A very unusual class and a very odd professor, but worth it just on a raw learning level. Prof. Arac is very nice and extremely intelligent, but always seemed a little awkward in our class. Still, he did a good job of leading the seminar and teaching a slew of complex, occasionally unintelligible theorists. Looking for a common thread in a class this sprawling (we read books as diverse as Don Quixote, The Golden Notebook, and Mimesis) is probably doomed to failure, but I did learn a lot. Our class often seemed like a string of unconnected two hour discussions, but for all that Prof. Arac did a good job in exposing us to a wide range of theorists and traditions in the Western novel.
Jonathan Arac is a really kind and intelligent man. I think his abilities were lost on the undergrads in this class though--he's not really a great traffic cop and I think this is what these baboons needed. I really recommend his book, Commissioned Spirits, which underscores as much as any book the relevance of literary study.
The main reason that I am reviewing Prof. Arac is that although I liked him a lot and enjoyed his Faulkner/James seminar immensely, others in the class did not agree. He is somewhat of a traditionalist, theory-wise, and so did not hold for much of the new-fangled deconstructionism preferred by many of my contemporaries, those weaned on Derrida and Deleuze. He does take some getting used to - he is soft-spoken (not a professor to indulge in spectacle), and his humor is dry and often not readily apparent - but all in all he's a wonderful teacher, very patient, blindingly intelligent -- the man can recite entire Wordsworth poems from memory. I recommend his classes only to those prepared to enter the mindset of a different generation of academicians -- if you do lean in this direction, you won't regret it.