I chose to take this class in part because of the CULPA reviews. Yes, Professor Nersessian is young, intelligent, and responsive to student opinions. She's really helpful in office hours and gives great guidance for papers. However, her lectures really need improvement. She sometimes has Powerpoint presentations. These are nicely made and visually appealing, but she includes rather unnecessary information. Sometimes Professian discussed the events of a particular Romantic author's life, going through bullet points on the slide. I could find this information on Wikipedia if I was so inclined. She didn't need to take up lecture time. Moreover, these autobiographical tidbits tended to be gossipy and they didn't deepen my appreciation of the texts themselves nor my ability to analyze literature. Professian's discussions of the texts were also disappointing. Her lectures would come out jumbled and hard to follow, especially when she applied confusing philosophical or metaphysical concepts to her analyses. She really should have thought more about how to explain these concepts in a logical, organized way. Instead, it usually just seemed like she was talking off the top of her head. I was not the only one who took issue with the lectures. Another student told the TA Candace that she was unsure about what to "get" out of the lectures, and requested that the TA briefly summarize the lectures at the beginning of each discussion section. This turned out to be a godsend. Candace's brilliant summaries would often leave me thinking, "Oh THAT'S what she was saying!" In addition, the lecture Candace gave one class in place of the professor was also phenomenal. Much more relevant, informative, and easier to follow than any of Professian's lectures. My biggest gripe with this class, though, was the fact that the class didn't prepare me for the two papers or the midterm. In the first paper, we had to interweave an analysis of diction with the historical context of the Enlightenment and Romantic periods. Many were unsure about how to go about writing this challenging paper. Now, I understand that this is a 4000-level class with graduate students, but that is no excuse for the professor to give irrelevant, unclear information. In my experience, professors in 4000-level classes at least model the kind of analysis they want you to do. In sum, I could see how Professian would be decent in seminar. But DEFINITELY avoid her lectures.
I entered this class with some hesitation. The syllabus seemed scatterbrained and the final 'project' a contrived copout from a long paper. I was wrong. Dr. Nersessian is one of the best professors I have had at Columbia. Although her ability to control the discussion still needs some work, her intellectual vigor and creativity were refreshing. There are advantages to taking a class with a younger professor: more energy, an openness to new ideas and alternative perspectives, and a greater interest in student work. Dr. Nersessian brought the expertise of an experienced academic to this seminar, along with the above characteristics. I think that Dr. Nersessian will only continue to improve as an instructor. Even if you're not especially interested in her period, I would suggest taking a class with her; you just might find yourself more engaged than you expected.
What Nersessian lacks in size, she more than makes up for in brains and erudition. Her spring Ordinary Romanticism seminar covers, for the most part, a greatest hits list of British Romantic texts, interrogating as its focus the formal and aesthetic representation of everyday experience before the advent of 19th c. realism. The syllabus spans across genres and includes contemporary critical and theoretical literature. This is all to briefly sketch the framework of a rigorous and engaging course taught by an enthusiastic and wildly knowledgeable professor. Nersessian is a first-rate instructor who offers radical insights into both her area of study and relevant contemporary issues. She made herself accommodating and available to students throughout the semester, and was a graceful pedagogue given our excremental classroom assignment (h/t CU) and the disparate intellects present therein. All in all, a highly recommended course and professor. Columbia keeps good company with the addition of Nersessian to the department.
I very much enjoyed my seminar with Prof. Nersessian. This was her first semester at Columbia and the course was added late to the department, so our class consisted of all of like five people (4 students + 1 prof); obviously, I can't speak to what kind of professor she is in a larger class environment. The reading in the course was super-engaging and relevant to contemporary events and I thought the paper assignments were fair (I should add that she gives you a lot of feedbackâ€”think a lot of margin notes and a full typed page of notes at the end of a paperâ€”most of which is very helpful). Prof. Nersessian keeps the discussion tightly controlled and isn't afraid to lecture at length, so students who prefer a seminar that is led totally by class discussion will be put off by her style. Being someone with a weak background in European history background, I needed more secondary historical sources than I was given. I recommend anyone who takes a class with her not be afraid to tackle some difficult material in papers and attend office hours; she definitely rewards and encourages ambition with responsiveness, CLIO links to helpful books, etc.