Gustavo Perez-Firmat

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Jan 2017

Professor Firmat is a very friendly person. This is what will be most salient to you in his class. He is kind, reasonable, engaged with the names and personalities of his students from the start, quick to respond to emails, and generally a really relaxed person. That said, I am still trying to figure out what I got from his class. I do not understand what "kind" of interpretation he was providing of the text, as it seemed kind of unstructured and unspecific. I did not learn a lot about the works we were reading. We just read them and talked about their general context without ever doing any close reading or discussion of the broader contextual implications of the works. Professor Firmat is also a really strange grader. Our final was to design a presentation-essay of the works we read as if we were introducing Latin American Literature to a group of students. This was really kind of directionless and a bit unprofessional in my opinion. Our midterms were in-class short interpretations of texts. I was at first happy with how quickly Gustavo graded the exams, but over time it seemed to me that Gustavo has little interest in what his students actually say, and that he might think they're not smart enough to say anything worth our time or his. Overall I was really excited to take Gustavo's class because of all the great reviews, but I was thoroughly disappointed and I wish I had taken another class. Most days were pretty boring. Gustavo talks a lot. And sometimes, these talks are about irrelevant things; yes, he has a great knowledge of general literature and philosophy from Europe and the Americas, but so do many other professors. Gustavo's flaunting of this knowledge was kind of pointless and did not at all enrich my understanding of the texts we were actually studying. It seemed more like name-dropping. Finally, I don't think my writing nor my reading improved at all in this class. His comments were unhelpful and I never could get a legitimate gauge of what he thought of my ideas or interpretations as he seemed to always have a positive attitude but never really provide any critical or useful feedback. Overall, if you are serious about studying literature and culture and you want to get better at it and work with someone who will work with you, don't take Gustavo's class. If you want to take a fun course about literature and get an okay grade and spend time with a generally nice guy, you might like it. I would finally add that Gustavo kind of seems completely out of touch with many of the political issues presented in the texts. How can we read a work like Paz's "Mexican Masks" and not have a critical discussion of gender? I also think there were times when many students were offended by the texts that Gustavo assigned--not because the texts themselves are bad by their existence, but rather because Gustavo seems to present undying love for each of them, and often both women and students of color in the class were annoyed by his blasé and rhapsodic interpretations. There were many awkward discussions about nativism, mulatto identity, sex and gender, etc., and he seems to never understand how or why they are awkward or uncomfortable. I did not really enjoy my time with Gustavo all that much.

Nov 2014

Gustavo Perez-Firmat is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, professors I have had at Columbia. I decided to take his class because I have a genuine interest in short stories by Latin American writers, and he did not disappoint with his extensive knowledge of the authors, the texts, the cultures in which the works were written and the historical context for each story as well. Not only was he knowledgeable about the texts in our class, he has also read virtually all types of literature extensively, frequently quoting from the likes of William Wordsworth or Franz Kafka. His doctoral work is in Comparative Literature, so he can read (but not speak; he also explains that he "used" to read all of these languages very well, but he still has a knowledge of all of the following) Latin, German, French, and Portuguese, which makes the class super interesting because he uses words in other languages to explain certain sentiments that the stories evoke and he connects words in Spanish with their counterparts in French or German as well, giving them a different reading that a student may not have . Yet perhaps most impressive is that despite Professor Perez-Firmat's impressive and extensive knowledge, he is by no means pretentious-in fact, quite the opposite. He is welcoming, warm, engaging, and fair. He does not dismiss any idea too radical, but he does gently disagree if he feels that someone has misinterpreted some part of the text. While he is capable of quoting Ernest Hemingway from memory, in the same breath he could use a quote from the Indiana Jones franchise to equate to a phenomenon in the text. Take the time to read his website and get to know more about his works before you take his class. He is a fascinating human being.

Dec 2005

Gustavo Perez Firmat is very knowledgeable, in all subjects. He frequently references works of art (art, poetry, literature, philosophy...) from all around the world. More importantly, he knows how to teach. And even more important than this, he is a good person. Funny, amiable, interesting, concerned about others, etc. Perez Firmat is unpretentious and open to differing views. He has written novels, poems, and theory. Just check out his website. He is an amazing human being.

Nov 2005

Gustavo is a phenomenal professor. He's funny, he's approchable, and he knows his shit--which always leads to interesting digressions; weird biographical details of authors and movie-remakes of short stories, all sorts of good stuff. His midterms and finals are always very fair--the only thing to watch out for is to be sure to be able to recognize titles of books by authors covered, even if those books weren't read in class. But he will never try to trick you, and in discussions is always more than open. As far as him being "sexist" goes, that's ridiculous; I recommend if you feel that you aren't covering a certain topic in a class of Gustavo's that you'd like to be covering, that you bring it up in class. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to discuss it.

Mar 2005

By far the best professor I have had. The best discussions, this man is brilliant. He is funny and besides all of that, he is easy to approach and he will actually listen. He incorporates a lot of the outside world to our discussions and does not limit it to his own ideas. Whoever thinks he's sexist or not acknowledging the underepresented role of women is highly mistaken. Perez recognizes that women are underrepresented in hispanic literature and he is not sexist. I highly recommend this class if you want a fun and intellectually challening class with a great reading selection and a great professor.

Jan 2005

Gustavo Perez Firmat is awesome. He's one of the best profs I've had at Columbia. This seminar had great readings, and he knows just how to lead a discussion-based class. He's able to both keep us on topic but also get us to develop our own ideas. I left this class happy every Tuesday. I highly recommend him.

Jan 2002

Great professor. Loves the etomology of words. Fun class, good discussion. If you can trek your a** over to the Spanish Casa, then go for Gustavo's class. He is nice and never intimidating and gives good insight to the books. He does have sort of a feminist standpoint though. I do think he feels guilty for being a man, part of the ruling class.

Jan 2000

Prof. Perez-Firmat has a lot of positive qualities, but students should know that most of the readings he assigns portray women in a sexist way. While this kind of literature is valid for a class, gender issues are not dicussed, which results, in my opinion, in an exclusion of female students, because the male protagonists are being sympathized with despite their misogyny and ignorance of women. This is too bad, because the class is generally a good exploration of Latino culture through lit.