I have never written a negative review but I feel I need to write one in this case. Professor Wamsler’s class was appalling in that her lectures were extremely basic yet her grading was nonsensical and ridiculously harsh. It is a shame for professors like this to still be teaching at Columbia. Not only does she write rude comments on a papers/midterm, but she also provides no way for you to improve. It is impossible to think that over the course of the semester, for a student who tries extremely hard and gets A’s in other classes, that your work would not improve. She starts you out with one grade and does not change it regardless of the quality of your work. She is a horrible teacher and an even worse instructor. She will not explain to you why you did poorly and will not change her teaching method to actually teach what she is apparently looking for in assignments. This class left me fuming, beware. Side note, I had the exact same experience as students who wrote reviews multiple years ago. That should tell you something.
This course was interesting, but not because of Prof. Keegan at all. He is super smart but his powerpoints are super confusing and he rambles a lot. He also teaches a lot of philosophy, theology, and poetry without going over the basics of "Islamic civilization" so if you don't have any background, it can get super confusing. He is an extremely harsh grader and is agreeable enough, but super unkind when it came to COVID. A lot of my classmates were complaining about how they were working multiple jobs and couldn't keep up with discussion posts and there just wasn't a lot of understanding from the Professor? Synchronous lectures during COVID with exit tickets were also very inconsiderate. Overall, highly don't recommend it. This man should just stick to research.
Professor Keegan seems nice enough and the course material is definitely fascinating. However, I don't really like his lectures, powerpoints, and general teaching style. As someone who has never encountered any Islamic civilizations, I was truly looking for an intro course that would just give me a crash course on all the basics or at least walk us through the history. Which this course somewhat does. There would be upwards of 300 pages of reading a week that covered all of these things. But in lecture, he wouldn't really cover any of the topics in the readings but rather explore more abstract / philosophical viewpoints. For example, the reading might be about the basic structure of Islam, the different schools of thought, etc. Then lecture would be about whether or not we can/should trust historical sources. Another thing that I really disliked about his teaching style was the extreme focus on Islamic poetry. I think his specialization is in Islamic literature? So rather than spending time on learning customs, history, or other concrete knowledge, he would spent entire classes analyzing individual poems or pasting a variety of poems into slides. Nothing against poetry -- many pieces were extremely beautiful -- but I wish that I had more of a basis / hold on this world before analyzing random poems from its time. As for my TA, he was incredibly incompetent. Discussion section would literally just be lectures, among other complaints, that I won't get into. Overall, I enjoyed the course but it wasn't because of the teachers -- the course topic itself is just interesting.
I do not recommend taking this class with Professor keegan. I don't think I actually learned anything from his lectures. He is a very harsh grader and explains things in a pedantic way so you never get an answer to your question. You can tell he is very passionate about the texts but has no actual clue how to teach them. I started off really loving the class, but by the end of the semester, I absolutely dreaded it. Keegan is a super harsh grader (I can't emphasize that enough). Your entire grade is dictated on the comments you make and whether or not he likes them (incredibly subjective). If you say something Keegan disagrees with, you'll be admonished for it. Trust me, don't take Keegan's course. he is such a subpar professor it's not even funny.
Seriously, the best art instruction I've received at Columbia, and I'm a major, and have taken lots of courses. Edward Minoff is kind of the perfect art professor. He's dedicated, never cancels class, outrageously talented, gives super honest feedback (he doesn't give the passive feedback that most of the Basic Drawing and Painting I professors notoriously give), genuinely helps you work through your drawing, and is willing to be just as committed to your drawing as you are. I highly recommend this class for anyone who deals with light. It rearranged how I perceive light and shadow. It is knowledge that is translatable to basically all other forms of visual art. I don't know why this class isn't required for majors. This class took me from feeling like I was a phony to actually feeling like I could draw anything after it was over. Edward demystifies drawing and if you think you have a world of drawing experience and couldn't learn anything more about the skill I think you'll find out that you're wrong once you get in the classroom with Edward Minoff. But he's also just a normal guy, too, not a high and mighty weirdo or self-absorbed artist. He just kind of has the vibe of a generally good person who likes what he does and helps others improve their skill set. He has no idea that he's so beloved by his students, which is always the mark of a good professor, in my opinion. He's introverted and slightly awkward but is kind and he has really cool stories, so you should just keep bugging him for information about his work and life experience.