Paul Charles Grimstad

Dec 2019

Paul's class was a terrible experience overall; the only thing that made it bearable was excellent TAs and I regret not dropping it when I could. I was very disappointed as I am a huge science fiction fan and an English major, so I thought I would love the class. While I found no particular fault with his knowledge of the science fiction genre or the curriculum he set up for the course, he himself was unhelpful and ignorant, and also came off very condescending at times. He tends to focus on inane details and their obscure meanings rather than productive discussion (I assume because talking about how significant and secret little details and references were make us feel smarter; it's a lot of showboating without much substance), and doesn't adequately answer questions, instead answering about 100 peripheral questions that you didn't ask while interrupting you every time you try to speak up to clarify/narrow your question. The only thing extraordinary about his teaching was his passion for the subject; in all other respects he was a mediocre professor. He also made offensive comments about depression and other mental illnesses in front of a multitude of students; while it was after class ended there were still a lot of students waiting to talk to him afterwards, and instead of quickly trying to get to all of us, he engaged in a conversation with one student about his beliefs about mental health, including saying that clinical depression was the same as "feeling a little blue," and "If my kid ever got depression, knock on wood, [knocks on his desk a few times] I wouldn't- I wouldn't let him have psychiatric drugs, because I'm not a materialist." After the student uncomfortably explained to him that you don't just "get" depression and that outside factors often play a role, Paul replied, "Ah, I see, so you just wake up one day and realize, 'my life's gone to sh*t,' and you've got depression.' While it's not uncommon to have this view on mental illness, as a college professor, Paul has a responsibility to his students to educate himself on the most common mental health issues facing a huge percentage of students (statistics vary based on which study you look at, but no matter which way you slice it, it is a LOT of kids, including at least one present when he made these comments). Perhaps he'd like to start with the idea that mental illness is in fact real, not in one's imagination or a decision or as simple as "feeling a little blue," and perhaps he'd also benefit from learning about invisible disability. I was shocked at his insensitivity and ignorance surrounding a topic that is highly relevant to people our age (suicide being the leading cause of death for our age group). I wouldn't recommend Paul at all. I would avoid a class solely because he is the professor.

Dec 2017

Paul Grimstad is a gift from God to Columbia University and the estate of Edgar Allan Poe. His eloquence is unparalleled. His knowledge of American literature is perhaps paralleled, but not possibly exceeded. He has extraordinarily good hair for a middle aged man and wears a canvas blazer with ferocious exactitude. Edgar Allan Poe is brilliant in his own regard, but the real value of this course is in Professor Grimstad's ability to bring him to life. By "bring him to life" I quite actually mean bring Edgar Allan Poe to life - a few of us met at the Rare Books and Manuscripts library after hours and held a séance, during which a spectre of Poe emerged from the fireplace in the loft, spoke extensively with Grimstad in French, outlined our final papers for us, and dissipated into ash. This is not any old seminar, because Paul Grimstad is not any old professor. Expect a four credit thrill ride and the word "denouement" at least 3x per class. (In all sincerity, the best course I've taken at Columbia. Professor Grimstad has an incredible knack for guiding class conversation, is extremely knowledgeable, well spoken, and funny, and knows his Poe better than anyone.)