David Kastan

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Jan 2006

Professor Kastan is an engaging speaker and can take any subject and make it interesting. As an English major dreading the poetry requirement, I took Milton having had professor Kastan before. As usual he was great at making the sometimes dry material interesting, and he has a great ability to include the entire (large) class in the discussion. The biggest downfall of this class was the discussion sections. There seemed to be no guidelines for the TA's and since the discussion sections were required we often ended up talking about the same topics over and over. So Kastan was great, but the discussion sections weren't so hot.

Dec 2005

Kastan is an amusing, personable, intelligent fellow. A friendly and brilliant Renaissance Lit scholar who is in no way intimidating. You will know so much of Milton's theological, pedagogical, and political world at the end of this. His lecture jokes range from dud to chuckle to class hysteria. The lectures are most informative when Kastan narrows upon a textual segment and elaborates on the diction and versification. Though his knowledge of the theological and historical background (doctrinal disputes, the orders of angels) is impressive and sometimes necessary when providing possible material for your assignments. If you want more specificity than the lectures or the TAs can give, Kastan is usually available right after class and you can follow him back to his office to get his input on your digression or possible paper topic. And there are his office hours. Though since he is the Department Chair, he probably cannot devote so much office time to every one student.

Apr 2004

ok yes, the man is funny. if i wanted stand-up comedy, however, i'd go to a club, at night, that offered stand-up comedy, buy a nice drink, and have a pleasant hour or two. as it is, i got up at 9 am to go to an ENGLISH class about SHAKESPEARE. it would be good if someone could remind professor kastan about that. he spends the first 45 minutes of class doing straight stand-up. the stories have no relationship to the subject. then he talks about the material - but only sort of. kastan freely admits on the first day that he doesn't really prepare for lectures - he just talks about interesting things about the text as they occur to him. what that means is that he makes a number of random comments. some of them are interesting. some of them are even insightful. none of them gives one any kind of insight into the work as a whole, provides a new reading of a text, or offers any serious analysis. this class was one of the single biggest disappointments of my time at columbia, i didn't learn a damn thing.

Dec 2002

really interesting lecturer. He focuses more on the historical context of Shakespeare than the text itself, sometimes you don't even have to open the text in class. But he's funny, and knows his stuff. The list of plays you read are great!

Feb 2002

Professor Kastan is one of the best teachers I have ever had. First of all, he is funny as hell- he told some really great stories over the course of the semester. (One about an English canary, or "budgy," is a classic.) His lectures are absolutely fascinating. He has extremely interesting things to say about each play. The intellectual stimulation was worth getting up at 9. He's also open to office hours conversation about stuff. If you don't love Shakespeare, Kastan will inspire you to.

Feb 2002

I really do not understand the hype about David Kastan. I found his lectures tangential, inconclusive and often dull. He offers little if any insight as to the themes of each play and seems uninterested in any sort of character intricacies. Kastan's lecture methodology seems to be to adopt one particular reading of a play, and then explain why it is the end-all interpretation. To his benefit, excepting the ridiculous midterm which he should be ashamed of assigning, the class is a joke work wise and a very easy A/A-.

Jan 2002

Professor Kastan at first drives you nuts by dropping names worse than an nouve-riche social climber at a political fundraiser. I don't think we made two classes without mentioning someone famous he was in contact with in some capacity. On the otherhand, the stories make entertaining fodder at 9am, and keep you awake. He's enjoyable if you can handle light sarcasm and heavy wit early. Someone should really haul in the Englsih department for making good classes so inaccessable. Anyway, it's a fairly straightforward English lecture course, with a take home midterm, a comparative paper, and a final that's open book. He states in the first class that the TA's do all the grading, but the lectures are really enjoyable, because even the most experienced Shakespearean will learn something new and fun. Avoid walking in late, and NEVER leave in the middle of class, or he will single you out. Bring him coffee, he likes that, if you want to kiss up. I recommend it, especially for English majors.

Jan 2002

Simply fabulous. To be honest, he was my "second choice Shakespeare professor", behind the famed James Shapiro. But when I learned that Shapiro would be on leave for 2001-2002, I took Kastan's class instead and was immediately ashamed of myself for slighting him initially. He is absolutely wonderful -- funny, irreverent (his endless jokes about Shapiro are hilarious), and brilliant. Yes, his assignments are a little off-kilter, but to be honest, I think they're fun. There is a certain kind of satisfaction that can be had from finding out exactly how wide the stage at the Globe Theatre is or how much it cost to go to a play in the 1600s. Definitely sign up for any Shakespeare class that Kastan teaches. You won't be disappointed.

Jan 2002

Kastan is everything one imagines a university English professor to be like. He's witty, funny, charming, brilliant, wears tweed, has a beard. He's also suprisingly accessible for a big wig. His lectures are both interesting, full of jokes and anecdotes, and informative. He puts particular emphasis on the historical context of Shakespeare's plays. Even if you're not an English major take this class! You won't regret it.

Nov 2001

Not a hard class if you can wake up for it at 9 am. The classes are relatively unimportant if you can follow with the reading. Kastan at times seems full of himself, yet knows a lot on the subject. If you fall behind on a reading, you can always look on sparknotes.

May 2001

This is the one English class to take while you are at Columbia. All kidding aside, I have been moved to tears by his lectures before. Kastan makes everybody else look like a bunch of jerks and nobodies.

Jan 2000

One of those teachers that justify the Core absolutely. A tremendously appealing teacher, he is socially engaging and friendly, created an environment in the room that made Lit Hum feel more like a casual discussion with friends about some good books we'd read than an actual class. He defused the tension of the professor/student relationship the first day by bringing cookies to class and announcing that we would have to write an opinion about the best sort of pepperridge farm cookies. Unbelievably funny, but also showed us things about the books we'd never thought of. Makes the selection of books seem less random, by explaining the texts as opening conversations with one another: Boccaccio as a response to Dante as a response to Virgil as a response to Homer. A tough grader, watch out for the infamous one-page paper. it's much harder to write than, say, a twelve-pager. You'll work really hard for him, but you'll want to.

Jan 2000

You might be interested to know that Kastan is a 2000 Faculty Teaching Award winner.