The Positive: Cathy is incredibly knowledgeable. She's currently writing a book about Nabokov, and will often come to class with little anecdotes from her research. She is definitely interested in her students and is great at interacting with those at different levels of background knowledge of literary criticism. There were some students in our class who knew all the critics she was referring to, and others who had no idea (like me), but I think that everyone on the spectrum came away feeling a little smarter afterwards. -She's just an incredibly pleasant person. I went to office hours and ended up sitting there for over an hour chatting with her about the texts and the other works that Nabokov dances with throughout his writing. She will really work with you if you're having trouble understanding any concepts. The Negative: As the previous reviewer said, Cathy is definitely scattered. You will always know your reading assignment, but little else. You'll get courseworks questions sent to you the day before they're due in class ("due date" is a fluid concept with her generally though, so you're fine). I never personally found this, but some students could find her somewhat dismissive of their ideas on the texts. The only thing I might knock about her interpretation is that she doesn't want to talk about sexual politics which anyone who has read Nabokov will get is a huge, huge deal. The Verdict: Something I loved about this course is that it seems to be much less about grades and papers and much more about learning how to read and appreciate Nabokov for the rest of your life. Frankly, the reading alone makes the class totally worth it because Nabokov is a genius (i.e.: DO NOT take this class if you don't do the reading) DEFINITELY A COURSE WORTH TAKING.
Professor Nepomnyashchy can barely keep her head on straight. The course requirements were outstandingly vague, emails went unanswered, and sometimes the majority of a class would be spent discussing topics tangentially related to a single sentence in a book's introduction. That said, the class was surprisingly enjoyable. The books are all great reads, and the insight Nepomnyashchy provides is invaluable. Highly recommended for anyone who never got past Lolita.
This team taught course was a creative disaster of epic proportions. Cathy is an affable but rambling literature professor obsessed with her first person knowledge of Russia and its scholarly cognisenti. She cannot resist to tell you one more story, and she will even as time ticks away and the ten articles read for class go undiscussed. Alex Motyl is cool and aristocratic, lays down great theoretical structures for understanding political and economic change to the post-USSR world, and gives dish about other folks in former Sovietology - he's hilarious and speaks like the cowardly lion. Together they spent 1/3 of each class alternately laying out theory and blabbing, then had students give presentations on the dense, often outdated and heavily Russian focused literature. Since this class is required for Harriman Certificate folks, there were a lot of bright people from all over the world and that made the class worthwhile.
It's hard to give an accurate impression of Cathy if you haven't met her or sat in on one of her lectures. That said, if you take this class with her, expect a mixed bag. The readings were generally well- chosen, and she and Professor von Hagen combined media like literature, photography, video, and art in an attempt to show students the flavor of each city. Having taken the class and having later visited Moscow and St. Petersburg, I can tell you that despite their efforts, no class can come close to the real thing. However as I walked through Ploshad Dekabristov and the Kremlin, I found myself reliving the stories I remembered from class. In short, it will give you a basic knowledge of Eurasian cities, and quite possibly a love for them, but will also show you just how much you have left to learn about them. Its angle is particularly valuable because it focuses not on the broad scheme of the Empire's history, but on its diverse and unique regions. I'd say if you love Eurasia, take this class with a caveat (see workload). As for Cathy, she is a disorganized and overworked, but wonderful person. She is very relaxed, and shows genuine concern for her students. She is usually late, though, so if you go to her office hours bring a book. It's too bad her spaciness often overshadows how great a scholar she is. Oh, and "her" city is Moscow, so she's a great resource about anything from the history of the city to where to eat once you're there. A gem of a professor if you can put up with the disorganization.
Oh dear. Where to begin with this class? See the workload below... besides that, Neppmnyashchy is a very nice and understanding lady. She has a meandering way of getting through a lecture - every topic gets brought in for like 5 minutes. She kinda puts everyone to sleep. But she's nice and willing to modify especially heavy assignments.
This course was SO much fun. It was co-taught by Professor Nepomnyashchiy and Professor Mark von Hagen, both of whom have lots of firsthand knowledge of Russia, so that there were always a bunch of personal anecdotes in between the textbook facts. (Professor Nepomnyashchiy was in Moscow on the day of the coup.) The course itself is supposed to be an intro to Eurasian studies. It combines history and literature and ends up feeling like a whirlwind tour through the former Soviet Union's most famous cities. So, for example, you study about the history of St. Petersburg, and then you read Pushkin; you study the history of Moscow and read Bulgakov. During every lecture, there would be various pictures projected on the wall, so you can sort of get the "feel" of the city. It's definitely a must-take for anyone interested in Russia and the former Soviet Union. I took it the very first semester it was offered, Spring 2003, and, from what I heard, they are planning to make it even better. If you like to read (or write) historical literature, don't miss this. Note: There is a weekly required recitation section with your TA.