professor
James Helgeson

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Jun 2006

I don't know. Helgeson clearly knows a lot, which is always handy I won't lie, but that does not mean he's a great professor. At least not in this class. It's not his specialty and I got the sense he was just fulfilling departmental duties while teaching it. Since it is an introduction to French literature since 1800, I expect not to be coddled per se, but logically directed through the important points of the texts. This did not happen. It was more like sit down, shut up, and wait while Helgeson seems to talk to himself about the odds and ends he has picked up about modern literature over the years. I think this sort of approach fosters a class where doing the reading is secondary. Wait, it did foster that class. Almost everyone showed up and talked about how much they didn't read before Helgeson walked through the door. I also never learned anything solid, like when I sat down to do the final I didn't know what I was expected to show that I had mastered. Very frustrating. In the end though, if you don't care about how you get through this survey course, then I guess he would be fine to take it with, but he's too lenient and nonchalant for my taste.

May 2006

Prof Hegleson is awesome. Although sometimes there isn't so much class participation, he can talk for hours on any book or poem. He's a captivating talker and knows more about the books than anyone I've met at Columbia. He ties in Lit Hum books and Music Hum references. It really was a great class. He's a fair grader and always willing to help. Every time I came to class, Prof Hegleson showed me more about the literature than I could have ever gleaned on my own. Great class. I definitely recommend it.

Feb 2006

This class is only half-way through, but I wanted to write to say how much I'm enjoying it! OK- I'm realizing that my French isn't as good as I thought it was- but he has us translating Frank O'Hara poems and Quebecois slang into English which can be hard. It also kicks ass to always be excited about the next text we'll tackle. Professor Helgeson is really approachable, speaks a beautiful French and gives an intellectual spin to an exercise that I thought would be a no-brainer. Who thought you'd actually learn about ideas in a translation class?

Feb 2005

Like everyone else says, this guy is amazing. I am really bummed out that he only taught us for one semester, I would really have liked to have had him all year (but then again, I like my new prof too, so I guess I'm lucky). Anyway, he's brilliant, came to class well prepared, pretty fair on the marking, he actually had good dress sense (unlike 80% of my other profs) , and more important than anything, made us love obscure Greek and Latin writing. Not everyone can do that.

Jan 2005

Being in Prof. Helgeson's class was awesome. Discussions were friendly and productive. He oozes hip. I would say the most important thing was that he really taught us to flinch at cliches. Like when we tried to be like "this metaphor stands for this thing, and that's the meaning of that" in this class, he would just have this impassive look like "you barbarian." I think it was like a reflex. I think it made us be a lot more truthful in our discussions. We learned about hermeneutics, which is a thing Prof. Helgeson likes a lot. We learned the words outis and metis. It was good. Some classes were more rewarding than others, just sit tight. The wow- exciting factor was kind of dependent on participation (on everyone's having stayed up the night before to do the papers). no pressure though. It really sucks that you have to know french to take his other classes, so take this one.

Jan 2005

Everyone says that they love their Lit Hum professor, so it's no surprise that this review will be goodÂ… Prof. Helgeson is really great, and not only because he brought us cookies the week before midterms when everyone was so stressed. He is very perceptive of the general mood of the class, and can tell if people seem tired, untalkitive, or just haven't read it. That's good, because he usually won't punish everyone with a reading quiz if he suspects that no one had time to do the reading. He understands that writing, or Greek literature, may not be everyone's thing, and is very helpful with putting together papers. Go to his office hours! He's a great asset to the class, because he knows a lot about literature, language, translation, and classical studies. The only complaint might be that sometimes he talks too much. He really knows a lot, so you learn a lot from him, but sometimes there was less class discussion than there could have been. He's rather liberal, so if you appreciate a Bush crack now and then, that's another great reason to love James Helgeson!

Oct 2004

I disagree with the previous review of Helgeson, but perhaps because I was one of the favorites. I enjoy music theory, I have a background in this subject, and the first few weeks of the class were frustrating for me because they were rehashing material I'd already known. Helgeson leapt ahead after that, but really stuck to some basic ideas that should have cemented after awhile. I thought he did well, but I do agree that knowing some theory before going in is clutch.

Apr 2004

This guy is NOT GOOD. This was his first time teaching Music Humanities and though he knows a lot of music theory and is a very talented piano player, he knows NOTHING about TEACHING music/music theory/music history. The class became meaningless because he would spend an ENTIRE class period replaying a 14 minute song over and over again trying to get us to hear the chord inversions and identify tonality even though he never taught us any of that. His class was theory-intensive and not interesting by any stretch of the imagination. To top it off, he is always late and in my opinion he plays favorites. I really recommend finding a different section if you can, unless you LOVE theory and don't want to learn anything about music in a social context.

Jan 2004

I really loved taking Professor Helgeson's class. He was a fair marker, caring about his students, would spend hours with you in his office-hours and gave really good comments on my papers. I wish more of my profs were like him- it would make Columbia a friendlier place. I found his French hard to understand, but I would rather have to listen to French the way it's spoken between French people instead of French for foreigners.

Jan 2004

James Helgeson is the ABSOLUTE BEST Prof I've had at Columbia. He's a Renaissance scholar and he you can tell just how much he loves his work when he talks about music and poetry. He is gentle and soft- spoken in class: a relief after so many type A New Yorkers. If you have no head for theory, you might find him challenging: he likes to talk about subjects like Philosophy of Mind and Hermaneutics. His French is beautiful fluent Parisian French- don't think he will compromise by talking to his students like children as some language teachers do. Oh, yeah- he's a fabulous dresser and apparently works informally as a consultant for GQ magazine!

Dec 2003

I found it very difficulut to understand Professor Helgeson. His accent is a little over the top and he doesn't articulate very well. Helgeson is not a dynamic lecturer, but he does have a great interest in the material as well as a strong command of it. He is pretty easy-going and flexible with deadlines, always willing to change things around to convenience everyone. And apparently never doing the reading or paying attention doesn't matter; I got an A.

Dec 2003

Professor Helgeson is a really wonderful teacher. He mediates some very interesting class discussions and tries to give everyone a chance to speak. He's incredibly insightful about the books we read (which are for the most part also good choices), and he always brings up some interesting questions. He tries to tie philosophy into the discussions as well. He's very approachable after class also, which is the best way to speak with him about a certain text. He's very nice and seems to enjoy one-on-one discussions. I recommend this class STRONGLY to anyone who's interested in continuing with French past the advanced language levels.

Sep 2003

It was distracting when he would bob his head around class waiting for us to say something. His french is easy to understand, but his accent is way overdone. He wears funny blue shoes.

Jun 2002

Helgeson is weird. He doesn't like most of what you read in this course, so he isn't exactly inspiring or enthusiastic. When he does like something, he'll just give you a funny little smile and say how great it is or something without actually teaching you anything. It also seems that he doesn't want to be teaching at all, let alone a lower level course like this one. As was mentioned in a previous review, his accent is very overdone (and he mumbles sometimes too), so you may have trouble understanding him at times. No one ever talked in this class and Helgeson didn't have much to say either, so one kid who obviously never even read the texts would talk on and on and on.

Feb 2002

Professor Helgeson is one of the better teachers i've had at columbia. he has a genuine appreciation of and affinity for what he teaches. aloof and a bit removed at times, however, the discussions of the texts were always, always insightful and intelligent. a fair grader. and the look on his face, while listening to medieval french music was priceless.

May 2001

He's a nice guy, and he really knows what he's teaching, but I didn't have a clue about anything he said! The fact that the reading in his class was mainly composed of dry, boring texts didn't help matters much, either. Fairly easy grader, though.

Apr 2001

Professor Helgeson is a brilliant professor, whose genius is let out in occasional glimpses. He is slightly awkward in class, but has facilitated some of the best discussions I have ever had. His knowledge, intelligence, and comfort with the material rubs offs on students. Although sometimes his classes move slowly, it would be a mistake to miss him on the way to a French Major.

Apr 2001

Though he's a nice guy, Helgeson is a really limited professor. His french is fine grammatically, but his accent is overdone, and his misplaced inflections make comprehension of his classes a nightmare, even for a fluent french speaker. His coverage of the texts is embarassing at best. Easy class and easy grader, but nothing learned.

Jan 2000

Helgeson's class was the best I've had at Columbia; it made me truly appreciate the core. He allows students to lead lively discussions but is always able to add insightful opinions and commentary. Class was so good that you felt guilty if you didn't do the reading. An intelligent man, an excellent class.