Unlike the previous reviewer I rather enjoyed this class. every two sessions was devoted to another play: measure to measure, troilus and cressida, king lear, antony and cleopatra, the tempest, etc. I thought her lectures were generally good although she seemed to enjoy explaining shakespeare's references to human sexual behavior the most. I'll admit the only reason I took the class was because I read most of the plays already being a drama-dork, and being lazy, signed up for the class to do less work. 'Twas an easy A.
Iâ€™m not wasting my time writing an in depth review of this class, this is just meant to serve as a warning to any future students because I feel they deserve some insight into this course before signing up and getting stuck with it. This is probably the worst course I have ever taken in anything. Ever. In four years. This isnâ€™t even really a course, itâ€™s getting together twice a week to listen to the self-deluded, proto-feminist interpretations of Jean Howard. This was one of the single most maddening experiences of my life. Jeanâ€™s comments are sexist at times, racist at others, and highly inappropriate for a classroom setting. Let me be clear about something: I love Shakespeareâ€™s work. I was raised on it as a child, both my parents have taught Shakespeare in their careers; I have performed his works since I was a child. While Jean Howard is no doubt accomplished in the scholarly realm she is sadly not able to grasp the humanity of the work, and it makes for a pathetic semester. You basically sit in class and listen to her read the plays, or orchestrate students to read them aloud. Seems like a waste of time if youâ€™d read it on your own like you were supposed to. There is no deep insight offered, there is no examination of context or of the poetry of the language, no character analysis. There isnâ€™t anything beyond Jeanâ€™s tepid analysis of how it relates to her specific interest in, some would say unhealthy obsession with, all things sex. Hereâ€™s an example, verbatim: â€œShe poured poison into his ear. Ear=orifice. Orifice=vagina. She was reversing the normative gender roles and sexually assaulting him.â€ Mind=blown. The depth of her analysis! The nuance! The psychological probing for universal truth or why the works have lasted 400 years! Itâ€™s amazing how she can reduce it all to so simple a binary! (Sarcasm.) Everything in Jean Howardâ€™s class is representative of the vagina. EVERYTHING. Now, all that aside, sheâ€™s just not a good teacher. When confronted sheâ€™s incapable of engaging in a conversation about the work beyond her prepared remarks. She throws temper tantrums (and I mean at the level of a child) whenever anyone comes in even one minute late. She pounds her little fists on the podium and screams at the student. Itâ€™s fairly comical. If you want people to show up on time give them a reason to. Beyond that she doesnâ€™t even use the English language properly. I feel like I can move past all the other failings of this course, but to be paying as much as we are to be here it is inexcusable that a professor would confuse invoked with evoked, and, worse than that, misuse the word â€˜literallyâ€™ CONSTANTLY. Yes, she is one of those people who use the word â€˜literallyâ€™ when what they are describing didnâ€™t literally occur at all. Such as â€œIt will literally boil your blood.â€ Did you ever wonder why the dictionary now has an entry for the word â€˜literallyâ€™ defining itâ€™s use as sometimes meaning not literal? Itâ€™s because people like Jean Howard kick and scream until they get to the front of the rat race and then rewrite the texts to conform to their own personal failings. You should take that as a metaphor for this course. Youâ€™ve been warned.
This woman is brilliant and this course is awesome. She has a really strong passion for what she teaches and it's good because she knows all the information back and forth. The TA's were pretty weak but that changes. Anyway, the course is exactly what you think it is: you read amazing plays by Shakespeare and then go into them with more depth, learn about the background and context, examine key passages, etc. but not in such a way like in other english classes where you dissect comma usage as a metaphor for the author's personal struggles, but rather you discuss really important broad issues and learn their importance in the play. Very rewarding, there was some grumbling about it being boring among other students but if you have even a fraction of the passion for the material as she does, you will be well rewarded.
I went to half of the classes; I aced the midterm and final. I spent time and effort on the first paper, and the TA hated it; I wrote the second one in two hours the day before it was due, and Howard loved it. This is NOT A HARD CLASS, it's a class where you have to play by the instructor's rules. With a few notable exceptions, Howard expected certain, mostly predictable interpretations of the plays, and she wasn't discreet either about them or about the passages she thought were important. Almost everyone else seems to love Howard and to have loved this class - I wish I could see it, but I don't. I genuinely hated this class that I haven't hated anything I've taken in six semesters at Columbia - especially in the English department, where I've mostly had fantastic, challenging, and rewarding experiences. I'm sure all the positive reviews are going to outweigh this one, but I figured it was worth another opinion.
I was amazed to learn that every single aspect of the 7-9 plays which we studied over the course of the semester had to do with sex. Suffice it to say that some of Prof. Howard's insights struck me as incredibly pat and cliched, but it was always an enjoyable class. She definitely didn't ruin Shakespeare for me.
She is an unbelieveable professor! I ended up learning so much in her class that I would want to take anything that she was teaching again. The only thing is that you should not be late. She cannot stand lateness at all. I think that she is a tough grader also, but if you go and see her she will tell you exactly what she wants. She is so helpful even when you find yourself lost with the material.
Professor Howard is by far the best teacher I've had in the department. Perhaps she is less good as a lecturer; nonetheless, I find her dedicated, intelligent, organized, cunning, masterful--in short, irresistible.
If good professors are called golden nuggets, this is the largest lump of coal I have ever encountered at Columbia. I want to second the warning from the other review of this class. Beware Howard mentions nothing that one couldn't pick up in spark/cliff notes. In fact, spark notes are far more comprehensive, they mention the language. Howard lectures are dedicated almost exclusively to the plot. And it really isnÂ’t an absurd or radical notion to want to look at language in Shakespeare!! When she runs out of things to say, which happens a lot, she shows long clips from movies.
This class isn't over yet, but I don't want poor unsuspecting souls to go into Fall registration without hearing another opinion. If you are a) an English major, b) not a freshman, c) possessed of even a spark of intelligence, DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS. Brilliant as Professor Howard may be, I've not heard her express a single thought that I couldn't have picked up from one of Harold Bloom's collections of critical essays on Shakespeare. Her readings of the play, which are tailored to a huge lecture class of what seems primarily to be brown-nosers, are reductive and repetitive. I went to half of the classes, spent my time in the ones that I did go to either reading other texts or trying not to stab my classmates in the eye with a pencil, and aced the midterm on recollections from high school. If you've never studied Shakespeare (or, frankly, the English language), this class might not be so bad. However, even if all you've ever read is Hamlet - or if, by chance, you want to preserve your appreciation for Shakespeare, stay away. She also has a really obnoxious policy on locking the door and kicking out people who are 30 seconds late, as well as a wardrobe composed entirely of earth tones.
Unbelievable professor. I probably learned more in this seminar than in any other class at Columbia. She can be pretty harsh, but it's always constructive criticism. Professor Howard is a fantastic seminar leader, weaving seemingly random students' comments into a coherent discussion of the works. The reading list is cleverly constructed, mixing in Shakespeare with his contemporaries, making for some fascinating contrasts and really interesting class discussion. This was probably the first English seminar I've taken without a clear, obvious ass-clown.
TAKE THIS CLASS! Professor Howard is not only a wonderful professor but a wonderful woman. I can't say enough. If you want to work hard and learn a TON about Shakespeare and his contemporaries, you MUST take this course. She's amazing.
Jean Howard for Shakespeare-great lecturer, very articulate and intelligent. Knows pretty much everything about Shakespeare-afterall, she did write the edition of the book we used. This is sort of problematic, though, as everything you write on the midterm and paper could not possibly live up to her scholarly standards. Very difficult grader, although she gets easier as the semester goes on. Worth taking not only because she makes the class extremely interesting, but because she interprets everything in every play as an explicit sexual innuendo. Extremely fond of the word "erotic." Misogynists should avoid-she's a feminist.