Latin American Humanities I

Sep 2010

Professor Russo is by far one of the best professors I have ever had. True, her class is difficult and the reading load is huge (and she WILL expect you to read and WILL know if you haven't), but it's completely worth it. Her knowledge of the subject material is simply ridiculous and amazing, and her ability to make connections and force you to consider alternate viewpoints is invaluable. She is a tough grader, and strict in her class about not paying attention and cell phones, but she is still very fair, and works hard to ensure that the level of work you put into her class is reflected in your grade. She also loves the students who are most inquisitive and contribute the most in discussion, so if you have something to say, say it. Also, her English is not perfect, but she is never difficult to understand, and if she doesn't know a word she can say it instead in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, probably German and most likely Nahuatl; otherwise she will ask you for the word- in this respect the class is also nice because she accepts that she is also learning new things. To top it all off she has a fabulous wardrobe.

Dec 2009

I made the mistake of thinking this would be a bullshit major cultures class I could sleep through, but it ended up being more work than I bargained for. "This is a four credit class" she reminded us repeatedly. There is a lot of reading, nowhere near the amount for Lit Hum, but still substantial. Towards the end, the reading slowed down. Lots of responses and mini-assignments, expect to spend time on this course. Two 6-8 page research-y papers for which you choose the topic. Group presentation where you make a lesson plan and teach a portion of the class. Take home final project. I found her grading to be exceptionally fair, although some fellow students complained. Midterm was kinda Art Hum + Lit Hum: image ID, term ID, dates, passage ID, essay. Reasonable difficulty, I got an A and only studied for one night. Participation is VERY important. She is incredibly intelligent and doesn't let people bullshit, aka, will readily interrupt you if what you're rambling on about is historically inaccurate or somehow anachronistic.That makes her a little intimidating at times, but she is generally endearing. Meets with everyone individually to discuss midterm/paper grades. Approach is interdisciplinary: we watched movies, went to museums, looked at art, read primary sources and secondary sources. To be honest, I had little interest in the subject matter, but the way she taught it made it seem far more interesting than it could have been. A history class about this subject would have been unbearable, but this approach made the class interesting (or, at worst, bearable). Some of the readings were great, and I genuinely think I learned things. In sum: good professor, significant workload, relatively interesting presentation of material, fair grading, would recommend to those looking for a history-light, art/literature focused major cultures.

Dec 2007

Marissa is a great professor who is extremely dedicated to her teaching, students, and subject matter. This class is not that easy, however. There is an EXTREMELY demanding reading load for this class. Expect 250-500 pages of reading a week on a light reading week. However, if you are interested in learning about Latin American history, especially the eras of discovery, colonization and independence/ national identity formation, take this class. The professor is extremely kind, knowledgeable and will help you develop skills. However, you just might kill yourself with the reading. It is insane!

May 2007

I've never written a culpa review in my four years at Columbia, but this professor deserves one. Please, please, take this course with any other professor but Maite Conde. I've taken many literature courses in the Spanish department with professors--like Jaime Hanneken or Helene de Aguilar, incidentally both also teachers of Lat Hum--who challenge and inspire their students to understand their course material from both a well-informed and a unique perspective. In contrast, Maite encourages neither quality in this gut course. Here are a few points to consider: --Even when Lat Hum is mainly limited to Spanish-language texts (read in translation, of course), the treatment of the material can feel cursory because you're covering an entire century of "humanities" materials from a wide range of nations with particular political and social histories, all important to understanding their literatures/films/art/etc. But because Maite's particular specialization is Brazilian lit and film, she adds a ton of Brazilian material into the course, which only increases the utterly scattered feeling of the syllabus. You never get a sense that you know a country's history, whether literary or political, nearly well enough to understand its art more than superficially. --Maite is just not a good discussion facilitator. It's obvious that she arrives at class with certain questions and expected answers prepared, which is perhaps natural. But the problem is that she is nearly incapable of commenting intelligently on (or, in some cases, even acknowledging) student comments that don't match her expected answers to a T. As a result, almost every student in the class commented at one point or another during the semester that they felt as though the only way to gain Maite's approval was to figure out what she wanted to hear and then regurgitate it back at her. This might seem fine for those of you who want a mindless "List A" experience, but for anyone who likes to think creatively about literature, film or art--and especially for anyone who has prior knowledge of Latin American humanities and might have more advanced analyses to offer--it's going to be a problem. Just one example: Maite commented to me early on that my idea about a piece "was deep--but she's a simpler person, and was looking for a simpler answer". As the semester progressed, the atmosphere became one of increasingly condescending anti-intellectualism... a BAD combination. --Maite simply assigns too much reading for an introductory-level course. The problem, as the last reviewer mentioned, is that you never get a sense of what reading is most important, and the consequence in terms of the classroom dynamic is that no one reads and everyone bullshits 90% of the time--which, considering that the class is 2 hours long, gets pretty old pretty fast. --Ahh, Maite's paper-grading. Again, I concur with the previous reviewer: as one of the few students who got above a 90 on both papers she assigned, I saw that the only way to win her approval grade-wise is to approach her before the due date, discuss your topic with her, find out exactly which sources she thinks are important and which details of your thesis she finds most interesting, and then write the paper SHE wants to see instead of the paper YOU want to compose. There is, as in discussion sessions, zero tolerance of perspectives (even if well-developed and well-supported by the works in question) that don't match her own. --And finally, if I may quote one of my classmates, who broke down and started ranting about Maite during evaluation time--"If I hear the word 'identity' one more time, I'm going to shoot somebody". I think one of the bi-products of a learning environment in which nobody reads and nobody is allowed to introduce ideas in class or on paper that don't exactly match the teacher's is that tritely superficial, often unsubstantiated analyses become the norm. You're rewarded for throwing around the same PC buzzwords with reference to every text, repeating yourself over and over again and boiling an entire canon of artistic production down to cliches like "identity is a social construct"--with barely any regard for the details of the texts themselves or the perspectival differences between them. If we're honest with each other, we'll admit that this is the way the core is in a lot of cases--but if you want to put in the effort, you can still seek out an environment where genuine scholarship is attainable. Maite's classroom is not the place, which may be the reason why there were only 10 people in our class while all the other spring sections of Lat Hum were full or over-booked. So do yourself a favor, and go where you can learn something.

Jan 2007

Professor Conde is a good instructor, but be prepared to do a lot of reading if you take this class--perhaps more than in other sections. She assigns a ton of supplemental/commentary readings along with the regular course readings. Some of these readings are superficial, but others are important and discussed in class. Determining which readings are important is the student's job; she does not separate core and supplemental readings in the Courseworks outline for a given day of class. Grading is fair in the end, but I found the grading of papers to be a bit harsh. Professor Conde expects students to write papers thinking all along about the context of her essay questions rather than just the questions and the books to which they relate. Getting above a 90 on a paper required answering not just the essay question but other (unwritten) questions related to the essay topic. Usually, the only way to find out these rrelated questions was to write the essay, turn it in, and read her comments about what other questions the paper could have answered along with her final grade. If you're looking for a way to satisfy a cultures requirement this class is definitely OK. However, if you want a lighter reading load take a different section.

Dec 2006

The class was not bad at all. The grading is fair, the readings are lengthy, but not all are necessary. Class can be interesting depending on the topic, where the discussion goes, and who did the readings. The movies were also amusing. Prof. Ko is also easily reached by email, and will entertain all points of views and questions (though she may not exactly answer them). Prof. Ko has a lot of information on the subject matter and often draws outside information into the discussions to supplement the material. Overall, a good choice for a major cultures requirement, or fulfilling major requirements.

Dec 2006

This class was easy, but it was an absolute pain to sit through. Anna does not have a very strong classroom presence and has a annoying monotone voice, two facts that make it extremely difficulut to remain attentive. Additionally, she will often disaggree with and ridicule student comments. This might have provided her with mental superiority, but it quickly caused another reaction: after the first three weeks of class, most of the students quit talking. The latter half of the year mainly consisted of Anna asking questions, the students remaining silent for 20-40 seconds of painful silence, and then Anna answering her own question. The class clearly failed to provide the seminar atmosphere that I was hoping for. Nonetheless, the class was easy. I did all the reading, which I found really interesting (the fall of Tenochititlan, told from multiple perspectives, is riveting). But if someone wanted to skate by and skip a lot of the reading, they could do so and still come out of this class with an "A."

Jul 2006

Take this class. Armanda is one of the nicest teachers I have ever had and is an easy grader. I took the class over the summer so she might have been easier, but it doesn't matter. She is actually very engaging in class and I learned a lot without having to kill myself memorizing the material for exams. It is clear she is interested in what she is teaching and she will do her best to make you feel passionate about the subject (which would otherwise be boring). The class environment is really laid back and I can't emphasize how nice she is. Because she is young she remembers what it was like to be a student and even asks for our input on the exam format and questions! Overall, if you put in effort to this class Armanda will make it worthwhile --you will get a good grade and learn a lot.

May 2006

Excellent teacher. Enjoys the material. Very active, interested, energetic. Fare grader. Interesting class discussions.

Apr 2006

This class is completely disorganized and the sylabus rarely provided any insight as to what we were actually supposed to read, write, watch, present. Yes, there is a lot of work and it's spread into many different categories and there are pop quizes on it, so you have to do it. Still, Professor Aguilar is one of those people that just knows everything and can quote anyone. She tells entertaining stories and sings! The reading material, when you actually know what to read, is very good, but the class produces a lot of stress and she is a hard grader.

Dec 2005

Armanda Lewis is a great instructor, you should definitely take any class you can with her. She is interested in making sure that you as an individual understands what is going on. She knows each of her students and leads really good discussion. Sometime it seems like things are repeated quite a bit, but this pays off when it comes to the exams, because you know the material so well. I learned things in this class that I will actually remember.

Dec 2005

Chela really promotes discussion excellently in class, encourages active analysis, and doesn't mind getting off-topic if the sidetracking conversation is really interesting. That being said, she doesn't just give grades away like some of the other Latin American Humanities teachers. She really wants you to blab on about any possible connection you can make on the midterm, and she'll give out less than As for not regurgitating enough. Even so, being in a class that makes you want to come discuss texts written about colonialism hundreds of years ago is worth it. If you can't get in, come anyway--she scares a lot of people off the first day.

Mar 2005

Prof. Marrero has figured it out: each class is dominated by a student presentation of the material, and Prof. Marrero only has to fill in what the student missed during the last ten minutes. He grades two papers for each student, plus the presentation, and no final or midterm to write or grade. His has to be the cushest teaching position here. What a great idea! From the student's perspective, the class is very flexible. If you're looking to fulfill an easy MC requirement, there are only the two short papers and one presentation to worry about, with a minimum of class participation. For the student who's genuinely interested in the material, the reading list is very comprehensive, with several off-beat and interesting works thrown in (e.g. García Márquez' "The General in His Labyrinth" during the unit on Latin American independence instead of a dry non-fiction work). Despite his brilliant plan for minimizing his busywork, Prof. Marrero clearly loves the subject and the Conquest period especially, and he is a fountain of information. He is flexible to students' needs, but don't abuse his generosity. He also loves to meet students out of class, and is generally a cool guy.

Dec 2004

Very sweet lady. She's very passionate about her class. She loves teaching and learning as well. She's a good grader and is understanding. She is funny in class and great to talk to outside of class.

Aug 2004

Daniel is probably the nicest person you could have as an instructor. He never got mad. He never stopped smiling. And he never ceased to be impressed by what people said in class, no matter how inane. Whether this is evidence of the jaded standards of a tired grad student or a relentless perky instructor doesn't matter. Daniel wants to give you an A, so all you have to do is show evidence of independent thought. He won't work you too hard, and you could probably get through the class without doing any of the reading...but why would you want to disappoint him and feel guilty, especially since most of the stuff you read (everything is post-1900) is interesting, especially the readings relating to the Cuban Revolution. If you want to get Major Cultures taken care of easily and don't mind doing some reading, you're on your way to four points of A.

Jan 2004

She is an interesting teacher to those students not having prior knowledge of Latin American culture and history. But to me she at first seemed interesting but towards the end she bored with her numerous classes dedicated to poetry and art which led the class to Bulls**t the last part of the semester. Her exams confused students as they are deceptively easy yet are graded from a 95 scale and not a hundred thus a student is automatically penalized 5 points. She says she does it to compensate for students obtaining an A+, but this only discourages students once their grades are lowered due to this grading system. The presentations by students were an unnecessary component of the class or need to be retuned as most students simply repeated common knowledge about works without any real analysis. These presentations dragged on for too long, sometimes more than an hour, thus causing many students to loose interest in the class and sleep. Her lack of organization of materials leads students to not know which assignments are due on which dates. Her feminist left wing liberal stance on numerous issues makes you feel as if you were at times taking feminist 101 or left wing politics. Avoid this class if you are easily bored. The readings are interesting but the ways which she presents them may bore some.

Jan 2004

prof. gebelein is really brilliant. everything she has to say is really interesting. the student presentations that seemed to go on and on were probably the most annoying part of this class. that and that the dept has it set up so that we spend way too long on the colonial period in comparison to the 1800s. prof. gebelein makes latin american hum a really excellent class. she's new to columbia this year and also teaches at yale so she probably doesn't have many reviews yet. but trust me, great teacher, totally fair grader, she makes the material engaging, and she really knows her s**t.

Dec 2003

After so many dubious experiences with Core classes and poor teaching, Dr. Gebelein was a saving grace, and my favorite teacher at Columbia thus far. It surprised me to find that this was her first time teaching here because her approach is so casual and un-self-conscious. She has an amazing mastery of the material and would frequently supplement the topic at hand with antecdotes and alternative ways of considering the material. Her humor and charm did wonders for a course that could undoubtedly be taught in a less enthusiastic manner. Her passion for topics of Latin American identity and all its many facets were really inspiring and engaging, to the point where I looked forward to every class and did the readings with much enthusiasm. If you're taking Lat Hum and you get Dr. Gebelein, consider yourself lucky. She is really something else, and sets a wonderful example of what teaching should be here at Columbia.

Nov 2003

Professor Guzauskyte is extremely intelligent, knows her subject matter thoroughly, is well-prepared, and encourages critical thinking and discussions regarding the topics at hand. She is an excellent teacher and encourages students to achieve their potential. She is a very nice person but that does not detract from her professional teaching skills or her aptitude for leading interesting discussions in class. Her classes are always very informative, and I can honestly say that I look forward to attending them. She grades fairly based upon merit. I have learned quite a bit about Latin American history and literature through taking this course and would highly recommend her as a teacher.

Nov 2003

Evelina is one of the sweetest professors at Columbia. She is a wonderful teacher and she knows her stuff. The majority of the class is lecture and discussion so definitely be prepared to participate in class. Evelina makes the class enjoyable with her outside knowledge of different works and writers of the time. If you enjoy an in depth analysis of some of the major themes and concepts during the conquests, in a comfortable atmosphere... this is the class for you. Evelina is totally approachable and a dedicated educator.

May 2003

just echoing the previous reviewer. great teacher, encourages class participation, and isn't afraid of debate. also funny, always good humored, creates a great atmosphere in class.

Apr 2003

Despite his "unfortunate relationship with time, Fankboner is one of the best young instructors at Columbia. Loy ('Edgar' is only there to add a professorial air) brings the broad interests of a graduate student to the table without the erudition or condescending reservation that is often part of the package. As he says over and over (often apologetically) the syllabus is designed to be ambitious. Translation: there is no way to get through all the material in the semester. Things get cut or moved and there is regular confusion about what is on the docket for any given class. To his credit, Loy has improved at keeping the class up-to-date. Every class is broken up by a self-admitted nicotine fix in the middle, but be careful, he's a speed smoker. While he can be spotted behind the counter or outside of Kim's on occassion, he is much nicer than the average staffer. All in all, the way Loy fosters discussion and deftly inserts his own interpretations makes the class a pleasure.

Jan 2003

Yes. that's all I have to say about Chela. She's an amazing teacher that really knows her stuff. Encouraging and never intimidating. you contribute to class discussion as you please, and she is very aware who is contributing, so speak up. You want to be in this class section.

Jan 2000

Libby Russ clearly cares about the material and is very intested in fostering discussion. She is very open to everyone's opinion and never condescending. She isn't an amazingly great lecturer, but she is clear and thorough. Pros: 25% of grade is participation and no midterm. Cons: NOT a particularly easy grader and takes attendance

Jan 2000

While I'm sure that Prof Martinez Bonati is a very qualified professor, he seems to have little interest in the major issues of the Pre-Columbian and the colonial period. His focus seems to be poetry which is a part of those periods but certainly not the whole part. He made offensive remarks in class about the futility of movements to preserve indigenous languages and seemed to have little information about the subject. Lectures were quite dull.