Introduction to Comparative Literature and Society

Jan 2009

Huyssen won a teaching award a few years back, and it was very well deserved. He has been by far one of my favorites at Columbia—genuinely interested in his students' intellectual development, highly accessible (both in person and via email) despite a heavy course and advising load, as well as departmental chair responsibilities, and unfailingly civil. He is highly demanding in the classroom, expecting students to at least attempt to match his own inquisitiveness and uncanny ability to reveal the larger significance of literature. He won't hesitate to shoot you down if your classroom comments are foolish, but his engaging demeanor encourages lively back-and-forth once you grow comfortable with his expectations. Huyssen's a big-picture thinker, often musing about the changing nature of society, the influences of technology, the role of globalization, and the limits of language. If you're interested in German intellectual history, you'll find the examples he uses fascinating, and even if you're not, he makes a good effort to elucidate complex theories of modernity and literature using a wide array of texts. Be forewarned that, like many humanities professors, he treats the A grade like an A+. If you care more about your GPA than your education, you may be disappointed. But he is highly recommended.

Apr 2006

Amazing. If any professor is worthy of a cult following, it is Nancy Worman. Being her is my new career goal. She managed to make even the discussion of pretentious comp lit topics and difficult literary theory accessible and interesting. The class solidified my desire to major in Comp Lit and made me even more excited about the field.

Jul 2005

Just to echo breifly what others have written - a really good teacher and a friendly guy. A lot of reading (and it was a bit scattered) but he managed to hold it together. The professor must be intelligent when you have no idea how he/she put the syllabus together (i.e. the logic) and it ends up working. Go to his office hours - its a bit stilted at first but its ultimately worth it. He also really believes in Comp. Lit, so he's a good person to talk to about the major. He does have a bit of a creepy sense of humour, but I came to appreciate it. I've heard he offers a course on the Frankfurt School which would almost certainly be worth it.