As the above reviews say, Prof. Wood is extremely passionate about french and french literature and he knows a TON about every author and their time period and the cultural/political movements that were happening. He's pretty much read all of lit hum and cc and a lot more. The class is, as expected, a lot of reading, and you have to do at least most of it - there are pop quizzes. He also sends out about 10 wikipedia or other article links via email that give more background information about things we talk about in class, which he also sort of expects you to read. Oh, and then the last two weeks of the semester, he'll tell you that you also have to write a 10-15 page analytical/research paper - that at least last semester, he made due the day after the final. The paper is a complex and difficult assignment to begin with, and writing it in a foreign language is just an added bonus. He has high expectations and is not an easy grader. I recommend trying to meet with him before papers are due to figure out what he wants from it- because he has very specific expectations that he did not tell us about until after the first paper. Essentially, he puts a lot into the class and expects that you put in even more. I would not recommend taking this class if you are already taking a heavy course load and want to have a life. It is a great class, and Prof. Wood knows a lot and is generally a good teacher, but he has no concept whatsoever of the fact that this is not our only class.
Professor Martin likes to use a lot of slides in class to educate us about the history at the time the texts were written. While these slides are interesting, we spend so much time learning the names and events of history that we hardly have any time to look at the texts we read! No wonder we are so behind in the syllabus. She seems like a genuinely nice and caring professor and she wants to constantly engage us but she does have her own strong opinions and preferences. It is also clear that she has favorites in the class... The papers are open-ended so it makes it harder since you have to pick a topic (but a topic that she is interested in). She is definetely a hard grader but tends to ease up towards the end of the semester. She is a nice professor and the subject matter is definetely interesting but if you take this class, be prepared for a lot of reading and hardwork.
I thought Prof. Mesch was pretty good; I've had better, but I've certainly also had worse. She's friendly and well-organized, and she conveys her points clearly, but I also have to agree with another review, at times it can stray into boring. If you're looking to take a class, and she's teaching a section of it, you could do a lot worse. You'll come out of it with a good understanding of the works you read and the course material, but you may not come out with a love for it.
For most students that take this class, it is their first intensive look at french literature. This class, in a few ways, is like Lit Hum part deux, but luckily for you Rachel also teaches Lit Hum. She knows a lot about classic French literature, and makes it engaging even when you've had a tough time making it through the texts. She discusses themes and character development across the syllabus in ways that you probably would not have thought of yourself, and there are some really great texts on the syllabus. The oral presentations are tedious, and you probably won't learn anything from anyone else's, but you'll learn about your own subject since she won't let you read your presentation from a piece of paper. She's a real sweetheart, though, and makes herself available if you need help.
Listen carefully. This guy is the angel of death for literature courses. One can be easily fooled into thinking that he's a good professor because of his kid-in-a- candy-store (and completely affected) enthusiasm about french literature of the middle ages. But don't fall into the trap. He's horrible, just horrible. Not only does he explicitly discourage students from visiting him in office hours (you know, on the off-chance that we might actually learn something) but he also actively discourages meaningful contributions to the "discussions". If you don't give him the response he's looking for, he couldn't care less what you have to say and if you deign to disagree with one of his extremely simplistic literary interpretations, he just shuts you down point-blank and changes the subject (it's almost funny actually...almost). He talks to his students as though they were all eleven-year-olds in a special day program. And he's probably the lamest person on the planet.
I took this course as a prerequisite for another, but I was also looking forward to reading lit from medieval and renaissance periods, which I was very unfamiliar with. It turns out that the poetry and essays from these periods were way more subversive and sly than the boringness I expected, but somehow Prof. Augustyn managed to suck all the life out of the excrutiating two hours of every class. She's clearly knowledgeable about the works and the period in general, but while medieval literature especially is her research focus, she seems to lack even a spark of passion, much less charisma or charm. Just as some professors can inject life and fun into the dullest of subjects (c.f. Bruce Robbins' "Backgrounds to Contemporary Theory"), Prof. Augustyn made unusually provocative and challenging material dry and lifeless. If she were strict or seemed to dislike students, I could manage some ire for her. As it is, I can only manage a shrug. Whether it's a shot of espresso or a good argument she needs, I wish she'd have more feeling for her teaching, because she clearly has a lot of knowledge to offer.
James Helgeson is the ABSOLUTE BEST Prof I've had at Columbia. He's a Renaissance scholar and he you can tell just how much he loves his work when he talks about music and poetry. He is gentle and soft- spoken in class: a relief after so many type A New Yorkers. If you have no head for theory, you might find him challenging: he likes to talk about subjects like Philosophy of Mind and Hermaneutics. His French is beautiful fluent Parisian French- don't think he will compromise by talking to his students like children as some language teachers do. Oh, yeah- he's a fabulous dresser and apparently works informally as a consultant for GQ magazine!
Please, please don't believe the positive reviews. I did and made a big mistake by taking this class. Creamer is really outgoing and seems nice at the beginning, but he is condescending and arrogant. But the worst thing about this class is that WE NEVER TALK ABOUT THE BOOKS. And it's French Lit!! Instead you do oral reports about whatever you want and talk about books that you never read. Even better, he'll call on you with questions about random things, like what is the Latin word for head. Also, he will never learn your name despite the fact that there are 10 people in the class. So learn to love your name tag. Creamer always breaks the class up into awful discussion groups and instead of asking about anything important, makes you discuss things like the syntax. As you sit in your 10th discussion group and the awkward silence grows, use this time to bond with other students about how much this class sucks. Or why it is he erases the board every 5 seconds.
Professor Creamer is definately one of the best French professors - he makes the literature interesting with his knowledge and unstoppable enthusiasm, and he's extremely friendly and open. I definately got a lot out of the class - however, it's a bit more lecture based even though it's a small class - not as much discussion among students - though he still expects lots of class participation. Make sure to not doze off, 'cause he has a tendancy to call on people at whim, whether you're paying attention or not. He also really loves group work, which got kind of annoying as the semester went on when you just didn't feel like working w/ other people anymore. Overall a good class - be prepared for a lot of reading though, about a book a week - and he was pretty fair w/ grading.
It was distracting when he would bob his head around class waiting for us to say something. His french is easy to understand, but his accent is way overdone. He wears funny blue shoes.
I really feel the need to disagree with the previous review. Eric Leveau was an extremely knowledgeable, wonderful professor. His in-depth knowledge of the literary and political history surrounding each book or play was very helpful in understanding each work. He also made himself very available to students. I would frequently email him late at night with a question on a paper topic or simply a vocabulary word I wasn't able to find in the dictionary; a few hours later, I would find an email from him giving me not only the definition, but also a page-long story on the history of that particular word. Leveau does his best to keep classes interesting. He has a great sense of humor and actually cares about his students as human beings, often taking 5 minutes at the beginning of class to tout the study-abroad program, the French major, or the Columbia blood drive. He pushes his students to participate and be enthusiastic about the course, but understands when the hefty workload keeps a student from finishing every page of the week's reading. Leveau really brings life to the course.
Wow. I don't even know where to start with this man: let me just say that he is without doubt THE worst French teacher that I have ever had. Leveau's class is highly unorganized- every lecture seems the same, no matter what work the class is reading. He ask the same question about three times EVERY class about every book: "Est-ce qu'il y a des choses que vous avez trouves frappants?" Leveau failed and failed again at getting the students interested in the class- partially his fault and partially the fault of the course itself, which is in my opinion and in the opinions of many others, a complete waste of time. The frequent periods of deafening silence in the class were horribly painful. Although the fact that he is a native French speaker is a plus, I feel that my AP French Lit teacher in high school was indescribably better and much more enthousiastic. I am not taking any French classes this semeter because I just need a break from the language after Leveau! This course is absolutely horrible and so is Leveau as a teacher. He is a nice man, but one cannot help but feel sorry for him because of his lack of teaching ability. This is definitely a class to avoid. If you are signed up for it, GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN!
Prof Stalnaker is really awesome, but you know she is really really really tough in terms of grading. And quite inflexible when it comes to writing what she wants. But then again, here comes the same old problem with a class like hers: cramming two books within one week. arghs!
Prof. Stalnaker made a valiant effort trying to cram over six centuries of french literature into one semester; I, for one, applaud her. The fault here lies within the structure of the Intro Lit Courses, which most definitely should be three semesters and not two. Honestly, Prof. Stalnaker made what could have been an excruciatingly painful semester into a generally interesting in-depth analysis of the pre-1800 hit parade of lit. She's obviously incredibly intelligent and very enthusiastic, which ought to carry over into her students' attitude, unless you're stuck in the class I had, where only half the people knew what was going on...(but that's another story!) All that being said, she's a very tough grader and the paper topics are challenging! I found it difficult to narrow down my discussions and often struggled to get a B+. I think this has more to do with this really being one of her first classes...I'm sure she'll mellow out next semester. If you're willing to put in the work, she's a great teacher who goes above and beyond in making time for her students and does a great job with the hand Columbia has dealt her: hundreds of years of literature in roughly three months....
Prof Stalnaker is really really nice. But her teaching is over-rated. Personality and teaching is two different things here, in the sense that she is quite vague in teaching. though organised, u cannot blame her---she is covering 8 centuries of literature within 1 sem you see. Marking can be harsh, not necessarily lenient as you think.
I dont think i made it clear enough in my last review, but Prof. Stalnaker is GREAT, FABULOUS, an all around WONDERFUL teacher. I have never heard a bad complaint about her, and my roomate has her for lit hum. She helps you every step of the way, has the patience of a kindergarden teacher or some other amazingly tolerant profession, and she subtley challenges you throughout the course. If you can get her, dont let her go!
I took Major Literary Works in Fall 2002 and was at first dissapointed at the general nature of the course, as the seminar format doesnt work well with 20 people at varying levels of french speaking ability, some of whom ABSOLUTELY do not know what they are talking about. If you took a pretty good amount of French in high school and are at the higher levels, the reading (except Montaigne) won't be TOO hard, but a little time consuming. It's a necessary start for any other french classes, tho. As far as Prof. Stalnaker goes, the lack of depth is not her fault, its the curriculum. I constantly felt that I would get more out of it if she would just lecture. The woman is very understanding, compassionate, but dont assume that because she gives you extensions on reading (which she does sometimes) that she is not brilliant. She really loves digging into literature and getting the most obscure but wonderful meanings out of it, and once we moved away from the crappy medeival literature, i really enjoyed all the ideas she brought forth in class. She is always available in her office and very willing to give you all the help you need-- as i felt not so strong in my writing and speaking than my reading, she definitely has the perfect combination of care, encouragement, and help to push you along. ANyone who wants to start the french lit track but is afraid of being behind, she will help immensely. She personally took great interest in my studies at columbia, giving me professors to speak to about studying abroad and doing a french concentration. Besides being adorable and sweet, she really does care about her students doing well. And maybe at first that makes her seem like a high school teacher, but there's nothing more i could have wanted when approaching french in my first year of college.
Though he's a nice guy, Helgeson is a really limited professor. His french is fine grammatically, but his accent is overdone, and his misplaced inflections make comprehension of his classes a nightmare, even for a fluent french speaker. His coverage of the texts is embarassing at best. Easy class and easy grader, but nothing learned.