I looooooved this class. It's a crazy mix of literature, history, cultural studies, and current events. You are exposed to so many different kinds of expression. Franz Fanon! Postcolonial lit! Whoa. Gavronsky is fantastic. Take as many classes as you can with him. You really get to the roots of these three groups and get to think about them really critically. I only wish there was a field trip to France included!
I took two courses with Professor Gavronsky: "Cultures & Institutions of France II" and "20th-Century French and Francophone Poetry". He is definitely overrated as an instructor. The man is incapable of following a straight line in terms of his train of thought. I do not doubt his brilliancy, but while explaining basic concepts like the French Revolution, he goes off on so many random tangents that by the time he's done talking, you've already forgotten what he was explaining to begin with. Do try to follow the tangents, though, 'cause there are good nuggets of knowledge in there. If you take any classes with him, beware that he assumes a thorough knowledge of French history; he doesn't cover any of the basics in his classes. My advice: before you start a new topic/author in his class, look it/him/her up in the encyclopedia to review because, again, he does not bother with the basics of anything--he assumes you remember everything from high school history. As a person, he's dynamic, friendly, endearing and interesting. Definitely toots his own horn with stories about how his mom's good friend Natalie Sarraute was always over thier house and about how he used to sit across from the likes of Simone de Beauvoir at the library when he was in France.
UGH. STAY AWAY! I don't know what the previous reviewers found "charismatic" about Serge -- I found his tendency to treat us like children and his overly intonated voice nothing short of annoying. I often had to resist the urge to walk out or scream at the one hour point of the class. Paper directions were unclear, and grading somewhat haphazard. More importantly, the material was covered in such a way that one came away with little concrete understanding beyond vague theories of connections. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Prof. Gavronsky is incredibly charismatic, funny, and knowledgeable. Absolutely take whatever he is offering. The "lectures" are more of a round-table discussion and his anecdotes are always entertaining.
I agree that Gavronsky is a pretty amazing person. He's seen a lot and will relay a lot of information to you, especially if you ask him. I personally liked the class, I learned a lot about France and its tainted history that I wasn't cognizant of before. The only thing I found increasingly difficult was experiencing sycophantic pseudo-intellectualism. No, I'm not talking about Gavronsky, he is a smart one, I'm talking about the people in the class that would stop at no costs to impress him. In fact, I'm pretty sure some of the previous reviews are BY them. Don't let that deter you from taking the class though, Gavronsky is worth it, and you will really see a representation of France and the French on film through the decades.
Professeur Gavronsky is, perhaps, my favorite professor. He is incredibly funny, intellegent, and knoweldgeable; all of his lectures were packed with interesting information about every aspect of French (and New York) culture. I learned a great deal about culture, literature, and society from this class, not just about film. The lectures and papers are in English, the films are in French, some with subtitles; a high level of proficiency in the language is definitely a must. The class is fun and a breeze; one evening is reserved for the film screening (which has no set time limit) and the next day is discussion (which tends also not to have a set time limit, though you are free to leave). The class is not a film class in the sense that it does not study filmmaking or film history, but it is a class that looks at France through film. In the process, you'll learn about film in a way that will make you appreciate filmmaking in all future films you see. Gavronsky is an experience that is not to be missed; I plan on taking as many classes with him as I can in the future. My only caution is to those who want a serious film class, or a serious professor for that matter; the class is a French culture/history class (think American studies but for France), and Gavronsky is a fun professor. He won't hesitate to poke fun or call on students at random, but this is one of his many charms. Be cognisant of paper due dates and watch the films ahead of time; also see Gavronsky about your papers (which are free topic) and make sure you write about what he's expecting...otherwsise it might not be precise enough. If you say blue and he was thinking aquamarine, it's not A material. Don't let the grading deter you from taking this class, or any class, with Professeur Gavronsky.
Prof. Gavronsky is one of the most entertaining and intellectual men I have ever come across. His class is fairly easy with only 2 7-8 pg term papers, one due in Oct and the other due in Dec, and one final which had a take home 4 pg part and in class questions on the films we watched in class. Reasonably low amount of work. He likes class participation. Beware however that the film class is on tuesday from 7-8:30, but most of the films lasted much longer than that, and then there is an hour on Wed of discussion. I highly recommend his class, not too difficult and he is extremely talented and the films we watch range from 1930s depictions of Vichy France to recent films such as Taxi II, a french attempt at Matrix-esque action scenes. Great class
While some people in the class seemed to find Serge fascinating to no end, there was another substantial percentage (myself included) who found his lectures to be disorganized and rambly. He was endlessly fascinated with uninteresting minutiae, like what kinds of hats the people in the films wore. There was no focus at all on the history of French cinema or on the art of the films themselves. Instead, Serge free associates and rambles about whatever occured to him while watching the films. Supposedly, the class is divided into three sections, but the divisions are arbitrary and he doesn't really stick to them anyway. Additionally, Serge invariably keeps you 20-25 minutes late for a 50 minute class. Overall, pretty pointless.
It's worth taking any class with Gavronsky. Not only is he brilliant, but his style of teaching is entartaining and an experience itself. The material covered was heavy and there was a fair amount of reading, but his style of teaching made every class interesting and enjoyable. He likes class participation, but he will not hesitate to cut off those who divert. He also takes every chance he gets to name drop his "amis", the who's who of french and english litterature. Overall, any class with this man will be good.
Serge is brilliant and a true Renaissance man of the 20th century. But he's also one of the most arrogant professors here. He did not hesitate to tell me, as I walked out of the 90 minute final (composed of four essays to be written in French), that I "did not know my asshole from my elbow" on the previous paper assignment. But if you can get past his ego trip and if you have a love for the most obscure French philosophical literature of the past century, then this may be the course for you. Brilliant lectures and interesting but limited class discussion (mostly in English).
Ridiculous, but good fun. He knows the 20th century, and describes himself as a major player in it, with anecdotes from all the poets and politicians who are his trÃ¨s bons amis. He is a good teacher of analysis, and you get some theory, and mostly you get to listen to a hyper-educated, hyper-poetic wacky french/New York academic personality. Take a course with him. It's worth it.