professor
Mara Kashper

Jan 2011

Readings are half selections from a Lit Hum syllabus, half relatively obscure Russian, all enjoyable. Kashper annoyed a lot of people. Some reasons are very valid. She plays favorites big time, is unorganized, doesn't leave the most thoughtful comments on your writing, and unabashedly promotes her own department in a course whose description does not suggest so. You will be doing a lot of things off campus and on your own time that are only tangentially related to the curriculum. Relax and have a good attitude. The way to be successful in this class is to write and discuss ideas with which Kashper would agree. A lot of students seemed to have an issue with that, but it is a perfectly valid way of running a course, and it is a valuable exercise to express arguments you don't believe. Don't take yourself so seriously. I promise you're learning. Your writing isn't improving, your worldview isn't dramatically shifting, but you're learning. And incoming first-years concerned about the in-residence requirement limiting the number of people they meet, let me just say that you will meet SO MANY PEOPLE your first semester of college. In-rez helps you establish some sort of bond with a few of them.

Dec 2010

I would say 'I recommend this class and Mara to lovers of Russian', but the fact of the matter is: you haven't really got a choice. If you make it to 4th year Russian, Mara WILL be your teacher. She's the only one. And she's brilliant. You should be glad you get her as a teacher. She's interesting, passionate, and with a wealth of knowledge and experience to which you can have essentially unrestricted access, if you approach her. And she is oh so approachable. Really, she's extremely friendly, both inside and outside of the classroom. That being said, all the reviews which say that this class is A LOT of work are absolutely true. The readings can be difficult, class discussion may be a bit overwhelming, the "socheneniya" can be demanding. If you're looking for an easy 4 credit A, this is not the course for you. It's tough. But it's worth it.

Nov 2009

Professor Kashper Is not only a very approachable and intellectual professor she is also a great person. I looked forward to her class every week. She is incredibly passionate especially about Russian literature. although she sometimes can seemed biased, her opinions and discussion topics were always thought provoking and challenging. She always made time for her students and when she was unavailable for office hours she offered hour long sessions at coffee shops and restaurants where she would buy us coffee and discuss not only our work but was excited to discuss every day topics. She was incredibly accessible and encouraged us to talk to her about anything we needed in terms of the class.

Aug 2009

Mara teaches Russian the way it should be taught-- Hours upon hours of hard work backed up by a supporting and understanding professor. Don't be deterred by the workload. Really, it's good for you.

Nov 2006

I just want to say that this class is A LOT of work. It makes life a little bit rough. Sometimes I think about what a drag it is that there is so much work. There is so much, really, a lot. so much work.

Jun 2005

This class is no joke. First, the professor plays favorites and grades based on those preferences, with no mercy including the final grade. Kashper cares little for your opinion because she only teaches what she feels is the most important and crucial point in every piece of literature that you read. The benefit of this class is that you learn alot and you read alot. Moreover, you really have a good overview of how literature developed in Russia durign the 20th century. The downside is writting more than you ever would want and making yourself go crazy for trying to get on Kashper's good side, which does not exist.

May 2005

So... you think you've made it this far, and Russian will be a piece of cake!? WRONG. Kashper makes sure everyone works their ass off for the semester, and although she's easy on the due dates, you'll be up to your ushi in work. I can safely say that this class took up 1/3 of my homework time. Granted, you will learn a lot, but she's the hardest grader in the Slavic department and it will begin to get to you. I actually found her to be a delightful lady and I liked her style of getting everyone engaged (don't like the Socratic method? don't take this class). She's approachable and friendly, and invited us to cultural events outside of class, including an end-of-semester dinner.

May 2005

The long and short of it is: this class is a lot of work to no end. Work must be justified, it must lead to progress. A small class that always starts late and always ends late: the professor acts as if hers were the only class in the world. She assigns work according to this standard. There is no concrete syllabus: she makes it up as she goes and revises it even as it's printing, I swear. Flexibility is good, but anarchy is not. The verb book she uses (Muravyova) is old and good, but in this class...you will do the same five exercises over and over because the professor has forgotten whether you did them (aloud) already...and she will pass it off as review that she intended in the first place. You read one text the entire semester - Nedelia kak nedelia (A week like any other). The idea is to learn all the vocab really well...the reality is you are bored out of your mind discussing, three times a week, the reasons why the heroine does not have any time...and how do we know that her husband loves her? The text has no literary value but it suits Prof. Kashper's political agenda. (Topics for the final presentation were such: Children and careers, family relations, abortion: for or against; feminism: for or against. Granted, this class is taught at Barnard...but the biased feminism...an abuse of feminism, I daresay...has no place in the University, especially in a language class. I learned about human nature in this class - esp. from the way the other students were cowed by the professor and confessed that they would do anything for her...that she was an ice queen whom time would melt. She never treated me as anything other than an unserious school girl. She could not remember - although there were all of five girls in the class - whether I went to Columbia or Barnard; in fact she fondly generalized about "we Barnard women" - God forbid a boy should sign up for this class; he'd lose his mind, except she would probably ironically choose him as her favorite. And she mispronounced my name all the time.

Mar 2005

BEWARE -- she is outrageously awful! This woman doesn't have the barest inkling of how to teach a class. Instead of provoking some kind of meaningful discussion about the incredibly interesting books we were reading, she simply turned the class into a war zone where the two or three people with agendas yelled at each other. I learned NOTHING. Oh, and the grading? So arbitrary, you'd think you were back in L&R. Do not take this class.

Sep 2004

Prof. Kashper is a wonderful, saintly woman. I missed four weeks of the semester when I was taking her class, and she was flexible, helpful, and understanding. She encourages class discussions, she respects student's oppinions, and she rarely ever feeds literary criticism. As she said near the end of the course, we usually come to the same conclusions as the famous critics if we discuss it enough ourselves, and she allowed us to do so. She grades incredibly fairly, and allows re-writes. She's very flexible about due dates if you really have a conflict-- but she doesn't take any BS. She chooses interesting novels and loves it when you discover Russian Literature for the first time through her class. She also takes you out to lunch or dinner a lot, and her class included a trip to the Metropolitan Museum and the Metropolitan Opera when I took it.

Jun 2004

*** AVOID **** The motto is “It’s not about what you learn, but what you already know,” which is obviously good for some, but bad for others. This is a woman who cares absolutely nothing about her students, their effort, or progress. She will grade solely based on her liking you, and her liking you depends on the following: (1) You have to have a perfect working knowledge of the Russian grammar, which means, if you are in this country for more than 2 years, you better have been attending a Russian school. (2) You should have read most of the works on her syllabus prior to taking the class (3) You must have an in-depth knowledge of the Russian History. If you lack any of these, she will put on a "sweet lady" mask, but don't be surprised when at the end of the semester she's “not willing to listen to you”. Overall she doesn’t have a single opinion of her own. She generally reads a printout, and asks the students to discuss.

Jan 2004

I LOVE this lady! She is so sweet and understanding, and she chose wonderful books for us to read. She was my first English prof here and I couldn't have asked for a better teacher. Though she sometimes had unrealistic expectations of what the class could do, I found her to be extremely engaging and I really enjoyed her class.

May 2003

I don't know how anyone could give this woman a negative review! She is absolutely wonderful. There's no way to get out of her class without learning a LOT of Russian. So if you want to actually learn something, what a novel idea, take advantage of any and all of her classes. She does everything in her power to make her classes interesting and enlightening at the same time. She is a little intimidating in class but an absolute sweetheart outside of class. I think she just wants to keep things professional so she can teach you as much as she can. She RARELY get off the topic. But don't let this intimidate you! She is always available outside class to help you for as long as you need help. And I have to agree with the last review, she is one of the only professors at this school that you just want to hug after the class is over!!

May 2003

She is NOT an easy professor. The classes I took required fluency in Russian, which I don't have, and she is a drill sergeant when it comes to pronounciation and grammar. BUT. . . she is warm, sweet, funny, generous and understanding, and you know what - my Russian improved immeasurably after some time with her. Plus, she is always ready to give praise when you deserve it. One of the rare professors whom you just want to hug after the class ends.

Dec 2002

I had her for First-Year Seminar--very friendly and understanding to her students, but the class was boring half the time. She does make an effort to let the students set the pace of the class, but I would have appreciated a more organized class structure and fewer free-digression sessions.