professor
David Yerkes

Jun 2018

the very best person, teacher and instructor you will ever encounter. Just wait and see!!

May 2018

Yerkes is a savage! You are not going to learn any Lit Hum with him, and that's fine, in my opinion. You don't need to open the books, unless you really want to read. I read as much as possible, but obviously 13 books a semester, is not very possible. Instead, Yerkes' approach, and his essays (he assigned 6) are 150-200 words, of something NEW and interesting. Focus on a word, an image something extremely specific, and do a "close reading", explain its significance. Ironically, you'll get a lot more out of this than doing the entire readings. Although he only assigned 6 "essays" during the semester, maybe forcing yourself to do one per book will prepare you for the final. Regarding exams, midterm is basically the same as the close reading essays we do, in which you take two texts and compare and contrast a very small aspect. Final, is the department final, which no one yet understands how he grades. He made it extremely clear that he doesn't care about the passage IDs. He doesn't care whether the identification is correct or false, and in fact doesn't even look at the answer sheet given by the core. Instead, he wants a good analysis. The remainder of the exam aligns nicely with the coursework he gives, especially the passage analysis essay, and the 3 novel essay -- as all the mini essays done gear you for this. Just go over the few essays you've written, and you'll be fine. All he wants, is something new, and interesting. Don't give him any of the AP high school bs, he sees right through it. Don't use fancy vocab either. As long as he likes the first line or two (in which you must present a clear argument), he'll probably stop reading your essay and give you an A or an A+. Consider yourself blessed if you get Yerkes. Easy A, easy 4 credits. Just don't take advantage of him. He is really cool, go to office hours, get to know him. Awesome guy, cares about his students, writes AMAZING letters of rec, though don't get offended as he does not recall names.

Jan 2013

Note: This is (supposedly) his last time teaching Lit Hum, but much of this applies to his other classes. This isn't your grandpa's Lit Hum. Unlike most, Yerkes spends a lot less time on the broad themes of the books and often goes line by line analyzing the language and style certain key passages. We would often spend an entire class on one page. Although this sounds painful, it really isn't - classes usually end a half hour early, and there's no real penalty for spacing out when he starts talking about gerunds. He often brings up background information about the books, and more importantly, allows for dissenting opinions and criticism of the books, as long as it was meaningful (ie. not "God was really mean in Job!"). Since he didn't force everyone to participate, I think a good third of the class said next to nothing all semester. I think in the end this had a positive impact on the quality of discussion and led to some genuine insights. There were no readings added or cut out, but because of the way the class is structured, such as him telling us the essay topics before the midterms, and the extremely narrow scope of the paper, you can get away with doing maybe 10% as long as you have the writing skill to back yourself up, and still get an A/A-. As a result he can seem pretty unfair, since time devoted to reading doesn't necessarily correlate to a higher grade, so if you do all the reading and want to be rewarded for that, you're probably better off switching into another section. Some people find his pop culture references, bashing of other Ivies, and ego grating, but he tones it down as the semester goes on, since he intentionally tries to get people to drop the class early on to have a more intimate group that's more open-minded about his idiosyncratic teaching style. Overall, I'd say give him a shot - there's a reason he has such a cult following among humanities majors.

Nov 2012

It's been three years since I took Yerkes' lit hum class, and as I near the end my time at Columbia, I find myself reflecting on the truly great experiences. Yerkes' class was inspiring and memorable. The man takes no shit, and he'll tell you it. Columbia needs more no-nonsense people like Dave leading classes. Your writing will improve, and you will think hard about the texts you read and about the choices you make here at school. To Yerkes, it's not about doing a great volume of work--it's about doing quality work. As he told us: "take as few classes as possible." That's why he assigns papers with low word counts, and that's why we never made it past the first page of a text. If his class doesn't appeal to you, you ought to reconsider, and if it still doesn't appeal to you, you ought to leave that slot for another student who doesn't know yet what he/she is missing. This was, indeed, the single best class I took at Columbia.

May 2012

I am so glad I was in Yerkes' class. Like many have said below, it is like no other section, and when it comes to Lit Hum classes, not being normal is generally a good thing. We were not subjected to a grad student working her way through the discovery of how she wants to teach. We did not have to write responses on Courseworks or take reading quizzes to prove that we had a superficial understanding of what we read. Instead, we didn't read, and worked from there, which led to a surprisingly interesting class. As much as I loved it, I can think of a lot of reasons why you might not want to take this section. As I said, it is not really Lit Hum. For the most part, you will not discuss themes or plots or images. The usual class was at least 75% Yerkes talking, with at least 75% of that being things completely unrelated to what we "read." When we did open the books, it was almost exclusively to look at the first page alone and trying to understand very specific word usage (Major Note: Yerkes' field is English Language, not English). If you're really into the idea of Lit Hum as it is presented by the admissions officers or tour guides, this probably isn't the class for you. Yerkes hates Lit Hum as it exists now. He correctly says that college students today cannot be expected to read a dozen books a semester and actually understand them, that we either try to read them, but do it so quickly we don't gain anything, or do not read them at all. His solution would be to read one or two books over the course of the semester, but really read them and dig deep into them, rather than frantically hopping through the entire Western canon. The class is built around the idea that you don't know anything, that anything anyone says has to be justified logically from the ground up. Yerkes clearly hates when people use words they learned in AP English, because simply saying something is an example of synecdoche is meaningless if you don't know what the word is; he would much rather have you say exactly what synecdoche means and never use the word itself. It is incredibly common for someone to begin talking and immediately be shot down for having an unclear idea or making a generalization that isn't true. You are forced to think and speak precisely (using too many words is a cardinal sin), justifying everything you say with logic instead of your knowledge of AP vocab words. There is so much more to say about this class, but I think there are definitely plenty of reviews below that pretty accurately sum up Yerkes and what he's about. I can very honestly say that I loved this class and have no idea what I'll do in CC next year with a non-Yerkes teacher. Even though we did not do Lit Hum the Lit Hum way, I still think we learned more about how to think than any other class did.

May 2011

I suppose all of you will find yourselves drawn to Yerkes because you don't want to do the reading, and you do want a good grade. Well, then, you probably won't be disappointed, because he doesn't mandate that you do the reading--although when you don't do the reading you relinquish any control over your grade--and gives pretty good grades. The other posters are right about his non-sequitur-heavy class discussions that touch on NBC's comedy lineup, Matthew Arnold, and the Yankees more often than, say, Ovid. But who's Ovid anyway? It's a tolerable, and easy, class, especially if you don't want to do the reading. But I think some of the kids in my class, certainly, were too cynical and allowed some of Yerkes' actually valuable lessons to drift in one ear and out the other. That is to say: you're wasting a spot in the class if you just want a gut course. Yeah, the man might look checked-out, but he really isn't. Not in the least. He will press you to come up with original ideas, and maybe, just maybe, you'll realize that whatever academic malaise you've had in the past comes from parroting plot summaries. Seriously: I write good English papers now. And good history papers, all of them with original ideas that took me more than five minutes to come up with. And that's the lesson you get in Yerkes' class, even if you don't read any of the books. You'll learn to think, to come up with original, good ideas, and you'll question a bunch of stuff you thought you knew. Which, if you learn anything in this class, you'll find to be much more important and meaningful than knowing exactly what Iphigeneia morphed into. I think it was Tina Fey, maybe?

May 2011

The negative review two reviews down is understandable. However, it was written at the beginning of the Fall semester, and Yerkes gets much better over time. He does go on tangents, he does often make fun of us (but only because he knows you can take it; if you can't, he won't be surprised when you leave), he does tend to rip apart our first essays of the semester, and he does pretty much think he's always right. But come on, the guy has been here for 35 years--he's seen and accomplished a lot. On the other hand, in addition to what the previous reviewer said, Yerkes actually understands us as college students. He knows that even if he gives us a month to do a paper, we probably won't start it until the day before, and tries to prevent that by assigning an in-class draft. He put up a fight this semester to cut down the LitHum syllabus to 6 books, because he agrees it's way too much reading, which inevitably leads to cheating (sorry 2015, it didn't work). He spots the usual BS in an instant, and makes you be specific, clear, and concise. He actually values participation highly, and tries to push people to speak. Another good thing is that if you get one or two bad grades, it doesn't proportionally bring down your grade for the class. He's fairly nice about grading in the end. In short, he's an unorthodox teacher, but you can actually get a lot out of this class, just by listening to what he has to say. If not, well, the workload's relatively light.

Apr 2011

Words cannot describe how amazing David Yerkes is. Disregard all the comments below on him being disrespectful, as he is clearly engaging and truly listens to people if they are making an interesting point. There are no stupid questions but rather stupid people. Yerkes really makes his students think, choosing to concentrate on academic skills that will benefit students long after they forget all of the useless plot summaries from the dozen or so books on the syllabus. He not only deserves a silver nugget, but he should have a gold nugget. I honestly believe that my writing has improved substantially because of the focus and clarity that Yerkes rightfully demands from his students. Overall, he is an incredible and quirky instructor, that leaves his students to read at their own pace, but cares immensely for them. Besides this, he is hilarious, often bringing up crazy topics that really turn an useless class into one of the best english experiences I have had in a long time.

Nov 2010

Here is a teacher that will teach you how to really read a book, and how to really write a paper. It's not about regurgitating what the book says, it's about really taking the time to THINK. Will he pick on you? Yes. Will he read your paper aloud and mark it up inwith his red pen? Yes. But he won't say your name out loud. Will he go on long, pretty funny, tangents? Yes, he will. But I honestly believe that this method of teaching is better than if a teacher let their students spew bullshit. He cuts you off because what you're saying doesn't make any sense. If it does, and if you say it clearly and succintly, he'll let you finish your point. If you want to say mindless bull for the rest of your life, skip out on having him as a teacher. But, if you want to become a better speaker or writer, take Yerkes' LitHum class.

Sep 2010

I have never had a teacher as disrespectful as Yerkes. He doesn't care at all what any of his students are saying (even though he claims that he takes us more seriously than anyone will ever take us in out whole lives), loves the sound of his own voice, and interrupts and nitpicks at anything anyone says until they don't want to speak anymore. He goes on endless tangents after (or in the middle of) every comment a student makes, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with anything anyone is talking about and are sometimes even semi-insulting to the speaker themselves. He has no respect for the text either, constantly mocking the author and characters and, whether intentionally or not, acts as if nothing we read is really that great or important anyway. He constantly belittles and condescends to not only his students who are attempting to participate in "class discussion" (which is usually nothing more than him self-indulgently commenting on the half-made comments of his students and repeatedly coming to the conclusion that the original observation doesn't really matter or make sense) as well as the authors of the books that are supposed to change our lives. If you want to do minimal work and stay silent with barely any problem take this class. But prepare to be picked on.

Dec 2009

I agree with the review below this one. While Yerkes is by no means a pleasant--or even an organized--man, there are significant up sides to the course and the man teaching it. First is the workload. Our exam's cancelled and there were only three short written assignments, all in all very manageable. Of the six courses I'm taking, Yerkes' hardly feels like a course. Now I do not recommend the course for someone who wants a broad overview of the history of the English language. Yerkes likes to skip around, pick on minute topics he's interested in, etc. By the last class, we only got as far as Shakespeare's sonnets. I myself knew a little about the topic, so I was able to benefit from Yerkes' insights. His ideas, abrasive though they may be, challenged how I view this field greatly. For example, I learned that Chaucer had no long vowels or iambic pentameter, there are many things about Shakespeare's language that scholars still do not understand, manuscripts aren't the easiest thing to browse through, and so on. Lastly I want to give those considering his course a headsup. This man is very picky about what he wants to read. What he likes to read is anything that's not BS, anything with substance, an idea. Not that it's a bad thing. Throughout the semester Yerkes gave me a newfound appreciation of clarity and brevity. I'll end by saying that David taught me a lot about life, and man's place in the universe, and writing and shit...oh and I did learn something about that history of the English language.

Dec 2009

No bullshit. Yerkes cuts the games and calls a lot of the whole act for what it is. This can seem abrasive but I (without realizing it before) had been waiting the whole of my schooling for someone to sit there and tell me to cut the crap. Yerkes will hold you accountable for what you say and what you write. To be really cliche but true, you will get out of the class what you put into it. The paper assignments have the ability to transform old ways of writing, thinking, and arguing, or you could throw something together the night before, though Yerkes will probably call you on it, read it to the class, and call you naive (*no names in the read-aloud but they can be amusing). In sum, for me it really was one of the best courses I've taken at Columbia.

Dec 2009

The general consensus is--Yerkes is INSANE!!! This is a fun class, in that most of the class discussions are about 30-rock, how we are all NAIVE, how words don't mean what we think they mean, and people no one has heard of who Yerkes thinks are really cool. As has been said before--this class isn't Lit Hum--you don't really discuss the books at all, and what does get said is mostly developed in class by reading the relevant passages. No diagrams, vocab, history, context, or anything. If you don't read the books, you can get A'son all the papers and the midterm (I did) if you have good ideas (you know what those are, right?) and can articulate them CLEARLY. This is Yerkes' major goal--short and sweet, make your point and get out writing (opposite of U Writing). He does not suffer bullshit. All in all, Yerkes uses the books as a jumping off point for tangential discussions such as manuscript errors, translation, OED, 30 rock, english language, novelists, etc. Towards the end of the semester he starts repeating himself (only after registration) making you regret reregistering. If you don't mind being bored most of the time (no discussions, just him talking), got for it---easy class.

May 2009

Let's not mince words here; Yerkes is batsh*t insane. This is no hyperbole, people; the man is 3 ideas short of full on Asperger. A very "unique" mind...You'll see. This is no traditional Lit Hum class. You don't have to talk for participation points (or at all, really), there are no Coursework postings, and perhaps most importantly: YOU DON'T DISCUSS THE BOOKS. It's the most baffling, initially awesome, thing ever. You come into class with an 'idea' you had to prepare for discussion beforehand. Someone generally volunteers theirs and Yerkes just goes....OFF. He will talk about anything and everything going from tangent to tangent for about 80 minutes (short classes). And then you're done. That's it. He has a background in language so 90% of all academic discussions go into hyperfocus- analyzing one sentence/paragraph for the duration. And it's just him talking about celtic roots, old English and the likes. You get about one handout a week and it's....basically just paper for doodles (photocopies of old texts, Bewulf, etc to follow along). The rest of the non-academic time (which is a lot) is divided into discussion of TV shows (30 rock to be precise), more tangents, and...arguments (actual 40-minute arguments with one student) about how college is useless and how we should go straight into the real world from HS. Yeah. With a few good gems for thought here and there (his approach to essays is to cut the verbose BS and basically the anti-UW. It's a good thing to know). You get to know the people in class pretty well. A few stand-outs, lots of inside jokes, etc....It's a VERY leisurely class. So during class you will generally alter from laughing to zoning out the window with your tongue out. No in-betweens really. THE PROBLEM: You're not gonna have any incentive to read the books. None whatsoever. You don't discuss them, you're not graded on them, so more than likely your energy will go to other classes. It's around finals you'll realize how fucked you are. Everyone else has pages and pages of notes, theories, concepts and observations on every book while you have jack (and having done nothing in class, you won't be able to recognize the passages on the exam from in-class readings alone). No review session, no practice, no mention of the exam whatsoever. Even if you're the most honorable student ever Sparknotes WILL become a part of your vocabulary. The good news is that he grades it himself and even if you fail on paper (you have to be pretty daft not to be able to BS the passage analysis and essays) you won't fail the class. You just won't excel at it. In the end, it's a bit frustrating that you have very little theoretical knowledge of these books whereas everyone else knows them back-and-forth. So bottom line: GREAT, extremely painless class to take IF you're gonna keep up with the reading on your own for the exam. It's hard but trust me you need to do it for the A- it doesn't give you anything in the class itself. A bit of a gamble for Freshmen I'd say. May want to stick to a traditional teacher for the first semester and enjoy this self-teaching vacation later in the Spring.

Feb 2008

STAY AWAY. Terrible. I have no words (no thanks to Yerkes for improving my vocabulary) to describe my frustration in this class and with this detestable man. I am actually dropping the class because it is such an incredible waste of time. Any major worth her salt could do this work gagged, blindfolded, and asleep (which I nearly was in every single session). I thought I would get some insight into how language changes, how words are formed, and how things work, maybe some theoretical background; instead, I got Yerkes being an ass for an hour and a half while using that entire class period explaining how to look something up on the online OED. He thinks he knows more than anyone about anything and he is wrong, wrong, wrong. But what really did it for me was when he ridiculed Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. If you don't know poetry, don't talk to me about language.

Aug 2007

As the other reviews will show, he can be a very polarizing professor. Some people love him and speak in class on a regular basis. Many others didn't even show up. Yerkes spends the period speaking coherently on one subject of the English Language but there was very little structure in his lectures or for the subject matter of the class. The papers are really the only basis for your grade in the class. This can be frustrating: the papers have an abstract topic and he deliberately withholds any and all guidance on the papers. Mostly, he told us he just wanted us to "think"; no research, no regurgitating information in class. It's very arbritrary. No matter how thorough your paper is, it's really impossible to say what grade you'll get on it. All in all, not a terrible class. Almost no reading, which is nice for an Enlgish major. But you've got to be able to write well, and work with very little help from the lectures or readings.

May 2007

NEVER TAKE A CLASS WITH DAVID YERKES. This class was the bane of my semester. There was no syllabus. He had no lesson plan. The topics we discussed in class had no relation to the course description. I actually did not think it was possible to learn so little in a class. And I don't buy his pretentious claim that he was teaching us "to think": all classes should do that, but you first need some MATERIAL to work with. His contempt for undergraduates is painfully obvious. The assignments were on the scale of linguistics thesis projects. He was basically so full of himself and so unwilling to have patience for us that he put practically no effort into teaching the class, and we learned correspondingly little. If you ever think of taking a class with David Yerkes because the course title looks interesting... please, please, at all costs, don't. This class was a sinister waste of time. I don't understand those people who think he's "brilliant." They must like having absolutely NO structure or substance in their classes.

Mar 2007

I can't decide if this man is crazily brilliant or just plain old bipolar. Maybe he's both. By turns nasty and nice, the perpetually plaid-shirted Prof. Yerkes can be very, very funny indeed; then again, he can be a real jerk. My class had no syllabus, and little direction; everything seemed to hinge upon whatever Prof. Yerkes felt like pontificating about on that particular day. When it comes to grading, he's a contrary soul; be prepared to find scathing remarks on your papers that, were they not directed at you and your lack of ability, you might find pretty funny. Far worse than Yerkes, though, are his groupies. My class was like a meeting of Sycophantic Geeks Anonymous, with some of the most odious, self-congratulatory, entitled, smartypants a**holes at Columbia therein.

Feb 2007

Yerkes is out of his mind. Papers every two weeks, arbitrary grading, unfunny pontification blended with generalized and sweeping statements he knows nothing about, and quirky old school ranting. He says he wants you to think, but what he wants are lemmings.

May 2006

Yerkes is amazing. You will not discuss the books, but it will be one of the best classes you take. Don't worry about failing the final, he grades it and no one fails. You don't even need to go to class if you don't want, but you won't want to miss his ridiculous discussions. Certainly one of the best professors at Columbia.

Apr 2005

I really don't know how to start this...Yerkes is everything said in the previous reviews and more...he is the most complicated creature ever. I really can't tell you how he became a professor. He constantly complains about how we write bullshit papers so he wrote on the same topic he assigned and handed copies to the class encouraging us to critique it. The problem is that we never got a word in because he smack it down believing that he was right in every instance....long story short, I showed this paper to my friends and they thought a student wrote it because it was SUCH bullshit! I never read for class but still got an A. Class is entertaining you don't have to read nor participate because Yerkes does most of the talking. You don't even have to show up every single time although you might miss out on a prize...I won a dollar for answering a question correctly. Overall this is an easy class to pass. And Yerkes' class is packed because its easy not because he is a genius.

Feb 2005

EXCELLENT class, charismatic and crazy man, and you walk away learning alot about how to think and write simple no bullshit papers. I agree with the other reviewer about how he reminds me the reason I went to college in the first place. Yerkes doesn't put emphasis at all on the contents of the actual texts but on how to apply thinking. He is an absolute genius! too bad he doesn't teach CC

Apr 2004

yerkes is a brilliant man who takes no bullshit. he encourages his students to explore the abilities of their minds -- not their abilities to furiously scribble incoherent notes for two hours. his class is as stimulating as it is entertaining. the material is exciting, and he is absolutely engrossing, but without taking himself too seriously. he knows that learning is supposed to be enjoyable. simply, yerkes reminds me of why i wanted to go to college in the first place.

Feb 2004

Yerkes is a quirky, engaged intellectual who challenges you to think and to write well. Take anything he offers. His classes are jam packed for a reason. He's a curious and provocative intellectual. My ability to write well truly improved by working with him. And he did this in a very straightforward way. And yes, expect to lose every argument, although it's always great to see him on the ropes.

Nov 2003

The man seems insane at first but you get used to him and although you really never discuss the books in class, you do learn other valuable lessons and most importantly HOW TO THINK. He grades the midterm and final, so basically even though you write completely different papers for him than you would another teacher, he grades it so it doesn't matter. His papers do require a bit of time even though they are short.

Oct 2003

Flat out awesome. No pressure of grades here, just the pleasure of learning.

Apr 2003

the guy is brilliant. his gift for language is impressive--expect to write contemporary standard american english prose translations of shakespearean sonnets. also expect to lose every single argument ever brought up--he is convinced he is always right and there's no way to change it. yes, he's a cocky s.o.b. but again, he is funny as sh*t. expect to be amused and occassionally bored (to tears man, to tears!!!) as he often spends a solid hour on one sentence. you can come in stoned, just make sure you've done the reading, know whamean?

May 2002

I hesitate to even call this a course because it had no topic, no content, and really did not even require attendance. Lacking a syllabus and constructed totally of Yerkes' random comments, this course was a complete waste of time. He assigned 2 books, one of which he never talked about one. The other was used as a tool for Yerkes to talk about what a poorly written book it was and what an idiot the author was. In my opinion, Yerkes is, at best, a mean man, but more likely he suffers from some kind of diagnosable personality disorder. His grading was wildly inconsistent and had nothing to do with the quality of the work. He had his amusing moments, but mostly he was a total jerk. This man is a prime example of why professors should not be given tenure. He might be a good scholar, but he should be kept in a padded cell away from students. Now that the theory req. for the major doesn't exist, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to subject themselves to this torturous "course."

May 2002

First, a warning - I took this class many years ago (I'm an alumna who stopped in to see how my favorite professors are holding up), and so my information may be out of date and less useful. But I doubt it. Other reviewers are correct, you either love Yerkes or hate him, and you either find his lectures hilarious and illuminating or abusive and disorganized. In the interests of full disclosure, I loved him, and found this course very interesting and useful. He definitely appeals to a hard-core geeky element in the English language and literature crowd, and I would recommend the course (and taking it seriously) highly for anyone with an interest in doing work in Old or Middle English. However, for those indicating that he is a soft grader and that this is a lightweight, gut course, be warned - he is well aware that it is considered so, and every few years he gets fed up with people coasting through his class and turns on them. What this course actually teaches, for those who want to know, is the Oxford medieval literature graduate-level philology curriculum. I only realized this when I sat down to take the philology qualifying exam myself and discovered that it was a David Yerkes final. (And, based on this is course even more than my graduate tutorials in the subject, I did very well thank you, and thank you Prof. Yerkes.)

May 2002

If you like academic structure, don't take this class. Yerkes apparently does not believe in syllabi, and neither does he believe in having an overarching theme or direction for the course. His lectures, if they can be called that, are occasionally amusing but very anecdotal and disorganized, and he is often downright rude to people who ask questions or make comments. His grading is unpredictable, although he tends to focus on content rather than style, which can be either a very good thing or a very bad thing.

May 2002

Well, the other reviews are pretty true: you either love him or you hate him. Personally, I spent most of the semester unbelievably frustrated and angry - there's no structure to the course and he often gives student work vague grades - my favorite being the "No Grade" which means that he thinks that your paper wasn't deserving of a grade. Albeit it doesn't hurt you, but it is frustrating if you're the type of student to actually care. All of the classes are spent moving from topic to random topic - one day you'll spend an hour discussing where to put in quotes and another you'll be comparing the size and flow of different American rivers. Make sense? Not to me. But by midway through the semester I learned how to relax and let it go and enjoy the absurdity of it all.

Apr 2002

Cocky S.O.B., but absolutely hilarious. keep your mouth shut in class and watch him rip everyone else up. he's full of trivial knowledge and obviously is extremely well-read. not overly concerned with grades - seems like one of those anti-established education types (he mocks the college admission process constantly and always laughs at the 'importance' of gpa's.) likes to give out lots of "n.g.'s" (no grade) instead of anything lower than B-. in other words, he'll tear your first few essays to shreds, but won't really penalize you. yerkes recognizes that there's nothing that he really has to cover, so his discussions are based primarily on digressions that have little to do with the reading. you can get away with not reading the novels if you BS well enough, but you might like them. in general, class atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed for everyone except the person yerkes is making fun of. its a light class, worth taking if for no other reason than to be entertained.

Apr 2002

Hands down the worst class I've taken at Columbia. If you think a professor's job is to teach, avoid Yerkes at all costs. He has no lesson plan, no outline, no conceivable notion of organization and very rarely anything interesting to say. This is not a ling course, nor an English course, nor a history course. I'd classify it as a nothing course.

Feb 2002

This man is an absolute menace to anyone who actually likes/enjoys/can read English. I went to talk to him about my major, and he made me stand there for ten minutes while he insulted me to a grad student he was chatting with: "Look at this kid, I bet all the answers to his/her questions are on the website, and s/he was too lazy to look them up." I'd never even met the guy before. What a jerk. I changed my major because of this man. He didn't even ask my name or care about my questions regarding the major, making me repeat them as he emailed people-this was during his supposed office hours. Unhelpful, disorganized, and malicious, I would avoid being an English major at this school if this is the advisor.

Nov 2001

This is a "note to self" course. After it's over, you say, "Note to self: Don't take any more Yerkes classes." The most annoying thing about all this is that you either get a review saying how great he is, and i took this class based on one such review, or you get somebody, or many people, who says, "Yerkes is a jerk." He is a jerk. Unless you are spectacularly good looking or naturally brilliant, you probably won't be getting an A from him. He once called a kid in my class "the handsomest man in the world" when making up a sample sentence during one of the many painstakingly boring grammar discussions. He is also bad-comment happy, so you'll find yourself getting C- comments, but a B for a grade, with no real explanation. He's full of hypocrisy, telling you that he really just wants you to "be clear," but then dismissing your clear paper as "too superficial and obvious." He'll run you around in circles while you try to figure out exactly what it is that he wants, but there is no CLEAR answer, which is a pain in the ass. He also wrote a few sample papers that he might have handed in, which we later picked apart as a class, which you might think would give you a better idea as to what to give him, but it only confused me more. I think i'm pulling a steady B from him, and i don't understand how anyone can call his class "easy" because it's the most emotionally exhausting and aggravating class I've ever taken in my life (with the notable exception of Joseph Massad's Israeli and Palestinian politics and societies, but that was still more educational and more pleasant than this). Yerkes really made me question becoming an english major; if this is the intro, i'd hate to see what the major actually is. don't pick him . . .

May 2001

A comical man. Alternatingly grumpy and cheerful, abrasive and sunny, you never know what's going to happen. I don't think he necessarily does either ... Be warned: History of the English Language is neither a History nor an English language course. Actually, Yerkes's goal seemed to be to train us to do low-level linguistic analyses on our own. That is, if he actually had a goal at all...

Jan 2000

Professor Yerkes is currently (fall 2000) the undergraduate department advisor in English. When I went to see him with questions about the major, he was unfriendly and unkind to me, and not very helpful either. Although his lousy attitude probably had a lot to do with various upsets in the English department that I'm sure would put anyone in a pissy mood, his antagonism to me was enough to scare me away from him for good.

Jan 2000

Yerkes is entertaining and frustrating at the same time. Above all he is weird, weird, weird. If you, for some reason, actually need to be introduced to the english major, do not take his section. If you are looking for a diversion, go ahead. His antics usually make up for the infuriatingly boring digressions that often occur. He WILL spend whole classes discussing punctuation and grammar. But then if you feel that you can really write, you might win one of the numerous cash prizes/bribes that he hands out as motivation (?) - from $5 to $50! The reading is fairly light...a few photocopied handouts, a few poems, and then two novels. The entire last month's class meetings are optional (most people showed up anyway) and consisted of him sitting, possibly sleeping, in the corner while the class discussed. This would go on until he would get bored and arbitrarily end the class. He's can be a tough grader at first, but doesn't count the first assignments - as many as the first three of four of them. There is a final paper, but he may or may not read them - honestly, i brought him a draft and he told me i didn't even need to finish it. Overall, an easy way to fulfill a stupid requirement for english majors.

Jan 2000

Intro to the Major with Prof. Yerkes filled me with existential confusion--and not in the good way, either. Whether this was a factor of the class or of the professor, I'm not sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that people in other sections had a far clearer sense of purpose and were happier people for it. What the hell was that class *for*? I have no idea. Prof. Yerkes is a fun and funny guy, although in class I often felt like he was trying to trick us, somehow. I definitely didn't get the impression that he thought we were anywhere near his level of native erudition. But he does tell good anecdotes.

Jan 2000

His lectures vary wildly from terribly boring to engaging, though classes where he spends most of the time talking tend to lean toward the former. We spent one entire class discussing a misplaced comma and an uncapitalized 'i' in Great Expectations. The best classes were actually those that he spent sitting on the floor in the corner of the class, letting the students lead the discussion. Is often hilarious and talks a lot about his interesting career. Offers students money, which can be interpreted as hilarious or somewhat insulting. Not a difficult grader, but hard to predict. Though I mostly enjoyed the class, I feel that it was not an apt "intro to english" class. The topics discussed barely scratched the surface of the works assigned and I often left class feeling a bit cheated.

Jan 2000

Yerke's classes are impressively disorganized and mostly anecdotal. This can be frustrating or charming, depending on your preference. Whether they have anything to do with the class or not, they're fun stories and his are among the easiest classes in the department.