Foundations of American Lit II

Dec 2008

Amanda Claybaugh is in love with the sound of her own voice. I imagine this is useful if you're lecturing several times a week but I found her fairly insufferable. She lectures so breathlessly fast that keeping up longhand is nearly impossible. A laptop is de rigeur. On more than one occasion, she was snide and condescending when a student asked a question that she deemed unworthy. In response to one poor fellow, she actually rolled her eyes and said, "I can't believe you're asking me that!"— I couldn't believe her rudeness. Her most common tactic, in dealing with questions from the class, was to interrupt before the questioner finished and then complete what she imagined the question was herself. She did this to me once and her response to my unfinished question had little to do with what I was actually aiming at. The overall impression was that she already knew where the question was going (although she often didn't) and that it probably wasn't that important anyway, such was her rush to get back to her priceless analysis. All of this was annoying but the mid-term and final were absolutely infuriating. In the exam instructions there was a Strict Injunction against parroting her interpretations of the texts when giving your answers. Then, in lieu of returning exams with comments (which I think is the least one can expect at Columbia), the TAs instead handed out a compendium of the best answers they had culled from the lot—sheer laziness. And what do you suppose those creme-de-la-creme answers were? Yep. They were, note-for-note, regurgitation of Claybaugh's text interpretations. I wanted to scream. I had made every effort to avoid repeating what she had said, which wasn't easy since she had said a great deal. When it came to the final I simply repeated every point about the texts that she had made in class and—surprise!—I got an 'A'. So you got penalized for following directions and they couldn't be bothered to actually make individual suggestions/comments on your exams. Isn't the point of a lit course to come up with your own ideas about the text and have your work critiqued individually? Not in this class. How sad that a professor's ego should take precedence over a student actually thinking for herself and learning something. I have had other lit professors that actually took the time and trouble to engage the students and attempt to draw them out when discussing the texts as opposed to Claybaugh, who seems to regard the class as a distraction at worst and a fawning audience (just read the other reviews here to see what I mean) at best. Clearly she is hyper intelligent and a master of her domain but the way that she ran this class left a lot to be desired. Oh, and in case you think I have an ax to grind here, I got an 'A' in the class.

Apr 2007

Claybaugh is one of Columbia's treasures. She's brilliant, funny, engaging and everything a professor should be. She is passionate about what she teaches and makes the sometimes obscure readings accessible and immediately relevant. With her acerbic wit and dry humor she kept me on my toes all semester, and made me wish I wasn't graduating so I could spend more time milking her for all she has to offer. Don't miss a class with Claybaugh. . . even a lecture class. She is simply too good to pass up!