Literature & Violence

May 2017

Of the two classes I've taken with O'Keeffe (one in French, one in English), I've found that they have a similar structure. You have 4 essays that will be your grade (despite what his syllabus says, with several more writing assignments than we ever actually do) and you basically get some reading for every class. Sometimes you read one or two books, but mostly it's texts that he scans for you (either literature texts or philosophy and academic discourse on the subject). It's clear the man knows a fair amount of what he's talking about, and that's basically what he shows you during the class. You essentially come to class and he talks for the entire period, with some engagement from the class. If it's a particularly exciting topic there may be more of a back-and-forth dialogue, but I've found that fairly reliably you can go to class and expect to be talked at for the entire time. I know that he says he gives mostly Bs, and that he reserves the As for good work, but I'm not entirely sure how true that is. I got A's in both classes that I took with him, even though I feel my writing in French is not really up to snuff. Regardless, it's not impossible to get an A. I will say it is near impossible to get an A+. I have gotten only a single A+ on an essay, and it was because I based an argument of mine on a Said essay that I had picked up in another class (Black Paris with Brent Edwards). I based a lot of my essays around Derrida, Levinas, Butler, Said, and Hegel (and if you mention hermeneutics and the hermeneutic circle you're golden), and if you stay within that milieu, you should be able to find something that he's going to like. He doesn't necessarily have to like the philosopher to give you a good grade (after all, he had Things to say about Said's Orientalism on my paper, but I still got the A+), but he will tend to find your argument more interesting/persuasive/engaging if you stay around that region of philosophy. His classes aren't incredibly difficult, and I tended to shirk the reading a lot because he goes over it very thoroughly in class. I used his courses to fulfill some of my Barnard 9 ways, and overall it wasn't such a difficult thing to do because his classes are fairly lax.