Steven Marcus

Mar 2003

This man will teach you how to write if you are ready. I wish I had been.

Jan 2003

Dry, overly pedantic, personally insulting. He should no longer be permitted to teach at our school. The only interest he shows in his students is in randomly critizing their papers. Stay away from this man.

Dec 2002

This was a seminar with 12 students enrolled. Professor Marcus ran it as a lecture course, bringing his dog-eared, type-written (as in, rusty Underwood typewriter) notes to class, giving the same lecture he has probably given for decades. There is nothing wrong with having the same points to make for a course you've taught for ages.... there IS something wrong, however, with deliberately disallowing student participation and showing an averseness towards student-initiated dialogue. I always felt like my questions were brushed off so he could return to his carefully-charted course. More than a few times, students asked quesitions and he would respond with something akin to, "If you would wait, I am coming to that." HIs lectures were usually interesting, however, and yes, it's true, there is something to be said for taking advantage of Columbia's tip-top. If only more of them would truly enjoy their students and teaching. The weekly reading responses are another issue entirely. It is true that Marcus makes you meticulously aware of the three hundred words you write every week, but these assignments became my weekly nightmare instead of being the thoughtful exercise they should have been. He made me much more attuned to grammatical errors than I normally would have been; and for that I am grateful. He also taught me to take *time* with my writring, and showed me how much it could improve with thorough revision and a keener eye. I, for one, do not believe he taught this in the most effective way possible. His comments on style, word choice, etc., seemed entirely arbitrary. It only made me question every word I wrote and do a lot of needless deleting and rephrasing. I never had an idea of what I was working *towards.* When I would ask him during office hours what it was that I could improve on, he only read through every line-by-line comment he wrote on my last paper. The end result? Incredibly stilted and unnatural writing for these assignments only. I wouldn't say he's impacted my writing in general one jot. Perhaps he taught me to pause and read through drafts, but this is something I didn't need to take a class to learn. The syllabus is excellent and nearly worth the trauma of the weekly assignments. Examples: James, Wilde, Wells, Conan Doyle, Stevenson, Wharton, Conrad. And I will say, Professor Marcus's presentation of main concerns and events of the fin-de-siecle contributed to my understanding of the works.

Jan 2002

Marcus is a Columbia institution. He's been teaching at Columbia since the 50s. He's a noted Freudian and has a background in Marxist theory. He runs excellent discussions, and his total disregard for any theory or criticism after, say, 1960 is somewhat refreshing. Marcus can be awfully intimidating, being old, fierce, and sometimes nearly uninteligible. But you get used to it, and, to be honest, his class remains my favorite in the English department. I learned a great deal about writing clearly and beautifully, and about reading poetry effectively and intelligently. My highest reccomendation.