professor
Mason Gentzler

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

May 2015

Professor Gentzler is great. Loved his class. I don't know why he doesn't have a gold nugget. He is so sweet. his TA Chirs is very helpful too. There's a lot of readings but as long as you do enough to produce a response paper every week, you'll be fine. Go to the discussion section, it's really helpful.

Dec 2011

Gentzler is one of the more fantastic professors I have had. He is one of the cutest old men you could ask for, likely in his early eighties right now. Yet he is as sharp as a very sharp stick. You will wish he were your grandfather. During class, Gentzler lectures for much of the time, but some students asked questions and he responds to them in a very poignant manner, that I really don't know how to describe. He says things in a very serious manner that turn out to be 'jokes' (things that just seem funny to him) and then all of the sudden he will shriek out a loud "HAH!" and slap the table with his hand. The first time he did this, it took the class completely by shock, because he seems so harmless yet can make such a piercing laugh, almost a clarion call to arise from zoning out. By the end of the semester, we had all gotten pretty used to it, and I still treasure that laugh. It was the greatest. It was the type of thing where I can imagine someone saying something egregiously politically incorrect, pausing for a bit, with everyone around very uncomfortable, and then just cracking out a "HAH!" that would make everything all better. This all was the most unique part of the class along with his crazy stories and quotes. I started writing them all down because they were so wild, so I share some of the gems here: ------------ Gentzler told a story about how he was talking with one of his friends, who happened to be the mayor of a small village in rural India. The mayor was telling him that he had been informed via telephone (the only one in the village) that a huge flood was rushing in and would destroy the village in 20 minutes. The mayor proceeded to sit down and make himself a cup of tea. Gentzler's response: "If it was me, I would have bought up all the rowboats in the town and sold them at a very high price". Presented completely seriously. Pause for a second. HAH! On human nature: “If there’s only one seat on the subway during rush hour...well, that’s why you bring a machete.” On question regarding subtle difference between actions and intentions: “You’re not on a slippery slope...you’re in a pool of jello” “Even though I fully know that Democrats are right and Republicans are wrong, I go out of my way to say good things about Republicans...for example, Ronald Reagan has nice hair” “As soon as I see a bamboo leaf, I know its not a lizard...or a Maserati” “In 50 years there’ll be sniggles, and you’ll be paying a lot of money for them” on the ineffable path of technology On things you should learn to be able to do in college: “Compare and contrast the New York Knicks to an elephant. You can’t. They’re too close” “It’s a lot easier to paint a dragon than to paint a puppy dog” ...because no one quite knows what a dragon looks like. “Today I won’t say anything good about Reagan but I’ll say some bad things about Marx” One of his very best, that caught the class very much by surprise: “It’s no use being corrupt if you don’t enjoy it...there’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing a little old lady kicked out of her house” on how power corrupts and corruption yields power Also one of the best: “Would you feel you were home if there were 4 new puppy dogs, new furniture, and the kitchen was in the basement?” on what constitutes a true home He also had an ineffable disdain for French people and New Jersey of which no one could tell if he was being serious: “I don’t understand why French is still taught at Columbia, to tell you the truth” “What’s the difference between Germans and French? Germans take baths” ----------- Last night, I was really high and was looking at my list of quotes that I had written down. For every one, I can recall how Gentzler almost seems to not just have a twinkle in his eye when he says them, but to have a twinkle in his whole person. He is so wise and knows so much that I realized that in 30 years once I've begun to live my life and just acquire experience and wisdom about how the world works, all of the sudden I will realize that I can't after all find differences between the Knicks and an elephant. Or that the difference between the mayor making tea and Gentzler buying all the rowboats will prove to be an astounding insight that I will only fully understand then. So my gushing about how interesting of a person he is aside, the course was pretty good. The course ostensibly covers China, Japan, Korea, and Tibet, but we spent only a few classes on Korea and one class on Tibet. Everything was interpreted through its relation to China, which seems a pretty fair way to me of giving a survey to East Asian philosophies and history considering it was always the significant player. He presented the class as the Eastern version of CC. It helps to be interested in the subject matter, because although the class is global core, you might get fatigued with so many recurring themes, and much of the class did not attend lectures during the last few weeks of the semester. There is allegedly a recitation section that I don't know if anyone actually went to. In summary, you will get a very strong holistic understanding of East Asian schools of thought and their progression in relation to one another over the past 2500 years. You may not be able to remember who was Zhu Yi and who was Zhi Yi, but you get a very good feel for a different type of thought. He grades pretty easy and does not require you to know the reading for class discussions. You could just show up for class and not put much effort in and just listen to him talk and be enlightened. Do it for the unique experience.

May 2011

I'm sorry, but this class was just kind of a bust. Don't get me wrong, I really liked Professor Gentzler- he's good-natured, loves to engage with students both in and out of class, and really does know everything about the subject matter. So if you're interested in the subject matter, then take the class. It is possible to get a lot out of it. But to give you an idea of my class, I think the main problem is that most of the students were, like me, just taking the class for global core credit. There were 30 people registered for my section, and about 13 wold show up regularly for class. Of the 13, 4 genuinely engaged, and the other 9 would be on their laptops, sleeping, or doing homework for another class. There's a lot of reading, but after the second week, I only did the little reading that was necessary to complete the papers. But this meant that by the time the final rolled around, the whole class shared an "I'm screwed" chuckle. It really wasn't bad though. I would highly recommend meeting with Professor Gentzler about the papers outside of class- if you listen to his suggestions and do what he says, you'll do well.

May 2010

He was a very good professor, and I agree with a lot of the positive things written below about him. I'm really writing this review because of the reviewer who claimed that he's semi -senile. He's most definitely not senile in any way, shape or form. I'm not sure why he/she wrote that - he is old, but very very smart. Excellent memory too. Gentzler is not the most organized lecturer, but that makes sense, because he's not teaching some engineering class. His lectures are based on what he finds interesting, and he makes the things he find interesting interesting and accessible to the class, as long as you're smart and pay attention

Sep 2009

This was a so-so class where people clearly weren't interested in the material, but Gentzler could only do so much about that. I liked Gentzler in the way that I like old, not-quite-senile men who aren't completely out of touch, but definitely in their own generation. He tried to make ours a discussion class, but it was a lecture. He commanded the material well, and drew comparisons between ancient philosophy and modern encounters. I'd only take the class if you want to get a survey of things like Confucianism and Legalism (and he has an adorable laugh), or for Core credit.

Aug 2008

He only teaches one class at Columbia, which is a tremendous shame. Gentzler is not only extraordinarily intelligent and knowledgeable about not only his field but many others, but he is one of the most humble, least pretentious people you will ever meet. He is a man of genuine learning and curiosity, and if you ask a question he will answer it directly, and with a clarity very rarely heard. He also has a terrific sense of humor and as far as I can tell, is one of the happiest people I've ever met. Even if you are not interested in the class, take it just to get to know Gentzler.

Aug 2007

This professor is amazing. He is engaging, dynamic and smart, and there is nothing he does not know. His lectures are filled with wonderful anecdotes and you learn so much. He grades all the responses and papers himself, and always has really helpful comments. TAKE THIS CLASS.

Dec 2005

Very, very nice man. The lectures themselves made me sleepy, but it's the material itself that was boring, not his teaching style. You have to keep up with the massive amount of reading, though, because come final time, you will regret having slacked off. Other than that and the standard weekly responses, not a hard class. The final was not that hard, and I did not even study that much. If you have done most of the reading, you should do fine.

Jun 2005

Prof. Gentzler is a great professor and an extremely nice person. He made us fudge and brought a multitude of other treats on the day of the final! He obviously knows his stuff and, as the first reviewer said, is full of annecdotes. He goes off on a tangent sometimes, but usually about something quite interesting or comical. He is very approachable and gets every assignment back in a very timely manner and with lots of feedback.

Apr 2005

Gentzler is a comical, funny, full of anecdotes, and a very understanding prof. His classes tend to turn more into lectures, but rather dynamic lectures. His knowledge of Asia is impressive, and he always has a great story to tell about something he has seen or someone he has met in asia. I am not a EALAC major, and chose this class for major cultures requirement, but i really enjoyed it! Bring a drink, snack to class, and you will easily enjoy attending. An easy/painless/enjoyable way to fulfill your requirement. He is very understanding about scheduling, and is very approachable outside of class. Bonus: Talk to him about Maseratis, he loves them for some odd reason.