Ordinary Romanticism

Sep 2012

I entered this class with some hesitation. The syllabus seemed scatterbrained and the final 'project' a contrived copout from a long paper. I was wrong. Dr. Nersessian is one of the best professors I have had at Columbia. Although her ability to control the discussion still needs some work, her intellectual vigor and creativity were refreshing. There are advantages to taking a class with a younger professor: more energy, an openness to new ideas and alternative perspectives, and a greater interest in student work. Dr. Nersessian brought the expertise of an experienced academic to this seminar, along with the above characteristics. I think that Dr. Nersessian will only continue to improve as an instructor. Even if you're not especially interested in her period, I would suggest taking a class with her; you just might find yourself more engaged than you expected.

Jul 2012

What Nersessian lacks in size, she more than makes up for in brains and erudition. Her spring Ordinary Romanticism seminar covers, for the most part, a greatest hits list of British Romantic texts, interrogating as its focus the formal and aesthetic representation of everyday experience before the advent of 19th c. realism. The syllabus spans across genres and includes contemporary critical and theoretical literature. This is all to briefly sketch the framework of a rigorous and engaging course taught by an enthusiastic and wildly knowledgeable professor. Nersessian is a first-rate instructor who offers radical insights into both her area of study and relevant contemporary issues. She made herself accommodating and available to students throughout the semester, and was a graceful pedagogue given our excremental classroom assignment (h/t CU) and the disparate intellects present therein. All in all, a highly recommended course and professor. Columbia keeps good company with the addition of Nersessian to the department.

May 2012

I had no idea what to expect from Professor Nersessian--this was her first year, and her first seminar--but she amazed me. She's an animated instructor who's wondrously knowledgeable and passionate about the material. She needed to have that kind of zest because of the difficult theorists she threw on the syllabus. Roland Barthes, Rei Terada, Stanley Cavell, Michel de Certeau: they're agonizing, abstruse writers. But Anahid untangled their prose, turning their ideas into buttresses for our literary analysis all semester. This was the right way to approach the course. Wisely, she didn't let us flail about without any critical frameworks. Rather, we tackled all our rich targets (Coleridge, Byron, Keats, Burns, Cowper, the Wordsworths--William and Dorothy, and others) well-versed in theory. And we needed our theoretical awakening to wrestle with romanticism's implications. Otherwise, I fear, we would have spent our time idly praising the poets' remarkable language. (I suspect this was why Nersessian assigned us some of Keats's worst poems--it's easier to be critical when you don't feel the academy's pressure to genuflect.) Our discussions, then, were spirited and fruitful, and each session elapsed breezily. Sure, our group, for whatever reason, contained a handful of Columbia's brightest English pupils, but yours could too. I can't yet comment on the kind of grader she is. We had only one graded assignment--a zany, sprawling "Etiology of the Ordinary" paper/portfolio--due all semester, and I don't know yet how she'll frisk those. But she made us submit (and present, in-class) preliminary research proposals, which allowed us to shape our projects well in advance of finals week. So it won't sneak up on you. All of this should give you more reason to take Professor Nersessian's class. So do it! She's young and brilliant and eager, and what better analogue to the cranky, blockheaded William Hazlitt could there be?