Latin American Literature in Translation

May 2012

As a SEAS student taking this class for Global Core requirement, I found the class enjoyable and extremely manageable. Though going to class is by all means not required, Professor MacAdam is a scholar in his field and has a lot to offer. While he does give a lot of background on the authors, he also gives a lot of good material to build your essays around. He is also extremely understanding in terms of helping students with ideas and granting the occasional extension. There are a lot of books to read but you can get by without reading them, as I found out as the course went on. In terms of global cores, this probably is one of the best routes to take if you're not looking for a lot of work. However, I would not say that this is an easy grade, and poor essays will receive poor grades.

Apr 2012

Wooow, he is such a nice guy. he goes over the books in class, he is very funny and makes sure if you have any questions, he answers you. He is always encouraging people to attend his office hours if you have any questions. If you are a GS student and need to fulfill your literature requirements, trust me he is the man to go. at the beginning of the semester i didn't like lit, now because of him I enjoy reading literature. take him, you wont regret it.

Aug 2009

Highly recommended as a means of getting out of whatever they call the diversity requirement these days, and – this is rare for one of these mandatory classes – probably worth taking in its own right as well. Donnish, distinguished, and doddering, Mac Adam (two words) is an encylopedic source of erudition – the library in his mind is as thoroughly stocked as Borges’, and his Rolodex at one point must have contained the entire syllabus of this class. Going to class is entirely voluntary, but it sure makes writing the essays easy if he’s already answered his own questions. An occasional spurt of wit or pithiness will wake up even the most Philistine among us. The books themselves are hit or miss, but since you can pick which books to write about, you can pick which books to read too. Fringe benefits include the possibility of getting drinks or walking his dog with the man himself. Come to class, clean up your writing, and it’s an easy A. This is not to say that I earned one.

May 2009

This class had an awesome reading list. Not all of the readings were really required although he lectured on all of them. Mac Adam's lecture style was extremely disorganized. He would dedicate entire days to discussing the author and various anecdotes of their lives often without providing appropriate historical background to facilitate effective reading for those of us who had never delved into Latin American history. Mac Adam often had interesting things to say about the books and authors, but they often got lost as he jumped around topics.

Jan 2009

Mac Adam is: funny smart endearing kind of handsome lenient with deadlines lenient with grading and will continue to recognize you and wave to you for 2 years after his class ends, even if you never spoke to him a day in your life. Also, he ended our class with this quote: "If anyone needs me before your papers are due on Monday, I'll be in my office, gathering cobwebs as usual. It'll be a race between you and the janitor -- who empties the trash once every six months -- to see who finds my decrepit, decaying body there first, covered in dust in a spider web cocoon" WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?

Jan 2006

Prof. Mac Adam is such a nice guy, and his lectures are interesting and light hearted. He approaches everything, including his understanding of our inclination to slack off, with a brilliant sense of humor. I recommend this class to everyone. I've never written a culpa review before, but Prof. Mac Adam definitely deserved one from me.

May 2005

MacAdam, if anything, is one of the most well-read profs I have encountered thus far in my Columbia career. He is a brilliant man, and a really friendly one at that, and his class is well worth taking. However, I'd recommend the class simply because it is so easy to succeed in, rather than the actual material covered. The books assigned are all wonderful, yes, but the subject matter of lectures usually consists merely of summation and comparison to other books that you've never heard of. Although MacAdam is a wonderful guy, his lectures don't address many topics of interest, such as the deeper levels of the literature you read. Usually, he begins by addressing the author's personal history -- not so much the social/political background of their works but rather their path to becoming a writer. Then he summarizes the book part by part and moves on to the next book. He'll usually also tell you what authors and books served as inspiration for the writing of that book, and mention them here and there. All in all, lectures become pretty useless. This isn't all bad -- you don't ever have to go to class -- which is great if that's your style, and believe me, it has massive perks! But if you're looking to get real deep revelations about these great pieces of literature, you won't.

Dec 2004

MacAdam's classes are lectures, so if you like to have discussions about what you're reading in class, this probably isn't the class for you. BUT if you want to hear some of the most brilliant lectures about any of the texts (from One Hundred Years of Solitude to Lolita), take either of these classes. MacAdam is funny as hell (sometimes a little on the sleazy side), so his classes are often entertaining. Unfortunately, he spends a little too much time giving summaries of the texts (which can be great if you're not into actually doing the reading). His lectures are really helpful when you're writing the exams, and they can be really interesting, but he doesn't take attendance, so you don't HAVE to go (but you should).

May 2004

Mac Adam is very nice, and it is clear that he cares about his students. And he is certainly very smart. At its best, his discussion of Borges's short stories is nothing less than brilliant. He does a good job with Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and Machado de Assis's The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas as well. After such a wonderful start, however, the course plummets. I found the readings, which in other reviews have been described as so enjoyable, to be consistently embarrassing. Perhaps the reason reading these books "doesn't feel like work" is because they aren't nearly of a high enough quality to be appropriate for a college course. Books like Vargas Llosa's Who Killed Palomino Molero?, which Mac Adam translated, were almost bad enough to turn me off to Latin American Literature altogether. Furthermore, as the course progresses, you discover that brilliant as he may be, Mac Adam only knows one terribly unsatisfying way to teach a book: he spends the majority of the class providing you with a huge amount of mostly useless information about a writer's life (i.e. what awards he or she has won); when he finally gets to discussing the book itself, he simply moves through the text chronologically, offering a rushed summary of each chapter. My advice: read One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, and Borges's short stories on your own. They're all amazing books. But stay away from this class. It's the first course in which I've skipped over entire books--not to mention weeks of class. I felt that doing anything more than was required would be a waste of my time.

Aug 2003

One of the best classes I've taken at Columbia, and one that had me seriously consider switching from an English to Comp Lit major just for the sake of taking more classes with MacAdam. The man gives some of the most consistently interesting lectures I've yet heard; they're thoughtful, full of detailed information well synthesized with larger ideas, prepared, and thoughtful. What's more, MacAdam himself is discernibly interested in his subject matter, which just makes listening to his lectures even more rewarding. The man oozes insight (and sometimes anecdotes about Fuentes as a kid). If there were any professor who could turn a class in which he merely talks at an audience into an enlightening lesson in modern literature, it would be MacAdam. Beyond the lectures, MacAdam's class contains little student discussion, although he does encourage asking questions and posing ideas, and there's always a small circle of kids talking to him after class. Definitely indulge any interest you might have in discussing the works with MacAdam further. Not only is the reading list absolutely impeccable, but MacAdam never seems to run out of things to say about it.

Jun 2003

....Whatever you choose to believe, there is one, undisputed fact about this professor: people take class with him over, and over, and over again. I was a little embarassed about taking my second MacAdam class, felt slightly stalkerish when I signed up for my third. But guess what? In each successive class there were other people I'd seen before, and at the end of Mad Love all the MacAdam virgins were asking what he is teaching next semester... I have no idea where people get the idea that Mac Adam has a wandering gaze, but I suppose this would insinuate that we veterans don't seem to mind. So fine. The charge is not only untrue, but irrelevant. As to the allegation that MacAdam "may be too smart to be teaching" , I, for one like it when my professors are smarter than I am, and can fill me in on works which inspired the authors we read (see, THAT'S what Faulkner has to do with Marquez). One of the best things to do in a MacAdam class is take down a list of works he references - my entire summer reading list is pretty much drawn from there. His lectures are fabulous, his knowledge of the material (esp. in the Latin American classes) unparalleled, and who doesn't appreciate having a professor who has translated Fuentes or written critical reviews of Cortazar? In addition, Prof. MacAdam is accessible outside of class, willing to help with essays, reading questions, or your own existentialist dilemmas. He is truly one of the most intellectual professors I've had at Columbia; I have taken away so much from his classes... The proof is in the numbers: and every semester, the majority of his students all say the same.

May 2003

[culpa censor....]Of course, no class would be complete without at least one reference to Virginia Woolf, Moliere or Faulkner. MacAdam once translated some of Carlos Fuentes' work, which probably qualifies him to talk intelligently on the subject. Of course, it leaves you scratching your head, trying to figure out what "Absalom, Absalom" has to do with "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (hint: nothing). All in all, an easy class...just don't go too often.

May 2002

Professor MacAdam's class is most enjoyable. MacAdam is sarcastic but sweet. The readings are excellent and he fills in any and all gaps one might have.

Apr 2002

This class is great. The literature is spooky, but hey so's the prof (ladies, I'd advise not to sit first row...he does have a wandering gaze). MacAdam manages to make his lasciviousness downright charming, probably because he's brilliant and a fantastic lecturer. If you don't like to read, don't take this class. But if you're a bookworm, looking for an easy way to fulfill your major cultures requirement, this class is it. His lectures are very well-organized and even more well-delivered.

Apr 2001

MacAdam is occasionally funny, but for the most part his lectures are boring. He goes into excruciating and unnecessary detail about the authors' lives. He is obviously smart and knowledgable about his subjection, unfortunately his style is almost arrogant. However, this class fulfils a major cultures requirement, there is no work other than the midterm and final (both take-home), the required books are great reads, and he does not grade hard.

Jan 2000

MacAdam is marvelous, giving clear lectures that are mixed with his subtle,dry sense of humor. In addition, he's a professor that is connected with reality, and that helps.

Jan 2000

I am stunned that anyone can call this guy boring! His subltely sarcastic, dry-ish humor tends to make the vast majority of the class chuckle. On the midterm, he gives you a 24 hour extension without questions asked. Although he makes literary allusions, he usually gives you a brief little summary of what he is alluding to so that you can make the thematic connection to what he's talking about. Most of the allusions tend to do with authors that influences the Latin writers. He spends one day per author giving the author's background - I personally found that to be too much time on bio stuff, but it can be forgiven. This prof rocks!

Jan 2000

Though most of his literary allusions went clear over my head, the constant scorn he heaped upon the authors he had assigned, along with his peculiar pronunciation of the name "Borges" never failed to entertain me. If you like a bone-dry sense of humor, his lectures won't let you down.

Jan 2000

Although the books are pretty good, the lectures are boring. If you want a professor to make you feel stupid and uneducated, sign up for this class. Professor MacAdam is undoubtedly a very very intelligent and well read man. However, he flaunts this by making all together too many allusions to a variety of books not exactly covered by the CU Core. This guy may be too smart to be teaching. He devotes more class time to background info than to the books themselves. Good sense of humor, but his picture should be under the dictionary definition of pedantic. Unless you really like a lot of intellectual BS, bring a pillow. Also, doing all the reading is vital for exams.

Jan 2000

Easy and interesting, satisfies Major Cultures requirement. The books are good and most of them are pretty short too. Exam questions refer closely to the notes.