Major English Texts I

Jan 2020

Where do I begin? The WORST professor I have ever had at Barnard/Columbia. She's constantly late and has a HUGE ego, newsflash, not everything is about you! The class was so boring that I stopped coming and only went for the midterm and final. She goes off her "5 Great Laws" when grading her papers, and will deduct points for using the verb to be. She constantly wastes time talking about her life, nothing to do with the literature we were assigned. The only great thing about the class is that I passed.

Dec 2011

Professor Ellsberg was entertaining and interesting. She emphasizes the historical background of each of the texts and speaks a lot about the authors' personalities. I finished off the semester with learning a lot of new things I've never heard of before her class. The readings are interesting as well. Not too long or dense. You can just skim them. She gives about 10-12 pop quizzes through out the semester, which consists of ID's or random fact questions that she mentions in class, which is why it is important to take notes. She will even say what will be on the quiz. This was a great way to fulfill the literature requirement. While the pop quizzes might be annoying it definitely beats taking a 4 hour midterm at the end of the semester.

Dec 2010

Ellsberg is total mess. She is ALWAYS late to class, sometimes by 10 minutes, and i very confused. Obviously you can tell she knows a lot about English literature and the best moments in this class are when she delves into strange details or insights, but most often it is just incredibly lacking in structure and substance. The class works like a lecture, and she basically talks about anything that goes through her head, so it was not unusual to see her talking about her family or her time at Oxford, instead of actually focusing on the texts. Also, you will be reading an anthology and Wolf Hall, which is contemporary literature about medieval English; I believe it would be much more interesting to actually read medieval literature in a class on that subject! I didn't dread this class, as I could just go and text friends during the class, it most often didn't make a difference, especially if you had basically knowledge of medieval literature. Also, Ellsberg claims she can find some really smart conclusions from her language skills and would many times say things in French or German. Unfortunately she didn't really speak them that well and made big mistakes about the origin of words.

Apr 2007

Ellsberg is the single worst teacher I've ever had--high school or college. I'm not even sure where to begin, but let's try... She was late to 90% of the classes. Usually quite late (5-15 minutes). Often obscenely late. Every class started with a long, rambling story that had nothing to do with literature. On the day that we were to discuss Hamlet--you know, one of the signal works of Western literature, that Hamlet--she spent the entire *first half* of the class telling a story about her horse. One day, she spent about an hour talking about the structure of fairy tales--even though it perilously little to do with the book she was "lecturing" on. Then, a few weeks later, she gives *the exact same* talk on fairy tales, gobbling up another hour! There was this surreal, twilight-zone feeling in the class: "Wait, didn't she already talk about this...?" She didn't learn anybody's names at the start of the semester, but then, *halfway* through the semester, one day at the start of class she suddenly said, "today I'm going to learn everybody's names!" But instead of just learning our names, she spent the *whole class* riffing on people's names and where they came from. ("John Doe, oh, I knew a Doe in such-and-such place once, what a guy, blah blah blah...") The whole of the writing is two two-page papers. Easy, yes, but also kind of embarrassing. But she has a lot of ridiculous, petty pet peeves about essay writing--which she springs on you *after* you've turned in the paper. Ah, almost forgot!--she returned the midterm *one week* before the final. She made a number of factual mistakes in her lectures-- which made my lecture notes totally worthless. Plus, the lectures were preposterously disorganized. It's hard to say that there were "digressions", because "digression" implies a coherent central argument from which one digresses. Is it possible to have speech which is nothing but digressions? Ellsberg put this philosophical question to the test. I finally started taking notes on my computer, and treated her lectures like a puzzle: the challenge was to use select-and-drag to assemble a coherent line of reasoning before class ended. It wasn't easy! It was like a super-hard kind of tetris. The ID-only exams are a joke that certainly don't encourage any kind of careful reading of the texts. And at one point in the semester, she seemed to actually discourage us from doing the readings, saying something like, "You know, one of the great skills in life is to get an idea of a book without actually reading it..." (wink, wink, nod, nod). This came before one of our longer readings, and it basically amounted to telling us, "Just forget about reading it! Who cares?" Is this really what we're looking for at one of the most famous and expensive schools in the world? And generally speaking, Ellsberg is just a profoundly disorganized individual. I don't know if there's some deeper problem, or what. But she is a spectacularly terrible teacher. Take a shambles, and then shamble it again, and then you have something almost as shambolic as Ellsberg's class. Her class made me ashamed to be a student at Barnard/ Columbia. One day a classmate invited a really bright friend, a smarty-pants undergrad from a prestigious school in England, to sit in on the class, and I just burned with shame at somebody seeing something so shameful associated with Barn/CC. I have no idea why this professor received any positive reviews. Stay away. Trust me.

Jan 2007

A strange, yet entertaining professor. From the first class, she makes clear that she wants the class to be easy. There is a lot of reading, although truthfully you don't have to do much of it and she knows this. It's a lecture class, meaning there is little student participation. Ellsberg spends most of the class talking about the historical background of literary periods, or biographical information about the authors. Little attention is paid to the actual writing, though the class is still interesting.

Jan 2006

A very interesting teacher, and highly recommended if you want an interesting and solid survey class. You go from Beowulf to John Donne. Professor Ellsberg is a very captivating lecturer. She knows all those quirky facts about each huge literary figure that you remember, and digs into some pretty facinating ideas. For example, she gets into the pagan roots of the English.

Feb 2004

I took this class to fulfill my general ed literature requirement, so I am speaking as a non-English major. In the beginning of the semester I was very frustrated with the class, most of the time the lectures had very little to do with the readings. The lecturers were mostly the history of the time period of the readings. But once I came to terms with that I actually found myself enjoying the class. What I liked best about this class was that I could put it on the back burner while I did the work from my harder classes. I basically only did the readings when it came time for the midterm/final and papers. The material in the lectures was really never tested. I would recommend this class to people who want an easy English class.

Jan 2004

The readings were dry at times, but the lectures were interesting. Prof. Ellsberg isn't the best lecturer I've had, but she seems very knowledgeable and it's clear that she enjoys the subject. Other reviews have said that she favors certain students, but I don't think that's true. While she seems to know some students better than others, as far as I could tell, favoritism wasn't reflected in her grading. This is a good introductory course for anyone who would like to be an English major.

Apr 2003

Terrible...*CULPA censor* The woman said "syllabuses" during the first lecture and I knew I should have run. The most obscure facts about authors are discussed to DEATH and nothing is said about the texts until 10 minutes before the end of class...and even then it's minimal and at a 10th-grade level. BLEH...take it if you hope to become a Jeopardy! champion, not an English major.

Nov 2002

She's a funny lecturer, but she never really sticks to the texts...she prefers to talk about her family or her time at Oxford. The guest lecturers are usually not half as good as Ellsberg, and she had another professor grade the midterms, which I found a bit strange...still, it's an easy class. The texts get more interesting as the semester goes on.