Eleanor Johnson

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Jan 2021

Professor Johnson absolutely deserves her gold nugget. She is a phenomenal professor in every aspect. Beginning with her lectures, Professor Johnson clearly comes to class prepared. She keeps everyone engaged and offers incredible insight into texts that seem one-dimensional at first. The texts for this class may seem dull when you read them on your own, but she gives them light in every lecture. I have never paid so much attention in a class, and I’m shocked that it is a Middle English class. Professor Johnson is deeply knowledgeable about Middle England, and she beautifully reads the texts in Middle English. Her office hours were some of the most enlightening experiences I’ve ever had. Professor Johnson really cares about all the students in her class, and she accommodated us greatly in our transitions to the virtual environment. She was understanding about extensions and lenient about grading (she curved everyone’s midterm). By establishing a learning environment where the barriers between the students and professor breaks down, there is a sense of closeness between Professor Johnson and the class. This made me excited to go to class every Tuesday/Thursday, and this cannot be overstated. The syllabus for this class is great, though you probably won’t appreciate it until after the class is over. The texts are difficult, but they get easier as the class goes on. I greatly honed my close reading skills in this class, and I feel very prepared to tackle future english classes at Columbia. TLDR: This class, along with all others taught by Professor Johnson, are must-takes at Columbia.

Dec 2020

Really great professor! She genuinely cares for her students, and she is so passionate about the works she teaches. She is very engaging and sometimes humorous with her discussions in class, you will definitely learn a lot from her. She is also very understanding about deadlines, which was really considerate given we took the class during covid. Workload also isn’t too much compared to other lithum classes, she mainly prioritizes our reading and understanding the books. She is known to be a harsh grader, but I personally find her to be very fair as long as you follow close reading guidelines. Overall, she is an amazing professor!

Sep 2020

I concur with all the reviews below - Prof. Johnson is SERIOUSLY AMAZING. She is kooky but in the best way -- you can tell she's SO PASSIONATE about her subject matter and it shows in lecture. She's such an insightful lecturer. Most of the times I'd come to class not knowing what the hell I just read (it's avant-garde feminist poetry), and she would not only make sense of it - she would make these brilliant points that made me radically appreciate the poetry. She's super kind and I wish I had taken more opportunity to chat with her in office hours. Also, after our class was over, she continued to have summer Zoom sessions for anybody who wanted to keep talking about poetry - which was amazing. I know avant-garde feminist poetry sounds really niche and dumb and the fodder for jokes about English majors - but I swear, the class is super interesting. Johnson is mostly a medievalist but she clearly knows her shit when it comes to this poetry. You definitely will not understand all of it, or maybe even any of it, but she will force you to love it (in the best way). It's a really fascinating course because, as Johnson herself points out, each word in the title is a word to be contested & thought critically about (aka what is avant-garde? what is feminist? what is poetry?) Anyway, this is the sort of quirky but seriously fascinating class that you want to take before you graduate - maybe even esp. if you're not into this type of stuff. Anyway, love Professor Johnson - she's super great!

Apr 2017

WOoooOOOOOOooOOo Professor Johnson is one of the best professors I've had so far at Columbia. She is so knowledgeable and clearly has a true passion for the texts. She is quirky and funny so her classes never get boring. If you get her section please don't change it because she has a gold nugget and tenure for a reason.

May 2015

Wonderful course taught by a wonderful teacher. Professor Johnson is absolutely one of the best instructors I have had the opportunity of learning from. She is a bit eccentric, which allows for her passion of the texts to come through all the more clearly. And her passion is phenomenal, you can tell she must have read the texts numerous times, an example of her depth of familiarity became obvious when she sent out conflicting e-mails about which text to read for a certain day, so most of the class read a different text than the one she had been expecting to lecture on, she hadn't even brought a copy of the text most people read to class. After someone pointed out her mistake, she stopped and switched into lecturing on the other text, going entirely from memory. Though she is brilliant, she also is incredibly personable and very very willing to meet outside of class, even though it seems like she must be really busy with other commitments. She isn't like some professor's who take forever/never respond to e-mails, she will respond to your questions and make time to meet with you if you like. Like other reviews have pointed out, she is also great at pausing for questions, you can tell she loves to hear what the students are thinking about. I believe another professor usually teaches this course and Prof. Johnson won't be teaching next year because she will be on maternity leave, but if you can fit a section of this course with her as the professor into your schedule, you will not be disappointed.

May 2015

Take this class! It's not as if Professor Johnson needs any more praise, but she definitely deserves it. A really engaging lecturer, absolutely hilarious commentary on the texts you're reading, and so very knowledgeable about the field in general. This course is great -- a lot of really interesting texts (Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, some Canterbury Tales, etc.) and even if you've already read some of these Professor Johnson will absolutely teach you something new and provide really insightful and interesting information. The syllabus also includes poems you've almost definitely not read previously, but they're great and Professor Johnson obviously loves them and will make you love them as well. The lectures are so organized and easy to follow -- she will basically walk you through the poem from start to finish and make sure everyone understands what's going on (which is sometimes difficult, especially with the texts read in Middle English). She also makes sure to take time to pause at various points throughout the lecture and take any questions students might have, which is great because it adds a slight discussion aspect to the course.

Dec 2014

This was a great class. The texts, though extremely challenging and usually pretty long, were fascinating and gave me a new appreciation for both medieval and modern poetry. I usually came into each class having read the text assigned but having been completely lost while reading it, understanding nothing. But when Professor Johnson started lecturing, my mind was blown without fail. She pulled the coolest things out of every text that I hadn’t understood before that made me want to go home and reread all of them just so I could get more out of them. Eleanor Johnson is by far the best professor I’ve ever had at Columbia. I went to her for help during office hours a few times and she was incredibly nice and helpful, working through ideas for papers and looking at pieces of drafts for me. She is really there to teach and make sure that you learn. After our first papers were not up to her standards (and her standards are very high), she spent half of a lecture teaching us about good writing skills (which was SO helpful), and then she let us turn in a revision of that paper if we got a B+ or lower on it. Her review session for the final walked us through exactly what we needed to know to ID all of the books, talk about their main themes, and compare/contrast them. As a non-English major taking this class for fun, it was definitely a harder class than I anticipated, but it was still extremely rewarding.

May 2014

Technically this class was called The Canterbury Tales (Fall 2013), but whatever. Class title speaks for itself, this was a course on the entire Canterbury Tales, where we would read one tale for each class. You read in Middle English, but she provides this line-by-line online translation to follow along in the beginning until you get the hang of it. ELEANOR JOHNSON IS INCREDIBLE. I have taken basically all the big name profs in the English department and I have to say she is one of my favorites... if not my favorite. She combines all of the best qualities of professors: (1) knows her shit and is an amazing, super engaging lecturer (2) super enthusiastic, approachable, and kind (3) cares about undergrads (case in point: she learned everyone in our lecture's name and face. she made taking attendance fun! she held marathon office hours before each paper was due so that anyone who wanted to talk to her could. I talk about Prof. Johnson in all my tours because she is what I think a prof of undergrads should be like.) (4) not at all arrogant. And basically every other good thing you could ever say about anybody. I can honestly say I have never had a professor who has ALL of these qualities. Usually you have a prof who is like, super smart and engaging but completely unapproachable, or whatever. She also has great fashion sense. And! I think her teaching style is adaptable in that like pretty much everyone I know who has taken her loves her. She's not polarizing, like you either love her or hate her... you seriously just love her. The reading is great, if you're at all interested in Chaucer, and even if you're not, Chaucer's work is pretty foundational and can be related to tons of other writers (like Shakespeare). The Canterbury Tales is some of Chaucer's best (in my opinion, but definitely most well-known) work and most of the tales are enjoyable reads. Even if you don't enjoy the reading that much, Prof. Johnson's lectures are an absolute joy to be in. I didn't take a section because I couldn't, but her exams are pretty straightforward so I'm actually glad that I didn't. She's a generous grader on exams, harder on papers, but still fair. Take this class, seriously. Take all her classes. Also, go to office hours. She's so wonderful. PS Dear English dept, if you are reading this, I expressed this in office hours once and Prof. Johnson said I should mention it if I ever write a review for any English prof: please consider offering more lectures! I've noticed that there are more and more seminars being offered each semester at the expense of lectures which sucks because I actually prefer lectures to seminars (might be in the minority here but we are still a constituency!). I LOVE lectures. I feel like I get more out of them, at the end of the day. And Prof. Johnson is one of the best lecturers at Columbia.

Jan 2014

By the end of the first week of classes, Professor Johnson knew the name of everyone in a 90-person lecture. Professor Johnson's commitment to knowing each of her students is a testament to her mastery and zest for teaching. Canterbury Tales is an excellent class that every English major--and to be honest, every undergraduate--should take. We read a Canterbury tale each class in the original language and ended up studying Chaucer's masterpiece in its entirety, which according to Professor Johnson is quite rare in an undergraduate class. Though some tales may appear uninteresting at first, Professor Johnson's extraordinary lectures and analysis bring them to life, shedding light on Chaucer's genius. Most tales, however, are incredibly witty, clever, and funny; Chaucer isn't considered the father of English poetry for nothing. The tales' language (in Middle English) may seem complicated at first, but after a few classes, will be easy to read. All of the lectures were fascinating, as Professor Johnson shifts seamlessly between analyses of Chaucer's language and broader discussions of medieval philosophy, literary theory, history, and culture. Professor Johnson is absolutely brilliant, able to conjure up etymologies, dates, and answers to the most esoteric of questions in mere seconds! Indeed, in my 3.5 years at Columbia, I have never seen a professor deal so effectively with student participation, not just answering everyone's questions, but also contextualizing the answer sufficiently so that each of her responses became interesting to the entire class. Professor Johnson is also incredibly helpful in office hours and REALLY cares about teaching undergraduates. Whether you are a Middle Ages fanatic, an English major trying to fulfill your pre-1800 requirement, or pretty much any student looking to hear Columbia's best lecturer twice a week, take Canterbury Tales!

Nov 2012

As others have said, Visionary Dramas and Dramatic Visions was a fantastic class, and Professor Johnson is an amazing professor. This class was a perfect mix of interesting material and great teaching. For those without a background in Lit/Medieval texts: Don't be scared away; take this class! Medieval texts can often be boring at first glance, and many teachers have trouble showing students that they are actually bawdy and exciting, while dealing with deep philosophical/theological issues. Prof. Johnson has an amazing ability to show the interesting side of every text and to make each become a window into the Medieval world. The beliefs, concerns, interests, and believe it or not, jokes of the each author comes through loud and clear. If you are at all interested in literature, history, humor, or humans, take this class. For those interested in Medieval: It's a no brainer... There are too few Medieval Lit courses as it is, so why would you pass on such an awesome one? Lastly: go to Professor Johnson's office hours! She will teach you how to write. I know, I know, you already know how to write. I promise you, though, that you will come out a much better writer if you ask Prof. Johnson for feedback/criticism.

Sep 2012

Nice things about Eleanor Johnson can't be repeated enough, and I agree with everything below about how awesome she is. More specifically VDDV: I went into the class for the professor (as did 95% of the room) and ended up some how really liking the material. Somehow, Prof. Johnson made people want to come talk about 12th century god writings for 75 minutes twice a week. She runs the class well, her enthusiasm is clear and infectious, and she will make every text sound like it is the most interesting thing ever written. She's pretty aware that everyone loves her, so she did a lot to make us stick with the texts (in-depth review sessions before the midterm and final were particularly nice) and actually get something out of them. TL;DR: You would want to take this class if it didn't fulfill the distribution requirement for the English major. The fact that it does is just icing on the cake that is a class with Johnson.

May 2012

My experience of Professor Johnson was pretty much exactly the same as everybody else's. I am quite neurotic about my GPA... I got a B+ in this class, my lowest grade at Columbia, and I'm still completely thrilled with the experience. I'm not an English major, so some things which some students may have found easy were challenging for me. That said, I don't think this is an easy class by any standard, so you can rest assured that the amazing reviews for Eleanor Johnson don't derive from unusually lenient grading. I would not describe the grading as harsh either, it seemed pretty fair. The TA, Emma, was wonderful. Her comments on papers were very clear and helpful, and she created an encouraging, fun, and always on-topic learning experience in her (optional) section. Professor Johnson herself manages to make every text seem like the most important text in the history of the language. Her lectures are really thrilling and high-energy. She's also very approachable, and responds almost immediately to emails containing insights, thoughts, and questions about the material. She is encouraging, and loves to help students take interesting if unfocused paper ideas and focus them into provocative topics which result in meaningful work. The exams are straightforward, and she reviews thoroughly before the midterm and final, in class.

Apr 2011

Professor Johnson is absolutely the best teacher I've ever had. I've been wanting to wait until the end of the semester to write this review, but the sheer magnitude of her awesomeness compels me to write it sooner. First of all, she is incredibly brilliant and well-versed in just about everything you could possibly hope to study. On the enormously rare occasions that she is wrong or blanks, she demonstrates a level of humility that you would never expect from someone of her intellectual prowess. If that weren't enough, she is hilarious and will make you crack up just about every class. She truly makes the texts come alive with witty and well-timed jokes and extremely insightful references to contemporary culture. It seems like she truly wants each and every student to understand and to succeed and is a member of that rare breed of teacher who legitimately will dedicate time outside of class to helping you. Much has been said of the contribution she makes to your writing. I could not agree more. She's really taught me an important lesson in argumentative writing, and I am sure I think back to what she taught me for years to come. In summary, if you pass up the opportunity to take a class with Prof. Johnson, the angels will weep for you and bad things will happen.

May 2010

Wow. I really cannot put the unparalleled awesomeness of Eleanor Johnson into adequate terms. Professor Johnson was by far my favorite professor in the 4 years I've spent at Columbia. She is enthusiastic, talented, has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things medieval (in the best sense, of course), and, most importantly, is really funny. It's rare that a 4-credit seminar on Medieval Stoic Autobiography would be seen as "hilarious" and a "good time" but I found myself looking forward to it each week, and actually enjoying the readings (even in Middle English, ack!). It also helps to have a professor so enthusiastic about the texts... her love of medieval literature is certainly contagious, and I started off taking this class just to fulfill the pre-1800 pre-requisite for the English Department! That said, Professor Johnson is no pushover, and is not the kind of professor to hand in poorly-formulated papers you wrote in the past 3 hours. She makes you WORK for the A, but it's definitely attainable (albeit with more than a few necessary all-nighters). But after that hard work, I can honestly say that her feedback was worth more than my first three years with the English Department combined, and she has a serious knack for helping undergrads with paper-writing. I cannot recommend her enough.

Jan 2010

Wow! Sort of a lame way to begin a review, but I wasn't sure how else to convey just how enthusiastic Professor Johnson is, not to mention insightful. I've always been an English lit type, but even I was more than a little apprehensive about taking a course in which the class would be reading every single one of the Canterbury Tales. Professor Johnson, however, immediately drew us into the text, both with her eye-opening dissections of individual tales and, even more importantly, with her ability to weave the storylnes of the Tales together while also connecting them to the Medieval milieu from which they sprung. This made the class not only one of the better lit courses I've taken, but also a fascinating historical review of Chaucer's England. Professor Johnson is really wonderful. As much as we enjoyed this class, she always seemed to be enjoying it more, even when expounidng on less interesting tales. Yet even her comprehensive lecturing style left plently of room for class discussion, only adding to the pleasantness of the atmosphere. Highly recommended.

Jan 2010

Professor Johnson was my absolute favorite teacher for my first semester, and I truly cannot wait for the next! She is incredibly insightful, quirky, and totally passionate about what she teaches. It's not some convoluted, dry, and useless mess of information that she throws at us but clearly researched and thought-provoking. Discussion was never boring, and for a 9 AM class, I was surprised at how engaged I could be. Her background knowledge (most notably medieval) was definitely helpful with the dense and/or boring texts, and her willingness to help us outside of class with any problems we encountered at Columbia was awesome. I wouldn't say she's a "tough" grader (because that might have some negative connotations), but she's not easy; she's very fair though! If you pay attention in class (which should be easy) and actually read the texts, you'll be totally okay. I would definitely recommend her for any class she teaches.

Jan 2010

Professor Johnson is one of those professors at Columbia that you actually get excited about seeing twice a week. Quirky, brilliant, and engaging, she has the capacity to make an entire course in Middle English both fun and intellectually stimulating. She managed to dissect every single one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and produce truly compelling and thought-provoking lectures for each. I initially thought the class would be utterly boring and recondite, but Professor Johnson is one of those rare individuals who has not only the immeasurable intelligence necessary to teach a difficult course, but also the down to earth personality and patience to make it manageable and enjoyable. While I can only assuredly speak for myself, I'm more than certain that everyone in my class enjoyed it [seeing as how everyone participated at least once over the course of the semester without being forced to do so]. What I also love about Professor Johnson is that she is passionate and dedicated to her subject matter [she tried coming to class the day she was told that she may be having an aneurysm] and she is incredibly open [in fact excited] to work with students. Every time I spoke to her outside of class, she was very open to discussing anything in general, and even gave me some advice on one of my Shakespeare essays. She is by far one of the best English professors I've had at Columbia, and I would highly recommend that you seize the opportunity to have at least one course with her [even if you absolutely detest Medieval literature].

Dec 2009

Professor Johnson is by far the best teacher I had this semester (my first), and one of the best teachers I've ever had. I came to every class full of anticipation, and left every class blown away. She's incredibly brilliant and can talk at length on any given subject. However, she's very humble and quite funny. Her comments are always insightful and open the texts in completely new ways. She's also an excellent moderator for class discussion. She always came prepared with interesting and stimulating questions for the class discuss, and integrated them seamlessly into class discussion. She can take even the most dumb student comment and pull out nuggets of interesting ideas and opinions. This class convened at 9 AM, but I was never bored or tired, even on only a couple of hours of sleep. I came into Columbia confident that I wanted to be a Philosophy major, but because of her I've decide to major in English instead. I can't wait to have Professor Johnson for my second semester of Lit Hum, and I definitely plan to take classes with her again. Don't miss out on taking a class with her!

Dec 2009

I can't possibly hope to beat the eloquence of the previous review, but let me add my own two cents: a) the above review is 100% correct. b) this is my third chance at taking a chaucer/middle english class at this school and i've dropped the other two because they sucked. i stayed in for Johnson. Not only that, but I think I actually love the Canterbury tales now... c) this might be the best english class i've ever taken at this school. (i am a senior english major) i have no doubt that any class she teaches will be informative, curiosity-inspiring and loads of fun. Don't be afraid of the whole medieval thing--she'll help you out when she thinks things are too hard and will totally make you as passionate for the material as she is. in summary: TAKE HER!!!

Dec 2009

Professor Johnson just started this year at Columbia. Before I signed up to take her class on Chaucer, I contemplated taking a Barnard class also on the Canterbury Tales because her class was all the way in Knox Hall and honestly, that's just a far way to walk in the winter. When I tried to sign up for the Barnard class, the professor emailed me to take the class with Professor Johnson and said, "Trust me, she is one of the geniuses of our age." He was right! Professor Johnson is by far the best English professor I have had at Columbia. I think anyone, majoring in absolutely any subject, will end up liking the material she teaches because she is just so damn funny and intelligent and insightful. I'm pretty sure that everyone in our class adores her. What I like so much about her is that she doesn't take herself too seriously-- she doesn't show that she is this stuffy professor but rather admits that her insane amount of knowledge about the Middle Ages is, actually, pretty funny and dorky. Her openness about the subject allows for us to want to speak in class instead of feel intimidated that we'll get something wrong (as I've often felt with the professors in the English Department). Whether it is making us fascinated by even the most boring of Canterbury Tales or answering any of our questions (and we have a lot) with extreme patience and enthusiasm, Professor Johnson seems to have really found her calling in education. Whether it is offering advice on her office hours about how to read Middle English or even telling us that she is always available to talk to us about our career paths or even excitedly informing us about Medieval plays she likes in New York (and trust me, there actually are a few), Columbia and the English Department are lucky to have her.