If you are a poetry or lit person this class is probably for you. If you are neither of these things, DO NOT take this class. The only part of this class that makes it an "Intro" is that it is a survey of 1000 years of poetry. Besides that, it is completely taught for lit majors and 'poetry people.' The professors are both lively and brilliant (especially Golston), but at the end of the day the class is an unbelievable drag. Murray's lectures are rushed and scattered, and she can be quite condescending if you visit her office hours. Golston is much better, but the lectures lack big picture ideas and spend too much time on historical background and abstract concepts. Too much time is spent reading into things that aren't in the text. Overall, very disappointing and a huge pain in the ass as a non-lit person.
Professors Murray and Golston were both incredible. They are brilliant, passionate, and knowledgeable, and their lectures were both insightful and fascinating. They also worked really well as a team. It will be a great loss for the department if Columbia ever loses either of them. Prof. Murray is truly inspirational (and well dressed) and was always willing to recommend extra books and articles. My bookcase is now filled with books that she and Prof. Golston recommended. Besides their amazing lectures, though, Profs. Murray and Golston were also very available and friendly. They never hesitated to stay and chat about poetry after class and were very encouraging when I asked paper questions. As for the course, for anyone interested in poetry, what could be better? The readings were all amazing, and Profs. Murray and Golston interspersed them with insightful analysis and interesting anecdotes. Even though I had read many of the poets before, I learned a great deal from this class and really enjoyed tracing the progression of English poetic theory. We also had a guest lecture on hip-hop by Kalefa Sanneh and two poets read for the last class--both really wonderful things.
If you ever have doubts of why you came you Columbia seeing some grad students who aren't really sure about what the CORE is, go to Prof. Golston's class and you'll find your reason to be here. Being an international student who has basically no background in Western literature, I have learnt a tremendous amount from Prof. Golston's extensive knowledge over history, literature and cultures. He encourages different comments and opinions, yet it is not compulsory to talk in every single class (unlike other Lit Hum classes that force you to talk as "class participation counts up to 25% of the final grade). What Prof. Golston really strikes the students is his critical thinking on religion and civilizations. His comments may sometimes be cynical, but I have to admit that they dig me into a lot of thinking even after class. Most of the people I know in class enjoy it a lot, and nobody wants to switch out from fall semester to spring. In short, Prof. Golston is extremely friendly, approachable, knowledgeable, and so humorous that I am 100% sure you won't fall asleep in class!
Professor Golston is simply phenomenal. Few professors are able to grasp an audience's attention in a lecture course like he does. He has tremendous knowledge of the material, yet is willing to listen to what others have to say and to accept their arguments. He provides a fair bit of background information to contextualize what you study in its broader context, but also focuses intensely on the text itself, giving his students a METHODOLOGY for analyzing the precise language of the poem (as opposed to merely giving his students dry facts which they might forget anyways). In short, he is a person who really seems to love what he does, and it shows.
as long as the title of this course is, golston repeated it at least once in every class -- maybe to remind himself about what he was supposed to be talking about. it's not that he's a bad professor, just that this was a poorly conceived course. the course is based on golston's thesis that modernist poetry was heavily influenced by eugenics, and he's probably right. it's a pretty interesting idea, and i'm sure it would make a great book. it didn't, however, make for a good class. sometimes he would base an entire class on pretty improbable hypothesis, as he did when he claimed that Ezra Pound's first imagist poem was based on a machine designed to test racial health through graphing the modulations of the voice. other times, he would spend the entire hour and fifteen minutes reading the assigned courseworks homework outloud, which was espescially painful when the assigned reading was from some crackpot eugenecist who wrote poorly. i'm sure Golston would make a great poetry teacher -- he's funny, has a captivating speaking voice, and unpacks poems really well. the problem with this class was that it wasn't really about the poetry. if you take a class with golston and you want to actually learn something, make sure the class really is about poetry. and, one last word of advice: beware of the mean graders who you may never meet, and of other students in the class, whom, as you might be able to tell from reading the below reviews, believe that golston is the man without really taking time to think about it.
It does not get any better than this. Quite simply, the best teacher you could ask for... and so on and so forth.
Prof. Golston hardly needs another positive review. The simple truth is that you should try to take a class with him no matter what. Even if you don't like peotry, you should take a class with him just to experience the experience that is Michael Golston. That being said, if you DO like poetry, you should DEFFINATELY take this seminar. Not only do you get to spend two hours a week in a small room with Golston, you also get to read some of the craziest, coolest poetry there is. The texts studied start with early modernist experiemental poetry (Stein) and end up with contemporary conceptual poets. The work in this class puches language and poetry to the limit. The beauty of it is that you could be reading a bunch of nonsense syllables but Prof. Golston will show you how it is the most beautiful and exciting thing in the world. Please take this class.
Michael Golston is the funniest man alive. I'm such a huge fan that I'm in the "Michael Golston is the Man Club" on facebook. Prof Golston knows so much about poetry and is so happy to share it with the class. Every lecture was not only packed with information, it was entertaining. He has incredibly funny habits with the blackboard, which is always fun to watch. Golston is also available outside of class and is willing to schedule meetings with you. I'm planning on taking every course he offers at Columbia. Yeah. He's that good. Take this course. Prof Murray is also very good.
This guy is too good to be true. Inspiring and there's little point saying much more than that, because in my mind he's one of the best professors you'll find around Columbia. Go for it if you get a chance to take a class with him!
Oh, where to begin with Prof. Golston? The man has one of the most interesting personalities you'll find in a department filled with aging eccentrics and young assistant profs with varying degrees of insecurity, and that's saying something. Quite simply, he's fun. He knows what he's talking about - he had personally met nearly every poet (Charles Bernstein, Lyn Hejinian, Susan Howe, John Ashbery, and others) on our syllabus, and often broke out with random exclamations or comments in class that would resound through the staid corridors of Philosophy Hall. Don't let his vibrancy fool you, however - Golston is smart, critical, articulate, and genuinely interested by both the material and what you have to say about it. You can't sleepwalk through this seminar - he'll make you talk even if you don't want to. Since Golston's specialty is avant-garde poets and poetics, you're not going to be reading easy stuff - one of his favorites, Clark Coolidge, wrote entire poems filled with conjunctions and prepositions. Basically, this is the only class in the Department where you read anything really experimental and postmodern. The material, therefore, is pretty hard and can take more work than you might think at first, but it's worth it just to see Golston get so worked up about the readings. You'll be surprised how engaged you are by the end of the class - I, a self-professed hater of poetry, grew to enjoy the material and the professor quite a bit by the end. He's also exceedingly nice and willing to talk during office hours. Take a class with him; even if you're not interested in the material, you're sure to be won over by his personality and will probably come to enjoy whatever he teaches.
Lit Hum was one of my favorite classes all year - and let me tell you, it wasn't because of the course material, but because of Golston. He is no meek professor. Like the other reviewers have already noted, Prof. Golston has a flair for the dramatic. He does voices, acts out scenes from the readings, and basically just makes class extremely interesting. Because he raises wonderful thought-provoking questions during the disucssions, most of the class time was spent learning about the history behind particular novels and plays. Most of the information I remember from the class deals with the myriad of off-topic discussions he mediated, such as why English has more words than other languages. He knows that the departmental lit hum final is pretty much BS, so he spends most of the time talking about other related subjects. That being said, you will have absolutely no difficulty with the final. Also - Professor Golston teaches the Bible extremely well. He spends about a month on the readings and poses wonderfully exciting and interesting questions to the class. To summarize, I loved this class.
I completely agree with the first two reviews. I switched Lit Hum professors mid-year and it was the best move I made the whole semester. For me, Lit Hum transformed from a boring, lifeless, bullshit class into what I would consider my most enjoyable and scintillating class all semester. Golston is everything a lit hum professor should be... he is incredibly bright, encourages class participation (but by no means relies on it like my first semester lit hum prof), provides insightful and poignant comments into the works read, and to top it all off, he's entertaining. One particular aspect of the class I enjoyed was the historical contexts he would place the books in. He sometimes devoted whole class times to lecturing on a book's background before we actually delved into discussion. (He is a truly inspiring lecturer.) It was obvious he put much time into preparing for the class. In grading essays, he doesn't slap an arbitrary letter on... you will receive a number of insightful comments, and he will be honest if your essay is BS. A GREAT CLASS! If you can get in, do so.
First, let us get one thing straight: Michael Golston is the man. That being said, we can go into the specifics. He has an incredible presence in class; he employs effective body language and facial expressions to convey his point. To take an extreme but comedic example, one day Prof. Golston was explaining Freud's notion of the id, and he decided to demonstrate the effect of the unsuppressed id if he was craving a hamburger. So he naturally threw a desk aside and leapt toward a classmate, (who was holding an imaginary burger) he yelled "Gimme your [explitive] hamburger." That, he explained, is the unsuppressed id, and our ability to suppress it, according to Freud, is one of the defining factors of our humanness. He mediates class excellently by interpreting and elaborating on the points that students make. He also knows a lot of random but fascinating facts that always liven up class. I don't plan on being a comparitive lit major, but I am going to take other classes Golston offers because that is how good he is
Prof. Golston is a really good teacher. He was out in California teaching at Stanford, so he's definitly got a Califronia-guy vibe. He describes himself as a Dutch Socialist, doesnt take attendance, and seems mad that he has to put up with he called the Bolshevikish Bureaucracy of Lit Hum. He's really funny and very knowledgeable about English, even though its not his first language...Dont let that scare you, if he didn't tell you that on the first day of class you wouldn't know. His class is lots of fun, especially when he goes off topic, woah, its like, ride the Golston Train.....If you have the chance, take a Golston Class. Great Prof.