Achsah Guibbory

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Dec 2016

I had the pleasure of taking a course with Professor Guibbory first as a junior, and then for my fall senior seminar. I was wary of her Milton class, as I am an Americanist, but her teaching of his prose and poetry was utterly compelling. It was not easy; this was the first English class in which I found myself truly needing to take notes. And I often met to read and discuss passages from "Paradise Lost" outside of class with a friend. Her senior seminar on Sin, Sex, and Spirituality is quite possibly the greatest course I took in college, and stretched and engaged my mind endlessly. In all, though, neither Milton nor her senior seminar were overly taxing in terms of readings and assignments. And I found that, rather than meandering, her lecturing was flexible enough to embrace the interests of her students while still getting us through the material.

Mar 2011

I fell in love with this teacher on the first day of class, and slowly fell in love with her topic as she drew us into her impressively comprehensive understanding of Milton and his works. Not only is Professor Guibbory a phenomenal teacher for her enthusiasm and encouragement of class discussion, but she also gives her students the key to understanding some of the most difficult writings in English literature. Knowing Milton's poetry, polemical works and his epic Paradise Lost is invaluable to understanding the canonical works of the Western world -- Guibbory made this clear in the most delightful way. I loved writing for her and exploring the facets of Milton's characters and arguments.

Jun 2010

Professor Guibbory is a true gem to the English department. Her class is much more like a true seminar than what I have experienced from other English seminars. She's very knowledgeable and intelligent but is incredibly humble about it. She's truly one of the warmest, most wonderful professor/person I have met during my time in college. She's very easy to talk to during office hours. She really does care about what you have to say too. Great to ask for advice on just about anything! The only regret I have about my time at Barnard is not taking a class with her sooner!

Feb 2010

Guibbory seems like a nice, warm, down-to-earth woman, but she reminds me more of my teachers in eighth grade than any instructor I've had in college. Classes are unstructured, meandering and governed by incredibly vague, general commentary she doesn't seem able to control very well. She has a habit of answering "exactly" or simply affirming every comment that is made, no matter how uninformed or plain stupid it is. It's easy to appreciate a nice professor - and she's great and understanding, especially in office hours - but every lecture felt like a high school class, and I ultimately learned very little from the course. Guibbory is, by all appearances, American born and bred, but she occasionally gives bizarre mispronunciations of obvious words, which, coupled with her well-meaning elementary school delivery, and Baby Boomer smoker's voice, make you feel like you're in a Midwestern ESL classroom. Even close readings tend to be oddly generalized and/or obvious. To give you a sense of the environment of this lecture: earnest, unironic sighs of "that's cute" or "I like it" delivered by what sound like Barnard first years appear roughly every ten minutes. It's functional as an easy way to knock down a pre-1800 requirement, but if you plan to specialize in the material or require any sense of intellectual rigor in your major-related classes, cross over to Columbia.

Dec 2009

I took this course in order to fulfill a Pre-1900 course for the English major, expecting to be only marginally interested in the readings, but Professor Guibbory made this my favorite class of the semester with her insightful analysis of poetry, particularly John Donne’s, which is her specialty. She typically begins class with a lecture that places the readings in their historical context. Next, she analyzes the works, encouraging students to join her in discussion. She always maintains control of conversations, correcting students if their comments are off base, but never in a condescending or rude manner like some professors. Her excitement and passion really show through, making it hard not to become engrossed yourself. While some students were clearly bored, I suspect that this was because they did not do the reading beforehand and came to class without any idea as to what the work was about and were therefore unable to participate. If you do the reading before, class is much more fun. Guibbory is also great in office hours, genuinely interested in your thoughts and concerns. She is brilliant and highly knowledgeable, the type of professor who makes you realize that obscure seventeenth century poetry is actually provocative and fascinating, not boring and stuffy as you might assume.

May 2008

Very intelligent and a thoughtful teacher. The first half of the semester was devoted to Milton's prose/polemical writings and the second half to Paradise Lost. She provides her own insight into the various readings, but encourages alternate opinions and one never feels like she is forcing her perspective of the text onto you. Though the class is a lecture, about half of each class is spent in discussion which varies in effectiveness depending on the particular class. Definitely recommended as an interesting, and not very difficult, English course.

Sep 2007

Professor Guibbory is, by far, one of the best professors I've had in the English Department at Barnard. She loves the material she teaches, and she really loves it. I took this class to fulfill a requirement, but I ended up loving it purely because of Professor Guibbory's teaching. She lectures a lot, but still manages to allow the class to discuss things/ask questions. However, I never felt that the discussions were heading off onto random tangents. At the end of the class, I really had a sense of closure; I felt that I had a complete/rounded out knowledge of Milton. Professor Guibbory is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. If you can take any of her courses, do it!

Jan 2007

Prof. Guibbory is SO NICE. The material for this class was really long-winded but interesting and fun to read. Guibbory is easy to talk to and prefers roundtable discussion to lecturing. I would love to take a class with her again, especially if it ends up being as small a group as for this class (~10 students).

Dec 2006

One of the best English professors I've had at Barnard. She's one of those people that realizes when a book is boring but tries to point out the interesting parts and make it relevant to us, instead of getting on a pedestal and demanding that we enjoy it because it's a classic of English literature. Always cares about how we're doing and will take the time to let us gripe for a few minutes about our stress, since it was a small seminar. She's a tough grader, but fair, and pushes us to really engage with what we're reading. She even brought us cookies on the last day! I'd definitely take another class with her.

Sep 2006

Prof. Guibbory takes so much delight in her subject matter that the mood spreads to the class. She is always engaged in the student discussions and willing to admit that she hasn't thought of something before -- or, if she has, she'll build on it, making the class a true discussion and not a lesson in disguise. I also took her 17th Century class and she was much more animated in this one, so try for her seminars if you can!

Jan 2006

I love Professor Guibbory. She seems to truly enjoy teaching and gets very excited during class discussion when someone says something good. She is also very positive in her responses to students--even if they are not totally on point, she helps direct them to something that makes sense rather than dismiss their ideas. She writes a ton of comments on papers (she actually reads them very very closely) and overall is a very fair grader. She also allows rewrites. I took this class as a substitution for a colloquium and didn't think I'd like it but I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in English literature, poetry, the 17th century, English history. It dragged slightly towards the end when we got to the prose part of the class--the poetry was much more fun-- but otherwise definitely a thumbs up.

Dec 2005

Professor Guibbory is a sweet, warm lady and she has a lot of background with the texts. I enjoyed class, I think I would have enjoyed it more if there was less discussion, but it is a colloquium class so I can't complain. She always gave a background of the history of the readings before we started discussing and afterwards it was pretty much left up to the class where to go from there. There were response papers due each week-2-3 pages and a final paper at the end 8-10 pages. Overall an enjoyable course. I'm glad I took colloquium with her. I also find her to be really understanding.

Sep 2005

I agree with the other review of this course. It was unfulfilling. In fact, it made me skeptical of the English Department at Barnard. Guibbory was friendly in class, but the course was unstructured and students repeatedly handed work in late. It was hard to learn in an environment where students were not questioned in depth on the texts. We read a lot of texts in the course, but few of the texts were ever discussed. The class looked more preoccupied with clock than the texts, and I often wished Guibbory would stop letting students discuss general statements about the text. I left the course wishing she taught us, because it seemed she only listened...and replied "exactly" after each statement.

Apr 2005

Prof. Guibbory is very intelligent and her lectures are not dry even though some of the reading material may be. Very insightful on comments and explanations of the historical context of the writings. She is also friendly and approachable to her students. Though I have to agree with one of the previous reviews, some of the comments offered by students which seem a little trite are considered "exactly right". She definitely tries to lead the discussion in a certain direction because comments that would stray from the topic - she shuts that person down. But overall, I enjoyed the class and actually wanted to go, just had to keep my mouth shut, listen, learn and ask questions when needed. There are many writers covered in this course so be prepared to do some reading.

Dec 2004

Extremely intellegent and well regarded in her field, Professor Guibbory is generous with her time and always happy to help/talk to students. She may be a little disorganized at time but this does not diminish her capability as a teacher. She never enforces her own thoughts on students and I found her to be very good at directing discussions, though I did wish she would give a few more lectures about her own findings. Overall, highly recommended.

Nov 2004

While Professor Guibbory is a very nice and friendly woman, she does not succeed in structuring discussion in a meaningful, organized way. Colloquium consists of students articulating their opinions about the texts with very little of Prof. Guibbory's own insights and guidance. She is top in her field, but I don't see it in the class room. Students do not seem interested, and so the hour and fifty minutes go by slowly and arduously. Close reading of passages is absent from the class, and so the time is filled with a bunch of vague, unsubstantiated ideas. One of the most unfulfilling classes I've taken at Barnard.

Nov 2004

Professor Guibbory is a lovely woman. She is warm and down to earth. She allows student participation to structure her class. As a result, she offers very little scholarship and very little lecturing. We don't look at many passages closely, and I find that the class has very little focus. Unfortunately, I don't really feel that I'm learning anything from her. Nearly every comment that a student says is "exactly" right, in her words, and it's hard to perceive where her own knowledge of Milton actually lies. As far as her grading goes--she is not a harsh grader and offers very few critical comments on written work.