I was worried about David Streritt at firstâ€”He's not as old as Andrew Sarris but getting close to it, so one would think that he has the same moronic and ultimately terrible teaching style. Instead, Steritt is opinionated (in a good way), full of energy, and one of the best professors in the department. Instead of choosing a film to supplement his own research (cough,annetteinsdorf,cough), Sterritt had us focus on Psycho for the first eight weeks, and held a series of good discussions. After Psycho got basically deconstructed four ways from Friday, we just kind of all went on our own thesis projects. Sterritt didn't require any sort of outline, just a page long prospectus, and then a 30-60 minute presentation in whatever form you want. But he was also great to talk to about other stuffâ€”if he saw anything good he would always inform us, and he was always available by email (he commuted from Baltimore for the class, so could only meet on Wednesdays). Anyways, I'm very glad to have had him for senior seminar, and he was a lot of fun.
Sterritt is one of the best professors in a department that is in desperate need of some fine tuning. He's funny, extremely accessible, and his knowledge and insight into the pop-culture and counter-culture of the twentieth century is astounding. In film classes he quite successfully manages to weave in the likes of Bertold Brecht, Mikhail Bakhtin, Michel Foucault, theories on free jazz, et cetera. His lectures are extremely engaging, and he makes his discussions of heavily loaded materials seem effortless. He's also the primary film critic of The Christian Science Monitor, and he's written books on the Beat Generation, Jean-Luc Godard, and avant-garde filmmaking. Speaking of avant-garde, Sterritt almost always manages to include some avant-garde films into all of his classes--whether they're by Man Ray or Leger or Michael Snow. The great thing is that with Sterritt, you'll actually be able to understand and appreciate a lot of avant-garde practices in cinema. Going to his classes--they're almost always on Wednesday evenings from 5pm to 9pm--is never a chore. Yes, as some other reviewers have mentioned, he does get a bit repetitive, but mostly there is a reason behind his repetition--to put new concepts into the context of material already covered or simply to hammer home very important concepts. His repetitiveness is actually kind of endearing, plus you end up learning the material very well. Sterritt always goes for the two take-home exams and a final paper approach. But, the take-home exams consist of choosing from two of three questions, and generally they can be answered without having to do any of the readings. Taking even remotely decent notes makes these take-homes quite easy. All around a great professor who stands out in his department. I couldn't recommend taking one of his classes more; if you're a film major, you're going to have to take Silent Screen with him, but I strongly suggest taking as many classes with him as you can.
Professor Sterritt gets a bit repetitive at times but that is where his strength lies. You will never leave a class wondering what it was that you were supposed to get out of it because he says it fifty million times. Then, in the next class he will review what ever it was that he wanted you to know. The Cook book is pretty easy and gives good insight into the course. Highly recommend!
Sterritt is an interesting sort. Humor comes into each 4-hour class at some point or another. He does tend to ramble. His grading is on the strict side, but the TA generally does the grading. His lectures are thorough. Films are generally interesting and fun, but some are unusual. It all depends on one's taste. Classes sometimes run a bit over-time, as the clips shown can sometimes run long, and are usually followed by a short discussion that he'll ramble with. NOTE: there is an additional hour-long discussion section run by the TA that will meet at another time on another day that you must attend.
One of the more interesting and genial professors I've come across at Columbia. He genuinely knows his stuff, and presents it in a precise manner that may remind you of high school, but also satisfies you. In fact, his lectures are often humorous and allow you to make the required readings optional... if you take good lecture notes, that is. The downside? The class is taught at night - BAD idea when viewing obscure Soviet silent epics. So bring your No-Doz, and suck it up because this is worth it for the "Birth of a Nation" screening alone. You may never get the chance to debate such a controversial film again, and it is handled in an enlightening rather than exploitative manner.