James Adams

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Jan 2021

Took this class as a non-English major and ended up learning so much about 19c England + France plus garnered insights into my own major. For starters, Adams knows his stuff and is incredibly well-prepared for classes. He has this amazing gift of balancing discussion with stating his opinion on the subject matter definitely. Many other tenured professors cannot do this and either come across as too dominant or too lazy. Definitely take this class if you are interested in sexuality, dandyism, or aestheticism in general.

Sep 2020

You're very lucky if you have Professor Adams for LitHum. Not only is he a very smart, knowledgeable and accomplished in his field, but I also find him to be very approachable in Office Hours + Responsive to Emails. I particularly like his style of facilitating discussion. Generally, after a student speaks, he will immediately respond with his own thoughts/feedback (before then bouncing the conversation off to another student). Personally I really like hearing an authoritative opinion on whatever opinion I might have just expressed because it helps me further develop my ideas and clarify misreadings. However, he also knows when to step back at the right moments, and very often there will also be natural, direct conversation taking place between students. I think you'll love his class whether you come in with very little knowledge of the texts, or whether you have a rich and passionate knowledge of literature and philosophy. I think his grading was also fair. To be honest I felt that I didn't do too well in some of my Fall response papers, but later I realised that his feedback accurately reflected the different expectations for university-level literary writing; and the detailed feedback he gave me genuinely helped me improve in other classes as well, which I'm really grateful for. In general he's the type of person who rewards your merits, rather than who penalises your mistakes. I don't think he's the easiest grader out there but I think he holds a good balance between generosity and an ability to make you improve in a progressive and rewarding manner.

Apr 2020

Prof Adams KNOWS how LitHum works. Having taught the class for over 18 years and probably longer than you've lived, he truly loves the literature and poetically teaches it. You will get the real LitHum experience taking his class. The discussion/participation is optional, but if you do speak up, Adams will really dive into a deep discussion with you and engage the rest of the class to do so. I breezed through this class by taking careful notes and tracking all the passages he mentions in class.

Jan 2020

Professor Adams is one of the best at Columbia. I recommend taking his Lit Hum section if you're the type that hates forced participation or work in groups. There's none of that in his class. Midterm is based on passages discussed in class - absolutely nothing obscure. You have about 2 weeks to write the papers, nothing too hard.

May 2016

I took this class reading generally positive reviews on a subject matter that I deeply enjoyed. I expected the class to be a great seminar and unfortunately I had a terrible experience with this professor. There are other people that seem to have no issues with Professor Adams but I found him to be one of my least favorite English professors at Columbia. I would strongly recommend against taking his class. I interacted with the literature and loved the books that we read however Professor Adams seemed to take a particular disliking to my writing style and even though I met with him multiple times to discuss the final paper I received a low grade. In my opinion Professor Adams can be a reasonable grader if you spew back what he says in class and if you say it in the style that he likes however if your writing style is slightly different from his preference he lowers your grade. Worse than the grade Professor Adams has made me never want to pick up another Austen book. I have never encountered an English professor that was so unfair in his grading style and stuck in his own opinions that he could never open up to new ideas. Take another professor.

Dec 2014

None are better than Professor Adams who is a spectacular lecturer, very generous with his time, and a fair grader. Seriously, his lectures are not to be missed. The depth and breadth of his knowledge of the Victorian Era, one of the most fascinating in world history, are fathomless. I had him for two courses, History of the English Novel and Victorian Literature, and along with a wide array of literature including Dickens, Geo Eliot, Austen, Bronte, Hardy, Tennyson, Browning, we also covered social theory from Mill, Carlyle, Newman, and more. Professor Adams is an Oxford Rhodes scholar who completed his undergrad at MIT, an absolutely brilliant man, whose generosity and sense of humor make him the best professor I've had at Columbia. He never once missed a class, and I've had several celebrated professors at CU who have missed plenty of classes. Professor Adams is a world-class scholar and anyone fortunate enough to take a class with him finishes the course having gained a new perspective on not only the Victorian Era, but all ages of history, including our own.

Sep 2013

If you're thinking of taking a class with Prof. Adams, DO IT. You will not regret it. If he is not as well known among students as are the other Victorianists in the department it is because he's new to Columbia. (he's married to Prof. Moody-Adams, and came with her from Cornell a few years ago) Give him a few years and people will be fighting for room in his classes. It's shocking to me that they aren't doing so right now! He's AMAZING. (His "Victorian Literature" survey inspired me to be an English major!) He always has time for his students, making more office hours close to paper deadlines, giving extensive comments on said papers, and even accepting a first paragraph for comments before the final submission. His lectures are engaging, and his seminars are even more so (not to mention that his syllabi are always interesting) He's also approachable. There's no ego in sight (though it would be justified if he had one - the man's brilliant). Don't expect there to be a ta for the lectures. He does all the grading himself (he even has a little story he tells at the beginning of each of his lectures about how his time at MIT (Yep, that's right, he was a math major at MIT before being a Rhodes Scholar and doing English) influenced his decision to go it alone. You'll get full-on Adams awesomeness for the whole semester - no middle (wo)man! :) I'd recommend pretty much anything he teaches (his George Eliot seminar is especially fascinating). You really can't go wrong. If you are looking for a fun and awesome class, are thinking of the English major, or already a seasoned veteran, TAKE A CLASS WITH THIS MAN! Seriously, do it. You're doing yourself (and your writing) a favor.

Jul 2012

Where is this man's nugget? Favorite professor yet at Columbia by far! If you're interested in the material, his lectures are interesting and informative. He's generally understanding about pushing back deadlines and doesn't grade very harshly at all. This was the first English class I took at Columbia, and he was always willing to talk over paper ideas with me during office hours. If you're interested in Victorian literature, he's definitely your man! Highly recommended.

Dec 2011

A fun class for those who love Victorian literature and are willing to delve in 19th century nonfiction too. Prof. Adams gives amusing lectures with great historical context. Some common themes were "fallen women," (and women in other contexts, such as the unfaithful wife or lover), emerging scientific discoveries, advancement in technology, and creativity (both visual and poetic.) I'm not sure what grades other people received on the papers and exams, but I felt that the grading was fair. I definitely, definitely would suggest seeing him with a basic outline of your paper before writing it, and following it up by asking him to critique your first paragraph through email. Prof. Adams is super nice and helpful, and doing so will help you with your grade. The IDs can be challenging at times, but read the work and really note down what passages the Prof. speaks about in class. His lectures give a good idea of what IDs will be on the exam. I enjoyed this class, but I am also especially fond of Victorian literature, so I even found the nonfiction somewhat interesting (I still can't stand Carlyle, but the second half of the semester had more interesting nonfiction, with easier-to-read writers like Morris and Ruskin.) If you're only lukewarm about Victorian lit, this might not be the best class for you, but if you are a fan of the 19th century, Adams is engaging and interested in your opinion. Really great professor.

Sep 2011

This review refers to Professor Adams' graduate seminar in Decadent Literature taught Spring '11. I want to also express my disappointment with this unfocused and disorganized seminar. Rather than zoom in on specific passages in the text, Professor Adams encouraged students to sound-off about anything that caught their attention. In practice this became terribly unproductive; hardly anyone attempted to build off the previous thread, but instead simply threw out their own particular viewpoints one after another. The seminar quickly became an exercise in grandstanding, completely useless and uninteresting. Each week felt like a waste of 2 hours, it was depressing. I also want to comment on the disorganization of the course. Many of the weekly readings were circulated by Professor Adams electronically and these would always inexplicably arrive late, sometimes the very evening before the seminar met, which made it difficult for more than a few students to cover the readings and for anyone to read them thoroughly. It really was a pity, Professor Adams is an incredible scholar. I wish he would direct a greater proportion of his thought to his teaching.

Dec 2010

I took this class figuring I'd never read any of the books on the syllabus otherwise. Even though Adams was new to Columbia, his reviews from the Cornell equivalent of CULPA were good. He's an insightful thinker and obviously an expert on the material, but not a very engaging lecturer, which can be deadly in a class with material that's pretty thick to begin with. He occasionally asks questions of the class, but he gets too wrapped up in his own notes to really keep the class interested. He's purely interested in seeing his own ideas reiterated in the papers to the point where it's hard to stretch those two or three points into an entire paper. Don't bother writing your own ideas. The worst part by far were the quote IDs on the exams. He picks parts of quotes that aren't obviously from any one reading and doesn't give enough material to determine rhyme schemes. Having said that, he was helpful in office hours and willing to discuss paper ideas and exams. Take his class if you're really interested in the material. Otherwise I'd say the painful exams make it not worth the time.

Dec 2010

This is a great class taught by a great professor. The eloquence of the first lecture will convince you that Professor Adams is seriously interested in making the time you spend in his class worthwhile. As the author of a well-regarded survey, The History of Victorian Literature, his main strength in lectures is the ability to bring so many different contemporary perspectives to each text. The reading list of the course is extremely well-balanced, diverse, and not stingy on masterpieces. One other gauge of Prof. Adam's merit as a teacher is his openness for advice and help. Before papers are due, he takes questions each lecture and posts extended office hours. His paper topics are flexible and encourage students to be creative without being overly broad and non-directed. This is the kind of class which makes the case for humanities in undergraduate education, and I hope every student will consider it.