19th Century English Novel

Jan 2013

Professor Marcus is an AMAZING professor. She is a fantastic lecturer, nice in office hours, and unbelievably knowledgeable in her field (seriously, this woman's a genius). I don't think she wastes even a minute of lecture, ever -- I was basically taking notes the entire time to get down everything she was saying. She provided really thorough analysis and insight into the novels we read (the structural analyses she does are really amazing) but still made some of the more daunting novels (i.e. Daniel Deronda) approachable. We read six novels over the course of the semester, with 3-4 classes (about 2 weeks) devoted to each. Marcus cut the seventh novel because she realized less and less people were keeping up with the reading, i.e. she's very understanding (the only time she wasn't was when she expected us to have read 200 pages of the next novel the same day one of our papers was due). She covered a lot of different themes/ideas (like marriage plot, realism, gothic elements, technology, etc.) and introduced a bunch of literary terms like physiognomy and exegetic/diegetic time, etc. She also did a really great job making the course come together, by showing similar themes in novels and how each author related historically to one another. Workload (mostly reading) got heavier as the semester went on, because the novels got longer and other classes also simultaneously got busier. The first we read was Northanger Abbey which is fairly short so we were only reading 60-80ish pages for each class, but we read The Woman in White about halfway through the semester which was like 150-200 pages per class. However, novels were enjoyable and reading was flexible in that she would say to read x amount of pages for a certain class day but if you were a bit behind it was alright. She tried to not spoil the end of the novels for those who were a bit behind. Two 8-10 page essays, one after the first three novels (around midterm season) and the next due at the end of the semester. She always gave topics pretty far in advance (around two weeks, sometimes more) so you have plenty of time for brainstorming, running ideas by her/TAs in office hours, and if you bring in an outline or a draft to office hours/class (no email) she'll look it over. The TAs are super cool and super nice, also. The same person (either her or a TA) grades both of your essays, and then I think the grades are streamlined at the end since each person reads every essay. Essays are graded kind of difficult (you have to have a really flawless essay to get the A, I believe), but the final is easy and she offers some extra credit opportunities, if you're on the borderline of a better grade she'll bump you up if you've been going to/engaging in class. Overall, the class was amazing, and I'll definitely be looking out for more of Marcus's classes in the future. I'd agree that she sometimes covers the material so thoroughly it's hard to find something to write about (she tells you not to write your papers about anything discussed in class) but the paper topics are good and more importantly, there's a lot of learning both on the reading and writing fronts. She seems a little intimidating in lecture because she's such a genius, but super nice and helpful during office hours! Also syllabus was fantastic - Austen, Bronte, Dickens, Eliot, etc.

Jan 2006

1. Take Mendelson when you are a Sophomore, or if you are not an English major. He is good for that point, but after you've taken some more rigorous classes, he will be lost on you. 2. His reading list is an exercise in the obvious, BUT he genuinely rejuvenates some books (Jane Eyre, Frankenstein) by giving the definitive "classic" readings on them. That is, he is not interested in groundbreaking Frankfurt school theory, but he appreciates the books as they are meant to be. 3. He is a super nice guy, but if you take more than one class with him, you WILL hear the same stories again and that kind of retroactively ruins them. 4. He thinks that novels are a good way to live and measure your life. I couldn't agree more, and for that, he gets my approval, with all of the above qualifiers.

Dec 2005

Professor Mendelson presents himself as a bit of a hard ass in the beginning, but stick with him and you'll see that he really is a really nice guy with a lot of insightful things to say that just has an antipathy for electronics, hats, and stupid questions. He says that you will be graded on what you do best, and he means it. He is not a professor whose purpose is to terrorize you into doing well. Instead, he basically begs you to give him something intersting to read rather than just regurgitating and saying what you think he wants to hear. I enjoyed his class even though it was a dreadful 9am start. Mendelson always tried to do his best to keep us all awake and could be surprisingly funny and self depricating at times. I would recommend him.

Jan 2005

Definately one of the most interesting lectures available at Columbia. I never wanted to skip because the quality of each lecture is only surpassed by it's ability to be engaging at the same time. Dames has truly unique interpretations of the novels on the syllabus and is very approachable. I don't even like 19th Century novels that much and now really love a lot of the books I read for the class. What's more is that his lectures are completely ORGANIZED but he doesn't seem to consult a single note. Also, if you show up at each lecture, you will definately have no problems with the class. A very nice guy as well, very accomodating.