Marie offloads everything onto the students -- she takes an approach of "decentering" the professor, which means that she doesn't have to participate and the students are randomly assigned to lead workshop. This results in a stressful environment, because you aren't informed beforehand if you are going to lead. I was always on edge. She barely speaks in class, she said nothing during my critiques. I also think she judges you heavily for not participating, which seems very hypocritical and perhaps some sort of projection. Her written critiques are short and messy. She has said to us that she reads work for grading purposes not for feedback. I am taking a workshop for feedback! When she does speak in class, it is often insightful and helpful -- so it really would have been nice to hear her voice! I take creative writing workshops for guidance from a professional -- the decentering approach seems ridiculous to me because if I just wanted to hear from my peers I would have made an informal workshop with my friends. I understand if she has social anxiety etc., but I want to learn!
Professor Lee is the most hands-off (by which I mean uncaring, withdrawn, and lazy) professor I've encountered at Columbia. She would give students written critiques that were barely a paragraph long and littered with typos; she hardly ever spoke up in class; and she seemed determined *not* to get to know any of her students or create a warm atmosphere for the workshop. While I ended up enjoying this course thanks to my wonderful classmates, who put in a lot of work and really ran the workshops each week, I was truly taken aback by how little effort Professor Lee seemed to put into the class; at times, it was almost insulting, given how much effort the rest of us were putting in. Moral of the story: if you have good people in your class, Professor Lee won't ruin it, but she won't contribute much either. I'd recommend taking the workshop with someone else if you can.
Marie is an insightful and accomplished author whose comments in class really dig to the core of a piece. She offers up thoughtful and useful advice, that is, when she participates. Workshop itself is almost entirely guided by the class, but the conversation created is almost always the most valuable aspect of the course. Marie pushes for an open environment where no one feels hesitant to try something new with their writing. In all honesty I think we as a class could have gotten away with much more experimental (and much shorter) pieces, but we were pretty straight-laced and submitted your typical 8-10 page traditional pieces. If you want to be bold, you're encouraged to in this class. Marie's presence in class is minimal, however. She doesn't offer much feedback on pieces, sometimes writing only a couple of sentences about them which can sometimes be synopsis or grammatical pointers. She seems to record critiques submitted for peers' work, but never seems to grade them. The requirements for critiques were also vague. Because of that I received critiques ranging from paragraph length to several pages in length, and never knew quite how much or about what to write myself. Despite her sometimes detached presence, Marie's class is good for budding writers because she doesn't judge too heavily, and just encourages you to write often. Even if she's not perfect, she doesn't dare burst anyone's creative bubble, and that's great for writers at this stage.