Course Evaluation: “Comment on the Quality of Instruction in this Course”

This is an excerpt from the Statement’s annual Literary Issue. Click below to read more.

Originally published Feb. 25, 2015


The Statement is The Michigan Daily’s weekly news magazine, distributed every Wednesday during the academic year.

The evaluation said that [name removed] could turn a phrase, and they were right. The thing about [name removed] that I found out on my own, was that his ego sometimes gets in the way of the point — the point of the discussion, the reading, the class, educating the youth, good taste, imparting wisdom, etc., etc. Sometimes, there was no point. Sometimes, you could see him peering down at the point as if from very far away, waiting for it to catch up with him. I mean to say, that he was good at his job, but in a way that made want to bite your own teeth off. (Imagine). Obscure, unhelpful, and smarter-than-you. And this was the most consistent vibe in the room, I found. For a semester, it teetered between “this is fun and interesting” and “this is sort of offensive, so now we are going to wait it out.” The class, I mean. As a whole. The History of Art. It should be so simple. Jesus.

I guess, put in a different way, my biggest frustration with this class (although it was usually interesting and well-presented) was that there was a certain need to answer the question in [name removed]’s own personal way, or maybe the way that [name removed] found personally meaningful. Oftentimes, it seemed like we were being tested for understanding [name removed]’s last impression of the readings. The real question is, how well do you know [name removed]?

For example, I was the guy who was curious about the social reception of Hume’s aesthetics (i.e. “can the ‘goodness’ of ‘good art’ be measured by how it would actually be received?”), but I was sort of written off or filtered out because it was construed that I wanted to take some kind of trans-historical “survey” or whatever, and that “surveys” weren’t going to help us understand art through the ages, and that is not what I was saying with a snide lilt, (which is also impossible since so many of its would-be participants are dead), but rather must have been based entirely [name removed]’s terrible experience with “surveys,” since he seemed so premeditated-ly averse to this concept. At other times, I was filtered out because what I was saying didn’t match a given author, like X: “What X is saying,” [name removed] would say, “is that you are basically wrong, and I have no interest in the point you’re making divorced of the internal world I have constructed so that we can all like the same things because I like them and I have good taste, thanks for sharing.” Emphasis on the “X.”

Maybe another example is that I’m writing this final paper on Ogilvy’s ideas about fiction and emotions (assigned by [name removed]), but I’m only quoting him where he’s relevant to a.) Poulet on the phenomenology of reading, b.) Henry James, and also, c.) it must be said, the blank, staring obvious. Although we’ve been led to believe that [name removed] knew Ogilvy and got tenure by disproving some of his ideas, it doesn’t seem like a very good last word on the subject. Rather, and again, it seems like something that was personally meaningful to the professor, whose name has been removed.

Of course, I’m not trying to be a dick, but hey, maybe it will help with “the quality of instruction in this course,” which despite the tenure thing, appears to be something that [name removed] – who I feel so privileged to address in the third person, as if he were a person you and I had just met (it is you actually reading this [name removed], isn’t it? Hi!) – “takes seriously,” and “values,” and what a great start we’re off to already! We are, actually, (I think). We are probably even past the start, and into somewhere in the middle, where the end is the ultimate, unreachable Form of this class as taught by a manifest god, or something even less interesting.

In sum: 8/10. I basically liked this class.

This is part of the Statement’s 2015 Literary Issue. To read the rest of the issue, click here.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.