Renaissance Literature in Europe: Humor and Wit Spring 2007

Apr 2007

First the good things about this course: (1)The core readings of the course, including major writers like Rabelais, Donne and Shakespeare and going back to their sources in Ancient Rome, are fascinating and well selected. (2) Professor Prescott is very knowledgeable about everything to do with the Renaissance; she is also a very nice person who seems to genuinely care about her students. She also has a good sense of humor. Now the other side of the equation: (1) The class started out with about 40 students, most of whom attended for the first few weeks. However, gradually no more than 50% attended, and it was never the same 50%.Why? Probably because she turned out to be extremely boring. Her method of teaching: talk endlessly for the entire period, whether people were paying attention or not. Each session was a monologue (hers)about everything under the sun. (2)If you actually did all the readings, the amount of work became overbearing. Her lectures were tangential and only dealt with the major texts in a cursory way. You usually did not know ahead of time, what she was going to focus on. For example, we had a five hundred page anthology of the works of John Donne. What were we supposed to read for the next class? "All of it," she said. She actually end up discussing about a half dozen of his poems, fifteen pages at best. I suspect that most students eventually gave up on the readings. (3) She was extremely disorganized and her schedule was constantly subject to change. It might have helped if she came to class with some notes to organize her thoughts. (4)Although she has a good sense of humor, her constant jokes eventually flat and became grating. (5) She assigned specific editions of books for us to purchase, but when she quoted from the texts, it was usually from some other edition she owned. That made it difficult to follow her. (6)She was absent about four times during the semester, usually to attend to other business. She never suggested she would make the classes up. I really hate to be negative about Professor Prescott because she is nice and caring. However, if she continues teaching at Barnard (she's about seventy and has been there forever), she needs to take stock of what she's doing and revamp her teaching.