Arts of Japan

Jan 2017

This class covers a lot of material (1000's of years) so there's a lot to know, and because it's an art history class, you're gonna be expected to know a lot of things for the tests. However, Reynolds is a decently engaging lecturer and is definitely passionate about the material. The subject is quite interesting with him at the helm, however, I found the readings quite dull. I did poorly on the midterm and relatively well on the final, despite the fact that I only read for the first 2/3 of the semester. This suggests that you need to study the slides and Reynolds' favorite topics more than you need to know every reading. I was able to pick out what he seemed to think was most important (Isozaki, Maekawa, Todaiji, Katsura just to name a few) without much difficulty

Nov 2016

I took Professor McKelway's course on the arts of Japan and would say that it was a bit of a mixed bag. First off, he is a really smart guy and knows a ton about Japanese art. Whenever he lectured it seemed like the information just rolled off the top of his head in a way which conveyed that he had a clear grasp of the subject matter. One of the things I appreciated about his style was that instead of making us memorize huge amounts of objects, though memorization was still a big part of the class, he tried to take time with each object and allow people to make comments, effectively running the course like a large Art Humanities class instead of an introductory lecture. This was interesting to me because I had not taken Art Hum at the time and so I was able to really learn a lot about how art is discussed at Columbia and in academia in general. Downside to this though is that we did not make it to the Edo Period in Japanese art. In fact we barely made it through the Momoyama period. This is a huge concern, because we didn't even touch the last 400 years of Japanese art in a course which is supposed to be an overview of art from the country. This disorganization also showed up in courseworks where the readings were not listed in a way which made it easy to tell which reading was for which week and at the end of the semester I carefully went through the readings he posted and compared them with the syllabus and am totally certain that some readings were never uploaded. This points to his lack of consideration for students, e-mails often went unanswered and classes or museum visits were cancelled. Also, and this was a first for me, we didn't do all of the assignments on the syllabus. He had listed three papers and we only did 2. He can be helpful in office hours but I found that often the conversation would turn to personal chat too quickly or he would give me way too much information on a question I asked and I wouldn't be able to ask all the questions I had. Summation, he isn't awful by any stretch. You will learn a lot about Japanese Art and how to look at and talk about art in general. As long as disorganization and going off syllabus doesn't bother you it will be worthwhile. All the grading was done my the T.A.'s so I can't say how harsh a grader he is.

Dec 2011

Professor Reynolds' knowledge of Japan & its culture is SPECTACULAR. That being said, the atmosphere of the class was sluggishly passive. A huge disappointment, considering how expansive the material can be. What startled me was how Professor Reynolds was "too" particular on what he will/ not put on the exams. This was partly due to numerous (and often overlapping) questions raised "too" frequently by the class because the IDs were giving off the wrong impression or something. Anyway, I felt like my curiosity was being stampeded by a mob of rhinoceros as he'd inject, "By the way this will NOT be on your IDs in the exam." Passing the exam isn't the reason I took this course. On the other hand, if you can construct together the bits-an'-pieces from class material to form a good, big picture, the exam should be not a problem at all. Listen closely to try to craft an impression of the major figures, artists, events & techniques so that you could easily personify a new concept. Another thing that bugged me was how monotonous the lectures were. After all, there were readings assigned (and they are Good). Why not delve deeper into class material on behalf of those articles? The slides & oral presentations were far too manifest compared to the discourse going on in the readings; I would have been FAR more intrigued if Professor Reynolds had used them as discussion-starters. He would merely nod towards some major ideas in the articles which I thought was a huge loss. All in all, I wish Professor Reynolds didn't emphasize that whole little stormy dilemma going on there, the IDs & the exam, because it somehow worked to raise even MORE questions from the class on the exam..I was sick of hearing about the exam week after week, and sick of hearing the same questions as well.

Mar 2011

He was a great professor - energetic, funny, exciting, knowledgeable, and some times wacky. I could feel his passion for the material as he talked about each artwork, and it really helped me learn the information. His voice is loud and booming, so I found it easy to follow him through lectures. There's a lot of material that he covers, so I found it quite challenging come exam time to learn all of it--title, date, location, background, etc. It's a good class, but there's work a decent amount of work involved.

Jan 2011

Wow, i could not agree more with the other reviewers. This class was one of the worst I've taken at Columbia. Granted, I'm not an art history major but I have taken a fair share of AHIS courses and this was by far the worst! My first complaint would be the ridiculously expensive books, one was $150, the other $65. The first of which was completely useless as it basically describes the pieces of art instead of providing the full historical background, which is what Reynolds expects on the exams. Then there's his lectures, which I found to be completely all over the place and unorganized. We were consistently two lectures behind in the syllabus and he would start new topics five minutes before class ended. By the end of the semester we were cramming two weeks on the syllabus into one class. Part of the problem was that the course took on way too much, painting to architecture to sculpture over the span of thousands of years. This made studying for the exams a nightmare as we were expected to know a ridiculous amount of ID's. The material he chose to test on the exam was also peculiar; he spent four entire lectures on Edo prints and not one of them was on the final exam. The grading was also pretty rough, he basically expected us to know the full history of Japan politically, economically as well. If you are not a Japanese history major or art history major, DO NOT TAKE this class! Last, the final exam was scheduled for three hours, yet Reynolds enforced specific time allotments for each portion of the exam, which forced us to rush. The exam lasted about two hours and at the end of the two hours he rushed us out of there even though technically we had another hour to continue writing and correct our essays.

Dec 2010

Professor Reynolds is an excellent lecturer. He's so engaged and so fascinated with the material that you can't help but be captivated as well. During the lectures he gladly accepts questions and never gives write-off answers like, "it's complicated." He also regularly will follow up an answer by suggesting further reading ext. We were always a class or so behind the syllabus, and too often 3/4 of the way through the period he would announce, "and now for the topic of today's lecture..." The exams were fine. He's really generous and accepts dates that are up to 25 years off. There was less material during the first half of the semester than the second, but as long as you kept up with the reading you'd be fine. His handouts are also really helpful; they literally list every piece (with it's creator, location, and date) that could possibly be on the exam. They made studying a lot easier. I shopped this class on a whim and decided that I had take it before the end of the first lecture. The material was so fascinating and Reynolds was such a great lecturer, I can't recommend him or the class highly enough. Story Time. There was one paper that was assigned, to go to the met and write on one of the sculptures or prints in the Japan wing. I stupidly put it off until the day before it was due, and realized that I didn't have the handout that detailed the actual assignment. The met was closing in a few hours so I emailed the TAs and went downtown figuring that I could just take a bunch of photos and then figure it out later that night. Five minutes later, I get an email back from one TA saying that he was out of town and didn't have the handout. After wandering around the Japan wing for ten or fifteen minutes (it had now been several hours since emailing the TAs) I gave up and emailed Professor Reynolds. It couldn't have been more than 5 or 10 minutes before he emailed me the pdf and wished me good luck finishing the paper. What I got from this experience was: 1) Smart phones are amazing, 2) Professor Reynolds is a lifesaver, and 3) Don't put off starting your research paper until the day before it's due.

Dec 2010

Reynolds is a really nice, earnest professor, and he made this class better than I expected it to be. Although he coughed and wheezed his way through most of the classes (not his fault, admittedly), he was otherwise fairly entertaining to listen to and easy to understand. His lectures are clear and organized despite the fact that we fell behind the syllabus by about 2 days. My one complaint is that his midterm exam (haven't taken the final yet, so I can't say much about that right now) was astonishingly easy at first glance, but was graded fairly harshly. Memorization of all the sculptures/buildings/prints/paintings and their dates isn't enough--you need to really understand the context and time period they're from and convey this understanding on the exam despite the fact that Reynolds only gives you about 10 minutes max. per essay question. Fortunately, the papers are graded more leniently than the exams, so there's opportunity to compensate for a slightly lower midterm grade. In summary, anyone looking for an easy global core course who doesn't know much about art history and the structure of art history courses probably shouldn't take this class. However, students with an interest in art can get something out of this class without overworking themselves, and can expect a decent grade.

Dec 2010

I really liked this guy. He's knowledgable and enthusastic.. He gives you a taste of a variety of Japanese art forms over the centuries. (He even does a little on calligraphy, gardens and tea ceremony, in addition to the usual painting, scuplture and architecture. ) All in all, I found it a very enjoyable way to spend a hour and a quarter two afternoons a week. Two caveats, though: First, his speciality is architecture, and he devotes a fair amount of time to traditional Japanese buildings in this course, which I consider a plus. However, the trade off is less time for painting and scuplture. Ideally you would take Reynolds' version of Arts of Japan and then the course on Japanese Painting, and you will have been exposed to a lot of great art and interesting reading. Second, don't be misled by his jolly stage presence into thinking that he doesn't expect you to master the material from lectures and reading. He wants you to enjoy the art, but he's serious about the scholarship.

Dec 2008

Matthew McKelway is a pretty good professor. He clearly knows his material very well, which sometimes devolves into a barrage of information during class. I advise you to bring a laptop to class and try to note down everything you can get because come exam time, you will need those notes because looking up Japanese art, even through Google, is a big pain. He's a decent lecturer, sometimes ends up rambling but you can just tune out. He also asks questions in class, but nothing too difficult. He will take roll call until he knows your names -- and he will remember if you're not there, or late. He can be a bit of a jerk for example, he'll be snarky if you pronounce a Japanese word wrong even though his accent isn't that hot either (I have Japanese-speaking parents). A previous review of McKelway said he's not very organized, especially on Courseworks. I think he's improved remarkably as the Courseworks postings were explicitly clear and well-ordered. He posted up every lecture slideshow before class and emailed us about it. He also compiled these "study guides" for each topic we covered, listing the works of art (with date, artist, medium etc) we should be familiar with, events and definitions.These guides sometimes left out information, and were composed a little strangely, but you could still follow them. However, the powerpoints themselves were a little lacking. I needed to study with the slideshows, but the lack of captions on most of the slides was aggravating, and needlessly so. My biggest gripe is the exam style. First, McKelway insists you know all the works of art, their dates, mediums, artist if any and location. That is an excessive amount of memorization even if the final isn't cumulative, and it's only made harder by the fact that not everyone is familiar with romanized Japanese. He then proceeds to test about 2% of the material you learned for the exam, often throwing in pieces of artwork NOT covered in class in the exam. When I say that, I mean there was a section for unknowns, and he put in unknown works in sections that were meant to be identifiable from class. Overall, despite the length of this review, I'd say take this class. It's not an easy A, but you'll definitely learn a lot (even though we didn't finish the syllabus) and it's some pretty cool art to boot. McKelway as a lecturer is good as long as you can put up with some of his quirks. He's approachable, will meet during office hours, teaches clearly...what more do you need? As long as you can face the prospect of always overstudying for exams that barely skim the material taught and don't give you a good chance of showing you're knowledge, you'll be fine.

May 2005

Melissa McCormick is an extremely talented lecturer, who inspires you to want to learn about the topic. Her language is full of imagery and will keep you riveted to the slides for the most part (people may disagree, since many laptop users didn't seem to be paying much attention). She is generally very nice. She tends to wait too long for class participation though, often times she would ask a question and we'd sit in silence as no one answered. Overall, an interesting class if you have any fondness for art.

Mar 2005

Great class taught by a great professor. Prof. McCormick is organized and kind, and very personable. Her lectures interesting and captivating and sprinkled with humor. She obviously put a lot of effort into her preparation and delivery. She is a more "rational" kind of art history professor, by which I mean that even though she may (and most probably does) appreciate the artwork aesthetically, she rarely goes "oh, look at that, so beautiful" in lectures like some others do. Instead she tells you why an artwork is great and interesting: the formal qualities, cultural context, production techniques, and so on. In short she skips the useless art historian's sigh and goes straight to what students really need to know. I also like the fact that she is young and can relate to us. She likes manga and anime! Again, she is great! I love her. Everyone should love her. Take this class. Yes.

Nov 2003

This woman is an art history professor who knows her stuff. Her lectures are well organized, to the point, and interesting - worth going to class for. She is by far the best art history lecturer I have ever had. The discussion sections are tedious for the most part but are bi-weekly. She really makes an extra effort; teaching everyone how to pronounce Japanese and taking field trips to tea ceremonies and such. Highly recommended

Sep 2003

Overall I thought Professor McCormick was good. Her lectures were interesting, well prepared, and included plenty of slides. The material it self was awesome and the required reading was bearable in both content and quantity. It is advisable that you do the reading though because she will ask you about it and test you on it. I got the sense that Professor McCormick wasnÂ’t thrilled to be teaching undergrads. She was available and willing to answer any question but I donÂ’t think she want to spend to much time on that.