things go. A little over-indulgent of bad ideas, hyper-critical of good ones, vigilant for signs of boredom, insecure to the point of assigning arbitrary grades that elevate the lunatics and bring down the dons, but I could be describing all grad students. The point is: you don’t have much of a choice, and Alicia, all things considered, isn’t a terrible one. In person she’s kind and accessible and will talk with you about anything you want.

Jan 2009

Prof Damrosch was an excellent lecturer, and I really enjoyed the CRCW lectures. He was sometimes a little disorganized, especially with works that he was less familiar with (like one of the Dickens lectures), but he consistently displayed enthusiasm for the text and focused on close reading. He spoke a little fast and didn't incorporate student participation, but the lectures were only once a week for an hour, so that was understandable. For many of the poetry readings, he played recordings or read them out loud (the latter of which was always fun, since he read so well). Our last lecture was on global works, and it was hilarious and endearing watching him nod his head along to the J-pop songs he played for us. Even though this is the intro class that everyone has to get through, Damrosch seemed to genuinely care about the quality of the course (he sat in on one of my discussion sections). Of course, the overall quality will depend largely on the discussion leader, but I'd definitely take a class with him again. While the syllabus covers a lot, I found all the readings valuable and interesting.

Dec 2007

Nathaniel made this class one of the most enjoyable English courses I've taken so far. He supplemented the (somewhat patchy) syllabus with well-chosen and manageable readings; he was extremely flexible about meeting outside of class, providing valuable feedback and suggestions that really did help with the papers. It's rare to find a professor that alters the class to fit the students' needs without weakening the academic demands, but Nathaniel does this. If you take CRCW I would highly recommend his section.

Apr 2006

Brown is one of the best seminar teachers I've had at Barnard. She knows how to keep people talking, and how to make sure it's not the same three people who hog the conversation. She knows when to speak, and when to let students take the ball. The result is two hours of class discussion that are enriching and exciting. Of course this only works if you actually read the books, and enjoy literature, but I guess I was lucky because most of my class did. The syllabus is interesting, and the breadth of material covered means that there is something for everybody.She's also a fabulous editor, my writing improved immensely over the course of her class. Not an easy grader, but an A is possible if you're willing to work hard.

May 2005

Prof. Mehta is one of the most understanding professors I've had yet. I feel l ike she honestly cares about her students, and she's always available if you need her. She was very flexible with the paper deadlines, and she always let us write first drafts and even scheduled meetings to discuss them. If you want to improve your writing, she's a great person to go to. Unlike most professors at this university, she will give you the paper grade that you deserve, it's no easy A. (probably an easy B though) If your paper is bad enough, she'll give it back without a grade, and let you rewrite it. She's a very caring and wonderful professor. She even changed the syllabus for this awful class to fit our interests.

Apr 2005

What a beautiful man. You know how there are professors that drive you crazy and wonder why you work so hard and still don't reap any reward. Well this professor makes you realize that there are indeed GREAT professors out there, and that there is more to college than just grades. To add icing to the cake, if you show him that you know how to write a structured analytical essay, you will get an A. Beware of explicating in essays, he assigns explications already for each class. The class time is when you get to analyze it with your fellow classmates and Prof. Pagano. We went over a lot in this class and Prof. Pagano adds his insight till the very end to tie everything together. Take this class. You will not regret it. If anything, just take a class with him. He truly cares for his students and will not forget you. In fact, I met him the other day and he reminded me to stay strong throughout finals. For those who think that professors don't care about their students and such and such, do yourselves a favor and take a class with him. You will be very glad you did.

Apr 2005

Fleischer is one of my favorite professors at Columbia and I'm sorry to say she is part-time so she cannot be my English academic advisor. I am appalled at the other students' reviews. For the entire semester she was very kind, open- minded, receptive, knowledgeable and interesting. Class discussions were thought-provoking and her comments on papers were always constructive. I looked forward to class every week and the readings she chose were fantastic. She grades fairly and is always open to extensions as long as you ask ahead of time. I loved my experience in her class.

Apr 2005

Georgette's really great. She's got her ideas and doesn't take any shit. She's totally respectful of her students' ideas and has never once tried to convince me that school is the most important thing in my life. She does like to name drop, yes. And she does parse sentences on the board and make people read aloud from papers, but she makes me work harder and better than I have since high school. It's a good thing.

Dec 2004

i agree with the above reviewer. there won't be any sparks flying in this class, but is probably the least painful way to satisfy a lame requirement. most other profs assign 5 papers, each 5 pages for this class (sometimes 4 5 pagers and a 10 page research essay), but Runsdorf makes the papers only 3 pages. and as the semester goes on he gets very leniant about due dates. what more could you ask for? he does run this seminar like a lecture though, which is alright b/c he is pretty knowledgeable and most sophmore english major are not. pretty good syllabus too, once the semester gets going. also, he's VERY available outside class (ie in the dean's office all day).

May 2004

Every semester Runsdorf teaches Critical Writing, which is probably the least desireable position in the English dept. But he loves it. Honestly, this guy is a total sweetheart, obviously brilliant, and manages to make an otherwise shitty requirement for the English major really interesting. He's totally available outside of class, is very concerned about his students, and gives what I consider to be some of the best writing criticism I've encountered so far. Don't hesitate to take CW with him. Class is boring sometimes, but for the most part the syllabus is GREAT, the assignments are standard, and he's very flexible.

Jan 2004

Professor Brown is amazing, in her quiet, modest way. The class atmosphere was relaxed, but engaged with the material, and it was okay if we went of track and joked around a little. Brown sticks to her outline, but that's a great thing because she illuminates the texts (all interesting) in a way that helps you to appreciate them more. Her grading was always consistent and fair, and her comments actually give you something to improve on. The workload is the same as for all other classes, but it might be more enjoyable because Brown is just so kind and intriguing. If you have her, don't switch. You won't regret it

Jan 2003

I loved this course. Prof. Mendelson is interesting, funny and down to earth. He's not looking for you to impress him or to give him some sort of unique insight. Instead, he'd like you to tell him the obvious, simply and briefly. He'd often talk about random topics like SUVs (he hates them) or Scarsdale. He's understanding about deadlines and would prefer that you turn in a polished piece later on. I think he's probably more approachable if you have him in a smaller setting-our class had about 15 people and I felt that he was comfortable in getting to know us. If you have him, visit him in office hours. He's really great and such a wonderful professor. He was helpful to me with my writing and is caring about other stuff that's going on outside of class. Maybe the best professor I've had here.

Dec 2002

I immensely enjoyed Professor Brown's class; she is definitely not an easy teacher - I think she has a no A policy; I don't know anyone who did better than a B+. You will work really hard, but there's definitely a sense of headway. She sees to it that your writing will improve and requires each student to schedule 2 conferences with her over the semester. She allows revisions, but it's possible that she'll give you the same grade you started out with if she doesn't feel you took it far enough. Her classes are very well-structured - you will discuss everything you read, which keeps you on your toes, but also makes for a scintillating class because everyone arrives well-prepared. Her comments are insightful, but not too dogmatic; she pauses to consider even the most inane comments and almost everybody has a lot to say. If you love English, you will love this class.

Dec 2002

She seemed cool at first--trendy clothes, hip glasses, lots of energy. But it did not take long to figure out that this prof was far more interested in herself and her own ideas to take the time to listen to what her students had to say. I got the feeling that if I did not agree with her, I was wrong. Although Prof. Fleischer made herself available in office hours, it was almost pointless to go as she was sure to not really listen to you. It was not a BAD class per se, and I do not regret having taken it. However, I would not recommend her to anyone who is opinionated, thinks for herself, and appreciates being heard out rather than cut off. One other thing--Prof. Fleischer likes to point out the shortcomings of your paper in a public arena, as in she has you write marked off sentences on the board and then asks the class how the sentence should have been written, as well as being sure to add how she would have written it herself.

May 2001

Such a nice lady! Charming and stylish. Very fair grader. She's the kind of professor who looks kind of conservative and arrogant, but she's open to all sorts of comments and jokes and laughs heartily at them. Her class can be a bit boring at times, but she won't penalize you if you hand in your work late or need to revise your final paper after the due date. For those of you who are English majors and need to take critical writing, Mary Cregan is a high recommendation.