Wouldn't recommend taking this class. Discussions are lackluster and though workload is light, grades are pretty arbitrary and harsh. He comes to class unprepared, often late, and sometimes teaches blatantly wrong information (ex: grammar rules) as gospel.
Barely prepared for class, assigned weird readings none of us could understand or figure out why we read them, gave us some blatantly incorrect information (about grammar rules, for example), gave higher grades as essays progressed to give the illusion of the class helping our writing, and making up reasons to lower essay grades that he couldn't even explain. Sometimes, he doesn't show up for office hours and when he does, he comes out with bullshit criticisms of your writing that don't make sense and when you press him on it, he can't explain or even takes back his made-up criticisms. It's not a ton of work and you can probably pull a B+ or A- just by writing the four essays. Quality of discussion depend on the people in the class...he resembles competence in leading discussions but sometimes asks nonsensical questions and there's just awkward silence for minutes.
I took Foundations of American Literature with Andrew Delbanco (his last year teaching the course); Nick was my TA. Based on section, the other reviews of him seem harsh, although I don't know what his UW class is like. For American lit, Nick led discussions with a real interest in hearing what students had to say, and his comments on papers were extensive. His specialty is Melville, which was apparent during our classes on Moby Dick. By and large, class discussion was lively, if relatively unstructured, with students having some say on its direction. Essays were open-ended, so long as we found some "tension" in the text, something we could "contest." In other words, we were supposed to make an argument about the text, not simply observe or summarize. If you can figure out how to do that, you'll do well enough on his papers.
Although it is only my second semester, Nick is without a doubt the worst professor I have had here. He is lazy and completely incompetent. He cancelled class for two weeks and serially fails to show up to appointments he sets up with students--appointments that he requires us to make. He does not care about the students at all. Class discussions are dry and the reading material often doesn't even fit the American Studies theme of the course. Judith Butler?? Sure, she was American, but I thought we would be reading things about America, not simply by American authors. Nick does not teach us anything. My writing has not improved at all through this class. It is a complete waste of time, and he always waits until less than a week before the final draft is due to give you any feedback. For our third essay, Nick didn't even give us an instruction sheet about the requirements or purpose of the essay. He is so hands off that it is utterly ridiculous. He should never have been put in this position as he is truly dreadful.
Absolute laziest professor I have ever met. He just dismissed class 40 minutes early because instead of teaching us in class for the next couple of weeks he wants to have individual meetings with us. That is ONE individual meeting for each person over the course of two weeks. It's like he doesn't have time to meet with us in addition to "teaching" a class. If you don't have time to teach a class, don't take the job! Did I mention he hasn't taught us anything about writing?In the first part of the semester he had tried to meet with us, but the conversations went on far too long and did not help. I admit, it is an American Studies UW class––but we should still be taught basic writing skills. Not only has my writing not improved, but in class we haven't gone through any tips. On top of that he did not explain to us what the P1 and P2 were actually supposed to be about. The writing style UW looks for is completely different from anything most students have experienced before, and he does not explain that to us. Even after going in and talking to him, I still feel like I am not learning anything and he does not care.