David Eisenbach

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

May 2020

My first semester Lithum professor took a sabbatical so I only had Eisenbach for second semester. He was running for Public Advocate of New York while teaching our class. Showed up late and cancelled all the time. Would assign legit whole books in between Monday and Wednesday, and then spend 30 minutes playing clips of his debates. If you're midterm answers weren't the exact wording he was looking for, or you didn't reference the quote he thought most pertinent in an open ended question, you didn't get points. Not available for meetings. We did not receive a syllabus nor any paper assignments. The assignment was "write the paper I've never read before." Like cmon. On the other hand, if you don't plan on putting much effort into a class, and don't mind when your teacher speaks over you constantly, I think most people walked out of this class with at least a B+. He is really smart and he is a super engaging lecturer and I did learn a lot from him--just not a space for open discussion, and certainly not a fair grader.

Jun 2014

Take this class. Prof. Eisenbach is the chillest guy and one of the most engaging lecturers I've had at Columbia (probably the most engaging). I took this class in the summer so it was 3+ hours starting at 9:30am - not only did I never fall asleep, but I don't think I ever even stopped paying attention. He is that good. Having said that, if you are VERY familiar with American history, this class might be a little slow just because it is not as focused on the Presidency itself as I might have expected. Either way, this class is the kind of class I came to Columbia to take, and Eisenbach is a dude.

May 2012

I completely agree with the post below. Not only did Eisenbach FAIL to show up to class on several occasions, but he also expected us to complete a midterm, 2 papers and a final ALL after spring break using material we never really went over or even read. He was an unnecessarily harsh grader, completely unavailable for meetings longer than 3 minutes, often failed to respond to emails (and if he did, they were always just a few, misspelled, jumbled words) and yet he expected everyone to participate in every class but didn't do anything to foster such participation. Most classes, he let just a few people dominate the class while he scribbled random, nonsensical words onto the board. The most frustrating part of Eisenbach's class, in my opinion, was the way he constantly questioned every comment made in class with a "so?" or "what are you trying to say?" or "what's your point?" There was no way for a student to simply make a comment or an observation, because Eisenbach was always looking for an "argument" or a "thesis" of sorts. This made participation very awkward at times, and I don't think this is what anyone wants in a class like CC, where we're supposed to feel free to express our thoughts on the readings and different philosophies of life. How can you do that if your teacher always wants you to have a formed opinion before opening your mouth? All in all, avoid Eisenbach. That's all I can say.

Apr 2012

Ah, what can I say about David. What can I not say about David. David Eisenbach may have once been an amazing teacher who was really attentive to his students and cared about them. Well, I can assure that this is no longer the case. David has recently had the pleasure of getting a television show to be aired on the H2 network, entitled "10 Things You Didn't Know," that cover everything about American history from Wyatt Earp to Mormonism, with a completely random travel into Roman times (Caligula anyone?) I say all of this because on the whole, I've felt more interest in his show than in his CC class. Perhaps I'm just a little bitter from the fact that he missed class or cancelled EIGHT TIMES. That in itself wouldn't even be an issue but for the fact that he also expected us to be responsible for the material that we never yeah right. Will he put material on his midterm/final about things that you didn't talk about? Hell yeah he will. If you do have the good luck that I've had to have him, make sure to pester him about when he will actually return your work, so that he can grade your paper while you take your midterm. Or so that you can even get your final from last semester back. I'm not sure if he is a difficult grader, but he does give slash grades, which are hard for me to fathom, particularly grades like B+/A- which don't actually correspond to real grades...89.5 perhaps? He is still quite a lively discussion-monger, and his discussions are still going no further than the basic interpretation of the book. Which is fine, because we all figured out that this was one class that we were never going to read for.

Dec 2010

Professor Eisenbach is one of those rare professors with a gift for public speaking and ingenuity that actually listens to his students. Unfortunately, to really get out his true genius, one must do a bit of digging. He doesn't like to answer questions about his opinions very much but prefers to keep discussion going, which is great for discussion, but not-so-great if you really want to see him at work. I felt like a lot of this class was a teaser for his American Presidency class he teaches now and then. He has such a talent for drawing people's attention and keeping them entertained and stimulated that it's almost a shame that LitHum isn't a lecture course. A word of warning - though he was great to listen to when he occasionally spoke, because of the way he runs his seminar, the overall quality of one's experience will greatly depend on the people in one's class.

Feb 2010

Had him for LitHum a few yeas ago, so maybe he has changed his style. Yes, he is engaging and energetic and looks like those hobo clown statuettes your grandmother has in her guest bedroom (well, mine does), but each time you looked back on each session, you realize he didn't really say anything after two hours. By the second semester, I had checked out-- not because the texts were uninteresting, and I was actually very happy that he assigned us some Joseph Conrad-- but because nothing was happening in the class. David Charles keeps his discussion very safe-- and hey, I don't mind safe, because I think the basics are vital to use as a springboard for further discussion. But we never got past that. Yes, he explained some of the knottier parts of the readings, but that was done in the introduction of the books if you had bothered with it. He kept calling on people who had stimulating comments like, "It's because Achilles? He was a warrior?" Okay, sure-- everyone should have their say, but to happily entertain such comments for 15 minutes as if it's something viable in the discussion makes for something more akin to spinning our wheels than striking forth into the magical world of deep and deeply felt textual investigation. On the other hand, if someone brought up something that was perhaps not quite what David Charles was trying to push but was still a logical, thought-out idea, he'd kind of skip over it and steer the conversation back to. . . whatever point it was he was making, usually one that got dragged on so long it had lost its meaning ("Don Quixote and the church-- the church & DQ etc" so by the end you thought, okay, it was the church, now what about it, did he mention that?) If he didn't skip over the comment he would disarm whatever point the student was making by finishing the sentence for him. This wasn't just when someone was bringing up something inappropriately off-track. This was when somebody was suggesting an alternative after 20 minutes of talking about the same thing. Basically, it feels like you are having a discussion because David Charles is so enthusiastic, but you're being tricked-- there was no discussion. Just parroting and approved embellishments to DC's first point. Nor is there discussion amongst the students. Rather, it is Q&A, with David Charles. At other times, he would build up to something really awesome and incredible (according to his mounting excitement & demeanor, admittedly infectious) and then when nobody could guess exactly what it was, he would either never tell us or just go back to whatever general idea we were discussing. We discussed, at one point. Coleridge, and after a fine, drawn-out monologue on how the wet hole is surrounded by hairy pine trees, he pointed at one of our sharpest classmates and said, "And what would that be a metaphor for?" Now, you know everyone was thinking "a vagina" but when the kid said it, David Charles said, "No!" and never told us what the wet dark hole surrounded by pine trees could be indicative of in a poem talking about a pleasure dome. That is really all we got out of Coleridge, or anything. Other times his humor would get in the way, making his statements confusing, and then he would take it out on the poor student he called on who thought that DC was either joking or saying something completely different. That and we spent 30-50 minutes every Monday listening to what people did over the weekend, which on one hand was interesting but on the other hand was wasting precious time and money, I know now. Though after awhile it was hard to tell whether you'd rather hear about the awesome times we all awesomely had or David Charles obliquely describe what was clearly not a representation of ladybits. That said, I would assume from his energy that he is a great lecturer, and naturally he has some interesting things to say-- he is a smart man and thinks well on his feet and is usually articulate. I almost wanted to take his presidents class just because of the topic but wasn't able to, or maybe scared myself off-- reading the reviews for that course looks like it was my mistake, because I can well imagine he would deliver a lively set of lectures. On the other hand, it's frustrating to hear about other people's challenging and stimulating LitHum experiences & realize that all I got out of mine were anecdotes about other people's lives and about David Charles, and how he used his charisma to push a few themes that were not much more than surface readings-- so maybe I can say this-- if you are looking for something "fun" but not really challenging, where you can get a good grade once you figure out David Charles' system, go for it! There's no shame in that. On the other hand, if you aren't worried about your grade, find a harder section and actually get a good solid understanding to go with that not-inflated-B.

Jan 2009

I can't really add to the praise that has been thrown on David Eisenbach, because I am also one of the converted. I think many people walked away from Eisenbach's American Presidency class finally understanding where $50,000 was going (or should be going). Amazing lectures, very topical, funny, engaging. I had been turned off politics and took the class as a pass/fail curiosity, only it to become my favorite I've taken here. If he teaches it again (and it won't be the same without the 2008 primary to analyze), do not even second guess yourself before signing up.

Aug 2008

Prof. Eisenbach's class was the most enjoyable as well as one of the most interesting I've ever taken at Columbia. Going to lecture was like going to the movies--I would stop at the snack machine outside 417 IAB, grab some M and Ms, get a good seat and just sit back and enjoy. He taught history more like a great storyteller than a professor. Prof. Eisenbach also had the distinct talent of making our class of 200+ students seem like a seminar-- for the first 20-30 minutes of each lecture we would discuss the 2008 campaign, and students would participate from every corner of the room, speaking and then responding to one another. As far as the material goes, I feel that I now have a very good overview of 20th century presidents and even 20th century American history as seen through that lens.

Jun 2008

David Eisenbach is a narcissistic braggart who will do anything to draw attention to himself. Better yet, he is the Paris Hilton of academia. The man might as well have lectured about himself for fifteen weeks instead of enlightening the class about the complexities of the modern American presidency. The American Presidency is not an intellectually challenging class by anyone's standards; rather, the true challenge comes in the form of vegetating through a lecture composed by a man who is so self-obsessed. Indeed, on various occasions Eisenbach touched upon a few enlightening points. Of course, those occasions did not occur until he took a break from staring at himself in the mirror. Perhaps I am being too harsh, but I am 99.099457% certain that Eisenbach possess the kind of ego that would drive a man to read about himself on Culpa. With that in mind, I hope he reads this and discovers that while he stands in front of the lecture hall and dreams about making out with himself, the rest of us are dying for some intellectual stimulation from his class. If you want to learn about the American presidency, take Richard Pious.

May 2008

Eisenbach should be a golden nugget. I've was waiting to have a professor like him, one that i could tell my kids about. He's that good. Eisenbach turns lectures into stories. He engages the class rather than just dictating facts. Some people take notes, others listened--intently. He is amazing. I'm taking his class over the summer just because he's teaching it. The class is amazing too, really interesting. Even though we've all learned some of this stuff in American History courses or the likes during high school, never has the material been so interesting. This is the best class and best professor I have had during my time at Columbia.

Apr 2008

Eisenbach is, simply put, the best professor I've had in my academic career. I cannot stress enough how worthwhile this class is with him. The readings -while admittedly too heavy- are informative and interesting. The lectures are unbelievably engaging, and he does a great job of getting students to participate. At times it seemed like a seminar, even though there were 100 kids in the class. When he teaches, it's almost like he's an actor or storyteller. He also has a lot of inside information about elections and politics (he ran a presidential campaign), and taking this class during an election year was a great choice. Take it, you won't regret it.

Apr 2008

Eisenbach is a great lecturer! While I was shopping it, I was so sad at the thought of dropping the class I considered auditing it just to listen to his lectures. (I figured if i wanted to listen so bad i could probably handle the work.) His classes were like storytime about the crazy things our presidents and CIA have gotten away with over the years (and also the things they haven't gotten away with...) He can be pretty theatrical and likes to excite the audience with lots of crazy facts about the presidents. This class has a few main themes, including the media and the presidency--who manipulates whom; and the expansion of the federal government and executive branch. We also spent at least 10 minutes in the beginning of every class discussing the 2008 elections as they were happening, with lots of emphasis on youtube videos and the media narrative. SUPER interesting class, especially if you are interested in politics or American history. Take it!

Sep 2007

Dave is an awesome professor. He was engaged, exciting, and made a two-hour long class seem much much shorter. He's a really hard grader, though, and does not believe in helping people's GPA to make Columbia look good. (He said so himself.) The days we got essays/ midterms back were days to groan. An A- is amazing and an A is near impossible in his class. So it's your choice.

Aug 2007

All the reviews are right. Eisenbach is a great guy and prof. If you have to take lit hum, then his 9am class is worth it. and if you happen to sleep through a few classes (either in class or oversleeping in bed) it won't hurt your grade too much. he isn't anal about tardiness, and he assigns no written work other than the 2 papers per semester. ONE POINT i do disagree with other reviewers about, is what you get out of the discussions - even if you dont read the books, if you compensate by paying a lot of attention in class, you will get the gist of the readings and, more importantly, the ~themes~ that he always stresses. Do the readings because it makes the lecture/discussions more enriching, but even if you don't, just sit back and enjoy the intriguing intellectual conversation and criticism about life.

May 2007

The lengthy and pretentious review below is mine, and after having doubled my dosage of Eisenbach, or endured another semester of his lovely regime, I felt compelled to offer a more glowing review. Dave is awesome, and you'll leave his class really having discovered a lot about what you want to get out of both literature and life. The true beauty of his seminar is that students are able to be themselves and discuss what matters to them, which under Dave's hairy and adroit hand will invariably include the texts and their most interesting implications. Treated in a way that's reverent but without a hint of stuffiness, even St. Augustine becomes a vital tool that anyone in Dave's class could blow the proverbial dust off of and apply its wisdom and aesthetic to their own lives. And that's the genius of Eisenbach: a welcome contrast to most other Lit Hum sections, the emphasis isn't on the texts themselves; it's on how they relate to you and your place as a guy or gal in the shitshow of modern society, which other instructers too often forget is after all the purpose of education. Only complaints: a little lack of direction at times, and sparse comments on papers. Also, starting at 9 AM sucked. But you'll get the grade you deserve: how much you put in determines how much you'll get out.

Dec 2006

Professor Eisenbach is very knowledgeable about the material, and very engaging in class. He is a fair grader, and you have to work pretty hard at getting an A at a paper. Classes were always fun, though one gripe I do have (and only one!) is that he almost never wrote stuff down on the board. Consequently, it is harder to take notes in this class. One of my favorite classes of this past semester.

Dec 2006

Professor Eisenbach (or, as he insists his students - er - friends call him, Dave), is a very kind and slightly odd species. By the time you've experienced his seminars for a couple of weeks, you'll certainly feel fuzzy and amicable towards him, and probably towards your fellow classmates as well. One will also come away with a pretty solid understanding of the texts so cursorily rushed through in the syllabus, though in less detail and depth than I think one could have. Dave is clearly brilliant. He has not only an extensive knowledge of the books (though not entirely without its holes), but also the ability to impart it upon our undergraduate minds. However, this is one of the seminar's main flaws - ideas are simplified, sometimes to a maddening extent, and usually to a degree where some of the actual meaning is diminished. Discussions under Dave - which take up the entire four hours of Lit Hum per week, save the first half hour, which you'll usually spend talking about your weekend - are usually productive and oftentimes revelatory, but nevertheless suffer from an interesting mix of deficiencies. Dave generally espouses a very laissez-faire style, as the Core's main virtue is, after all, to teach students to generate their own knowledge. While Dave's approach is conducive to this, it also means that prejudiced ideologues, verbose and pompous creatures, and vapid pseudo-intellectuals are overindulged. When Dave does step in, he often does so to make a concerted effort is made to get everyone to participate (in the aforementioned spirit of the Core), which sucks because not everyone has something cogent to say. He'll also occassionally intercede to steer the class' errant hive-mind back onto track, which is sometimes completely necessary, but it does result in his own views - at times, a bit anti-religious - being imposed upon the seminar. On the whole, though, you'll look forward to going to class (tardiness is even allowed), and the two hours will fly by much more quickly than an hour of tortured lecture, courtesy of Eisenbach's gravelly sort of Jersey warmth. The touchy-feely demeanor doesn't extend to Dave's grading predilections, though. Well, it sort of does - he doesn't care about the typical conventions, or even if you include quotations to concretely support your assertions. In fact, the quality of the writing is utterly superfluous in determining your mark, which is probably a positive thing, but it's certainly surprising, since this is a class based somewhat on literary analysis. I suppose this mirrors the overall ethos of the class discussions, where - as in (all?) Lit Hum classes - close linguistic analysis is sacrificed for greater philosophical exegesis. This is what Dave really cares about your presenting your ideas, backing them up (even vaguely, if you want), and relating them back to 'real life,' so as to add an explicit relevance to the entire endeavor. I guess this is the point of education, so it's a noble goal, but expressed in this way, it seems a trifle artificial - especially when Dave doesn't tell students that this is mandatory, leading to an annoyingly needless (yet slight) reduction in grades. So after my first semester of Dave, I'm essentially torn about the extent to which his class is worthwhile. In comparison to most of my friends' Lit Hum , I'd characterize Eisenbach's seminar as a very good Core experience, but not a great one. Given the immense difficulties associated with switching Lit Hum sections, and the capricious levels of pedagogy that pervade the rest of the department, I would say it's definitely worth it to stick with him. If nothing else, you'll make a friend.

Nov 2006

Dave is clearly very knowledgeable and very nice. He respects all of his students and generally doesn't care if someone is a little late to class. He generally tries to make readings interesting, as difficult as that is. Unfortunately, there is one major problem with his teaching style: there is almost no continuity from class to class. He fails to highlight the common threads between works, which is critically important when writing papers. I am completely serious when I say that I walked into every class having no idea what the discussion would be about.

Jun 2006

Dave is really nice. He's so laid back and obviously very knowledgable but you only get to see this when you meet with him one on one. Classes are disappointingly dumbed down sometimes, but I think he does this to make the texts easier to grasp for first years. I found myself much more impressed with him in the beginning of the year. He establishes a great relationship with his students though, giving out his phone number to discuss paper topics and meeting off campus at MSM whenever needed or requested. Meetings with him were great! He's very helpful and very kind one on one. Class discussions feel very reductive and are pretty repetitive. He's also a more difficult grader for someone who gives extensions generously and allows tardiness. We also spend the first half an hour of every first session of the week talking about our weekends! He's a real sweetheart though. Take this class! And read absolutely everything...especially second semester; the texts are well chosen.

Sep 2005

Again, one of the coolest teachers I (or anyone) will ever find. He does try to guide the discussions at times; he has a few concise points he wants you to carry with you that he drills into you again and again. However, his teaching style is casual and he is open to any opinion, no matter how silly or tentative.

Sep 2005

The smartest, coolest man on the planet. Maybe the universe. Take him. Do it. Do it now.

Jun 2005

Dave is amazing. I came to Columbia expecting to be a math major, and because of LIT HUM (of all classes) I'm planning on being an english major. His class is extremely engaging and the hour and 50 minutes fly by faster than any 75 minute class I've ever taken. It's basically an open-ended discussion, but he does tend to guide it in one way or another depending on what he wants us to get out of the texts. Despite it being a 9am class, I never had a problem staying awake (plus he brings cookies in for you every morning so that you have a sugar buzz to stay awake). You can say anything you want and get pretty tangential and it doesn't matter. He's hilarious, and also understanding of the fact that some (or most) of the readings are not really that entertaining. You can be completely honest about your feelings about the books (and even how much you read of them). You don't have to read everything, sparknotes will more than suffice, and he will rarely to never call on you so you can get away with not speaking. He grades fairly and consistently, but leaves minimal comments on papers. I doubt anyone in the class got below a B, and I know many of us did absolutely none of the readings. Also, he respects athletes... which many professors don't... so keep that in mind. All in all, INCREDIBLE man, and if you have him you are soo lucky. It's a damn shame he doesn't teach any other classes at Columbia.

Apr 2004

Dave Eisenbach is perhaps the coolest man on the planet. In addition to being phenomenally witty and down-to-earth, he also happens to be brilliant. He is hands down the best discussion leader I've ever had and always comes out with new and interesting ways to draw his students into the text. The man made Thucydides enjoyable, for God's sake! He returns e-mails promptly and is always willing to meet outside of class for further explanation of assignments, etc. I honestly can't imagine that a better Lit Hum professor exists on this campus.

Feb 2004

Dave rocks. Although he sometimes pushes his own opinions in class or tries to force the class discussion towards his way of thinking, this happens less often than in any other english class I've ever taken. Every monday he asks the class what adventures we had over the weekend (and appreciates stories about wings and beer as well as stories about museums). What more could you ask for? Our class discussions have challenged a lot of the opinions and assumptions I came to this class with and gave me a broader perspective (sickeningly college-brochure-like, isn't it?). The only downside: he fails to make everyone participate, so there are always a few kids silent (falling asleep) in the corner. Don't be those kids!