I can't believe nobody has reviewed this course before. It was one of the best experiences I've had at Columbia. The subject matter, French cinema, is compelling. Wow, college credit for watching a couple dozen of the best films ever made! The readings were quite interesting. In fact, I thought the reading list was a bit short, but the prof has taken into consideration the time needed to watch and re-watch the films. The mix of people in the class was very nice--some literature majors, some film majors, and most were interacting enthusiastically with the material. Recognizing this, Prof Watts struck a pretty nice balance between lecturing and letting class discussion break out. Film majors will feel comfortable with the technical details. French majors with language and literary themes. History majors with European historical topics. Cinema buffs (and masochists) with highfalutin film criticism. But that's the point: this is a good introduction to how various disciplines intersect. One piece of advice: avoid the temptation to watch everything on DVD or streaming, and to skip the in-class showings held after the class period. You should take every opportunity to see these films the way they were intended, on a large screen..This is especially true for the black and white ones, where you'll miss many nuances on a small screen. Plus you'll miss the reactions of your fellow viewers, which can surprise you.. If you are worried because French Film is way outside your major, this is just the sort of interest-expanding course that people had in mind when they invented pass/fail. It certainly made me want to go out and watch everything Jean Renoir ever touched.
Professor Watts was an overall good professor. He brought in a lot of context to the books which we read, and this context was extremely helpful in understanding the full meaning of many of the Lit Hum readings. He also was very good at getting kids in the class to speak, even those who were naturally very shy. That being said, one thing that Professor Watts did in class seemed to get on my nerves. Every Lit Hum class has one or two students that just go on and on when they are called on, and they "speak without saying anything." (Think Agathon in Symposium.) We had this one person that was just OUT OF CONTROL, and it looked like he kept encouraging her. I would have liked to see him challenge the claims the students make in class.
What a fantastic professor! So enthusiastic and great at running discussions. His passion for the literature really shows in his teaching. His grading standards were clear and very reasonable; he is very approachable and also reasonable as a person, unlike some other professors in the French department. In fact, his Americanism might be the deciding factor - he lacks the attitude and capriciousness of some of the native French speakers. His syllabus was carefully selected and synthesized and class was always interesting; his knowledge and enthusiasm encouraged everyone's participation. HIGHLY recommended!!! I had a great semester with Watts and it really cemented my decision to major in French.
Professor Watts was an awesome for Major Literary Works since 1800. The fact that he's actually American and has a very slight accent in French bothered me in the beginning, but I soon learned that his enthusiasm and competence in the subject more than made up for it. He's very good at directing discussions, and maintained a very comfortable and welcoming environment, making it extremely easy to participate in class. One of the things I liked best about him was that he always seemed genuinely interested in everything that the students said. Whenever anyone made a half-decent point, he'd always nod vigorously and look as if they just discovered the meaning of life. This may seem a bit excessive, but it was actually really effective in making everyone participate more - which is always a tricky thing to do when discussions are in foreign languages. He was very approachable, always in a good mood, and was amusing enough to keep things entertaining. In general, this is a wonderful class with an excellent syllabus. It was a luxury to have the opportunity to read all these masterpieces of French Literature, then go talk about it for an hour and call that class. I highly recommend it!