Richard Brilliant

Sep 2005

Brilliant really is great. He's quite the character and perhaps a bit much to take for those who are weak of heart. You have to expect that he will be difficult and critical, but he is on-the-point critical. He is not personally critical, but instead is looking towards molding his students into effective and knowledgeable art historians. I took one grad seminar with him and couldn't possibly imagine not signing up for his next one.

Apr 2002

Why the f*** has no one written about this guy yet? There are truly exceptional aspects of this class and utterly shitty ones as well. I'll start with the shitty. Shitty: to validate my first sentence--Brilliant does not use e-mail or the Internet--he really doesn't even seem to know what these things do or provide. This is a downside because you can't get in touch with him outside of going to his office hours. Shitty: the class, rather ironically, has a website. However, as opposed to every other Art History course, every image that you see in class is not on the website (don't ask me why). In fact, about a fifth of the images are online. You can imagine the bitch this is when it comes time to studying for exams. What's even more frustrating is the fact that he goes over probably 25-35 slides in an hour and fifteen minutes. Also, he does not make slide lists for class--you have to rely on the lecture for names, dates, locations, and museums. Shitty: if you've done the math based on the last 'shitty,' this means you will be writing non-stop for the entire class period. You might not even see the image because you are taking notes from the lecture. Shitty: taking the last 'shitty' into account, he announces on the first day of class that he "expects you to know everything"--from class lectures, slides, and readings. Shitty: and about those readings--you get a syllabus (written on a typewriter, of course) with the names of 17 (I just counted) books you are "required," "strongly recommeded," or "on reserve" to read. But, he does not assign pages nor does he tell you what to read when. Shitty: his TA's. I think he may have introduced them by name the first day, but otherwise, their job for the class is nothing more than changing the slides (I think this technology may be over Brilliant's head). They don't hold discussion sections (this could be bad or good, based on how you look at it), don't give out their e-mails, and don't make themselves available to students in any way. The only upside to the TA presence is watching Brilliant yell at them from across the room for switching to the wrong slide or not having a slide in focus. He can be a real [CULPA CENSOR] at times. Example: on the first day of class he stopped his lecture to yell at a girl in the third row because she was looking at a syllabus from another class, and he asked her to either put it away, or he would ask her to leave the room. I noticed that many people dropped the class thereafter. Great: the man knows every thing about Roman art. Everything. Great: his lectures, though incredibly fast paced, are full of useful, insightful information. He doesn't concentrate too much on the formal aspects of works but tends to emphasize the historical connections between works of different periods. Great: although he appears only to be in his fifties, he refers to archeological digs that he's been on during the 1950s. He's been around this stuff his entire life and knows every nuance of the era and absolutely loves it. In fact, he somtimes goes on minor tangents about significant locations and what it must have felt like to be there in Roman times; he'll begin with "Imagine yourself..." and will go on to wax poetic about the breeze, the food, the company, and the sunlight. Overall, it's a very good class, full of information, and it's taught by a man who loves the subject and perhaps his role as a professor as well. Looking back, I would take this class again, despite the shitty aspects.