Jenny Davidson

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Dec 2020

Jenny is an incredibly dry professor. Don't get me wrong, she is a very seemingly sweet lady and is open to suggestions for her class, but, her lectures are unbelievably boring. I learned more from the comments made by my classmates and the TAs than I did from Jenny. She isn't awful - just hard to listen to.

Sep 2020

I'm not gonna lie, I found this class pretty boring - but hey, if you're an English major, you have to take it. If you're not - there are other, more interesting English classes to take. Ostensibly, this book is about developing the literary skills you need for an English major, but I'm not really quite sure what I *got* from this class. I found the four written assignments we did (not excluding the final paper) to be very tedious but not hold a lot of value. Davidson herself is a fun professor - she seems really sweet, kind of quirky but knows her stuff, a pretty good lecturer. found a lot of what she said to seem boring or irrelevant - but that also might just be because I wasn't really interested in the course. She does say some insightful analyses about the books you read though. Honestly, a lot of your experience is really gonna depend on the TA you have for your section (mine, Milan Terlunen, was very nice).

Jun 2015

She's funny, smart, knows her stuff. Most classes are usually insightful. She always has high spirits and encourages participation in lecture. No laptops, no leaving to use the bathroom (seriously).

May 2014

Take a seminar with Prof. Davidson! I really, really enjoyed this class -- Davidson is awesome and the syllabus was fun. Davidson is funny, kind, really understanding, etc., plus really smart and obviously knows her shit. She's kind of quirky in a fun way, very down to earth. I really liked the way she ran seminars -- she had the perfect blend of her own voice plus class discussion. One of my least favorite things about seminars is that sometimes they can become entirely student-run and you don't hear the professor's voice at all, which sucks because a lot of times you take a seminar with a really great/well-known/smart/etc. prof and then they don't say anything during class. The good news is this doesn't happen in this seminar! She doesn't really ever lecture, she will contextualize the text in the first 15 minutes or so of class if we're on a new text but she's really good at guiding discussion, asking good questions, and then sort of providing her own thoughts/in-class feedback throughout the discussion. Not sure I'm describing this properly but I think what I want to say is basically that she's good at being part of the discussion, instead of simply observing and calling on people and letting things sort of run their own course. The syllabus was really enjoyable. It's an 18th century class, and I didn't know what to expect since European is pretty wide-spanning, but I really loved some of the readings. Even those works we didn't read the entire thing of (she was pretty understanding and didn't assign absurd amounts of reading, pointed out passages of Pamela that we should definitely read if we ran out of time and couldn't read the whole thing, etc.) I feel like I learned a lot from, about the history of the novel, about how novels evolved, and about the writers/works themselves. The supplementary readings when provided were really helpful in guiding this understanding. Some fun ones from the syllabus: Jacques the Fatalist, Sorrows of Young Werther, Princess de Cleves, Dangerous Liaisons, couple others... none of them are really about the same thing at all which is fun. Take this class, if you can. If you can't, take another with Davidson, she's great.

Jan 2014

Fabulous class, taught by a professor who genuinely loves her material and wants her students to appreciate it as much as she does. Even if you think Pamela, for all its literary significance, is not something you should actually bother to read, and you suspect you're not up to puzzling out Tristram Shandy, or whatever, just take the class. She didn't force us to slog through every last page of Pamela, and I found it surprisingly rewarding to examine it as a text as opposed to talking about it in the abstract as I have in other English classes. You don't have to read all of Tristram Shandy either, though hopefully you will want to, and she walked the class through some of the more abstruse passages. She takes the time to give us a full sense of historical context for these works, making the class very accessible. If you're already well-versed in European history, you'll just have to sit tight for a little while she explains who Bonnie Prince Charlie is, etc., but don't get too full of yourself, since you almost certainly won't understand every reference in the books on this syllabus, and you'll appreciate her explanations when you find yourself lost. She does a lot of interactive close reading in her lectures, and I would have preferred less of it, but I'm just one of those people who gets burnt out on close reading quickly and prefers overall critical reflection on a work. The written assignments she had us do in lieu of a final paper at the end of the semester were highly enjoyable--I often found myself wishing I could write more than two pages! Professor Davidson has got to be one of the kindest and most enthusiastic professors in the English Department, and at Columbia as a whole. She is extremely intelligent and articulate, but manages to be completely down-to-earth. She is not patronizing or pretentious but also does not dumb anything down, does not play games or favorites, and overall just wants her students to enjoy and understand her curriculum. She has a rare touch, certainly deserves her silver nugget, and will someday I hope be bumped up to gold. This class was relaxing, informative, and all-around a lovely way to spend Monday and Wednesday mornings.

Dec 2013

Professor Davidson is so smart, so well-prepared, and incredibly nice. This type of course is geared towards upperclassmen who are themselves invested in the material, and this combined with all of Professor Davidson's qualities makes for a great and enlightening experience. There is a decent amount of reading, which is necessary given the seminar. But again, it's the type of course where one should want to do all the reading. The papers are very open and flexible so there is a lot of room to explore personal interests within the context of the assignments.

Dec 2013

Jenny Davidson is one of the most enthusiastic professors at Columbia/Barnard that I've ever encountered. Her love for the subject matter and her pop culture references made eighteenth century novels understandable and even relateable. She talks of History of the Plague Year as the first apocalyptic English novel. She is so incredibly intelligent and even though sometimes her questions range from "What is a simile" to identifying the origin of a random boxing reference, she steers the class well in identifying various narrative structures and techniques and illustrating the evolution of narration in novels. Books: A Journal of the Plague Year Pamela The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling The Life and Opinions of Trisham Shandy Evelina Persuasion

May 2012

This was a mind-altering reading experience, and really, an incredible course. It seemed to draw amazing students to it, and discussions were lively. Professor Davidson knows so very, very much. I feel like I've read the best novel ever written in English. It surprised me that I was seldom bored during the 1,500 pages of this enormous book. My brain feels oddly... complete. I highly recommend the class; I haven't received any marks yet, so I can't speak to how it's graded... papers receive comments, but no check-plus or -minus or anything. Whatever grade I end up with, it was worth it. I don't say that very often.

Aug 2009

Professor Davidson's strongest attribute is that she is a passionate, extremely knowledgeable scholar. Her lectures are fascinating by tying in historical developments with the reading material, along with anecdotes about 18th century life and literature. She focuses a lot on dissecting the nuances of sentences to figure out how they operate to produce a particular effect in the reader, which will hone your reading skills by the end of the semester. She's also really nice and cool, though pretty disorganized (she loses things and her comments were a bit last-minute). The only drawback to her style is she wanted to create class discussion during every class, which was predictably difficult in a 60-person lecture. The same people ended up speaking every class, and there were often lots of awkward pauses and gaps. But overall it was a good semester and I'd recommend her to any English major -- you'll learn a lot and form a good relationship.

Aug 2009

Definitely the best pre-1800 class available, with the possible exception of James Shapiro’s Shakespeare. Prof. Davidson is enthusiastic to the point of logorrhea and a little awkward in office hours, but her deep knowledge of what’s going on, mixed with what could only have been real relish at reading the texts, is indispensable. She’s clearly read very widely into secondary texts, too, as you’ll actually want to read the assigned lit crit and follow up on her book recommendations. I liked this class enough that I was even slightly irked when she took off to run a marathon in Antarctica and cancelled seminar for a couple of weeks. Highly recommended. I’d take anything with Prof. Davidson except for Clarissa seminar, which she has an unfortunate habit of teaching pretty often.

Dec 2004

Can I *BE* this lady when I grow up? Jenny Davidson will rock your world. She has an unbridled passion for the subject, and every lecture is engaging even if you weren't particularly engaged by the subject matter. She's funny, down to earth, and the coolest woman alive. She's also extraordinarily understanding, sweet, and flexible. Just email her, and I highly encourage you to stop by and just talk to her. Her teaching style is fluid and expressive, and she's incredibly intelligent. She is also just majorly cool, and writes book reviews for the Villiage Voice! Her lectures include a lot of quotations that she reads so even if you haven't read the material you won't be lost. The subject matter wasn't to my taste so I skipped a lot of the reading, but I sure did feel guilty about it since Davidson clearly loved it so much and wanted the class to as well.

Dec 2004

For English majors, this class is a great find. It is a lecture, but there is so much time for discussion that it feels almost like a seminar. The material is light, especially considering that it's a pre-1800--themes include male manners, marriage, disguise/mistaken identity, town/country, social class--the plays don't take long to read, although they will probably all blur together by the end of the semester. There is also a unit on theater and acting styles (Garrick, stage technology, Shakespeare adaptations, etc) that is truly unique for an English class. Prof. Davidson is interesting, very enthusiastic, and approachable. She's obviously well-versed in historical background and it's clear that she genuinely enjoys the material. Yes, sometimes she just nods at students' comments without weaving them into a discussion, but overall, she is just so brilliant and insightful and the material so much fun that you can overlook this minor shortcoming. I'd definitely recommend this class--it will give you a good overview of a period you might otherwise ignore, introduce you to an excellent professor, and provide you with some laughs (the plays are genuinely funny at times.)

Jan 2004

While Prof. Davidson may be full of knowledge and conviction, and on top of it all an up and coming novelist, she doesn’t have much of a concept of class discussion. You’ll be doing postings to Courseworks every week about a completely random topic from the reading, and they’ll never be mentioned in class – wtf, just write a few questions that would impress a high school teacher trying to lecture about the Odyssey and you’ll be fine. But alas, you are not exonerated from the semester-long recount of everything she learned in her 10 years at Harvard and Yale. I think she’s a really smart person, and if that’s you’re style of learning, more power to you. I couldn’t take Prof. Davidson second semester because of a conflict, and my LitHum2 teacher was infinitely worse. After a while, she’ll run out of info to gun at you, and will put the pressure on the class to talk. Hopefully, a few people will have a bit of a crossfire, and that’ll be the class, but it’ll feel extremely weird if nobody in the room can find anything to talk about. One note: all you need for the bible discussions are a pillow and a blanket.

Feb 2003

Prof. Davidson is one of the best English teachers imaginable. She is so clearly in command of the texts that she teaches that it would be worth taking a lecture with her, although her skills as a seminar leader are quite strong. She has a very esoteric and somewhat naughty view of the 18th century, which makes class exciting and somewhat offbeat.

Oct 2002

I cannot remember a single insight made by Prof. Davidson in this class. Maybe that's because she barely ever talked, choosing instead to let the students mouth off for as long as they liked and on any inane topic of their choosing. She is, however, very nice, but maybe this is the problem. She seemed unable to interrupt or correct anyone's comments, and discussions hardly ever went in a useful direction.

May 2002

Jenny is absolutely the sweetest person. She is always enthusiastic and excited to be in the class. She genuinely cares about her students and is always available to help them and talk to them about the class, about life, or whatever is on their mind. She is a very smart lady, however, on the downside, she is not very good at fielding class discussions. She leads the students to where she wants them to go and does not encourage much discussion otherwise. She responds to offbeat questions with a nod and her typical big smile, then dismisses it. This often causes discussions to be dry and very surface deep. She isn't a very tough grader, but sometimes I found that the papers that I got the best grades on were the papers she agreed with, and the worst grades corresponded with papers she didn't agree with, regardless of whether I proved my point. On the whole though, she is a decent grader. YOu couldn't ask for a nicer person, and if you have good people in your class, discussions can be enjoyable

May 2002

She's one of the nicest professors you could ask for, she actually cares about how her students are doing--and about their lives outside of the classroom. Answers e-mails quickly, offers excellent help during office hours, and often has you write a rough draft so that she can comment on it. She's a tough grader, and the essay topics are complex, but it's highly doable. Only gets mad when people stop coming to class.

Oct 2001

Jenny Davidson was easily the best teacher I had my freshman year and did an excellent job of making often unbearably boring reading seem interesting and worth discussing. She did a good job of maintaining class discussion and not forcing us to believe the books we were reading were the greatest works ever. Instead, she made us come up with our own conclusions which were much more satisfying. She was always available to talk with kids after class and seemed genuinely interested in their lives. Whenever kids hadn't done the reading she would still push the discussion forward and didn't let people twiddle their thumbs for two hours, but was incredibly nice throughout the whole semester. I'd recommend her to anyone taking Lit Hum.

May 2001

Professor Davidson's credentials are certainly impressive, but her teaching ability for this class is next to nil. Basically keeping track of whose hands go up first, class discussions are driven by the students and almost always end up boring and filled with useless bullshit. Most of her Lit Hum students complain about the essay grading standards and very few A's are to be had. A very nice person in and out of class, professor Davidson is extremely willing to help students succeed and is not afraid of complaints.