Jennifer Marie James

Jan 2011

It's difficult to write a negative review of Professor James. She has a sunny personality and a powerful intellect. Her insights on your essays and class discussions can be extremely stimulating, if she understands you clearly. That said, she is not right for everyone, and she certainly wasn't right for me. I came to Columbia expecting the core to be taught by venerable, old professors who had been teaching their whole lives and were therefore capable of illuminating the assigned texts in a unique way. Pretty normal freshman notion, I guess, and I was sorely disappointed after my first few classes with Ms. James. She began our first class by putting us all in a circle and asking us to go around one by one and give our names, birthdays, birthplaces, and...wait for it...zodiac signs. She explained that this last tidbit of information would satisy her "New-Ageiness". I knew from that moment Ms. James would be an informal, unconventional teacher. Here I was expecting an ancient professor/ess with an encyclopedic intellect to bring the Western canon to life, and instead I got a New-Age graduate student doing her PhD in modern American literature (we read ONE modern novel in Lit Hum). But it wasn't her lack of expertise that got to me. I believe this is her second year teaching Lit Hum, and her lack of experience is very obvious to students who try to take the class seriously. Her disregard for historical context was the greatest evidence of this. She simply did not have any interest in placing the ancient texts in some historical context in order to better understand them. Ms. James only went so far, for example, as claiming that the "guest-host relationship" in ancient Greece was really, really important. No significant discussion of ancient Greek culture ever took place in our class. Instead, Ms. James ran the class like a typical high-school English class, and despite her Socratic inclination to ask her students questions instead of giving them the answers, I did not feel stimulated for the majority of her class. Other times, I was simply confused by the triviality of her discussions. Most of the time, I was just bored. I may not believe in the goals of Lit Hum 100%, but I know that it is at the very least a chance to learn about humanity in a multitude of its distinct historical phases as they are captured by some of its greatest authors, from Homer to Dostoevsky. Professor James could be a good teacher one day, because she is intelligent enough and truly cares about her students. She lacks experience and confidence in herself, and must work to learn how to better lead a classroom of high school kids who are becoming college students. Only take her at this point if you don't want to work that hard and really don't care for Lit Hum too much anyway.

Jan 2010

Lit Hum with Jenny James is ridiculous, but not in the good way. The discussions seem to be headed no where and she rarely knows what she is talking about. Though she is always prepared and gives plenty of handouts, her authority becomes diminished when students ask questions. She never answers the questions directly, rather she deflects them, changes the topic, opens the question to the class, or suggests it for "further outside study." This is either a clever tactic of attempting to get students to answer the question themselves OR she just does not have a clue what the answer is. She has no clearly set office hours and expects students to make appointments by email only. All in all, the class is far from the best.

Aug 2008

Seriously, Jenny was a TERRIBLE TA. She was unbelievably condescending. Do whatever you can to get out of her section. Half of our section seemed to be taking the class pass/fail because she drained all the fun out of it. She was overly critical of papers as well. People who had never taken a Women's Studies course before struggled, whereas students from the three other Intro to Women's Studies discussion sections were pleased with the class and learned to be passionate about the subject. Do yourself a favor: be proactive, and ask for a different TA.

May 2008

I would have to disagree with the short end of the stick kid review. I believe Professor James was very empathetic and kind. She put a lot of time into explaining each and every assignment, and was always willing to spend extra time outside of class - be it assisting me with the essays/papers or explaining difficult concepts. I had a very difficult semester and she was very understanding. She grades fairly and writes a lot of notes so that I understood what I could do better next time. Professor James really is an excellent professor. I would love to take another class with her.

May 2007

Jenny's definately not the best teacher around and is pretty apathetic when it comes to her UW class. Definately plays favorites (I was on the short end of that stick) and enjoys singling kids out. But personally, I would blame the UW departemnt and its stupid portfolio more than Jenny James. But by no means does that mean that she can't try harder. She's a pretty bad teacher who can't explain what a lens essay is. She expects a lot out of you and definatley the more work you put into it, the better your grade.