Helene Foley

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Apr 2021

Although I do not regret taking the course, I do regret taking it with Professor Foley. I often had the impression that Professor Foley was bored in class. It seemed like she was teaching because she had to, rather than because she wanted to. It was semi-difficult for the class to engage because of this. Besides this, she is very nice. I absolutely suggest taking advantage of her office hours (esp before the midterms) because it will help you expand your ideas.

Sep 2020

Prof. Foley is the BEST PROF. I'VE HAD AT COLUMBIA BARNARD YET. She is seriously the best. She's kind and supportive , but also so incredibly knowledgable about mythology. She really gives you the full scope of what to know. The workload was entirely manageable with only some definitions or myth recall for the Final/Midterm, and she laid out all you needed to know for them before hand. She's a super cool professor, and I wish I could take her class again.

Jan 2020

Despite my limited background in the classics, taking professor Foley’s class was a joy. Professor Foley’s passion for the classics is contagious and people who speak to her about literature from ancient Rome or the gods of ancient Greece can’t help but fall in love with works from antiquity. The ability of professor Foley to immerse a large class in the stories she teaches is impressive. Since she clearly understands how challenging it could be for students in such classes to ask questions, she also makes extended office hours available. It could not be stressed enough how important and helpful this is. Mythical stories could be paradoxical and perplexing to modern readers as well but thankfully, professor Foley specializes in captivating her audience through visual imagery and colorful words. As a result, the material she teaches is astonishingly interesting and digestible. Her class is the best class I have taken at Columbia thus far not only because of how well it is taught but also because it has introduced me to philosophies and ideas I wasn’t familiar with prior. I read books from antiquity on a regular basis now. She brings chocolate for students during exams too. How sweet is that?!

May 2015

I love mythology in general and entered this class very familiar with the material, and with an very deep respect for Professor Foley as the foremost expert on The Hymn to Demeter. However, although she is a very nice teacher and clearly cares an immense amount about the material, her lecture style can be very dull. She spends every class going through slides of artistic representations of whatever that day's myth is, but I can't remember a single time she actually brought up more than one critically backed interpretation. Also since it's easy to gather the general gist of the myths from the slides without reading them, lots of students just wouldn't do the reading (also in part because there is a ton of it). I was lucky because I happen to love this stuff, so the reading wasn't a problem for me, but this is not a good class if you just want to fulfill your lit requirement. Oh, and the midterm and the final aren't as hard as they seem like they will be. If you're familiar with the common identifying features of all the gods in greek and roman art you will be fine; you don't have to memorize all of the slides she shows you. She also puts together these really interesting packets of poems related to each myth (some modern, some classic). It's hard to find the time to read them during the semester, but I'd strongly recommend downloading them to read later. They really are quite good.

Sep 2014

Overall, I really enjoyed taking this class. You don't have to do all the reading, though it is not very difficult to complete it. It only gets difficult when you get to Homer but you really don't have to bother with it. Lecture is not all the helpful because she simply went through the slide show with paintings about the myths. she shows modern and ancient art, but you only need to study the ancient art. for that reason, lecture was not really interesting for me because she didn't give much insight or discussion of the content, just simply presented the content to us. there is a midterm and a final with pretty much the same structure. she is very straightforward about it and makes it clear that this is not meant to be difficult or to trick you. she is telling the truth. just memorize the art and study themes she mentions in class, and do some of those readings. there is also a final analysis paper which is not difficult to do at all if you've done well in literature. I did a simple compare and contrast of poems and got an A. Just write well and have decent ideas and you're set - although I'm sure for some people that can be a challenge. If it is a challenge for you, then the TA or Foley herself will be there to help you! she wants everyone to do well and is incredibly kind and understanding.

May 2011

Professor Foley is absolutely amazing. I took the class to fulfill a GER and never expected to take it seriously. Instead, I came out of the course with a great appreciation of Greek art and literature. She is extremely understanding when it comes to what each student is capable of doing and their background of the material we were working with. She offered phone conferences over the weekend when we had our first paper due, and is always very attentive at office hours and to the work that you have handed in. This woman is absolutely amazing.

May 2011

One of the nicest, most intelligent professors I have ever had the privilege of taking a class with. Our class had a pretty diverse mix of academic backgrounds--from people who had never taken a Classics course before to people who can read Ancient Greek cold--but she made the course approachable and interesting no matter how much experience you had. She is obviously passionate about what she teaches, and is extraordinarily helpful in office hours. The reading is a lot, but it's fascinating stuff--it would be my reward to myself after I had done my reading for other classes. Take this class or any other class with Foley, you will absolutely not regret it.

May 2010

Professor Foley is AWESOME. Take any course you can with her. She is so cute with her smiles and candy giving. She even invited us to her house this semester for FYF Myths of Maternity. She is available to meet basically all the time, and she always tries to accommodate her students. She is passionate about women's issues and ancient Greek studies, but even if you don't care about this stuff I'm sure you'll enjoy it with her class. Her caring makes you care. She facilitates class discussion but does not make it weird. Initially she leads discussion but then she has you bring in passages and questions and in the end you kind of take over the discussion. Seriously she rocks. Woo Foley!!

Jan 2010

Professor Foley is just one of the most intelligent professors I have ever had the honor of taking a class with. She's clearly very passionate about the material and did a great job in summarizing key points and tying ideas together. She's so sweet (she brought cookies on the last day of class and on the day of the final). Honestly, you should take one of her classes. Superb professor. Sometimes the reading was too much, but this was often counter-balanced by days when we would have to read just one play or smaller readings. Not all reading was necessary but all of it was interesting. She also included other media in class discussions, such a slides and videos. The class discussion always led to interesting points.

Nov 2007

Well, I just wanted to give a quick hats-off to Professor Foley. People like her, let alone professors, are few and far between-- dazzlingly brilliant, ever cheerful, sweetly humble. I want to gush forever, but I guess all I'll say here is that I am crazy about this woman, and you should take anything she teaches. She's amazing.

May 2007

I came into this class as a SEAS student with almost no college literature or writing experience, and the only piece of Greek literature I had under my belt was the Odyssey. I left with a great deal of understanding of the course material, a broadened outlook on literature in general, and improved reading and writing skills. Prof. Foley is an exceptionally dedicated lecturer who clearly loves helping her students learn. Her feedback and grading is extremely constructive, and her lectures (executed with designated student assistance) were eye-opening.

May 2006

Foley's great. She's up to date on current Homeric scholarship and brings that knowledge to class to make what could be a ho-hum translation class very interesting. She knows ancient Greek so well that she's not afraid to admit it the few times she doesn't, and then she'll go off and find out for you. You'll absorb her love for the text and yes, quite a bit of skill in translating it, too. The vocab is always tough, but she gets you used to the irregularities of the Homeric dialect very quickly. She set up guest lectures with a CU prof. who knew all about oral tradition and epithet systems and with another who explained the ancient pronunciation and oral delivery of the text. She also took requests for translation of students' favorite episodes. She dissected the features of the poetry in a way that finally revealed why people loved hearing and reading Homer so much. The class is small, lots of comradery, she buys cookies and OJ a lot, you get it. She's top-notch.

Jan 2005

This review will sound hyperbolic, but all the superlatives are either fact or sound opinion: Professor Foley is the nicest teacher I have ever had. She is a renowned expert in the areas of ancient Greek Culture, Religion, Myth, Drama, and Poetry, and has a lot to say on the subject. And every sentence she utters comes out with a really sweet smile. She is an awesome dresser, and actually manages to pull of her huge glasses with style; she is also pleasantly liberal and wore a no-Bush pin all term. This course had a fair amount of easy reading, but Foley was so insistent that it shouldn't actually require any hard work that she 1) had us write vocabularies for each other 2) ordered translations from Labyrinth 3) went over almost every word of tanslation in class 4) gave us only a short paper which she graded easily 5) let us use dictionaries (!!!!) on the ridiculously short midterm and final, which meant they were not actually tests 6) gave us the final exam essay question (just one) in advance and let us use a page of notes to write the essay (!!!) and 7) smothered us with quiet affection beaming across the table from her tranquil face. Seriously, she asked us several times during the semester to call her house if we had any questions at all. This woman loves being a teacher, and she is wonderful at it. A+

Sep 2004

Great teacher. She is kind, smart and interesting.

Dec 2003

Professor Foley is a really nice lady who wants her students to love this material as much as she does. She has much to offer in the way of teaching, as she has made huge contributions to this area of Classics. The course material includes primary and secondary sources that play off each other nicely with the aim of presenting basic concepts as well as departures from those ideas. This is a very interesting course that is taught well and with a lot of enthusiasm. My only complaints would be that sometimes I was thrown off by her giggly demeanor when she'd discuss readings or concepts in detail; it was discouraging to realize that this grown woman couldn't talk about genitalia or other sexual things without acting like she was 12. Also, in the fall semester when I took this class I had no idea what my grade was until the end of November. Graded assignments came heavily toward the end of the semester and were a bit overwhelming.

May 2003

Thw woman is super cool! take her class! I had no prior knowledge of the material nor did I ever have a specific interest in the topics covered...I just wanted to fill a requirement....the class was so interesting! I did not nod off at all! And afternoon classes...I mean come on, she can't make it easier than that!

May 2003

Helene Foley is wonderful! Take her classes! She is a wonderful and spirited lecture (who apperntly, conviently, gives only afternoon classes) and she really cares about her students. She has well organized lectures and knows her stuff. She is comical and what is really great is how excited she gets about antiquity. She also brought in cookies for the last class and the final!

Apr 2003

I took this class knowing nothing (and having no prior interest in) gender studies or antiquity and Helene Foley has inspired a great interest in both. She is a terrific lecturer, making anything and everything comprehensible and illuminating. There is also a wonderful blend of primary texts and secondary sources. Her best quality is her unbias. She always makes clear distinctions between fact and theory, while giving more emphasis to fact allowing her students to draw there own conclusions. The class is also expertly organized, moving logically from one writer/ time period to the next so that you always feel as if you have a solid point of reference. She fills the first half of the semester with readings of great classical texts then moves into historical documents later on. She is also a translator and academic writer, so you will be reading a lot of her own work, and thankfully she does not place undue emphasis on herself. Her demeanor is always joyful/giddy which obviously points to her own love and interest in the material and she is always willing to clarify, and answer any questions. As long as you let yourself feed off of her own excitment, and do the reading (which is not a lot) you will fall in love with her