African American Literature

Jan 2012

Don't take her!!! She is not an impartial grader. I've never contested a grade in my time at Columbia except hers. She makes it almost impossible to accommodate you for office hours when her pre-existing ones conflict with your other classes. I asked her for guidance with the paper during the first week of classes because I knew I needed all the time I could get, she said don't worry, it's too early for that, we'll get to that, you have plenty of time, yada yada yada, then when she graded it at the end of the semester, she penalized me saying I should have taken more time to develop it and it seems like I rushed through parts of it. Ugh! As a person I'm sure she's great, but as a professor she needs help!

Jan 2008

Loved the class, fantastic lecturer, at the forefront of her field. Columbia is lucky to have her and you will be very lucky to take a class with her.

Dec 2007

I was disappointed. While Professor Griffin is very nice and incredibly knowledgeable, it was hard for me to invest much in this class. Part of the reason was that I didn't find my classmates' comments to be particularly insightful, and I wanted Prof. Griffin to clamp down on that more. Also, her grading was extremely easy-- it did not give me much incentive to work harder. That said, the reading is interesting and you will learn a lot about black intellectual history. I wish we read more complete novels rather than excerpts, but the nonfiction (political) stuff we read was very good.

May 2006

I just want to begin with: I hope that I can take another class with this woman before I graduate. She must be the best kept secret on CULPA. I think Dr. Griffin is actually forced to keep her feet wet amongst undergraduates because she lectures as if we know a lot more than a lot of us actually know. She seems to really enjoy talking to the students who can connect what we are reading to their knowledge of the cannon of African American and feminist literature although she encourages new interpretations of the work. If you can make a good argument for something she didn’t lecture on, she is receptive. So for everybody who wants an opportunity to express their thoughts that fall outside of the regurgitative box that the professor built—here’s your chance. She's very passionate about her subject and wants her students to understand everything that birthed the writings. This is her life. She writes books about it, lectures about it and runs the Institute for Research in African American Studies which amounts to her probably being one of the busiest professors with whom you will have to try to meet and her schedule fills up quickly. Email her and you’ll have more success. She’ll reply to your email and have an answer ready to discuss with you and/or the class at the next meeting. Dr. Griffin’s appointments have to go through her secretary. Only use her secretary for appointments. If you have questions about anything else go to the TA or Dr. Griffin…just trust me on this. All in all, there's a good spread of assignments to give you an opportunity to make your grade. Griffin’s very clear about "mapping" the themes that she is focused on for each book and the unity of themes between the books so if you read and attend her lectures you can, in my opinion, easily do well on her exam. There were appx. three people who got 100s on the midterm and 12 or 14 "A"s in a class of 40. She gives the paper assignment a month before it is due so you have plenty of time to write it. It was due on the last day of finals so we haven’t gotten them back yet. It doesn't seem that she expects anyone to really do well on the paper and her former students say she grades papers harshly so we’ll see. The TA this year – Jamel was an EXTREMELY accessible guy who was enthusiastic about helping us with our papers. There is a group web project that is supposed to be fun that is supposed to allow you to seriously boost your grade if you mess up on the midterm or paper. Beware on the group project-- Griffin just tells you to do it without setting deadlines along the way for progress check-ins so if you don't make your group work on it before the last week, there is a good chance that they will not do anything until 3am the morning that it is do. My one problem: Its the end of the semester, the seniors graduated today and I still don't know how I did on my group project which we did three weeks ago. As always, there was a little too much historical/political influence crap that Columbia professors really seem to be into and I did start to mistakenly call this class African American History instead of African American Literature. However, she unpacks the novel as creative literature for, and with the class so it kind of makes up for the history lessons. Key ideas: Migration Narrative, Ancestors, Musicality in the prose, Final Tip: Ask questions about every book. The more class participation – the fewer quizzes.

Apr 2006

Dr. Griffin is absolutely passionate about her topic. Unfortuneately she analyzes the novels withing the context of their social/historical/political framework but so do half the profs in the English department. She does comment on the poetry of Baldwin and Morrisson but you just can't miss that. Major themes that you are going to be tested on will be both literary and political with a slant towards course long political themes. She's really sweet and approachable but not highly accessible since she must have one of the busiest schedules on the campus. She is responsive to emails and gives you a lot of notice for all of your assignments like 1-3 months in advance instead of just two weeks like some of the professors. But... she does not grade generously. Do your work, come to class stay on top of things and really knock out at least one thing and you'll be okay because she gives the heaviest weight to the assignment that you do the best on and will calculate the worst assignment at a muuuuuch lower percentage rate. She has one of the most interesting classes that I have taken in my two semesters at Columbia so its a shame she's taking off for 2006-2007 to write a book but that's what she does.

Nov 2004

She is heinous. In four years at Barnard I have never had a worse professor. Most of the people who came the first day of class dropped out by the second once they got to see what she was like. If it weren't a requirement for me I would have done the same. She's rude and belligerant toward the students. She's inflexible about paper writing. You have to do everything her way. She gave us a list of primary reading for the semester and then she gave us a list of secondary reading as well. When we asked her which secondary reading should go with which primary reading, she actually told us to GUESS!!!!!!!! Beware, if you miss more than 2 classes she will kick you out of the class. Don't take this class unless you absolutely have to.

May 2003

He is a very nice guy, but he is not the best lecturer on campus. I think that he does a great job of listening to the students especially by allowing them to speak in class. He really knows his stuff about African American Literature and he can usually compare it well to mainstream literature. The only thing I really did not like about the class is that they have these responses every single week. I could not stand having to do those things.