Brian O'Keeffe

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Dec 2020

I really enjoyed this class, although I can see why some might not. Even though the class was small (around 16 people), Professor O'Keeffe taught it mostly like a lecture. Class time was largely devoted to him explaining the texts on a line-by-line or paragraph-by-paragraph basis, although, towards the end of the class, there was more participation from the students. This class is great if you like a low workload: you never have to do the readings, as he explains them all VERY thoroughly in class. There were 3 papers, each about 2500 words, that made up the entirety of your grade. I got As on all of them with decent effort; I never conferenced with him or sent him a draft, and I wrote them all in the three or so days before they were due. Taught over Zoom, I thought this class was excellent because it was very easy to just sit back, take notes, and zone out/check your phone whenever you felt the need to do so. Even though this is a higher-level French class, Professor O'Keeffe spoke in English almost as often as he spoke in French, especially when he was explaining a difficult point. Even some of the texts we read were in English. Overall, this is a great course if you're interested in the subject, and you want a class that won't stress you out, as long as you're confident in your French paper-writing abilities. The pacing was a little off, as we rushed toward the end and spent way too much time on the texts in the beginning, in my opinion. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this class and Professor O'Keeffe's teaching style.

Dec 2020

OKeeffe definitely knows what he's talking about. The class tends to take on more of a lecture format rather than a discussion-based class, but he is always open to any input from students, it really just depends on whether or not you speak up. I found his lectures very helpful because the reading was super confusing (the first half of the course focuses on french philosophy)and I usually needed it to be broken down and analyzed. OKeeffe switches back and forth between French and English but mainly sticks with french.

May 2017

Of the two classes I've taken with O'Keeffe (one in French, one in English), I've found that they have a similar structure. You have 4 essays that will be your grade (despite what his syllabus says, with several more writing assignments than we ever actually do) and you basically get some reading for every class. Sometimes you read one or two books, but mostly it's texts that he scans for you (either literature texts or philosophy and academic discourse on the subject). It's clear the man knows a fair amount of what he's talking about, and that's basically what he shows you during the class. You essentially come to class and he talks for the entire period, with some engagement from the class. If it's a particularly exciting topic there may be more of a back-and-forth dialogue, but I've found that fairly reliably you can go to class and expect to be talked at for the entire time. I know that he says he gives mostly Bs, and that he reserves the As for good work, but I'm not entirely sure how true that is. I got A's in both classes that I took with him, even though I feel my writing in French is not really up to snuff. Regardless, it's not impossible to get an A. I will say it is near impossible to get an A+. I have gotten only a single A+ on an essay, and it was because I based an argument of mine on a Said essay that I had picked up in another class (Black Paris with Brent Edwards). I based a lot of my essays around Derrida, Levinas, Butler, Said, and Hegel (and if you mention hermeneutics and the hermeneutic circle you're golden), and if you stay within that milieu, you should be able to find something that he's going to like. He doesn't necessarily have to like the philosopher to give you a good grade (after all, he had Things to say about Said's Orientalism on my paper, but I still got the A+), but he will tend to find your argument more interesting/persuasive/engaging if you stay around that region of philosophy. His classes aren't incredibly difficult, and I tended to shirk the reading a lot because he goes over it very thoroughly in class. I used his courses to fulfill some of my Barnard 9 ways, and overall it wasn't such a difficult thing to do because his classes are fairly lax.

May 2015

O'Keeffe's class is a usually a one-man show, but no one seems to mind. Sometimes I wish that he would make more of an effort to stimulate class participation and listen to our ideas. My confidence in speaking French did not improve. Oral skills are targeted in Composition and Conversation, which I will take next semester. I valued O'Keeffe's passion for the French language, literature, art and history. He sparked my curiosity about linguistics, since he'd tell us about how words were formed. For example, the word "mayday" in English evolved from the French "m'aidez" or "help me." Writing about artworks in French vastly improved my writing skills as an art history major. It is helpful to copy the model of O'Keeffe's sample essays, handed out in class, because they are very straightforwardly and poetically. O'Keeffe is obsessed with literature and fables. Many of the paragraphs that we completed in class (by inserting the correct verb conjugations) were excerpted from Baudelaire, Baudrillard and other French authors. This made the usual painfully boring grammar exercises more fun and engaging.

Mar 2014

Took O’Keeffe’s Intro to Complit and really enjoyed it. He’s funny, engaging, incredibly smart, and actually made me want to attend class. And since I literally almost didn’t take the course due to the latest review, I felt like I should add a 2014 opinion. So, suffice it to say, I got the “intellectual” vibe but definitely not the “mean” vibe. O’Keeffe was friendly, relaxed, and unusually interested in the class’s ideas – Instead of asking a bunch of rhetorical questions to see if we did the reading, he asked us what we actually had to say about it, and would often just stop in the middle of discussions to pore over our answers. And more than once, lo and behold, he even changed his own opinions after students suggested alternate readings. Class discussions are definitely focused on abstraction or “theory” – If you aren’t into that, you won’t enjoy the course, which sucks since it’s a requirement for complit majors. The upside is that O’Keeffe also believes in his students, and comes to class prepared to learn from them, which might make the process that much more enjoyable and worth your while. I’d definitely take this class again in a heartbeat.

Aug 2012

Charming??? Try creepy. I found it unsettling that Professor O'Keeffe seemed to actually enjoy explaining to my class that Little Red Riding Hood is about child sexual predation. As if that weren't bad enough, Professor O'Keeffe would snicker about incest and women losing their virginity, allude to his previous night's sexual encounter as if that was something the class might want to know about, and joked about "everything being fine" when going home with someone too drunk to consent. If you don't mind feeling violated, then you should definitely take his class. Otherwise, reconsider.

Apr 2012

This class is fucking great. O'Keeffe is funny, engaging, cool to talk to, and hyper-intelligent. I never felt nervous about talking in class and just really enjoyed all the lessons. He's just so knowledgeable on everything. I thought this would be a shitty, boring conversation class that would just help me keep my French going for a semester, but it was interesting and relevant and taught me so much about French culture etc, and improved my writing moreover. You only have one essay due, and it's structured such that you have a paragraph due like once every 2 or 3 weeks, which he corrects and hands back to you: so eventually, by the time you actually hand in the final draft, you just compile the paragraphs and voila, your French is flawless. He also lets you send in as many drafts as you like, which means, again, you can get a really good grade pretty easily. He also gives you, at the beginning of the semester, a "cheat-sheet" that's just a list of things like "That said", "What flows from what has just been said", "Let us therefore consider" etc in really poetic French. You just plug these into your essay with filler words relevant to your actual topic, and you're done. But you learn a lot. You really do. It's the perfect balance between easy and actually helpful: my writing improved tenfold and he taught me how to actually use the subjunctive. Bravo, Brian. 10/10

Nov 2011

Hmm.... What to say about O'Keeffe? You see, I honestly can't decide. There's a part of me who wants to bow down to him and say "Teach me all that you know." There's a side of him that is charming, funny, friendly, and very relaxed. It's clear that he is very intelligent. But that isn't all. Out of nowhere he can become condescending, dismissive, elitist, and aggressive. It isn't that Brian doesn't have interesting things to say or doesn't push you to the next level of your own potential (which is what we should all want in a professor), he simply doesn't do a very good job in his delivery, which is to say that his "constructive criticism" often comes off as plain old criticism, served up straight and harsh. This man is a character out of a novel. Read the reviews below. Read all of them. Understand that this is who this man is. Accept it. Move on. Take his class. And whatever he has to say to you, try not to take it personally.

Apr 2011

I took Culture of France II with Brian, and I can honestly say that he deserves his silver nugget. He is demeanor in class is intense, well-paced (you won't find yourself scrambling to write notes trying to keep up), yet takes a charming schoolboy-ish interest to any sexual references in the texts we read (of which there were many). Many reviewers commented on the occasional acidic or cutting comments he can make. Having been on the receiving end of such remarks of his, I can also say that either he’s been working on correcting it or PEOPLE NEED TO GET A GRIP. Besides the fact, he is actually genuinely concerned with the development of his student’s writing and critical thinking, and is known to give people lots of extra help outside the classroom, extensions when needed, and even allowing re-edits for papers with below average grades ( if he thinks you deserve another chance). I usually don’t feel the need to write reviews for professors, given my general reaction is “eh” at best to most professors out there, but in Brian’s case, the man deserves tenure.

Apr 2011

I seem to be the only student on campus who doesn't have a total boner for professor O'keeffe. This course basically boiled down to a few hours a week of considering whether or not he knew that his pants were really too tight for any self respecting man to wear to class, even one who so clearly craved the attention of his fawning, mousy, lit-geek students. If you grasp the platonic/aristotelian conflict that he lays out over the first few weeks of class you can pretty much check out for the rest of the semester because he will not care if that's all you write about it in every assignment that follows. Frankly, he will beat that dead horse all the way into the final lectures you will most likely have to have during reading week since getting through any material came second to his continued ability to jack off to his own intelligence in front of a room full of wide-eyed undergrad girls. This course left me with a sour taste in my mouth for the entire field of comp lit, to the point that I tried to change my major during the last week of classes, if only so as not to have to take another course with O'keeffe. His attempts to impress us with his downness by inviting us for wine and cheese in his Harlem apartment (to and from which he insisted on personally escorting us) merely came off as obnoxious. And though he seems to think that name dropping Austen every other class makes him an enlightened male, he confessed to me while chatting that he gave up on Pride and Prejudice after the first 50 pages and "watched the movie instead." Comp lit majors, just take the english department colloquium.

Feb 2011

What's great about Brian's class is how much French you learn while exerting almost no effort. What's not so great is Brian's condescending and dismissive attitude. That's not to say that Brian can't be nice or that his class is never enjoyable – and in terms of his ability to effectively teach French, he's got a lot going for him. But because of his attitude and his ugly side – when it comes out, he can become derisive, which, if you appreciate kindness, is a bit jarring – his ability to garner respect in limited.

Dec 2010

Professor O'Keeffe may be too intelligent for his own good. He not only has an incredibly impressive French vocabulary (something I definitely benefitted from), but also has a vast English vocabulary; I actually improved in both languages. The problem, however, is that i did not feel like I could participate much in class because the topics were over my head or he had so much more knowledge than me on the topic that I felt that my input would be useless. I've never felt this way in a class before and think that we should be encouraged to participate rather than intimidated. Like I said, he is almost too smart... but that is just my opinion. That said, I did like his class. The levels of proficiency were certainly varried, but he was able to manage it realtively well. I learned so much, but in the end, wish more of the class had been held in French. (I'd say classes tended to be 75% French, 25% English). There are some things, like how to write a French resusme, how to analyze a Monet painting,etc., that I will take with me and benefit from forever. Other things, like the specifics of French Feminism, will remain beyond me.

Oct 2010

I hate this man. He is condescending and an elitist. He'll frequently make fun of Ohio State University and the like. And he does not know how to give constructive criticism. He appears to be really nice, but his nasty side really comes out once in a while. True he is a easy going and his work load is reasonable, but I just can't get over this man's personality. I got As in his class, so don't think this is revenge. If you are not bothered by your professor's personality, take this class. But I rather get taught by someone who's compassionate than by a jerk.

May 2010

He reveals some work: An exercise on Jolie Bien, Prof O'Keeffe Brian O'Keeffe is a very charming man. That is the first thing you should remember when you are debating on whether you should take his class. I did not begin the semester knowing that I would be in his class. But from the first half hour of my time with him, I knew that I would be learning French in an entirely more engaging way if I continued with him. Aside from his British accent (and the occasionally whipped out northern Irish and American ones), Brian also has a great sense of humor that he dutifully incorporates into the learning experience, including in his worksheets and grammar lessons. There will be innuendos. There will be pop culture references. There might even be an assignment where you have to write a harlequin story. But above all, it will be in French, or translated into French. Of course, I don't want to depict him as entirely casual or "fun"--people can walk in late often enough, but he also commands respect. He will personally email you if you don't show up. He will not comment on your lateness, but you will notice the slight pause when you enter the room. Not of disapproval, but of "It's fine that you're late, but I'd rather you were on time." Why? Brian cares if you're learning. If you're sick for a few days, he'll email you and offer to help you make up the material. He'll delve into his knowledge and take out Wikipedia-like lessons on French slang. We learned adjectives entirely by looking at great French impressionism. We practiced new concepts on Baudelaire and other French writing. Towards the end of the semester, we read a poem written entirely in Middle French, which Brian apparently speaks. And all throughout the semester, Brian helped us remember terms or concepts by the etymologies of the words themselves. Hardcore in all senses of the word, if you ask me. I wish him all the best, and that he'll teach a French literature class sometime.

Dec 2009

For me, this class provided an enjoyable setting for sustaining my knowledge and appreciation of French. Although the workload is fairly light, I feel that I still learned a lot, and I was able to frequently practice my French conversation skills in class. Brian O’Keeffe makes the class. He packs a lot of interesting material into a short time, and his memorable anecdotes and observations about French culture enforced what I had learned and made it very hard to forget the new vocabulary. The few longer writing assignments had such interesting prompts that it was nearly fun to write them. Overall, the class is a laid-back yet still engaging way to develop French skills.

Nov 2009

This was one of the best French classes I've taken. There is no hard and fast curriculum, so it really revolves around themes and discussions; we talked about different styles of writing, and certain French attitudes toward cultural trends. Each class opened with a discussion of what we did over the weekend, which made us apply our language skills to real life situations. The courseload was light,there were two in depth papers, a few journal assignments, and some short vocabulary quizzes. We also watched a few films outside of class, which provided basis for in class discussion. I still felt like I learned a lot, and Professor O'Keeffe's sense of humor kept us all interested.

Feb 2009

brian o'keeffe is the by far one of the best professors i have had during all my years at barnard/cu. no joke. his knowledge is extensive and he approaches the language from a philosophical perspective whilst explaining things in a very coherent and engaging manner. furthermore, his attractive personality is bound to keep anyone captivated and it is no wonder why the class time passes by so quickly. brian makes french sexy, period. his style of teaching definitely makes the rest of the french department look rather bland --- everyone knows this to be true, why not say it out loud. brian has this natural spark, talent and intellect (let's not forget his intuitive sense of humor!), all of which are qualities that most professors lack these days. amazing amazing amazing.

Jan 2009

Great class. Brian is terrible about managing his time, so we ended up at the end of the year with several more theorists still to get to and had to had several classes in reading week. This wasn't fantastic. But he's so great, and knows so much about theory, that it didn't matter. I didn't mind having this at 9:10. He talks a lot and it's easy to ask him questions. The subject matter was fascinating, although I was frustrated that we were expected to have read every piece of literature ever written or spoken in order to understand what was going on. You better know your Austen and Stendhal before coming in. Actually--it doesn't matter, it's pretty easy to pick up the main ideas and then name drop when appropriate--the point is that we didn't read any actual lit in the class, and that made it difficult to figure out how to put lit and theory together.

Jan 2008

Brian is subtly hilarious. His classes are always overflowing because everyone knows that he's the best french teacher in the department. You may not learn exactly as much as you would in a stricter class but you still learn plenty and laugh while you do. Brian often has you translating stories or is talking about life in Paris or explaining the sexuality of everything while simotaneously teaching you french. If you can, take Brian O'Keeffe.

Nov 2006

Great Prof. Cute, funny, and somehow seems to me to manage to make everything sexual. Great fun all around and genuinely cares about his students. He's always willing to read drafts of compositions and to answer any and all questions. I've learned more french in one semester with him then I have in all my semesters at Columbia. He renewed my interest in the French Language. Highly Highly recommend!

Apr 2006

Prof. O'Keeffe has so much talent as a professor, but a lot of the time is too disorganized/lazy/apathetic to use it. He has a lot of enthusiasm for French and explains everything clearly and even reviews for tests and quizzes in class. He's very nice and funny but didn't seem to ultimately care enough about students as individuals to encourage us to improve our overall language skills. He has also been known to come to class hung over and seems to wing certain lectures, but they're still good--just wish he'd try/seem to care more about the students.

Nov 2005

This guy is absoluetly awesome. He really knows his stuff, and you actually learn a lot without really trying. His tests are usually easy and he lets you know what material is on them. Best Class I've had!

May 2005

Instructor O'Keeffe is by far my favorite teacher I've had at Columbia. He brings witty humor and dialogue to his discussions and really seems to care about whether his students are grasping the material. Not only does he take whatever time needed to explain the mechanisms of the french language to the students, but he actually appears to enjoy his job as well. I was disappointed that he won't be teaching Intermediate French II during the Fall 2005 semester, but if he were, I would not hesitate to sign up to partake in his wonderful class once more!

Jan 2005

He's smart, funny, and has a British accent. He's laid back, relaxed, and he makes the class fun. Highly recommended!

Jan 2005

this man is the shit. he is chillaxing out max with a british accent and partially unbuttoned shirt. it dont matter if you turn your compositions in late or re-take a quiz your stupid-arse failed. he is flexible and can bend it like beckham and loves french.

Jan 2005

This was by far the best class I took this semester. After high school, I didn't really think that I'd enjoy French, and I was just taking this class to complete the Foreign Language requirement. But after finishing this class with Brian, my initial passion for French was revitalized! Brian is such a cool professor! Although many may think that he is not organized, I tend to disagree. He first presents a topic, gives examples, practices with the class, and toward the end of the class day he has us split up into small groups and pratice what we've learned by writing a summary of a certain reading, or an original story in French using the tenses that he just went over. He spends a lot of time reviewing for even the smallest quiz, and especially dedicates several classes to reviewing for both the midterm and final. Brian is very flexible with due dates and extra help. He is always ready and able to assist his students, with much enthusiam. Plus, Brian's sarcasm and humor adds much fun to the learning environment. I would heavily suggest taking Brian's class... Since I only have one more semester of French to finish myself, I am looking forward to having Brian as my professor once again. Because his class conflicted with my schedule this semester, I am waiting until next year to finish up my requirement for the sole reason of having Brian as a teacher again! The class was that great!

Jan 2005

The class itself was great for anyone who has some working knowledge of French but doesn't know quite where they should fit in in the whole 1100/1200 business. It really helped for me to get back in touch with my French, and has definitely inspired me to get re-involved with the language. Brian is a pretty good teacher. I enjoyed the class a lot. He is very funny, and is very passionate about what he teaches and teaches you a good deal of slang that I'm pretty sure will come in handy someday (right?). He's pretty lax about attendance (I don't think he takes attendance actually...) and I don't know how much homework counted toward my grade. From what I could tell, the final grade was based mainly on your midterm (which was graded kind of harshly) and final and class participation, culminating roughly in what he thought you deserved, which to me, seemed pretty fair. Class was fun, but I really felt like I didn't have any idea what was going on. I think I would have liked more structure. I never knew when we had hw or what was due when, cuz it was sort of inconsistent. But, besides that, Brian was a great teacher, and I would recommend the class.

May 2002

Brian was awesome, and he rejuvinated my interest in french. I was doing it just for the requirement, and now I think I'm going to continue with it. He's incredibly nice, and very funny, I looked forward to class (even though it was Tues, Thurs, Fri from 6:10-7:25). I don't know if he is teaching next semester (he just got his doctorate), but if he is, take his class!