Casey Blake is just really really smart. Other reviewers have observed that he's not an extremely enthusiastic lecturer, and although this is kind of accurate, he is definitely passionate, and this makes him a very compelling lecturer. He is just so extraordinarily knowledgeable. The course is taught along with Professor Spiegel, with the intention that he covers more of the history side and Professor Spiegel does more of the film and literary analysis, but I found that Professor Blake's commentary on the books and movies were often more brilliant than Prof Spiegel's. Intro to American Studies is truly unlike any other class, simply because it engages with so many mediums. One week, we will divide class time between a history lesson and a discussion of a film from the time period, and the next week, we will spend the entirety of both classes discussing a novel we read. At times this class is a history class, at times itâ€™s a literature class, and at times itâ€™s a film class. And walking into class, I would never know which one I was going to get that day. I would like to tell you that all these different mediums came together seamlessly, but thatâ€™s just not the case. To be honest, the class just wasnâ€™t very consistent. At times it was my favorite class. Really. During some classes, I would just sit there thinking, â€œI love this. This is the best class ever.â€ Other times, however, it was just really unorganized. My biggest complaint about this class is that all of the assignments are film and literary analysis. Though a lot of class time is devoted to American History, it is possible to excel in this class without knowing a single thing about anything historical. I wish the assignments forced us to engage more with the historical context of the books and movies we consumed. My favorite thing about this class is that the books we read and the movies we watched were really exceptional. The syllabus is truly fantastic, and it's the reason I really enjoyed this course.
Intro to American Studies is an AMAZING, eye-opening course that everyone should take! The goal is to broadly address different themes of the American experience, combining history, politics, literature, and film. It really gives you new perpsectives on American life, and you learn to analyze elements of culture in new ways. The class has about 40 people, but it runs like a seminar, and the profs are always asking for discussion (though often it stayed silent). Weekly discussion sections are very helpful and thought-provoking, and the TAs are extremely qualified and wonderful. Both professors are amazing and very friendly, especially Delbanco, whose lectures and questions are very profound and stimulating (he's also a very established scholar of American history/literature). The reading is very heavy, but you really should do as much as you can. Your only grades are two big papers based on a topic of your choice, so you can definitely skip readings and get away with it, but you'll be lost in class and get much less out of the course.
Delbanco makes me want to kill myself. His lectures are absolute torture. He is completely full of himself, rarely takes any imput from the class, and rambles on and on about nothing with his annoyingly monotone voice. He likes to hear himself talk and is overly pretentious. He is easily the worst professor I have ever had. I wanted to major in American Studies before I took this class, I'm now finding a different major.
"Scatter-brained" and "kooky" are certainly the best words to describe Speigel. I took her Intro to American Studies class, and was a bit disappointed. Her lectures don't seem to have any structure, and she often seems unprepared. All of her classes are taught as open discussions, but with the class size being so large, this format doesn't seem to work as well. Often she seems to go off into tangents, and sometimes it seems like you are hearing the same thing over and over again. Also, she often seems to forget things on the syllabus, including our midterm. (We wrote a paper, so I suppose she used that instead.) All of this being said, however, she does seem like a friendly person, and I know several people who have enjoyed talking to her in office hours.
Prof. Blake's classes are enjoyable and informative. I personally think that one of his best assets as a teacher is his ability to take broad topics about American history and organize them into smaller, more manageable units that allow his students to explore a particular topic in-depth while also learning overarching themes that can be applied to other areas. Prof. Blake is enthusiastic about a wide variety of forms of cultural expression, and likes to integrate media studies, art history, film, history, politics, and sociology into his lessons. Another plus is his willingness (and even eagerness) to hear what his students have to say. He encourages lots of class participation, and naturally expects that his students have devoted considerable time and attention to their readings and papers.