Despite the silly title, this class is no joke. Open only to seniors by application, it's an opportunity to join two great literary minds, who happen to be best friends, in their version of the Great Conversation. The course is surprisingly well organizedâ€”Huyssen and Pamuk take their feedback very, very seriouslyâ€”around the interplay of textual and visual media from antiquity to the present. Since it's a literature class, that means mostly conversations about how writers deal with the problem of trying to represent images. There's considerable focus on theories of ekphrasis, discussion of a wide range of texts, mostly very interesting, and a lot of good class discussion. Huyssen is a fantastic professor for reasons that should be clear from other reviews. Pamuk is a fantastic author who's still learning his way around a classroom, but nevertheless had some interesting things to say. It's always nice having a class with a Nobel laureate, after all. Definitely recommended if you're into, well, words and pictures.
Huyssen won a teaching award a few years back, and it was very well deserved. He has been by far one of my favorites at Columbiaâ€”genuinely interested in his students' intellectual development, highly accessible (both in person and via email) despite a heavy course and advising load, as well as departmental chair responsibilities, and unfailingly civil. He is highly demanding in the classroom, expecting students to at least attempt to match his own inquisitiveness and uncanny ability to reveal the larger significance of literature. He won't hesitate to shoot you down if your classroom comments are foolish, but his engaging demeanor encourages lively back-and-forth once you grow comfortable with his expectations. Huyssen's a big-picture thinker, often musing about the changing nature of society, the influences of technology, the role of globalization, and the limits of language. If you're interested in German intellectual history, you'll find the examples he uses fascinating, and even if you're not, he makes a good effort to elucidate complex theories of modernity and literature using a wide array of texts. Be forewarned that, like many humanities professors, he treats the A grade like an A+. If you care more about your GPA than your education, you may be disappointed. But he is highly recommended.
Prof. Huyssen teaches a super interesting class! The reading is mostly really neat (though slow going even for students who have taken German lit classes before) and class discussions are equally interesting. He responds and thinks about questions that you ask him in class and in office hours so sincerely, and gets so excited about class and has so many things to say that it usually went 15 minutes late. I don't think that it is a good class to practice spoken German, as there was always opportunity to ask questions, but not really to practice a lot of speaking each class. That said, Prof. Huyssen is so interesting that it is worth taking his class anyways, particularly because he was sometimes very good at relating works written 100 years ago to our own contemporary conception of cities.
Gosh, wish someone had told me that the class was designed for pretentious kids...all I remember was a mind-blowing hour and fifteen minutes twice a week, plus an extra 8 mind-blowing hours of reading on the weekends...but then again, I did all the readings and the work assigned, came to all the classes, so I was able to get a lot out of Professor Huyssen's hilarious, serious, awesome classes. I can see the pretentious appeal, sure. He is super-hip, caustically, ironically funny, and right-on. He makes sense of Dada and the postmodern aesthetic. But he does so in a down-to-earth, silly, and startingly creative way that appeals to even the most cornfed midwesterner of us. Would I be caught dead carrying a Strand bag? No. Would I toast my MGD in honor of Huyssen, though? Hell yes! And again, I did the work for the class and showed up for it, which was essential to keeping up with Huyssen's incredible, unbelievable class design and train of thought. If you didn't...well...I guess you could get mad at some vague notion of "pretension" or something, but I find it more fruitful to get as much out of my 30Gs and access to brilliant professors that I can. Different strokes, I guess. For potential Huyssen students: just take a look at 99% of Huyssen's reviews, which are consistently glowing, and for good reason. He's not my god or anything, but I sure am glad he exists. And that I got to see into his brain a little bit.
If you're a pretentious CCLS major who loves to drone about how fascinating Dada or the postmodern aestetic is, you will absolutely love this class and fawn all over Huyssen's knowledge. However if you are a german speaker with little interest in hyper-intellectual persuits, you will absolutely hate this class. Again, a great class for pretentious know-it-alls who want to feel superior to ordinary people.
Just to echo breifly what others have written - a really good teacher and a friendly guy. A lot of reading (and it was a bit scattered) but he managed to hold it together. The professor must be intelligent when you have no idea how he/she put the syllabus together (i.e. the logic) and it ends up working. Go to his office hours - its a bit stilted at first but its ultimately worth it. He also really believes in Comp. Lit, so he's a good person to talk to about the major. He does have a bit of a creepy sense of humour, but I came to appreciate it. I've heard he offers a course on the Frankfurt School which would almost certainly be worth it.
Prof. Huyssen's devotion to his students and rigorous scholarship has been duly rewarded, since he was this year's recipient of the prestigious Mark van Doren teaching award. I felt truly lucky to be in this class (required for all Comp Lit & Society sophomores) taught by him since the professor for this seminar always changes every year. Prof. Huyssen structured the syllabus so that we would be exposed to a wide variety of texts, thinkers, movements, etc. There was a lot of reading but he made it quite accessible in class. Participation in class was limited by the unconventionally large class size (thanks to the laxity of the department, freshmen and non CCLS people were taking the class too, which was annoying), but Prof Huyssen encouraged comments. At first I was extremely intimidated by him, but as I started going to more of his office hours I found he was an extremely approachable man and eager to help lost undergraduates out. However, he will not take any bullshit whether in class comments or in papers. Call it typically German or whathaveyou, but his analyses are always razor-sharp and crystal clear. All in all, definitely take a class with this towering bastion of contemporary intellectualism--you'll be glad you did.
This class was the best class I took this semester. He is the kind of professor you wish taught all of your classes. Tons of life experience, a wealth of knowledge, and of course, brilliant teaching. He knows exactly what he wants you to get out of the readings and the course in general. The most frustrating part was that the syllabus is intense and all over the place. It is very much an "intro" class as you will be asked to read works on anthropology to linguistics to romantic literature to the holocaust... It can be overwhelming, but he breaks it down for you. Plus, there's no midterm or final so if you really don't understand something, it's OK!
Professor Huyssen is, without a doubt, a great mind, but more importantly he also teaches a great class. His lectures are quite organized, if overlong, and do a great job of explaining the material. If I were to describe Huyssen in a word, it would be precise. He doesnÂ’t deal in vagaries or bullshit, which can be refreshing. However, his teaching style was never demeaning or pompous, always accommodating. Also, he is a profoundly serious (and to make a generalization, German) person, which makes his exceedingly lame jokes (when noting that he had fallen behind on the syllabus: Â“IÂ’m sorry, I guess you could describe my time management as decidedly pre-FordistÂ” <roaring laughter from class>) seem, to me at least, quite funny and endearing. Definitely a recommended prof.