TAG is the goat
One of the two worst professors I've had at Columbia. His teaching style is "sage on the stage". Students opinions are usually unaddressed. He also plays favorites.
I will preface this by saying I'm fine with my grade. This is not written out of bitterness. This was the worst class I've ever taken within Columbia's English department. Professor Graham is an unfocused lecturer. The syllabus was so densely packed that half the texts were either briefly spoken about or entirely neglected. Professor Graham tends to meander; he tries to tackle several points, but he spreads himself so thinly that he ends up developing none of them. I would look back at my notes and realize that Graham usually hadn't said anything of substance. Most of his lectures are devoted to him throwing up absurdly long, dense quotes on the screen, reading them in full, and then paraphrasing what they said and explaining the plot context surrounding the passage. He offered very little in the way of actual analysis, either in a close reading of these ridiculous passages or a broader analysis. This was unhelpful and redundant, and it took up a lot of the course. Also, yes, it is true that he provides a half-page of written feedback and personally grades all papers. This is impressive for a lecture course. That said, his feedback is pretty much useless. The feedback I got was basically a summary of my paper spat back at me. The grade I got seemed pretty arbitrary. I went to office hours, and he made a vague comment about the paper's structure. The final was ridiculous. Vast majority of it was objective, and there was a ton of emphasis on minute details. There were also some questions about material he hadn't even touched on in class. Again, this is a weakness of the sheer volume of material he tried to tackle (or rather, didn't try at all). I would advise Graham to narrow the focus of this course. There was too much material for him to articulate a cohesive point. This course was a frustrating experience. Until he refines his lecturing style to be more analysis than summary, I would really try to steer clear of Professor Graham. Also, in regards to the feedback he gives, I'd leave it to the TAs.
Professor Graham is a great teacher because of his class's structure. In class, there was an open and constant dialogue. There were very few instances where there was "dead air." I think his idea to use different hand signals to indicate whether the next student wanted to introduce a new idea or continue on the idea being discussed was a great help to how well the class was run. Outside of class, I found Professor Graham extremely approachable. The two office hours I went to were extremely helpful in reshaping my understanding of the texts we were reading. In the office hours, Professor Graham listened to my interpretation of the text and then offered criticism on it. I thought his criticism was extremely helpful and admirable because he could have just as well said this is the way to approach the text and there is no other way to do so. In the office hours I also found Professor Graham very kind and respectful towards his students. He expresses a genuine interest in what every one of his students is doing outside of class. I would highly recommend Professor Graham for a class in LitHum.
The scheduling conflict that made me switch into this section of LitHum is probably one of the best things that have ever happened to me. Professor Graham is extremely engaging and it’s obvious how invested he is in the course. The class is almost entirely discussion about assigned readings. What I thought was most helpful was how much Professor Graham listened— as in, he makes sure he understands what everyone says, rather than assuming someone’s point or steamrolling it into the ground. A third of your grade is based on class participation alone, which is pretty great. He’s also a pretty funny guy, very approachable, and visiting him during office hours is great for developing any ideas you might have. On your two papers during the semester, he leaves detailed notes for revision with your grade. It’s literally advice on getting an A handed to you. Pay attention to discussions and make good notes. I’ll admit that I didn’t complete every assigned reading, but since the class goes over thematic elements based on close passage readings, it’s easy to form your own understanding of the text if you're listening. But, seriously, participate.
Professor Graham has been my favorite teacher at Columbia thus far. He has a strong command over the material, and is incredibly eloquent in presenting it. He is a “to the book” kind of professor, meaning he doesn’t believe in adding or subtracting from the typical lit hum syllabus. You know exactly what you are getting from him. In terms of grading, Professor Graham is incredibly fair. Visiting his office hours before a paper is due is a must. He gives incredible advice and direction in his discussions during office hours. When he gives a paper back, he provides literally a page of feedback about your paper and how he thinks you are progressing as a writer. I have never seen a professor more dedicated to his student’s progression. Previous reviews of Professor Graham state that you can get by if you just read sparknotes. While that may be true, Professor Graham loves delving into texts and digging up its meaning, so reading the books is incredibly helpful. If you get Professor Graham, just know that means you have to participate in class discussions. A third of your final grade is participation, so that is definitely the difference between a B+ and an A-. If you are a first year, stick with Professor Graham.
Austin is a great guy, and he's really passionate about Lit Hum. He is big on class participation, and, personally, I think that really helped his perception of people in the class (i.e. you talk a lot, you get good grades on papers). He isn't big on structured class because he emails you about the reading and what to prepare for the discussion. That being said, you can read sparknotes and be able to fully participate. He loves explications of the writing and digging into the text rather than talking broadly about it. Before papers, go to office hours and run ideas by him. He loves to know what you're thinking, and help you develop your argument. He also has great ideas, and if you can execute what he says, you can get A's. His grading policy is: 1/3 Class Participation (really the difference between a B+ and an A- in this class, so talk!) 1/3 Exams (Midterm- use his emails to study, he likes to do ID's that are kind of tricky; Final- always the classic lit hum final) 1/3 Essays (2 essays per semester structured like the essays on the final) In terms of his essay grading, here's what Austin is looking for: Intro- an argumentative and interesting thesis, he doesn't want BS Body paragraphs with interesting arguments USING SPECIFIC LANGUAGE Development Conclusion He keeps track of attendance and you get major points for just being on time every class.
Austin is a very nice and very easy instructor. He is a recent PhD graduate from UCLA, so his area of expertise is still fresh in his mind. Because of this, at times his reviews and discussions of books can be very "Spark-Notey," i.e. they don't really go deep. His class is structured as a complete discussion, no lecture. He mainly just asks questions, students answer, and he builds off of this to move from point to point. Never will you go into his class and be lectured about the content/meaning of a book, you are expected to figure that out for yourself via independent reading and class discussion. That being said, he is extremely lenient on grading and is VERY helpful in office hours. His reading can get daunting at times, but it truly is no more than any other Lit Hum class, and he follows the syllabus exactly (which means no extra readings). His grading policy is: 1/3 Class Participation (Talk in class - if you don't, you will not get a good grade) 1/3 Exams (Midterm and Final) 1/3 Essays (2 essays structured like the essays on the final) If you get Austin, DO NOT switch out. He is knowledgeable, understanding, always willing to grant an extension (for a legitimate reason), and helpful in the end. ***One note: DO NOT, under any circumstances, ANY circumstances, even pretend to cheat. He takes the honesty policy to the absolute maximum enforcement, and threatens to get students expelled if they cheat in his class. Overall, however, this is not going to be an issue - if you do the reading and show up to class, you can pass his midterms and essays, and then you take the course final which is more of a joke than it is an exam. Good luck!!
Austin graham is a great LitHum professor. He's young, flexible with the syllabus and rewards effort. A third of your grade is participation, a third on exams, and the rest is for papers. He's funny and everyday seems like an open class discussion. One thing though, USE PROPER GRAMMAR! It is easy to lose points on an essay for not using proper grammar and go to see him during office hours. Overall, I'd recommend him