I liked this class a lot. If you're looking for a course that you might actually get something personal out of, I would recommend this. It's probably the only class I've taken where I experienced the "love of learning for learning's sake" thing. The material is fascinating and uplifting, and Branka teaches it passionately and eloquently. She also breaks down the difficult concepts clearly, so you actually get a good understanding of the philosophy. The class was a lecture but the size was small, so we could participate if we wanted to, but weren't obliged to. We only read Emerson and Thoreau. For Emerson, we covered a sizeable chunk of his essays. For Thoreau, we did Week on the Merrimack and Walden.
Professor Arsic is a incredibly knowledgeable and engaging teacher. If you are interested in taking a CC class with a non-traditional curriculum then Professor Arsic is your woman. Arsic replaced Burke and Mill, and shortened the amount of time spent on Kant, in order to make room for more contemporary thinkers such as Glissant, and earlier American philosophers like Emerson and Thoreau. She is an expert on American transcendentalist thought and is quite facile in post-colonial literature and thought. As she is the head of the graduate department in English and Comp Lit at Columbia, you are unlikely to get a more experienced, over qualified teacher for CC.
American Transcendentalism is a new course that comprises an intensive reading of Emerson, Thoreau, and Dickinson. About half the semester was spent on Emerson, followed by three weeks on Thoreau and two weeks on Dickinson. Prof. Arsić provided historical context for each author and suggested secondary readings, but by and large the course centered on analyzing the primary texts themselves. While the course was technically a seminar, Prof. Arsić gave long exegeses of each text, which were particularly illuminating for Emerson and Thoreau. There was student participation, but it was not the central focus of the class. Because two of our classes were cancelled, the number of classes on Dickinson was cut short. Perhaps because of this condensation, Prof. Arsić's analysis of her poetry was not at the same level of her explanations of Emerson and Thoreau. Prof. Arsić was accessible throughout the semester in office hours, even to us undergraduates. She also read drafts of our midterm papers and gave detailed comments on the final version. I highly recommend the course to students interested in the 19th century, which, by the way, is much more interesting than the 20th. I also recommend Prof. Arsić. She is wonderfully kind and engaging, and her knowledge of ante-bellum America is astounding.