Coming into this class, I was really worried because the reviews said Professor Benjamin was super strict on grading. Note that I took this course when First Year Writing was mandatory Pass/Fail, so grading was not a real concern of mine. Because of this, I can say that I loved Professor Benjamin's course. She was super sweet and approachable, and I heard similar things from people taking her First Year Seminar course in the same semester. She was super approachable during office hours and over email, and was really understanding of extenuating circumstances. I thought her 1-on-1 conferences for each essay were super useful and she gave clear feedback on where we should move our writing forwards, and she was available for further conversation beyond those mandatory meetings. The texts she assigned for discussion were really interesting, so even if they were long, I would still want to read them. When we went into heavy essay writing, she really helped guide our thinking so that by the time we had to write the full essay, we had all the parts done. Overall, I definitely recommend taking a course with her! One note: definitely do not skip out on the readings. Discussions are very involved and many small breakout rooms were utilized in each class, so it is very obvious if you don't know what you're talking about. Same thing with the essay assignments -- you can get away with skipping them, but it will make your life super difficult by the time you have to actually write the essay and you have none of the preliminary assignments done.
I did not expect much going into this class, but I ended up getting a lot our of this. Before this class, my academic exposure to feminism had been shallow and repetitive and I had grown to resent it. In this class, however, we read texts and discussed ideas that further nuanced feminist theory and my understanding of it, which I really enjoyed. Also, through Professor Benjamin's highly structured classes and assignments, I was able to improve my writing skills significantly and in various ways. This includes deeper analysis of literary texts, learning to write research essays, learning to better structure and organize my writing, and further developing my voice as a writer. Many sessions were dedicated to working on writing. This spanned from peer-editing to class wide analysis of writing and to lectures and handouts with specific methods geared at improving our writing. We worked with writing fellows for the second two essays, which provided an initial round of somewhat helpful feedback. After this, we turned in a second draft to the professor which she gave extensive feedback on and organized conferences with us to discuss it. Beyond that, students were encouraged to schedule extra meetings or come to office hours for additional feedback and help. I think the professor had high but fair expectations in regards to grading that required students' commitment and real effort.
I do not recommend this professor or this class. While Professor Benjamin is a very nice person, she grades extremely unfairly. Despite keeping up with the readings, class discussions, going to the Barnard writing center, meeting with the professor multiple times before a paper was due, I was still in shock every time I received my work back with her comments. The comments and grade did not reflect the work put into the assignments, including meeting with the professor multiple times and receiving positive feedback on first drafts. The class itself is slow and the discussion sometimes fluid and interesting. However - the focus of the class does not reflect the course name of Women and Culture. I was super disappointed with the course and DO NOT recommend taking it. Most students in the class agree.
Meredith Benjamin is offensively boring. She makes no effort to make students interested in the material, or to want to write the painfully technical assignments she hands out. This class is an unfortunate waste of time. She is young and clearly very intelligent, but that's not all it takes to be a qualified professor. She has no substance to her teaching.