First Year English: The Americas

Dec 2019

I took Professor Rosenthal's First-Year Seminar (The Americas I) and First-Year Writing (Americas II) and honestly cannot recommend her courses enough. Professor Rosenthal puts her all into the class and takes the time to create a class community and foster interesting and engaging discussions. While I wasn't particularly interested in the material at first, I found that being open to learning about topics I hadn't previously explored helped me gain a tremendous amount from my classmates and from the general atmosphere. I really appreciated that Professor Rosenthal's classes were structured to help the students both learn and do well in the course, a balance which is sadly hard to come by at Barnard/Columbia. The best part about Professor Rosenthal's courses was the chance to actively learn from mistakes made in writing and correct them before the final grades were due. The first essay I wrote in college after taking a gap year abroad was for her class; let's just say I needed the extra push. Professor Rosenthal made herself available for office hours and took the time to give precise feedback on my work in a way that both boosted my confidence and bolstered my ability to write precisely and clearly. Her grading style is quite fair; she rewards good work when she sees it. By the end of the semester, and certainly by the end of the year, I could see a tremendous improvement in my own writing and ability to express, which I believe is a product of the nurturing environment that Professor Rosenthal created. If I haven't convinced you yet, these classes also include fun excursions to different neighborhoods and performances throughout New York City. If you want a course that will shape your Barnard experience for the better, this is certainly the class for you.

May 2018

Professor Watson is really nice and you can tell she enjoys being an English professor. Even though The Americas was my last choice, I am very glad I took that class because we read very interesting books like Passing and Jazz and Love Medicine and had important discussions. The class taught me a lot, especially with how to close read a text, and the three essays we did were very helpful. However, she is a harsh grader. When I got a B+ on my essay, she told me there wasn't much wrong with it and it was one of the highest grades in the class- she just gives A's to published work. Although I was one of the very few students that had a high grade in her class (96%), I still got an A- overall because a 97% and above is an A which is impossible to get if she doesn't give A's on the essays. My biggest advice is to actually spend a lot of time on the drafts because that's the only thing she comments on and the more developed it is, the more you can get out of her on how to improve it. Go to office hours and talk through every comment. Good luck!

Feb 2018

This class was incredibly mediocre. To be honest, most all the FYW classes are as well. Professor Watson however treats her students like they are incapable of writing, giving them worksheets to identify the subjects and claims of sentences. This approach works for some, but if you consider yourself a good writer, don't take this class. As well, she never entertains radical and in-depth readings of texts. This class is surface level in all respects. I can confidently say I was not intellectually stimulated in this class once. It did not once excite me to think of attending class, and it almost always does in other circumstances. That being said, it is not a bad class, just not a good one. Choose FYW wisely.

Jan 2018

Honestly, Professor Watson is super cool and knows her shit. She's not just going to give you an A for handing your paper in- she really demands that you spend a long time revising and discussing your paper with her but don't be frightened. She's really great about making meeting times for you if needed outside of OH and gives great feed back. It is very important that you take her feed back 100% but if you have questions about it don't be afraid to ask her. She likes to see you're working and thinking about your papers. If people don't like her its probably because they just didn't do the work...

Nov 2017

Linn is a very nice woman, but she does not facilitate discussion successfully. The readings are often interesting and carry a nice thread throughout the course; however, her class is incredibly boring. Only 2 students participate and are engaged. She changes her feedback after handing back the essay, which makes it incredibly challenging to write successfully for her. Unlike any other first year writing class, we had to write an extra essay and a 10-15 page research paper (not the usual 7-9 pages).

Jun 2017

This seminar class is mostly student run, with Professor Morris occasionally interjecting. Compared to my first year seminar, in which the students could rarely speak, this was really appreciated. However, I often wanted more guidance from Professor Morris. I felt the discussions could use a bit more structure, and her feedback on papers wasn't always the most thorough. I felt the class made me a better writer, but not to the extent that it should have. Professor Morris has a solid background in Latin American literature so while the syllabus is definitely heavy with U.S. lit, is also represents a variety of countries in the Americas which makes for interesting readings.

Dec 2016

This class was really interesting because of my interests in Latin American culture and American and Latin American literature. I think this course would appeal to anyone with interests in these fields and related fields, or anyone who simply is not interested in the legacy of the Mediterranean...This course was something I could relate to and apply to in my daily life. To be honest I barely did any of the reading. Just make sure you read what you are interested in because you do have to write a few papers, and you'll need something to write about. Consider doing the presentation on what you think you will be interested in so you don't have to do as much of the reading, and you will have back ground info for your paper. Professor Morris has been super helpful to me, some others feel otherwise, but I think that if you put in the work and you are open to feedback and proactive, she can be very helpful. Her edits on papers are really helpful and the assignments help you figure out how you can improve your work.

May 2014

I am so grateful that I had Professor Mehta for my first-year English course. SHE IS AMAZING!!! She single-handedly gave me the "small liberal arts school" experience that made me choose to attend Barnard. She works one-on-one with each student, and is interested in their lives outside of class. I found that I spent extra time on her class because I knew that she would give me specific feedback on even my best work, so the more I put in, the more I would get out. I decided to take her class for my first-year Seminar, and again, found it incredibly rewarding.

Feb 2014

I have nothing but positive things to say about FYE and FYS with Professor Rosenthal after taking both semesters. Her class was engaging, always interesting, and I couldn't have asked for a more caring, invested professor. Class discussion was usually pretty invested and I thought Prof. Rosenthal gave solid feedback. Her assignments required running around New York, which looking back was a really great experience, though perhaps occasionally tedious. I also got a lot out of her requirement that we engage with archival/manuscript materials--this was the first (and last, to date) time I've done so. I'm glad to have had the excuse. Both of these assignments now stand out to me as important experiences of my first year at school, getting to know the college and the city. Overall the Americas were a great choice for me as far as a required course goes...much more interesting reading list than other FYE offerings and you can't go wrong with a professor so invested in your success.

Dec 2013

Professor Morris is kind of crazy, but the discussions can be interesting, and she is lenient in terms of due dates. Sometimes it can be frustrating because she is so non-linear, but if you're into that type of teaching style, then this will be a great class for you. The reading list was very interesting and included a good mix of North, Central, and South American authors. You don't really have to do the reading, but be prepared to bullshit if she calls on you. She is a relatively easy grader, although she makes it really hard to get an A, and most people who did receive A grades only ended up with A- grades. I didn't find her commentary on the essays very helpful, but that's just me. If you're interested in American literature (both Americas!), then this is a fun class to take, as it is laid back and not a lot of work.

Nov 2013

Professor Morris is a good professor. She encourages challenging class discussions, the readings are interesting and you'll learn a lot with her and from her. This course is a pretty good foundation if you're thinking of majoring in anything that involves latin-american literature. However, her clumsy approach to a lot of subjects that she is uncomfortable with - like race, homosexuality, etc - can be off-putting. She tries to fight it, but she's just not the most open-minded person. In my opinion, that just makes the class more interesting, because it's funny to see a Southern woman with Southern opinions in real life. And brownie points for not trying to impose her beliefs on the class.

Jan 2011

One of the nicest and most understanding professors you'll ever have. She has a really intriguing life (she's married to a famous Indian author, and invited her students over to her house for a meal at the end of the semester) and incredible passion for all of her subject material. She's very encouraging during discussion, which is great for first-year students who are hesitant to speak up. The class will really bolster your speaking skills. The reading assignments bordered on excessive, and we didn't even discuss most of it in class. She could have done a better job with facilitating more enthusiastic discussion. The papers assigned covered a broad range of writing styles, and I guarantee you'll be a better writer upon finishing the course. Her conferences are very helpful, though she rarely ever criticizes.

Jan 2009

The reading in this class is very interesting. Professor Gurman is definitely a very educated and grounded woman. She is easy to approach, and the main intent of this class is to improve your writing skills. The majority of the class is focused on analysis of "American" literature and the writing process. She is not a very easy grader -- but with hard work and determination, you might be able to get an A on some essays. You need to be persistent with taking her advice and boosting the multiple drafts of your essay to the next level in order to be successful in her class.

Aug 2005

Her style is hard to get used to at first -- she's something of a speed-talker -- but once everyone settles in, the class is fine. Not great, not awful, just fine. Only speak up if you have something interesting to say. The reading sounds like a lot on the syllabus, but you can get away with doing part of the reading if you think you'll be able to talk about it. She takes MLA format very seriously. Above all, take her suggestions on your first drafts! They're not usually detrimental to whatever Vision you had in the first place, and it definitely helps in the final grade.

Jan 2005

I have two words for you: Shady Bakery All kidding aside, he tried to impart his wealth of knowledge to a bunch of 18 year old girls and Antonio came up with great concepts but wasn't able to present them compellingly. All in all, he needs some work but once he breaks 30 he might gain more respect, considering he has a PhD from Yale.

Jan 2005

Barrenechea is this Ph.D. candidate from Yale who thinks highly of his abilities. He's definitely a smart guy, it's just frustrating to have someone old enough to be your sibling teaching you. His comments on papers are useful but vary widely: what he focuses on correcting on your draft might be totally ignored in the final paper and you'll have a lower grade in spite of correcting everything he indicated was a problem. He has a ways to go as a teacher in terms of leading discussions, sparking enthusiasm... but that comes with teaching experience, I imagine. Antonio's not a very open person-- don't try and become his friend because it will get you nowhere. He warmed to our class by the end of the semester and only then would joke back or be more friendly. I think it took him a while to find his place, what with a gaggle of giggling girls staring at him for an hour and some twice a week. Seemed to want to cultivate an image of the wise instructor, and for a man who looks ten years younger than he is, that doesn't quite work yet. Also needs to figure out how to tell a chick to shut up and "no, you're just plain wrong" when she's been rambling on about her nonsensical take on a work of literature for ten straight minutes. Altogether? A very smart professor, knowledgeable and had some very interesting things to say. Needs to work on his presentation, affect, and his holier-than-thou attitude.

Dec 2004

this professor comes off as very timid at first but has a lot of great things to say and is overall a good teacher. he speaks very quietly so try to sit close to him so you can hear what he says. he grades you partially on class participation so try to voice youself once in a while. He's a very young but smart man and can bring a lot of insight into the classroom. He does not smile very often and is not very warm but is a good guy. the curriculum for this particular class was interesting and class discussions were interesting as well.

Dec 2003

Prof. Cynn is very, very intelligent and can seem a little intimidating because she just knows everything. Her class is very business-like and she never says anything that isn't related to the work at hand. This is probably good if you like that sort of learning environment, but if you are looking to have a friendly teacher-student relationship, you will be disappointed. I actually found her to be sort of creepy, but maybe that's just me. The work isn't too daunting -- except when she assigns a paper and a TON of (unrelated) reading at the same time. All in all, the class discussions can be fun, but that has way more to do with the students than the teacher. Also, her grading is fair but her comments on essays are sometimes annoying.

Jan 2003

Professor Schmidt is a WONDERFUL professor who is so passionate about everything she teaches. Her love and enthusiasm for the material we learn is downright inspiring. She keeps the class discussions interesting, guiding the discussions, while letting the students take over. She is very open to hearing students' ideas, and truly gets excited by them. Prof. Schmidt is a fair grader, and is incredibly open to help outside of class.