I would like to preface the following review by telling you (the reader) that this is the first Culpa review I have ever written - oblige me as a I shower compliments on an individual who doesn't need the adoration but certainly deserves it. Firstly, Jeremy Dauber is brilliant - Harvard grad, Rhodes Scholar, author, etc. And while you may find comparable credentials with a number of tenured Columbia professors in other classes, I don't think their genius is presented as palpably in speech and general discourse as it is with Jeremy Dauber. Dauber knows just about everything there is to know about Jewish humor, and upon responding to any comments you make or questions you ask you will often find yourself blown away that you have a professor that speaks with a stream of consciousness (if you haven't caught on yet, the guy is freakin' awesome). I specifically use the word 'Jewish,' and not "Yiddish," because this class is a Jewish literature/humor class; save about three works (Tevye the Dairyman, The Two Kuni-Lemels and The Little Man), all of the books, stories and excerpts we read related to Jewish humor: for example, Genesis, The Book of Esther/Jonah, Portnoy's Complaint and even episodes of Seinfeld/Curb Your Enthusiasm. If you have even the slightest interest in Judaism, humor or both, I highly recommend you take this class. Jeremy Dauber is incredibly kind, intelligent, witty, [insert synonym for someone you strive to be on a daily basis here]...person. Jeremy Dauber for President!!!
Absolutely superb. Phenomenal. A joy. I could go on kvelling forever. Professor Dauber is brilliant--like, really brilliant--and masterful at using the material, which, unsurprisingly, is the most entertaining I've ever encountered, to reveal points well worth making. And even if he weren't as good (and just remarkably pleasant, too) as he is, the course material would make the class more than worthwhile: the Marx Brothers, Larry David/Seinfeld, Sid Caesar, Sholom Aleichem, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks...the list goes on. His lecture on Kafka is especially good; you never knew he was so funny.
Dauber is a funny man. Very insightful, he writes for the Christian Science Monitor. He has some keen insights to the texts. I agree almost to a T with another reviewer on CULPA: Yeshiva education is definitely helpful, but is by no means required. If you are interested in the readings, take the course. Likely, you'll find the readings more interesting than class time itself, but class will be enjoyable nevertheless. On the readings: Dauber spent *way* too much time on certain material early in the semester, most notably the Biblical stuff. Some of the medieval stuff was great, worth reading, and unknown to almost everyone in the class. There is no need to spend as much time as he did on Tevye and Eastern European materials. The best part of the class was the last few weeks, in which we read Roth, Allen, and Stanislawski guest-lectured on Brooks's History of the World. My idea for the course: Dauber either should call it "20th century Jewish humor" and do away with the rest or he should work to develop themes that would relate the more modern stuff to the older stuff. Currently, the course is a mish-mosh. Yes, it's all Jewish humor, but these humors are so different, and he doesn't focus at all on comparing, that it's as if there are about four different courses here, with the best one being about 20th century Jewish humor. Bottom line: Take the class if you like Jewish humor. The readings are amazing and Dauber is engaging.
Dauber's a friendly guy who knows his subject. But in a class on Jewish humor, I was really expecting there to be way more humor. He stretches out Yiddish folktales (his specialty) for way too long, and spends an insignificant amount of time on mid/late-20th century comics, which was unfortunate to say the least. Still, a good class, and worth taking if it's your kind of material. This is the first time that Dauber's offered the class, and I'm sure it'll be fine-tuned to meet the interests of all students. Incidentally, I disagree with the previous reviewer about the level of Jewish education necessary to enjoy the class. Dauber assumes the students have some cultural Jewish background, but he'll happily explain any topics that your non-Yeshiva education didn't cover.
Dauber is one of the leading scholars in Yiddish studies. This said, he knows a LOT about everything in the syllabus. The books in the class range from the Bible to the scripts from Seinfeld, with Sholem Aleichem, Kafka, Roth and Allen in between. The readings in general are pretty good, and include jokes, plays, poetry and novels, although some of the translations take out any humorous aspects of the work. So basically the reading material is good for the mostpart. As far as the classes... Dauber knows his stuff. He begins the work with some background about the writer, and what was going on at the time that the work was written. He opens up a lot of the class time to comments, which I think is a downside, because Dauber is so much better knowledged than those who participate. Although no knowledge of Hebrew and no Jewish background is required, it is pretty hard to take the class without Yeshiva experience. Dauber occasionally writes Hebrew words on the board, and the composition of the class (at least 80% had extensive Jewish education) made the class geared more towards the Jewish elements in the literature, instead of the Humor and historical perspective, as those who participate usually include whatever they learned in yeshiva, instead of analyzing the works as humorous literature, or elaborating on points expressed by Dauber.