Reading and Writing 20th Century Hispanic Lit.

Feb 2006

If you had asked me in October, I would have said that Profesora Aguilar was the greatest professor I had ever had at Columbia. Others have already said it here: she knows EVERYTHING, she quotes whole poems, sings songs - everything from Italian opera to Mexican folk songs to Schubert's Lieder to Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, she has a witty obscure quotation from someone famous for everything. Just, really fabulous professor who will awe you with her knowledge. Somewhere in October or November though, the enthusiasm in her, and in the class, died. It became tedious to go to, and I can't say why. She seemed less the glorious performer I was in awe of, and more annoyed to be there. She chimed in with the occasional song and poem or quotation, but it seemed half-hearted. It was unfortunate, because before that, she had been the best professor I had encountered. She certainly was not the evil person described for the earlier classes in this class. I think because at the 3000 level, people want to be there. The workload wasn't ridiculous, and even if you hadn't done the work (one time, I had forgotten something), she just skipped over you and looked forgiving - didn't yell at or berate you. If it was clear you were just makign it up because you hadn't read (not that you didn't understand, she forgave that), she could give you the death stare, but wouldn't say anything. The workload was fine: the short stories were fun to read, and enthralling to discuss in class because of all the things she'd bring to the surface about them, or comparing them to world literature (very often German literature, which as a German student, was cool to see some overlap). The poetry block could be sort of tedious or boring. We never got to the book, so I can't comment on that. Whats really clear is that she wants you to learn and to do well. She lets you hand in a 1-2 page ungraded response paper every couple of weeks before your longer papers where she encourages you to try out large phrases you might want to use in your bigger papers without the penalty of getting them wrong and being marked down, which is probably where I learned the most in this class. The papers increase in length from 3-5 to 4-6, to a final 5-7 page paper. They seem to be graded harshly, but as she'll tell you at the end of the class, these grades are more what you "earned." She inflates your final grade to the inflated standard. Overall: this class was one I enjoyed, but was disappointed by the profound drop in enthusiasm half way through. Had it kept up, it would have been the greatest class I had taken at Columbia, and de Aguilar the best professor. She definitely is among the Spanish department's greatest teachers.

Jan 2004

I really enjoyed Professor Aguilar's class. She loves the material that she teaches and knows the material extremely well, to the point of being able to quote from most of the works we read, in addition to obscure 12th century philosophers and famous 20th century gravediggers - I exaggerate here, but Aguilar does operate under the assumption that she probably knows more than you ever will or could hope to, and so whatever she says will be of some educational value. I can see how she could be intimidating to people who either don't do the reading or have continued trouble understanding the works, but if you keep up with the assignments and go to her office hours (which are numerous and convenient, to my mind) then you stand a good chance to get a whole lot out of her class. The lectures on the history of latin american literature are boring, but I would fault the class structure itself, rather than Aguilar's teaching style. Her enthusiasm is infectious.