The Novella from Cervantes to Kafka

Dec 2016

This was my first comparative literature course here at Barnard and it met my expectations in terms of challenge and in how interdisciplinary it was. Professor MacAdam is incredibly erudite and has a very sarcastic whit. His lectures are informative but I feel like he spends too much time summing up the plots of the novellas. If you haven't read the words, then it's helpful but its repetitive if you have.

Jan 2012

Brilliance. Sheer brilliance. OK - granted, Professor MacAdam isn't too big on the concept of discussion (No offense, that's probably for many a good reason..."How do you spell 'Kant'?...oy) AJMA is a true scholar of the humanities -- despite specializing in Hispanic Literatures, and translating many novels published during the "Boom era," through taking both of his courses in English (CompLit) and Spanish (Literatura del cono de sur), it has become more than obvious that this man has acquired an inordinate amount of knowledge to share over the course of his career in academe (and yes, I just used the word 'academe'). From 19th century gardening practices in England to the details about Lugones life in the pampas, the scope and depth with which Prof MacAdam shares his knowledge with his students is truly EXTRAORDINARY. The man is virtually a walking encyclopedia. But a really sweet encyclopedia at that! Go to his office hours--email drafts of your essays--complain about Barnard/Columbia--WHATEVER--he is one, if not THE, sweetest person I have ever had the privilege of meeting at this university, and can attest that he will go to great lengths to help his students excel -- from coursework to beyond. He is an extraordinary man, and I encourage anyone (with patience) to take a course with him. And in all fairness about the discussion comment below regarding the Novella Class...I don't exactly know how one is supposed to conduct a class-discussion in a course that has over 30 registered students. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems difficult/pointless? MacAdam is, quite simply, magic.

Nov 2011

I don't completely agree with the previous review of this course, nor do I completely disagree either. Prof. MacAdam is clearly an extremely well-versed literary scholar, and it's downright fascinating to see how he fluidly analyzes every aspect of each novella, linking the prose and their authors to other literary forms, art, history, and social understandings. The fact of the matter is that you never get the impression that this guy is BSing you--even if you can't see the connection he's making, you don't doubt that it's there. Or at least I certainly didn't. On the other hand, this is the first (and looking at my prospective schedule, most likely my last) English class of any sort that I've taken here, and I choose the class looking to get a bit of a break in between all of the sociology and urban studies and general "fact-iness" that I've been subjecting myself to recently. I was looking forward to an English class more reminiscent of those in my prep school days, where we sat around the Harkness table and discussed our thoughts and interpretations. Indeed, I couldn't really see how lecturing could really be an effective method for teaching literature at all (it certainly wasn't in the case of CC professor...); and at any rate, I figured that with it being a Comp. Lit. class at Barnard, there would be a lot of room for the individual interpretation and expression and empowering discussion and all that other crap they do over there. Boy, was I wrong! From the moment class begins to the moment it ends, he is talking--and a lot of it is not that easy to understand. He intertwines interpretation of the text with A LOT of other things, and I'm often bewildered by what he talking about it. He doesn't have the most exciting voice in the world and isn't talking about the most exciting stuff in the world, so it's very easy to lose focus or get bored; plus he's an old timer and there a few old timer auditers or GS students in the class as well, accentuating the general aura of boringness. At least he's funny sometimes. Nevertheless, he never seems egotistical or that he just likes the sound of his own voice, and I leave every class feeling like I just got to experience what a gifted literary scholar's stream of consciousness might just be like; and it always does come full circle, which is also cool. The man is a genius, that much is clear--even if what he's saying often isn't. But if you think you're gonna get to tell everyone how YOU feel about the texts, you've got another thing coming; he has a clear objective--to expose how each text, the nature/structure of the novella itself, and the world around us--reflect upon each other (hello, the dept. is called "Comp. Lit. AND Society for a reason!). The opinions and interpretations of a few unversed and barely-studied undergrads are of no use here.

Dec 2009

I would not recommend Professor MacAdam AT ALL. As wonderful as the reading was, I could have read it on my own time and gotten nearly as much out of it. I had really major problems with Professor MacAdam's teaching style and will never take a class with him again. Though he always asked if there were "any questions?" the manner in which he did so made me feel as if my comments or thoughts weren't really welcome. What's more, he never really asked questions or encouraged discussion or participation-- this is the first time I've taken a literature course where this was the case, and it felt really unsatisfying. His lectures consisted mostly of Professor MacAdam standing and reading from his paper, which I found not to be particularly engaging, and always seemed to give me the impression that he was deigning to share his knowledge with us, rather than engaging with us as members of the same academic or intellectual community. Basically, if you want to sit passively and listen to a professor reading and doing his own egotistical thing for a semester, go for it, but if If you're a student who likes actually thinking about and discussing the texts, this is not the class for you.