Matt's a chill guy, who genuinely cares about the class and his students, and is happy to answer students' questions. He is also very chill about deadlines and is more interested in us learning rather than us over-worrying about exams, deadlines, etc. However, the class can get boring. I don't really blame him because I think the course material is very dry, but I feel like there are certain things he can do to increase engagement. He talks a lot...and I mean a lot...which can often be disruptive to class discussions. Often he starts talking about something in a text, and then essentially ends up delivering a really long stream of consciousness, as he keeps getting distracted by what he's saying and gets new ideas, which he starts talking about. Meanwhile, we're just chilling, waiting for him to stop talking. Ultimately, he's well-intentioned but just a bit too passionate. But overall, recommend the class. The workload is fairly light and he's a fair grader.
I can see why people like Professor Hart. He's funny, lively for a 9am class, and cares about his students. That being said, I often felt he did not facilitate discussion effectively enough. Often people would say something and he would just move on without acknowledging what they said. His quizzes are oddly specific and you won't necessarily do well if you do the reading. He comes late to office hours. However, he is extremely helpful during office hours. Once time he looked at a draft before it was due and will always discuss an outline with you before the paper is due.
Professor Hart has a friendly tone, and is fine with students calling him by his first name. Class is often a laid-back affair, until he gets particularly passionate about a subject, at which point he'll become very energetic. He is extremely understanding, and often gives partial credit and extensions because his goal is to have everyone read to learn and really enjoy the literature. Professor Hart comes prepared to every lecture with pages of notes, and is happy to give in-depth explanations to each book your read. This is interspersed with an active dialogue between him and the students. I had a 6:10-8pm timeslot (not particularly fun), and only one person transferred out from the first to second semester. Class was excellent, and his deep British baritone kept students' attention (and might've created some crushes, as well...).
Beware naive freshmen! There are wrong answers in this class. That said, I really enjoyed it. Or rather, I enjoyed it as much as one could at 9 in the morning. (9 IN THE GODDAMN MORNING.) Matt really knows what he's talking about, knows how to keep the conversation going, and also has the benefit of a British accent. British accent + knows what he's talking about = sounds like a genius He has a policy for participation grading (equal to a midterm in weight) by which he gives you either an A, C, or an F. Unfortunately though, I think this inspired a lot of mindless banter among those who needed to repeatedly assure themselves that they were going to receive an A. I was one of them--that's how I know. He didn't add back the texts that were eliminated this year (Gilgamesh, etc.) which I really appreciated because Lit Hum has enough reading anyway. The way he arranges the syllabus made it (mostly) manageable. He gives pop quizzes to ensure that people are doing the reading. They're not as easy as he thinks they are, but they're also not monstrously hard. Figure if you read the text you're guaranteed at least a 6/10. He's a cool guy. I don't like mornings. You might as well stay in his class if you're placed into it.
This class focused on investigating concepts of "Blackness" and "Britishness" through novels including Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners, Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Caryl Philips' Foreigners. More than just reading Black British authors, this class examined other British immigrant writings such as Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and Hanif Kureishi's The Black Album. Readings were supplemented with historical background and critical essays. The reading list for this course was well-chosen, and Hart's knowledge on the books incomparable. The syllabus also featured poetry readings, youtube videos for a class on performance poetry as well as an avant-garde documentary (Handsworth Songs, by the Black Audio Film Collective). Hart arranged the syllabus to give us a break from reading lengthy novels when papers were due. Hart is a good professor. Engaging, intelligent, and with a vocabulary that one expects from a British academic, Hart is actively engaged with the topics he teaches. Hart is just old enough to seem wise, and just young enough to be relevant. Nevertheless, he can be arrogant and moody and expects a high level of commitment to the class that is, perhaps, unrealistic. Hart is a stickler for flawless writing and rewards students for meeting with him during office hours. Nevertheless, he is always reasonable and willing to listen to students regarding extensions and sickness. He does expect you to contribute, and even set a pop quiz when he felt the class was not keeping up with the reading. Ultimately, though, he wants the class to succeed for the students' own sakes, because he truly believes the course is important and interesting - which it is. The texts and Hart's engagement with them makes this is one of the best classes I've taken at Columbia, and other members of the seminar have voiced similar opinions. Although discussions occasionally faltered due to the quiet nature of some of the class members, Hart worked hard to create a seminar with just enough lecture and just enough discussion. Take this class, if only for exposure to the excellent and little-known authors!
Black British Writing with Professor Hart was a delight. He is an insightful professor whose energy is catching. Further, he knows the subject matter forward and back. He is a very fair grader, and provides great feedback on work. Hart is very encouraging when it comes to student participation, but he can get easily frustrated when the class is slow to respond, so DO YOUR READING and come to class prepared to talk! The syllabus can be demanding, but if you do both of those things, you'll love the class.