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There were many brief flashes of greatness, not only of Professor Cohen's massive knowledge of the time period, but of his brilliant analysis and riveting lectures. Professor Cohen tries his best to make even the driest excerpts of American Poetry engaging and relatable, and while the poems he selects to survey the time period are mostly good, unfortunately most other aspects of the class fall short of success.
Firstly, if you like history, take this class. I think a lot of my classmates enjoyed the class, but since I'm mostly interested in analysis and close-reading, I personally did not.
While his lectures are interesting, they mostly cover historical background information to the poems, which is fine to introduce the poem and then dive into specifics, but when the majority of class time is spent on an author's biography or historical context, there is little time to focus on actual literary content or close-reading.
His hyper-emphasis on historical context cropped up in his grading as well. Oftentimes on papers he mainly corrected historical minutiae, offering very few helpful comments about the paper's thesis, argumentation, or analysis. Some comments were short and sarcastic, where he would highlight an entire paragraph just to write a two-word comment. He also seemed to have an idea in his head for the perfect paper you could've written, and compares that ideal paper against what you actually wrote, instead of grading the paper for its merits alone. For the final project (due finals week in addition to an essay-based final exam), we traced the historical background of a poem or work using archival research with no clear grading rubric, which really put the nail in the coffin for this class. To top it off, he has a very strict tardiness policy, simply put: if you're more than 5 minutes late, you shouldn't come to class. While it's definitely possible to get an A (I did, as did many others) expect to participate frequently and write cookie-cutter papers.
It's a shame really, because I like Professor Cohen. He's remarkably brilliant, and many of his lectures reflect the raw potential that the class hints at. He's a kind man who cares about student learning; however, at times his course feels better suited for the history department, and while I did come away from the class with an appreciation for 19th century American Poetry, I can't say that I've further developed my writing skills, nor can I say that the class accomplished the goals outlined on the syllabus. In its current form, I cannot recommend this class; however, perhaps in the future some of the flashes of brilliance I saw within Professor Cohen will realize themselves into a comprehensive class. So, after all of that, I'd say to give the class a chance, especially if you love history and historical context for literature.
This class with Cohen and Grossman was the easiest college class I have taken here. No final, no midterm, only a short first paper, an easy, short project, and a six page final paper. They’re both really entertaining, although I liked Cohen more because he was more clear and concise. Grossman tends to get off track and ramble over students, although I still really liked him because of his enthusiasm. If you need to take 10C, take it with these guys, it’s worth it.