Review Comment

Literary Nonfiction Workshop

May 08, 2020

Finck, Liana
Literary Nonfiction Workshop

They say don't meet your heroes, and this experience was a testament to that. I went into this class thinking it would be a rewarding, challenging experience, however, I didn't enjoy it because Liana Finck isn't a great communicator or facilitator of conversation. She addresses her class while staring at the ground, and this can get dehumanizing after a point and make it extremely difficult to focus.

Her office hours were scarce, and students had to sign up using the signup sheet on her door (it seems lazy to do this rather than just coordinate times over email). Often, I'd try to schedule office hours, but she would be unavailable, and when the sheet filled up, we would be asked to sign up the following week. In addition, the syllabus mentions that we're only "allowed" to come into office hours 3 times a semester, 30 minutes each. For a creative writing class, that seems scarce and insufficient, especially when we're given deeply personal and thoughtful assignments. She wasn't as supportive as I would have expected.

I thought the class discussion could have been conducted better. Liana kept the format quite vanilla, where we each spoke in turn in a roundtable. This became boring after a while, and after someone suggested a 'popcorn' style of talking, only then did she change it. What really shocked me was how difficult it is to communicate with Liana. She makes herself unavailable and she's a hard grader for unnecessary reasons, and that can discourage students from going into creative writing/journalism and taking the class for a learning/fun experience.

TLDR:

Positives:

-Medium workload
-Great peers :) I thought they were incredibly warm and down to earth, encouraging, and offered great perspective on creative work. They kept the class alive.
-Small discussion group, chance to interact and form connections with Barnard students

Negatives:

-BIGGEST NEGATIVE: Can only meet her 2 hours/SEMESTER for office hours at a MAXIMUM (decreased opportunity for developing a mentor/student relationship, less feedback, compare it to 2 hours/WEEK for most professors at Barnard/Columbia)
-Stickler for rules of the English department. Inflexible on assignment formats or activities in class, resistant to new ideas
-Class discussion might get repetitive, she's not a great facilitator
-Hard grader (idk why? it's a subjective class/learning experience)
-Stickler for deadlines
-I regret taking this class b/c I wasn't able to form a relationship with Liana, and I wish I had taken it with a more open, communicative, experienced, professor.

Thanks for reading! I hope this wasn't too polarising/vitriolic. If you take away anything, let it be that don't take a class for a Professor's name. Make sure it meets your requirements and that you get all you can out of the class. The English department at Barnard is wide, professional, and experienced: try to take classes where you can make mentors out of professors, compared to just taking the class for a grade/name. And also you can find a community in any creative English class at Barnard and I encourage you to cast your net wide. It can be incredibly useful. Good luck!

Workload:

Medium: 1 short response every Monday, 3 peer reviews every Tuesday, 1 ten-page double-spaced creative piece twice in the semester.
Office hours: Can only meet her 2 hours/semester for office hours at a MAXIMUM (decreased opportunity for developing a mentor/student relationship, less feedback, compare it to 2 hours/WEEK for most professors at Barnard/Columbia)
She's a stickler for deadlines, if ya miss it then kiss that grade goodbye

January 23, 2008

Benson, Amy Gold_nugget
Literary Nonfiction Workshop

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Amy is, hands down, the best professor I've had at Columbia. She fosters an environment of comfort and respect, and is firm when students test that. Her comments both in class and on paper are thoughtful and appropriate without being negative, and she expects the same in workshop. A really great experience.

Workload:

Three writing assignments on guided topics (place, autobiography, lyric essay, and research) 3-5 pages each; three longer workshop essays; portfolio including one revision of a longer piece.

May 01, 2006

Raphael, Phyllis
Literary Nonfiction Workshop

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Phyllis Raphael is a great teacher, and, unlike many of the teachers in the writing program who claim that you either "have it, or you don't," she is willing to offer real, clinical solutions to make your writing clearer and better.
She rejoiced with me as my writing improved, and understood my consternation when it was bad. She worked with me to try different ways of framing stories in order to make the telling easier.
She really cares for her students and, while she is rather unorganized, it isn't much compared to the rest of the writing program faculty.

Workload:

Three 7-10 page essays/stories; three 2-3 page exercises, intensely mandatory and timely attendance.

April 10, 2005

Bowers, John
Literary Nonfiction Workshop

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I am so happy that I am in this class. Professor Bowers is one of the nicest people in New York. Period. An Appalachian native (in case you were wondering where his accent's from) he is always smiling, always friendly, and always willing to help. He begins our class with talk of films and books and makes the classroom environment extremely comfortable - especially considering how much personal information gets put on the table in non-fiction classes. And he always has great insight into your writing. If you are to take one writing class while you're here - take it with him. You'll really love it.

Workload:

3 nonfiction pieces (~700-800 words apiece). Portfolio includes these three, but you only need to revise one of them.

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