British Literature/Romanticism

Jun 2013

I chose to take this class in part because of the CULPA reviews. Yes, Professor Nersessian is young, intelligent, and responsive to student opinions. She's really helpful in office hours and gives great guidance for papers. However, her lectures really need improvement. She sometimes has Powerpoint presentations. These are nicely made and visually appealing, but she includes rather unnecessary information. Sometimes Professian discussed the events of a particular Romantic author's life, going through bullet points on the slide. I could find this information on Wikipedia if I was so inclined. She didn't need to take up lecture time. Moreover, these autobiographical tidbits tended to be gossipy and they didn't deepen my appreciation of the texts themselves nor my ability to analyze literature. Professian's discussions of the texts were also disappointing. Her lectures would come out jumbled and hard to follow, especially when she applied confusing philosophical or metaphysical concepts to her analyses. She really should have thought more about how to explain these concepts in a logical, organized way. Instead, it usually just seemed like she was talking off the top of her head. I was not the only one who took issue with the lectures. Another student told the TA Candace that she was unsure about what to "get" out of the lectures, and requested that the TA briefly summarize the lectures at the beginning of each discussion section. This turned out to be a godsend. Candace's brilliant summaries would often leave me thinking, "Oh THAT'S what she was saying!" In addition, the lecture Candace gave one class in place of the professor was also phenomenal. Much more relevant, informative, and easier to follow than any of Professian's lectures. My biggest gripe with this class, though, was the fact that the class didn't prepare me for the two papers or the midterm. In the first paper, we had to interweave an analysis of diction with the historical context of the Enlightenment and Romantic periods. Many were unsure about how to go about writing this challenging paper. Now, I understand that this is a 4000-level class with graduate students, but that is no excuse for the professor to give irrelevant, unclear information. In my experience, professors in 4000-level classes at least model the kind of analysis they want you to do. In sum, I could see how Professian would be decent in seminar. But DEFINITELY avoid her lectures.

Apr 2005

Wow, I took this class because of the positive reviews and regret it more than any other English class I've taken at Columbia. Having taken 9 other courses, this man is the most frustrating and infuriating professor I've encountered in the department. He is the worst example of the stereotype of English professors - pretentious (lectures littered with phrases such as "par excellance" and "as it were" completely unnecessarily), pompous (when a student shares any idea, his general response is, "hmmmm, not really") and, in my opinion, disrespectful of students. He assigns unbelievable amounts of work at unexpected times - ie reading the entire novel Sense and Sensibility the first day of the semester - to read in 2 days. Or assigning a 400+ page novel by Sir Walter Scott to read over Spring Break . . . fuuuuun. What upsets me most is the fact that I had to buy many, many expensive books for this class, some of which he's only assigned us to read 1 or 2 poems from that are everywhere on the internet. Plus he is always behind on the syllabus thanks to his propensity to spend an entire class period analyzing one short poem. I don't think that I've ever disliked a professor so much - not only do his lectures bore me, but he seems far too impressed with himself to value students as anything more than robots who raise their hands to ask questions which he can grandly dismiss, belittle, and use as a platform for his own great knowledge and intelligence. I've truly loved being an English Major at Columbia and can't believe I'm wasting my last semester playing Tetris on my cell phone in his class for 3 hours a week.