professor
Matthew McKelway

Sep 2019

Echoing the ideas in the other review of the art hum course taught by Professor McKelway at Reid Hall, you must reply to his emails within two minutes of receiving it(yet when there is a question that the class desperately needs answer he will not reply unless you text him several times.)Do not whatsoever get stuck in England during a week-end trip due to Brexit and miss one class. You can't make any typos on any of the 2 paged double-spaced papers otherwise he will write one page single-spaced criticism of your grammar. Anyway perhaps the most telling anecdote is that Professor McKelway cancelled a trip to Versailles with no explanation an hour before we were supposed to meet there. (It takes about an hour to get to Versailles.) Students who were already on their way decided to go anyway and ran into him there.

May 2017

Oh boy, where to begin with this one? For starters, he flat-out didn’t know the material on the Art Hum syllabus. This makes sense since he’s a specialist in Japanese art, but I cannot for the life of me understand why he was cleared to teach a course where all of his lectures sounded like he had skimmed the Wikipedia article five minutes before class. I took this class at Reid Hall in Paris, and it was painfully obvious that he didn’t give a sh*t about teaching, but just wanted a semester-long paid vacation in Europe. He confirmed this theory by canceling class several times to go skiing in Switzerland or visit friends in Italy (but don’t you dare get sick and miss class without getting a note from a doctor, though, that’s just disrespectful). To make up for the lack of content in his teaching, Matthew would embark on truly fascinating stories about his personal life. There was that one time his friend made a joke about the “penis patrol” (fig leaves over dicks) that he just *had* to tell us every single time we saw a suspiciously covered dick (this happens a lot in art hum). There was the gleeful slut shaming of another friend’s teenage daughter who had just gone on the pill. There were endless “rude” French people who insisted on speaking to him in English, never mind that his French accent is oh so very painful and basically incomprehensible. And woe be upon the student who doesn’t laugh at his jokes about the “orange creature in the White House”—that’s a third of a grade docked right there. Other ways to lose points: -failing to address him with the utmost formality in an email (“Dear Highest Professor of Wisdom, the Sage and Learned” is a good start). -daring to submit *anything* over email, even if you have no way of printing. -not stapling your drawings to your paper. -showing up late because he made the start time earlier and you have a class right beforehand. -visibly knowing more than him. -basically anything that will set off his inferiority complex; never forget, he is supreme in all matters. Also, he puts a very breathy “h” at the beginning of words that start with “wh.” This doesn’t actually affect his teaching but just hwhy, Matthew, hwhy??

Nov 2016

I took Professor McKelway's course on the arts of Japan and would say that it was a bit of a mixed bag. First off, he is a really smart guy and knows a ton about Japanese art. Whenever he lectured it seemed like the information just rolled off the top of his head in a way which conveyed that he had a clear grasp of the subject matter. One of the things I appreciated about his style was that instead of making us memorize huge amounts of objects, though memorization was still a big part of the class, he tried to take time with each object and allow people to make comments, effectively running the course like a large Art Humanities class instead of an introductory lecture. This was interesting to me because I had not taken Art Hum at the time and so I was able to really learn a lot about how art is discussed at Columbia and in academia in general. Downside to this though is that we did not make it to the Edo Period in Japanese art. In fact we barely made it through the Momoyama period. This is a huge concern, because we didn't even touch the last 400 years of Japanese art in a course which is supposed to be an overview of art from the country. This disorganization also showed up in courseworks where the readings were not listed in a way which made it easy to tell which reading was for which week and at the end of the semester I carefully went through the readings he posted and compared them with the syllabus and am totally certain that some readings were never uploaded. This points to his lack of consideration for students, e-mails often went unanswered and classes or museum visits were cancelled. Also, and this was a first for me, we didn't do all of the assignments on the syllabus. He had listed three papers and we only did 2. He can be helpful in office hours but I found that often the conversation would turn to personal chat too quickly or he would give me way too much information on a question I asked and I wouldn't be able to ask all the questions I had. Summation, he isn't awful by any stretch. You will learn a lot about Japanese Art and how to look at and talk about art in general. As long as disorganization and going off syllabus doesn't bother you it will be worthwhile. All the grading was done my the T.A.'s so I can't say how harsh a grader he is.

Jan 2010

I have to say, I enjoyed his constant self referential anecdotes and occasional politicised comments. Generally entertaining, and at the very least a distraction from the utter inanity of this class. To be fair, I think most of the shortcomings of the class were more down to the concept and format of Art Hum than any real fault of his. As a lecturer he's perfectly adequate and straightforward - not particularly engaging or sparkling, but knows his stuff and gets the job done. Organization wise I would guess he has improved immensely - the lecture notes were generally up promptly, and the class was extremely well organized and integrated with Courseworks in general. Really well supported by the Art History department's Art Hum multimedia/further information site. We did however get fairly behind with the syllabus, and ended up spending almost no time on the very last section - a throwaway hour (at very most) on Frank Lloyd Wright. Not that you can miss classes though - any more than two will immediately drop you a whole grade. Class participation is graded too. He doesn't seem to expect much of students, and the most basic of descriptive responses (ie "what is in this picture? a woman with a child on her lap. great!) will probably get you pretty far. Otherwise, decent enough grader, though a stickler for proper grammar and, oddly enough, formally addressed emails. To sum up, Art Hum with McKelway is pretty much a formality - not excruciating, but not particularly enjoyable either. Not a semester ruining choice but if you're looking for that mythical illuminating Core experience, or even one that isn't utterly forgettable a few weeks later, look elsewhere.

Dec 2008

Matthew McKelway is a pretty good professor. He clearly knows his material very well, which sometimes devolves into a barrage of information during class. I advise you to bring a laptop to class and try to note down everything you can get because come exam time, you will need those notes because looking up Japanese art, even through Google, is a big pain. He's a decent lecturer, sometimes ends up rambling but you can just tune out. He also asks questions in class, but nothing too difficult. He will take roll call until he knows your names -- and he will remember if you're not there, or late. He can be a bit of a jerk for example, he'll be snarky if you pronounce a Japanese word wrong even though his accent isn't that hot either (I have Japanese-speaking parents). A previous review of McKelway said he's not very organized, especially on Courseworks. I think he's improved remarkably as the Courseworks postings were explicitly clear and well-ordered. He posted up every lecture slideshow before class and emailed us about it. He also compiled these "study guides" for each topic we covered, listing the works of art (with date, artist, medium etc) we should be familiar with, events and definitions.These guides sometimes left out information, and were composed a little strangely, but you could still follow them. However, the powerpoints themselves were a little lacking. I needed to study with the slideshows, but the lack of captions on most of the slides was aggravating, and needlessly so. My biggest gripe is the exam style. First, McKelway insists you know all the works of art, their dates, mediums, artist if any and location. That is an excessive amount of memorization even if the final isn't cumulative, and it's only made harder by the fact that not everyone is familiar with romanized Japanese. He then proceeds to test about 2% of the material you learned for the exam, often throwing in pieces of artwork NOT covered in class in the exam. When I say that, I mean there was a section for unknowns, and he put in unknown works in sections that were meant to be identifiable from class. Overall, despite the length of this review, I'd say take this class. It's not an easy A, but you'll definitely learn a lot (even though we didn't finish the syllabus) and it's some pretty cool art to boot. McKelway as a lecturer is good as long as you can put up with some of his quirks. He's approachable, will meet during office hours, teaches clearly...what more do you need? As long as you can face the prospect of always overstudying for exams that barely skim the material taught and don't give you a good chance of showing you're knowledge, you'll be fine.

Dec 2007

Professor McKelway was a massive disappointment. While he has a clear command of his subject, he is utterly incapable of structuring a lecture, let alone an entire course. At times I wondered whether he had ever taught at all. In addition, his mannerisms and utter self-involvement made the lectures a fairly painful experience. He could not go more than a sentence or two without stopping to make an inane reference to how a particular work might have intersected with his personal life at some point. He is far more interested in hearing his own voice than he is in introducing his students to Japanese Painting. One of my biggest complaints about McKelway is his lack of organization. For whatever reason he had great difficult in learning how to use CourseWorks, and ended up posting lectures and notes in the oddest fashions, further disjointing the course. This made studying for the midterm and final extremely difficult, especially given that he refused to offer a slidelist. He honestly expects you to be familiar with all the images he shows you in class, which is a tall order, especially given that he often fails to include complete information, if any, when he presents an image during lecture. Do not take a course with this professor unless you are extremely patient.