Elaine is the kind of Professor that can translate and transfer her love and interest in a topic to her students. I am a musician who knew very little about opera. I decided to take her class and was drawn into her world of drama and music. She encouraged class discussions that were lively and critical but as intimate as fireside chats. We viewed videos of very diverse operas, read excerpts from the lives of composers, opera divas and even set-designers and costumers. I was motivated to attend a performance by one of the students given at Barnard. Because of this class, I had a greater depth of understanding and enjoyment of the music. Thanks to Prof. Combs-Schilling for expanding my knowledge and enjoyment of another important genre.
Elaine fills in the gaps that other professors leave behind. In sum, her gift is that of encouragement. She is highly intelligent and quite opinionated, but most of all, she will become your personal cheerleader. So many professors forget how intimidating academia can seem. Elaine has the ability to both provoke critical thought and nurture one's scholastic career. Students of music, performance, and anthropology will find her courses especially engaging. What a wonderful professor!
It's impossible not to LOVE Elaine! She is a truly independent thinker and scholar, and will open your eyes to the bridge between opera and theory. There's something for everyone in this course. As both a performer and an anthro major, I found the material to be a perfect mix of literature, critical theory, and music studies. However, you do not need a music background for this course. But if you do, you are welcome to use your knowledge to analyze the operas. Some highlights of the semester: weekly response papers that can be as informal or in depth as you want, opening night tickets to the Magic Flute at the Met, and informal, yet rigorous in-class discussions (even some musical demonstrations by talented classmates). Elaine does not pretend that opera (both its viewership and content) is a world of equality; in fact, she accentuates societal heirarchies and how they are translated to operas of their time. All I can say to sum up is that Elaine is an enormously inspiring and fair professor, and a truly kindhearted person who cares deeply about her teaching and her students.
I just wanted to amend my previous review, since I realized that I reviewed the class more than I did the professor, and I didn't sound as glowing as I'd meant to be: Professor Combs-Schilling is damned smart, deeply passionate about what she teaches, and loves each student like her child. She's a treasure. Amen.
AMAZING!!!!!!! I am so thrilled that I had the opportunity to take this class with Professor Combs- Schilling. She is the best teacher I have ever had, because she really cares about her students' learning. BRAVA!
Less a class than a cozy and intriguing discussion group. Professor Combs- Schilling lavishes personal attention on her students and adores her subject. The class can be a little uneven: lots of lecture and theoretical discussion one week, and a giggly bout of video watching and critiquing the next, but who cares? The readings are interesting and range from anthropologists (the dreaded but appreciate Schechner) to opera critics (Abbate, etc.) to literary theorists (Bakhtin). The class takes the readings and theories and then applies them to opera productions, live and on video: we focused on Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro. Professor Combs-Schilling is generous with her time, flexible, sensitive to her students' needs and concerns, and really helpful during office hours and through e-mail. Morgan, her TA, was also insightful, helpful, and generous with her time.
This is a difficult review to write, simply because there are _so many_ really good things to be said about Elaine. She is amazing. While the backdrop of her course, opera, may not necessarily be one that excites many people, take any class with her that you can. She is, hands down, the best professor I have had at Columbia. She is extremely engaging and excited about the material; she is also quite knowledgeable and active in her field, but is more than willing to hear opposing and new views. I love having her as a professor -- the discussion is great, and the readings are very appropriate and erudite, even for those taking her seminar as their first anthropology class. More than just the pedagogical, though, she is warm, funny, kind, thoughtful, and understanding. She treats students with respect -- and she really cares us and our experiences in her course. Elaine wants her students to be comfortable within the classroom (For example, our class met at the ADP Fraternity, as two members were in our class -- she wanted us to be in a more comfortable setting, as so much of the course revolved around viewing performances and discussion.), and she encourages communication. Take advantage of such a rarity at Columbia...you will not be disappointed.