Rebecca Stanton

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Jul 2010

I am not writing this to give Stanton a public pat on the back or a public tongue lashing. I’m writing this because I wish someone wrote a serious review of Rebecca Stanton before I took her class. After reading her personal biography (on her website) and seeing that she goes out of her way to list the many languages she knows, I suspected that Stanton might not be the teacher for me, but I read the reviews on Culpa, which seemed good enough, and the curriculum seemed great, so despite my better wisdom I took the class. First I’ll cover how reading Culpa reviews lead me astray and that should lead quite naturally into how she so hopelessly bungled the curriculum. You will notice reviewers below me writing things like, “thanks for being so, so, awesome, RJS,” and “Rebecca Stanton is really damn cool.” There are students who do like Stanton. For the sake of those who come after me, I’ll be as frank as possible (despite the fact that I’m sure Stanton is the type to pour over culpa reviews—you’ll note the editors of culpa have suspected worse [check the review on September 9th 2002]). If you are serious (and particularly if you’ve been around Barnard or Columbia for a while) you aren’t likely to be one of them. If you are a young Barnard girl who appreciates (dated) pop culture references and/or you haven’t been exposed to much intellectual depth, Stanton’s scatter shot of disparate literary/pseudo-philosophical comments and free association might scintillate for a semester. You see the evidence of this in the Culpa reviews: “She once told us she was walking through the park thinking about which 20th century Russian writer she'd most like to write a love letter to. This class was amazing. Please take it.” Here is another prize comment, “somehow you can go from Nietzsche to vintage Mickey Mouse films to Dr. Zhivago in a matter of seconds.” I wouldn’t think such an attribute would recommend a teaching style. Nonetheless, I thought these largely positive reviews indicated that Stanton, though appreciated by morons, was at least good at what she does. The trouble is Stanton seems to have as much of a grasp of Nietzsche as she does of vintage Mickey Mouse (not all that much). That should be fine, she is supposed to be teaching literature and particularly Russian literature (I’m sure she does have a grasp of Dr. Zhivago). The trouble is you never get to hear anything about what she is suppose to know. Her mind skips across the surface of all sorts of things and penetrates nothing. Perhaps worst of all is the fact that she looses her train of thought amidst this exercise in free association (and this is not an exaggeration) five to ten times a class. So you start talking about the work you spent your time reading and she thinks of some way in which vintage Mickey Mouse relates (or far more frequently, and far more dreadfully, how some high school movie or American high school cliché relates) and then she forgets what she was talking about (it was not uncommon for her even to forget mid-sentence and abandon her line of reasoning, after which she sits there looking at the wall trying to think of something else to say on the subject, apparently because—and I emphasis this—she never had anything planned for class in the first place [it also wasn’t uncommon for her to simply abandon her line of reasoning and then ask us if we had something to say—no question, just an open ended “do you guys have anything to say about the reading?”). We spent the whole semester on a subject which she had apparently studied quite a bit (the self) and I don’t think I walked out of even one class feeling like something substantive had been said. The only thing that gave one the impression that she studied the subject was her claim to having done so. She is a horrendous grader, even those who like her find it hard to disagree (see the reviews below). This semester she said that our grades should reflect how much room we have to improve. I’m loath to consider what kind of grade she deserves.

Jun 2010

This review will not do Rebecca Stanton justice, as she deserves more nice words than I could write. I started out the semester planning to drop the class, but as the deadline approached, the thought of waking up on Monday morning and not going to this class was just too sad. Not all of the books on the syllabus were fantastic, but the discussions we had about them were, without fail. Professor Stanton is one of the few professors I've come across who seems to care as much about *teaching* and ensuring that her students learn as much as they want to as she does about her field. As in all classes, you get what you put into it, but the difference is that when you put a lot in, you get exponentially more from the class than from most. For instance, you're expected to keep a journal of reactions to the readings (probably the most onerous part of the class, but you can write as much or as little as you want), and she must have spent hours writing personal, engaging, thoughtful and thought-provoking responses -- which ended up being the highlight of the class for me. You can use this class to think about any number of topics relating to literature or to real life (or both), and chances are, you will come out of it aware, enlightened, and on your way to being a more decent human being. In any case, I consider myself absurdly lucky to have had an opportunity to interact with such an intelligent, enthusiastic, funny, challenging, thoughtful, surprising, wonderful person. Thanks for being so, so, awesome, RJS

Jun 2010

Please, do not be intemidated by the few negative reviews that were posted earlier. Professor Stanton is an extremely intelligent, competent, understanding, approachable, and funny person. It might seem that she is a hard grader in terms of the papers and she says so herslef, but as long as you discuss your ideas with her or the TA and make sure your argument is interesting and logically makes sense, you should be fine. The exams are not that hard at all if you read the works and attend the classes. And yes, there is a lot of reading involved for the class, but it's a LITERATURE class, so what do you expect??? And what's up with this statement that you should not take this class if you don't like Russian literature??? Why would anyone take this class unless s/he likes Russian literature??? Yes, you have to work hard in this class, but your work will be rewarded at the end. And the literature studied, of course, is simply amazing.

Jan 2007

Rebecca Stanton is really damn cool. It will take you a little while to adjust to the way her brain works (her thoughts develop based on the transitive property; somehow you can go from Nietzsche to vintage Mickey Mouse films to Dr. Zhivago in a matter of seconds). Once you adjust, you will realize that she is incredibly intelligent and a rare find, and you will probably find yourself thinking like her. She is also hillarious. Oh yeah... and she is the kindest, most dedicated, most giving professor that you will ever have.

May 2006

Rebecca Stanton is great, but a ridiculous grader. I put a TON of work into the class and I did horrendously for some mysterious reason. I loved Russian literature, but I can't really afford to work that hard in a class and not be rewarded for it. So I guess that's the only Russian lit class I'm going to take. If you can turn out English major-style B.S. or are really familiar with Russian literature, go for it and you'll probably do fine. Otherwise, even if you work hard, you probably don't do well.

Nov 2005

As cliched as it sounds, this class really did change my life. I changed my major from English to Comparative Literature (Russian being one of the languages) and am scrounging around to get together loans to do an intensive Russian language program this summer. I knew basically nothing about Russia before I took this class. I went accidentally thinking it was just the avant-garde in general, not specifically the Russian avant-garde. I decided to stay, not recognizing a single name on the syllabus, and I that decision was based on the incredibly insightful things I heard coming from Professor Stanton. Many teachers here are have just read a lot and spend the entire class cross-referencing, but Rebecca was creative in her approach to deconstructing the literature. She even tied in things from Walt Disney programs on space exploration (which she seemed to watch pretty frequently). Many people complain that her lectures are scattered, but I didn't find that to be the case. It was just that she had so many things to say whereas other professors come to class with two points they spend the entire period reiterating. She is so enthusiastic about the material. She once told us she was walking through the park thinking about which 20th century Russian writer she'd most like to write a love letter to. This class was amazing. Please take it.

May 2004

I really liked this class. Rebecca is a sweet, if very flustered, lady, and the books we read were very enjoyable and well-picked. The lectures could be either painfully tangential and circuitous, or really fun and inspiring. It depended on what book we were discussing and the weather, I suppose. One of my fave parts was listening to what my classmates had to say, actually - everyone in this class is a pretty incisive reader, and a most-likely a Russian - some interesting perspectives. Rebecca is a hard grader but for some reason I came out alright. She doesn't hand out A's for nothing.

Nov 2002

I feel I have to respond to the third reviewer. I realize that most of the people in the class loved Rebecca. I just had to point out that it may not be for everyone. I believe I said that I had resolved to try my best with the class regardless of whether or not I would have taken Lit Hum if it weren't required. I was never "COMPLETELY uninterested" in Lit Hum. I enjoyed some of the reading, mainly in the second semester. I kept up with the study questions, and always took a few days out to work on my papers. So what are the real reasons for my struggles in lit hum, conveyed loud and clear through my own comments? As for the grading, I can only speak from my own experience. I mean, it would also be possible for me to decide that I had gotten decent grades that corresponded to the amount of work I put in and then say that other people are "confused" for not feeling the same way, but that wouldn't make sense. In my experience, the comments on my papers could be sarcastic and discouraging at times. On the other hand, they could have been interpreted as inspiring by another person. I am trying to be objective here and not assume that everyone had the same experience I did. For example, in general, my papers warranted about one half to three-quarters of a page of commentary. Rebecca would sometimes explain why I got the grade I did. Often, my arguments were solid and the paper was well thought-out, but I had done something like compare two authors rather than contrast them (or vice versa). If I had done it the other way around, it would have been "more interesting." All her words. Most people probably did come out of this class with improved writing and analytical skills, myself included. I was sometimes glad when she pointed out things I hadn't learned in L&R. I kept the class both semesters because it had some good points, and there are some scary Lit Hum professors lurking out there (or so I've heard). But obviously I'm not as wowed as some of the other students.

Oct 2002

I personally don't care if CULPA accuses me of being Rebecca herself, I must speak the truth. I'm only a sophomore in the College, but REBECCA STANTON IS THE BEST INSTRUCTOR I'VE HAD!! True, she's a grad student, but so what? I have an adjunct prof. for cc who's not worthy of carrying her books. Rebecca is brilliant, funny, and truly cares that her students learn the material and appreciate the books. She's very accessible (up in her cramped office on Hamilton 8-- imagine floor 10 1/2 in "Being John Malkovich") Yes, she requires a rather full work load (the ODC's can be killer), but she's worth it. Case in point-- my friends who weren't in the class always checked my class' website prior to an exam, because even Rebecca's blurbs on her werbsite were more informative than their class' lectures.

Sep 2002

the two previous reviews were written by two very confused people....first of all, Rebecca is NOT an actual "professor" at Columbia. She is a graduate student in the slavic studies department finishing up her thesis. She is actually still here this year trying to finish up her thesis, even though she was supposed to finish last year (which is not surprising considering the amount of time she must have spent on our class coupled with the fact that she was getting married)...but back to my first point, which is directed at the first review.... Rebecca is not a professor, but a graduate student. Not that this is in any way a bad thing, considering that she did such an awesome job teaching the class. I don't see how you could possbly think it was her first year teaching. First of all, she talked on several occasions in class about her previous teaching experience (the fact that the reviewer clearly did not pick up on any of it raises question as to the validity of the review)...second of all, to repeat myself once again...she was just flat-out awesome. She was a master of the socratic method...managing to move the class along at an efficient pace, encouraging class discussion--and managing to succeed in this endeavour even at 9AM when most of us were naturally tired and not-fully-focused. other than that, i'm in agreement with the first reviewer that rebecca is brilliant and that she undoubtedly (of course in my rather unmeaningful opinion) has a bright future in academia. in regards to the second reviewer, how could you possibly expect to do well in a class that you are COMPLETELY uninterested in? The fact that you would "never touch the literature voluntarily" is your own problem, certainly not Rebecca's. The real reasons for your struggles in lit hum are conveyed loud and clear through your own comments. Furthermore, saying that Rebecca "casually slapped" grades on to our papers is simply a flat-out lie. Rebecca told us that, on average, she spent about an hour grading each one of our 3-4 page papers. And we all believed her. I received papers back with as many as four pages of hand-written comments attached. Rebecca wanted each one of us to become better writers, and I would venture to say that if you asked most members of her class last year, they would tell you that their writing, did, indeed improve significantly(Please do not measure the success of Rebecca's writing instruction by analyzing my own review, which has been written in a hurry by a sleepy sophomore). Okay, I guess thats it. [CULPA EDITOR'S NOTE: Did a sleepy sophomore write this review, or did the professor herself write it????? Please try and review the professor, not the previous reviews.]

Jun 2002

I don't think I've ever been subjected to so much pain in my life. it's not that Rebecca isn't nice or funny. And she *is* forgiving with final grades and a godsend for things like midterm and final review sessions. But I also thought she made the course harder than it could have been. Several of my friends put precious little effort into Lit Hum and came out with B+ 's. I, on the other hand, had to post online before every class, force myself to add something to the sometimes random in-class discussions and find the emotional strength to deal with terrible grades that had been casually slapped on papers that took days to plan and write. Sure final grades get bumped around a little, but as a science major who would never touch Literature voluntarily and who had resolved not to do badly in this class, it was all very discouraging.

May 2002

she's great! a little inexperienced- but i think this was her first year teaching. she will be one of the best profs at CU in a couple of years. she does this great website that she updates like every 5 minutes. she grades papers hard, but is forgiving in final grades. she is brilliant, and does a great job reviewing for things like the final exam. i really feel like she knows her stuff!