professor
Elizabeth Valkenier

Nov 2009

This was a really fantastic course. I looked forward to every day and was never disappointed. It is unfortunate that Professor Valkenier doesn’t teach any other classes here. Sometimes when professors assign their own reading it’s just to assign their own reading but everything we read of Professor Valkenier’s was spot on, clear and insightful (a model for the type of writing I hope to do someday). Overall the reading and individual class topics were well chosen and each added greatly to my understanding of Russian art and its historical context. She had us write a number of very short (one page) responses to questions addressing the reading. It is difficult to answer a large question in one page because you have to really understand the material (and the question) before you can present it so concisely. I thought these were great exercises in very focused reading and writing. Professor Valkenier gave us outlines of each class with important names and titles. This was really, really useful considering the difficulty of some of those Russian names. Guest speakers were very beneficial. Highlights for me were Wortman, Garafola and Jane Sharp.

Oct 2006

This class is not as bad as the other reviews makes it sound. I actually enjoyed it. maybe it's because I like the history aspect of art history more and that's how the class is taught. There is not a lot of visual analysis, although Russian history is interesting enough to carry the lectures. The woman is ancient, but adorable in her all her bumbling, Polish-accented ways. Ya she does need a TA and learn how to use the projector. Laughing at/with her is half of the fun in class. However, she knows her stuff and once she gets in her grove her lectures are quite interesting. The outside lectures on ballet and literature were really insightful- when else are you gonna learn about Russian ballet?. Overall it's an easy class. I got away with writing 1 page for the biweekly papers. I don't know why people are complaining about the slides. Ya, it would've been easier if she posted them, but all the paintings I found online by googling them. Don't take this class so seriously and you will do fine and have a good time being amused by this ancient, yet knowledgable woman.

Sep 2006

I agree with the other reviews. This class was the most depressing experience of my Columbia career and Prof Valkenier was by far the worst professor I have encountered here. There is really no reason to take this class. If you like Russian Art, there are much better ways of learning about it than looking at upside down slides twice a week, reading an overwhelming amount of dated material, and working under prof Valkenier's impossible/non-existent grading standards.

May 2006

Be advised, this woman is this worst professor I have had at Columbia without any question or doubt. Though the subject matter is interesting, you will hardly learn anything about art. She is a historian primarily, and she goes by a "multidisciplinary approach" which means that you might have 5 classes on art the whole semester because she's too busy ranting about history, ballet, literature, and music, or whatever catches her fancy. She'll bring in a million guest lecturers because she's too lazy to teach, and even though that sounds great, none of them will be art historians (except maybe one) which means you'll NEVER talk about art. Furthermore, the woman is inept with technology. She can't use a computer, refuses to use e-mail, and doesn't even put images on courseworks (leaving you to find them all, which is ridiculous considering the point of the class is that Russian Art is generally inaccessible). This is really problematic, especially the last two. There's no way to see her outside of class of get a hold of her unless you want to ask her for her home phone number and try talking to her husband first. Her slides are on a projector, which would be fine if even half of them made it right side up. Each class usually wasted 15 minutes just getting technology straightened out, and you'd think she'd get the drill after a few months.. It's also pretty annoying that the class follows no chronology or logical direction. The worst thing about Prof. Valkenier is that she always refused to give grades. We'd turn things in and have them returned with hardly any comments and no grade, and when we asked for grades she'd complain that we were too focused on grades and we shouldn't be. She finally started giving us grades after the midterm, at which point we all realized she hated everyone's writing because she didn't want art history papers but history papers. In the end, the grading wasn't so bad though -- she considers your "improvement" ridiculously, as I was getting B-'s all semester and wrote one paper that she liked and ended up with an A. Go figure. In all, the woman is a total mess. RUN AWAY!!!!

May 2006

This class made me really sad. I took it out of a sincere desire to learn about and discuss Russian art from the late 19th/early 20th century, as I knew a little bit about it and wanted to know more, compare/contrast it with french art, etc. However, this class taught me practically NOTHING about Russian art. Valkenier treats it more like a straight up history class than anything else, and people who like analyzing art (I assume most art history majors do) will be frustrated when they find themselves writing paper after paper regurgitating info from the (poorly photocopied and far too voluminous) readings on patrons, groups, and historical events. We read one thing by TJ Clarke and that was it for discussion of artistic theory. Obviously history is important, but the point of it is to illuminate your analysis of the art, but Valkenier apparently disagrees with me. The second half of the semester, more than half the classes were taught by speakers she brought in (on things like dance, architecture, etc.) and these were sometimes interesting but almost always irrelevant. Her slides were disorganized and out of focus; she clearly needs a TA very badly. However, the worst part of the class was the fact that Valkenier refused to make the images available online. This turned studying for the midterm and final (which were all IDs) into a complete nightmare, as the images she used were quite obscure. The whole point of having this class is that Russian art is often misunderstood by, or simply missing from, the west, and this obstinate refusal on her part to make it accessible (when asked to make the images available, she mocked us and called us grade-grubbers) was baffling to me, as it was completely counterproductive to her alleged goal in teaching the class. I hope she reads this and reconsiders her methods, because I think it could be a really great class if conducted better.