Totally worth it. I am not an English major, but I appreciated this class more than any other I took this year. Axcelson is a great professor - before I took him, I had very low opinions of "lecture" literature classes, but when you have an expert that follows themes and has game plans for conveying material, it is a completely different story, and will create smarter readers of those who, at first, don't care much for poetry. So what about the highbrow speech patterns! I didn't find it the least bit irritating, rather, I found it helpful in creating an intellectual environment suitable to the study of the Romantic period. I admit, it is hilarious that I could sit in class counting the number of times he said "as it were," "sine qua non," and "par excellence" every day, if anybody wants the stat line I have it, let me know. Highly, highly recommended - notice how many people decided to become majors just based on this class (other classes on the period taught at Columbia could probably reverse those decisions, btw)
The material is wonderful, Axcelson is brilliant and the workload is manageable. Axcelson was also visibly excited about the material during (nearly) every class. It seemed like he was having fun and there's certainly something valuable about that for a student. If the poetry itself doesn't excite you, Axcelson's complex and engaging readings will. Yes, he uses flowery language sometimes(see other review), but only in the spirit of appreciation of the material at hand and not at all offensively. This class has made me decide to be an English major and I thoroughly recommend it.
Wow, I took this class because of the positive reviews and regret it more than any other English class I've taken at Columbia. Having taken 9 other courses, this man is the most frustrating and infuriating professor I've encountered in the department. He is the worst example of the stereotype of English professors - pretentious (lectures littered with phrases such as "par excellance" and "as it were" completely unnecessarily), pompous (when a student shares any idea, his general response is, "hmmmm, not really") and, in my opinion, disrespectful of students. He assigns unbelievable amounts of work at unexpected times - ie reading the entire novel Sense and Sensibility the first day of the semester - to read in 2 days. Or assigning a 400+ page novel by Sir Walter Scott to read over Spring Break . . . fuuuuun. What upsets me most is the fact that I had to buy many, many expensive books for this class, some of which he's only assigned us to read 1 or 2 poems from that are everywhere on the internet. Plus he is always behind on the syllabus thanks to his propensity to spend an entire class period analyzing one short poem. I don't think that I've ever disliked a professor so much - not only do his lectures bore me, but he seems far too impressed with himself to value students as anything more than robots who raise their hands to ask questions which he can grandly dismiss, belittle, and use as a platform for his own great knowledge and intelligence. I've truly loved being an English Major at Columbia and can't believe I'm wasting my last semester playing Tetris on my cell phone in his class for 3 hours a week.
I really loved Axcelson. He's a nice man and a brilliant thinker. His curriculum is wonderful and his insights are deep. I am now positive that I want to be an english major and I recommend his section for anyone who is serious about the subject.
An excellent instructor for Intro to the Major, which can make one either despise or adore the subject. The readings are taken mostly from a familiar canon of English lyric poetry, with some Shakespeare and Milton thrown in - Yeats, Keats, Wordsworth, and the like. Axcelson is very knowledgeable and thankfully doesn't suffer fools glady - if you're wrong, he'll let you know, and if you wander off into speculation, he'll shut you up. The class consists of close reading, with careful attention to language and more attention to devices than some professors, which some students, I think, found unimportant, although I thought very useful . . . a VERY light workload, which doesn't reflect on the quality of the class. All in all, an excellecnt class, and one of the rare intro classes you'll actually look forward to.