Literary Criticism and Theory

May 2014

This man is literally on another level of so so knowledgable, not at all conceited and really cares about what his students have to say. Cannot speak highly enough of this professor. Also not a difficult grader as long as you put in effort and write something interesting. He is more interested in theoretical and historical framing, rather than close reading works of literature, so if that's not your thing be wary. Nonetheless, his classes are always a ton of fun. Even when I was dead tired and just didn't feel like talking about Derrida, he somehow pulled somehow always pushed me to think critically and engage in class discussions. He is also VERY VERY relaxed with deadlines, because he realizes we are adults with lives. In my view, he is a flawless professor.

Mar 2014

I'll be candid here... she is the most cynical and draconian grader I have ever had here at Barnard. If I hadn't taken other English courses I would be dissuaded from majoring in English because this lady has a way of discouraging students through her harsh grading style and "reverse psychology" method employed in class. You can tell she uses reading and work as an escapist activity from socializing with people, because she lacks the empathy and ability to connect with her students. If you are doing poorly, please remember that your proficiency as a writer is not reflected by the grades she gives out. She is an intellectual snob who is unhappy with the card she has been dealt with in life and takes it out on her students.

Jan 2011

I started out loving this class but I DO NOT feel that way now! Spiegel is unorganized. While the other sections were reading literary favorites and writing essays, we were discussing memory the ENTIRE semester. We read books, articles, and watched movies about memory and history. It seems to be her expertise which she then applies to every course that she teachers - whether it is this course or a film course, I have a feeling that the syllabi are very similar. We were supposed to have weekly courseworks postings but she stopped those because she kept forgetting to put up prompts and questions for us to discuss. She didn't assign us any essays to write until halfway through the semester so we had to rush in 3 essays instead of having them spread out thanks to Spiegel's unorganized and chaotic nature. And then is the grading. It took her a VERY long time to give us our grades for the first paper. We were graded harshly and everyone in the class said that they were surprised by her harsh and rather rude comments and grades. This could partly be because it was our first grade all semester and she told us that we were all doing better than we ended up doing on the paper. On the same note, I asked her if I should rewrite a draft of my essay and she said it was not necessary and that I would do very well on the paper. Well, she lied. I did not do very well and it is not just that I have oddly high standards. I did not improve from the paper before - instead she gave me the same grade slash the grade one portion of a grade higher (ex. B/B+ or B+/A-). In the end, I DO NOT recommend this class because I am unhappy with the way Professor Spiegel handled the structure of the course and the grading. She was fake, unorganized, and unnecessarily harsh. If she wants us to improve and learned from our past assignments, space them out throughout the semester and not squish them into the last two months.

May 2010

This was one of the best classes I've taken so far. The syllabus is amazing. There's A LOT (too much) of reading for the class, but it's all really fundamental (Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Marx, and a lot more). The works we read always seemed to be useful for all of my other classes. After this class you just won't ever look at theory/ aesthetics the same way again. The syllabus is challenging, but Stefan was a great guide. He was always patient in going over tough points (and incredibly generous when it came to office hours). His enthusiasm for the material was infectious: by the end of the semester I could barely believe I had done all the reading (well almost all of the reading). After this class you'll really feelmuch better prepared for your other English classes. The syllabus and the professor are great!

Jun 2009

PROFESSOR SHARPE IS MY HERO. I really, seriously want him to adopt me. I took Lit Crit with him to fulfill a req for the English major. I was dreading it, but because of Prof Sharpe I looked forward to it every week. He lets you create your own syllabus as a class, and grade yourself as a student (within reason), and his grading system is based on effort rather than merit. So it's kinda like a "create-your-own" class. And it's awesome. We chose books to read so they were random, but all really good, and I learned SO MUCH in this class! He knows tons about literary theory, and actually, everything. By the end of the class we would ask him random questions 'cause we figured out he always knows the answer. Plus, if you go to him during office hours he's incredibly nice, helpful, and accomodating. He gave me a book to read and helped me with a paper from another class. Take this class with Sharpe!

Jan 2009

Professor Hamilton is certainly a brilliant man and a very friendly, approachable professor. But if you take this class too seriously it will become a nightmare. The reading load is about a 200 pages a week (no joke, with very very small font from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism). The first few meetings of class will be awkward, as he has a tendency to sit at the round table of students and stare in silence, waiting for you to start the discussion. If you are not talking he will call on you, so prepare yourself well with the readings. As the semester goes on things become more relaxed, and I slacked off a great deal on the readings as did the rest of my class. As long as you arm yourself with one point to talk about, you will be fine. Do not stress out about cramming in 200 pages of dry, difficult, technical reading. He will also ruin your weekend, as a three to four page essay is due by midnight EVERY SUNDAY. They are difficult, vague, and frustrating to write. But he is an easy grader. He won't even give you grades on your essays, your grade is an arbitrary sort of assessment of your general effort and intelligence level. If you write interesting, thought provoking essays you will be rewarded, even if you misinterpret all of the basics of post-structuralism. P.S. No midterm, no final.

Jan 2008

Prof. Spiegel is amazing. Not only does she make difficult philosophical essays accessible, but she incorporates film, art, and other types of narrative with literature to fully explore different theories and ideas. She is definitely a challenging professor, but worth the effort. I would highy, highly recommend taking this class from her.

Apr 2007

Although it is true that Prof. Schmidt is disorganized (you may have to send her several emails and she does cancel some appts.), she also tries her best to be available and is very apologetic when her disorganization gets the best of her (she gave us her number and called me to apologize when she had to cancel a meeting). In the classroom, it is true that she sometimes "relies on her students" for discussion, but that's what small classes are supposed to be about! She achieves a great balance of allowing students to express their personal opinions while encouraging those opinions to be grounded in the texts, and her own contribution to discussion was wonderful as well. She is obviously intelligent, kind, and never pompous. I think that the class was worth her somewhat disorganized manner. All in all, I'd say take the class!

Dec 2006

Mary Cregan is: 1) An approachable, unintimidating professor 2) A fair grader 3) Supportive of other people's opinions during discussion, and if she isn't, she counters that opinion in a manner that leaves your dignity intact 4) Reads and responds to weekly postings 5)Gives papers back on time with constructive feedback (she's also more than willing to talk to you if you feel that her grading is unfair) 6) All-around,highly recommend. Do plan on taking this woman's seminar if you want to learn how to write and thoughtfully respond to criticism and apply theory to texts.

Nov 2006

Professor Brown is the light of my English-major life. She designed a thoughtful syllabus, and keeps the class discussion on-focus while still carefully considering the points of every student. She makes you back up everything you say, which keeps everyone on their toes, but still has a sense of humor. The topic, literary criticism, was not one I was particularly looking forward to, but Professor Brown's approach was so involving that I'm now completely enthralled.

Nov 2006

Yep, Daniel Swift is great. Full of information, great at leading class discussions, and endlessly patient. He'll really help you out with the assigned material and with your own writing. Take advantage of his office hours, too-- his one-on-one discussions are as interesting as his class.

Mar 2006

I do not recommend this class. Professor Brown is a smart woman, but she does not know how to lead a good discussion - she has all of the points she wants to go over written on a handout that she gives you beforehand. Sometimes I found the questions she wanted us to answer during our discussion dull and uninteresting, but there was nothing I could do about it; anything else would've been considered off topic. I found myself staring at my watch the whole time. The readings assigned for this class were very time consuming, and the papers sucked majorly. Look forward to a bunch of awkward silences when you run out of things to say after the first hour.

Jan 2006

I LOVE Professor Gordis. She is the most involved professor I have ever had--that is, she is the only professor I have ever had who seems to be working as hard as the students in the class, if not harder. She accepts drafts of all papers and will edit and return them within a few days, she answers e-mails quickly, and she seems really invested in the students' learning. Since this class is a requirement, I wasn't too psyched about taking it, but I ended up looking forward to the classes. The one critique I heard from several students is that she does not cut off people who are dominating the discussion, but for the most part she facilitates discussion well and adds cute anecdotes and stories. Since it's a small, discussion-based class, you must do the reading and put a lot of thought into the essays to get an A. Highly recommended.

Dec 2005

I love Prof. Cregan. She is very intelligent as well as kind hearted and seems to have a reasonable understanding of grading based on students' capabilities. Consider yourself lucky if you get a chance to take her class.