December 17, 2020

Hildebrand, Jayne
[ENGL 3193] Critical Writing

AMAZING. An absolutely incredible professor—so kind, understanding, thoughtful, creative, and also funny! Genuinely funny! She made us all laugh multiple times throughout this semester with her wit (and over Zoom nonetheless!) Definitely one of the highlights of this very challenging virtual semester. I would honestly recommend any class with her. She turned Critical Writing from a mandatory ho-hum class to an absolute joy. I highly, highly recommend this course with this professor.

Workload:

1 discussion post per week.
1 mini-essay (3ish pages)
4 full-length essays (approx. 7 pages)
Probably around 100 pages of reading per week (10-20 pages of research/theory, 50-75 pages of fiction)

April 26, 2019

Cregan, Mary Silver_nugget
[ENGL 3193] Critical Writing

If you’re going to take Critical Writing, take it with Professor Cregan. She’s extremely thoughtful and smart, and the pace of the class isn’t too bad for a 4-credit course. There’s a fair amount of reading, but if you come to class every week you’ll be fine. I highly recommend going to her office hours. It gives you a chance to introduce yourself and talk about your writing which is important because you don’t workshop in class.

Workload:

Three 6-8 page papers (you get to revise your lowest grade), one 2 page paper (easy), weekly discussion posts or paragraph responses she grades check +/-. (Oh, and did I mention no final?)

January 21, 2019

Spiegel, Maura
[ENGL 3193] Critical Writing

I came into this clas hopeful about English at Barnard and looking at the prospect of becoming an English major. Post-Maura there’s absolutely no way I’ll be an English major. Not only was there an unnecessary amount of work—she gave us one book per week but often didn’t assign the reading until late in the week (eg Thursday or after for a Monday class) but she was also the type of teacher who seems to see critical writing as a place with lots of definites. Our discussions revolved around her lecturing us, and when she did allow us to talk it often seemed as she was simply waiting for us to hit all the bullet points on her checklist. Several times she blatantly told myself and other classmates that our points were invalid; which to me, is not the beauty at all of English.

On top of that, she gave no guidelines and even gave a make it your own prompt for our first paper. When I went in for my feedback session she immediately told me I had to rewrite my paper without giving much reason other than that it was not rooted in the book. So that led me to reading an extra book (over fall break), coming up with several more theses (all of which she said “sounded too much like research papers”) and finally writing a 15-page personal essay in addition to keeping up with the other readings and essays for the class. In what was an extremely personal piece, her feedback was insensitive and essentially tried to give me unneeded and self righteous life advice. Finally, with my last essay I truly attempted to correct what she said was my lack of close reading and interpretation. Instead her feedback was full of unnecessary critiques in which she wrote “It seems at times (hypothesizing here) you get exhausted by the effort of explaining— and then lose your thread. What’s more in places your prose grows slack—loses energy and clarity. It would be so great if your analytical prose contained the force and crispness of your personal essay.”

Lastly, quite frankly, in my opinion, she’s a white woman who attempts to be woke but often can be awkward and uncomfortable about race. In this class I was one of two POC. Maura seems to have a fascination with black literature and film. We watched Moonlight, read Beloved, Disgrace, and she mentioned she’s watched Moonlight dozens of times. When we were discussing it, at one point she went, “The true purpose of Moonlight is that it gives us as white women (looks at me and one other POC)— and others, the ability to understand and experience the black male experience.” That wasn’t an isolated incident. There were other times I brought up being a POC or disagreed with her comments that resulted in me feeling extremely uncomfortable and unsupported.

As much as I wanted to like Maura as a person and professor, I highly do not recommend taking her classes. I often grew frustrated with not only her teaching but also the way she approached being a professor. If a great professor supports and encourages a student, I can say for sure Maura did not meet that standard.

Workload:

Unnecessarily high considering most people were taking it for a requirement. Typically one book a week + an 10 page article and some times an additional paper or movie

December 07, 2017

Vandenburg, Margaret Silver_nugget
[ENGL 3193] Critical Writing

Professor Vandenburg is extremely knowledgeable, and an enjoyable professor. However, class discussions can tend be incredibly complex for Ciritcal Writing, a course meant to be introductory. Additionally, she is a relatively hard grader. With all of these things considered, her class will definitely be challenging, but as an introduction to the English major, formative.

Workload:

Lots of reading each week, but no more than the amount expected for a typical English course. Four essays written in total, which compose the entire grade, expect for participation, which can be stressful.

Andrew Lynn is one of the most thoughtful and skilled teachers I've had in my undergraduate experience-- he's so wonderfully deft at leading a seminar discussion, his comments on writing are constructive and tremendously helpful, etc. It's like all the mechanics of teaching, all the hard hard work that can often go un-noticed in skilled teachers, Andy has such a wonderful handle on, and with such kindness and grace. I really can't recommend his classes highly enough.

In his Critical Writing section you read a little more theory than I think many other Barnard professors will have you read, a little more theory and a little less literature, BUT even if you are not a theory-minded person, it's better you do it with a very skilled teacher than a less skilled one so I think it is abundantly worth it.

Workload:

For critical writing I think 3 full papers and a biweekly low stakes 1-2 page response thing.

May 09, 2017

Eisendrath, Rachel Silver_nugget
[ENGL 3193] Critical Writing

Honestly, this is one of the best classes I've taken. I am a person who isn't all that fond of frequent class participation, and this is a class that involves a lot of participation, but Professor Eisendrath makes it seem so EASY. She is kind, thoughtful, and genuinely so so good at facilitating discussion. She considers everything everyone says so carefully and often helps you articulate the weird floating thoughts in your brain you didn't think were worth anything. Plus, she was super great about reading how we were feeling as a class. She could tell when we were tired, and would sometimes shift her plan for the day accordingly or just chat with us for a few minutes at the beginning of class to help us wake up.

But beyond Professor Eisendrath being amazing, the class itself was so so interesting. There was a lot of reading, and a discussion post due weekly, but doing the reading was always worth it. I went into this class not knowing much about literary theory, and while I still don't know as much as many people, I do feel that working closely with texts that range from Aristotle to Walter Benjamin to Shakespeare to Freud has helped me think way more critically about what I read and how I read it. I also found the feedback I received on my paper really helpful and constructive, and the instruction we received before we even wrote the first paper really effective as well.

If you're considering an English major at Barnard and don't know which professor to take Critical Writing with -- take it with Professor Eisendrath.

Workload:

weekly ~2 page discussion posts on Courseworks about the readings, two 5-7 page papers and a revision of one of them, and a slightly longer final paper (7-8 pages). Weekly readings -- usually a few essays by theorists, and then a slightly longer literary work. Probably ranged from 100-200 pages weekly.

December 13, 2016

Spiegel, Maura
[ENGL 3193] Critical Writing

Okay I took this class in spite of the bad reviews and truthfully Maura Spiegel is now my favorite teacher this year and someone I would honestly like to be friends with. The discussions we had in class were some of the most thought provoking and interesting and comfortable discussions I've had all year.

She also brought snacks every class and treated all of us so kindly. I'm not sure how approachable she is in her larger classes (we only had seven kids in our class) but she was very friendly and easy to talk to.

She's not the most organized but I loved that about her. Not every teacher should teach the same rigid, unpredictable way. But if you can't handle that teaching style, maybe think twice about it.

The workload is a little heavy but worth it. If you're someone who truly loves literature and appreciates it, take this class. Don't come looking for an easy A otherwise.

Workload:

four or five essays. Weekly online posts that aren't too long. A new book to read every few weeks (none were very long at all).

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