course
Major Literary Works since 1800

Apr 2010

I have had several excellent professors at Columbia and Barnard but Severine has easily been the best. She is unbelievably enthusiastic and encouraging, not to mention incredibly intelligent. She pays attention to each of her students and has gone out of her way to make encouraging, personal comments to me about my participation in class because she knows that I get anxious about speaking in class in French. I've gotten much less nervous about this over the course of this semester and it is largely -- if not entirely -- due to her encouragement and to her skill as a teacher in general. I was motivated to do my best work because her classes were so excellent. She really seems to know everything about French literature and speaks about it passionately, and is also good at getting her students engaged and participating in the discussion. She is also extremely diligent about marking up papers with lots of comments, which I really appreciate. Overall I would highly recommend taking any class she is teaching -- regardless of the subject matter, I would be thrilled to take another class with her.

Apr 2010

She is such a wonderful woman ! Séverine truly loves literature and she shares this love in her lectures. She brings texts to life, she is happy and passionate. We studied main authors such as Montesquieu, Balzac and Baudelaire. Sometimes the readings were heavy, especially on Proust, but overall the course load was manageable. The midterm was pretty straight forward and she had given the class a review list which was extremely helpful. Séverine enabled us to express our own opinions on literature instead of just recycling well-known ideas. This was a revisitation of texts for many of the students rather than a discovery. Her class was like a journey through literature and what a super guide she was ! The course is given in French. This is by far, the best French literature class you'll take at Columbia.

Jan 2010

What a fantastic professor! So enthusiastic and great at running discussions. His passion for the literature really shows in his teaching. His grading standards were clear and very reasonable; he is very approachable and also reasonable as a person, unlike some other professors in the French department. In fact, his Americanism might be the deciding factor - he lacks the attitude and capriciousness of some of the native French speakers. His syllabus was carefully selected and synthesized and class was always interesting; his knowledge and enthusiasm encouraged everyone's participation. HIGHLY recommended!!! I had a great semester with Watts and it really cemented my decision to major in French.

Dec 2009

Professor Watts was an awesome for Major Literary Works since 1800. The fact that he's actually American and has a very slight accent in French bothered me in the beginning, but I soon learned that his enthusiasm and competence in the subject more than made up for it. He's very good at directing discussions, and maintained a very comfortable and welcoming environment, making it extremely easy to participate in class. One of the things I liked best about him was that he always seemed genuinely interested in everything that the students said. Whenever anyone made a half-decent point, he'd always nod vigorously and look as if they just discovered the meaning of life. This may seem a bit excessive, but it was actually really effective in making everyone participate more - which is always a tricky thing to do when discussions are in foreign languages. He was very approachable, always in a good mood, and was amusing enough to keep things entertaining. In general, this is a wonderful class with an excellent syllabus. It was a luxury to have the opportunity to read all these masterpieces of French Literature, then go talk about it for an hour and call that class. I highly recommend it!

Jan 2009

Hands down the best teacher I've ever had. Probably in my life. He related the material very well. My entire knowledge of French lit and modern history is thanks to him.

Jun 2007

I took this class as a major requirement. My French was rusty, and I had an absolute loathing of literature classes acquired from several very unfortunate English classes both here and in high school. Luckily, thanks to Prof. Martin, at the end of the semester my French was much improved (both oral and written), and I had a newfound respect for lit classes. Prof. Martin tried to present all of the works in their historical context. She showed slides, and tried to show the connections between different authors and their historical periods. The class was small and usually started out as a lecture and morphed into a discussion, but she didn't have a problem turning it back into a lecture if we didn't have anything to add (for whatever reason). She was very engaging, and I think everyone felt she was very fair. Prof. Martin is very sweet and sympathetic and interested in/conscious of her students as human beings. She requested but didn't require first drafts for papers and gave lots of comments, so there was really no excuse for doing poorly. Paper topics were open-ended (which actually made it harder since there was so much choice). My main critique is the syllabus, but it was coordinated with the other section (at least at the beginning of the semester), so I don't know how much individual control she had over it. We probably would have been better off reading excerpts for some writers (Balzac, for instance), instead of skipping over others entirely (like Camus).

Aug 2006

Vincent is probably the most amazing professor I've had thus far at Columbia. Not only that, but the course material was interesting. Vincent's constant excitement and energy truly got me excited about doing the reading and even writing the papers. Do anything you can to take a class with this man. You will not regret it. And, if it can be 3334 that's even better.

Aug 2006

One word: excellent. It doesn't matter what class you take with him, just take his class. I took French Lit Since 1800. It was by far one of the best courses I have ever taken, and I can honestly say it's solely because Vincent was the instructor. I took this course in the summer, which was difficult because it's 3 hours, twice a week, but I was NOT ONCE bored during class, and even after a long day of work, was psyched to go-- Now I analyze french litterature better, I speak better french, and I came out of the class regretting only that it was over. Just take Vincent's class, you wont regret it!

Jun 2006

I don't know. Helgeson clearly knows a lot, which is always handy I won't lie, but that does not mean he's a great professor. At least not in this class. It's not his specialty and I got the sense he was just fulfilling departmental duties while teaching it. Since it is an introduction to French literature since 1800, I expect not to be coddled per se, but logically directed through the important points of the texts. This did not happen. It was more like sit down, shut up, and wait while Helgeson seems to talk to himself about the odds and ends he has picked up about modern literature over the years. I think this sort of approach fosters a class where doing the reading is secondary. Wait, it did foster that class. Almost everyone showed up and talked about how much they didn't read before Helgeson walked through the door. I also never learned anything solid, like when I sat down to do the final I didn't know what I was expected to show that I had mastered. Very frustrating. In the end though, if you don't care about how you get through this survey course, then I guess he would be fine to take it with, but he's too lenient and nonchalant for my taste.

May 2006

Prof Hegleson is awesome. Although sometimes there isn't so much class participation, he can talk for hours on any book or poem. He's a captivating talker and knows more about the books than anyone I've met at Columbia. He ties in Lit Hum books and Music Hum references. It really was a great class. He's a fair grader and always willing to help. Every time I came to class, Prof Hegleson showed me more about the literature than I could have ever gleaned on my own. Great class. I definitely recommend it.

Dec 2005

Professor Stalnaker does, indeed, have the patience of a kindergarten teacher. She meticulously explains anything you ask, because, alas!, she actually cares whether you fully understand the plot and litarary nuances of the texts. She makes sure you understand the plot, but she is especially good at teaching you how to do close litarary analysis. Don't throw away the Explication de Texte handout she'll give you; I had her two years ago and I still refer back to it sometimes. When you write papers, she really takes the time to pore over what you write and she writes out meticulous suggestions on how to improve your work. The grading is tough, but she lets you rewrite and improve on your first version for a half grade higher (B+ becomes A-, etc.), which is easy 'cause she tells you exactly what and how you need to fix it. She is one of the cutest French teachers I've ever had; SO sweet and kind! Best is that she has a chic style that totally adds to the ambiance of a French class (think a la 40's flapper with below-the-knee tweed skirts, an adorable bowl cut, and I swear, she wore a cloche hat when I had her). Two thumbs up! Definitely take her.

Sep 2005

Vincent Aurora is an excellent instructor. He made good book choices and was able to make all the reading really interesting since he is incredibly enthusiastic when he teaches. The grading is extremely fair, at least for the summer session. He will give A's to papers even if they have a lot of mistakes. At the same time, he makes extensive corrections so that your writing can improve. Overall, a great summer class that I highly recommend taking if you're interested in French.

Aug 2004

Of all the animated and enthusastic French professors in the world, Vincent Aurora is the jewel. You simply can't go wrong with him- even if you find particular authors dull or dimwitted, I am sure Vincent will make them spectacularly entertaining. Really- he is a great professor, highly recommended. If you ever have a problem getting something in on time (as I did), he is usually extremely understanding and compassionate. Be sure to participate though, as he will appreciate it. As far as the course is concerned- I could not have been happier with a summer class. I took a total of nine credits this summer, and the French Lit class was definately the most fun. The readings are not too lengthy, as one might expect (especially finding some space for Proust). I would be very disappointed if this class were not available. If you have the chance, register for this one!!

Aug 2004

Professor Stalknaker made this class as interesting as anyone could I'm sure. She's very sweet and understanding and its pretty easy to get through class without reading too much even though there really isn't that much to read. She only assigned sections of the longer novels we read and we did a lot of peotry and plays. I would definitly recommend her and would love to take a class with her again when she gets back.

Aug 2004

Vincent Aurora is an excellent teacher. He is genuinely excited by the subject, and he is good at analysing it. He engages students with humour, wit, and diplomacy. He is very high-energy--you are never bored in his class!

May 2004

The nice thing about Augustyn is that she's been at Columbia since undergrad, and so she's reasonable about the workload, etc. She is also generous in her grading. However, I often either did not follow or disagreed with some of her interpretations--granted she is a professor, but others in the class agreed with me too. She does not manage her time very well; I know it's hard to squeeze in so many books, but oftentimes you only end up discussing the first section of any given book.

Jan 2004

I really loved taking Professor Helgeson's class. He was a fair marker, caring about his students, would spend hours with you in his office-hours and gave really good comments on my papers. I wish more of my profs were like him- it would make Columbia a friendlier place. I found his French hard to understand, but I would rather have to listen to French the way it's spoken between French people instead of French for foreigners.

Dec 2003

Professor Helgeson is a really wonderful teacher. He mediates some very interesting class discussions and tries to give everyone a chance to speak. He's incredibly insightful about the books we read (which are for the most part also good choices), and he always brings up some interesting questions. He tries to tie philosophy into the discussions as well. He's very approachable after class also, which is the best way to speak with him about a certain text. He's very nice and seems to enjoy one-on-one discussions. I recommend this class STRONGLY to anyone who's interested in continuing with French past the advanced language levels.

Jun 2003

Although we all know that the Columbia administration is oft-times off-base when handing out accolades, it merits being mentioned that Priya was the 2002-2003 recipient of the Graduate Student Teachers Award . And I can say this confidently because I know I wasn't the only person from our section who nominated her. Priya is amazing. You'll notice we all call her by her first name, and that's not mock-friendship, but a true indication of the role she assumes as your instructor. Her kindness is unparalleled in the faculty of this institution, and she won that award because she truly is an example of what a teacher should be. Not only a friend to her students, Priya forces you to learn a lot too. I don't think many of us could have felt prouder the day we read-and understood- Proust in French. To get a handful of scared undergraduates to tackle even the very beginning of such an opus is astounding, and I am so happy that Columbia has finally recognized Priya, because we, her students, sure know she deserves it.

Jan 2003

While I agree with the previous reviews on the fact that Greet is always one step behind in bringing the right assignment to class and e-mailing us information, I have to commend her spirit. She has a way of bringing texts to life by reading aloud and assigning different affected voices to each character. Her renditions of the literature were often hilarious, even though she was sometimes hesitant to listen to students' ideas. I was always glad I went to class by the time it was over because in just one hour I had developped such a new and interesting perspective on the texts.

Dec 2002

Priya is the best french professor I've ever had. And I have been taking French for 14 years and I lived there for awhile. Seriously, take her class-- she is intelligent, warm, caring, and most of all, inspiring. A true gem within the Columbia sometimes-cold system.

Nov 2002

priya is a wonderful person. she spreads joy wherever she goes. class was always fun, if not always serious. we didn't go as deep into the texts as i would have liked, but that's partially because of how the course itself is structured. we read so many texts that we seemed to be constantly rushing through them -- still, you get a decent overview. but at any rate, priya cares about and connects with her students -- always approachable, eager to meet with students during office hours. take a class with her and get to know her.

Jul 2002

Prof. Creamer is one of the reasons why I have chosen to be a French major. He is truly dedicated to his students and has a true love of the french language and the literature stemming from it. His readings cover the "hit parade" of french novels, plays, and poems, but also include some very modern, very quirky works. He does call on people at random, but it is simply to get everyone involved. I found him to be generally very excited about what we had to say, even if it wasn't always the answer he was looking for. Prof. Creamer knows and loves his french, especially Proust and Baudelaire, and he wants his students to feel the same way. I can honestly say that, after a semester with him, I do have a greater appreciation for and increased knowledge of french lit. He's probably one of the best teachers, in the real sense of the word, that I've had.

Jul 2002

If you have any faith in your own opinions concerning literature, don't take this class. Prof. Creamer has little interest in knowing how you interpret literature, and will go around the entire class asking one question, only waiting for the so-called "right" answer- his. He's fairly entertaining and tries different activities, but not an extremely motivating class.

Jun 2002

Helgeson is weird. He doesn't like most of what you read in this course, so he isn't exactly inspiring or enthusiastic. When he does like something, he'll just give you a funny little smile and say how great it is or something without actually teaching you anything. It also seems that he doesn't want to be teaching at all, let alone a lower level course like this one. As was mentioned in a previous review, his accent is very overdone (and he mumbles sometimes too), so you may have trouble understanding him at times. No one ever talked in this class and Helgeson didn't have much to say either, so one kid who obviously never even read the texts would talk on and on and on.

Jan 2002

While the previous reviewer was accurate about Greet's disorganization, I think that in terms of teaching she was quite satisfying, very passionate about many of the works, and was very open to hear students' comments about the texts (even when they were extremely unfounded). And while the workload is definitely above average, she is a very fair and lenient grader, and will not take off points for grammar/spelling mistakes. Besides, isn't this how you improve your French?

Dec 2001

The queen of disorganization and misinforation. Take the other section because you will learn a lot more (guaranteed!!) with less work. First of all she came to the first lecture thinking she was teaching Major Lit BEFORE 1800, so she basically didn't have anything prepared for this semester. She expected us to go almost weekly to the French department to pick up photocopied material, which was never there because something somehow always went wrong -- and then she'd be mad about it the next lecture because none of us could do the reading. Most of the time she was late to class. She assumed that the students knew more about French literature than they actually did so sometimes her so called lectures didn't make sense, and when asked to give a general overview of the genre of literature, she'd just sigh and said, oh that's very difficult, and end up going on a tangent, not answering the question. Worst of all, her assignments are unreasonable and ill-timed. Instead of a midterm, we had to write TWO 5-10pg papers (originally it was at least 15pgs each but we protested). The oral presentations were a disaster. The final was a take-home, and she said she would have topics in her mailbox and send it out on email. It was supposed to have been 2 essays as well, but when we got the topics on email, she had changed her mind and made it 3 essays, claiming she still thought it was a very lenient final.

Apr 2001

Professor Helgeson is a brilliant professor, whose genius is let out in occasional glimpses. He is slightly awkward in class, but has facilitated some of the best discussions I have ever had. His knowledge, intelligence, and comfort with the material rubs offs on students. Although sometimes his classes move slowly, it would be a mistake to miss him on the way to a French Major.