Professor Viswanathan is so great. This class has a pretty diverse and interesting collection of readings, and she does justice to all of them. The class is pretty much as it is described online, though I do think it helps to read each text or go in with some understanding of the socio-political environment the next was written in. Professor Viswanathan encourages discussion and debate but balances it out quite a bit with her own opinions/readings of the text, which are always insightful and a pleasure to listen to. She's super kind and helpful and you will always leave her office hours with a lot more than you expected coming in. She will give you good feedback on papers and is always responsive in terms of meeting outside class time. Additional perks: she's involved in a lot of events with the Asia Society NYC and you will get complimentary tickets to many of the ones she is at if you ask. Overall, a great class and a great professor.
Professor Viswanathan is a professor who always encourages her favorite students to always actively engage her material, and to never focus on cycles of revenge, trauma, or shame & hypocrisy that would low-brow analyze her subjects. Therefore, professor Viswananthan is a great professor and side-steps desperate themes of anti-Americanism that plagues and thus renders a share of the nation's community colleges professors as not ready to hold an office at a prestigious university like Columbia University, as she does.
Prof. V is extremely knowledgeable about really cool, esoteric things. In addition, she is skilled at creating an intimate seminar environment in which everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas, but student comments never get out of hand. She is very helpful in terms of meeting outside of class and clearly sees the success of her students to be a priority. She is a fair grader, meaning that she will call you on your BS, but reward you justly when you've done good work. Her paper comments are thoughtful and thorough. And, to top it all off, she took us all out for dinner at the end!!!!!
Prof. Viswanathan is a wonderful discussion leader who brings a wide array of perspectives to each week's reading. She has an excellent way of showing her support for students' diverse readings of the texts. When she decides to lecture it is most always relevant, clear, and always the spring board for another dimension of discussion rather than an end in itself.
I am an English Major in CC and only take seminars because I prefer the class discussions and hands on experience that lectures don't provide. So far, I have taken 5 seminars with some of Columbia's top professors. Gauri Viswanathan is the reason I studied my butt off in highschool to get into Columbia. Her lectures and comments on the books inspire class discussion. She doesnt force her students to speak, we all fight eachother to be called on next. That to me, is the sign of a wonderful professor. In so many classes I have taken, professors are articulate but don't encourage discussion, that is what makes seminars boring because you can't escape. Professor Viswanathan is the opposite. She is open to different interpretations and she encourages all sorts of comments and takes on the material. Often times we would stray from the topics to prove a particular point. I don't know why anyone would call her cold and aloof. Intimidating yes, cold, absolutely not. You have to understand something about Professor Viswanathan. She is a very smart women, not just well read and well spoken, she is a top scholar in her field. She links themes and topics and presents them in a way that is mind boggling If you were that smart don't you think you would feel slightly out of place dealing with a room full of 18 20-year old hormone raging college students? I honestly think we intimidate her. If you ever speak to her one on one you will realize that if you are open and friendly and carefree with her, she becomes more at ease. She is a nice person and wants to be nice (and is nice) but I think she may be a little socially uncomfortable at times. k, about the literature. Awesome books, really interesting, she chooses great classics. While you can get away with doing only some of the reading, this was the only class this year that I did all of it because it wasn't like pulling teeth. 2 five page papers and a final 10 page paper. Super easy, only meets once a week and in essence the cherry on my cupcake this semester.
Professor Viswanathan is an inspiring teacher, a great mind, and generally one of Columbia's best. Take one of her classes before you graduate.
This review is primarily directed to graduate students in English, but it also applies to advanced undergrads and anyone interested in a serious academic experience. I can't overstate the value of taking a class with Professor Viswanathan, and in general, working with her as an advisor. It's true that she's not terribly outgoing or incredibly friendly - sometimes she appears cold or aloof - but her real investment in her students is intense and genuine. She may not want to shoot the shit with you about movies or restaurants, and you better have your act together if you go to her office hours, but more importantly, she will read your work carefully and really try to make class worthwhile and challenging. There are a lot of English professors at Columbia who initially appear super cool or charismatic or friendly, and someone you can be chummy with and perhaps even friends with. Prof Viswanathan is none of these things, but you'll get something far more valuable - an actually intellectually challenging advisor and teacher who cares mostly about your intellectual development and pushing you to your limits. You'll have to work your ass off to ever get a kindly look or comment - if ever - but it's far more satisfying than shooting the shit with X friendly prof about how great you are, when you know you aren't. So, I recommend taking a class with Viswanathan or working with her if you're ready to actually work your ass off, endure some intellectual beatdowns, and carry out a purely academic relationship with your teacher. it won't be fun or chummy or comfortable as working with so and so fun and cool and charismatic senior professor, but it wiill be far far more rewarding, and you will be much much more the student and intellectual because of it. not for everyone, but highly recommended if you're up for it.
Prof. Viswanathan has a calm passion about her that pervades her intimate seminars. Her reading list is perfect, her manner subtly motivating, and her quiet bearing imperial. Please take her class, even if it's not your field. You will remember her long after you've lost your copy of the Iliad.
A true intellectual and scholar. Classes were a bit boring a times, but she is an interested, interesting, inspired academic. Take a course with her before you graduate.