Staff Picks: Favourite course

The best classes we’ve taken here at Queen’s

Professors and content that make for excellent classes.

Winter semester is in full swing. Some of your classes might be getting you down, but we hope there are some that make hours of lectures and homework feel worthwhile.

To celebrate the start of classes, a few Journal staff shared their all-time favourite courses.


CLST 201: Roman History, taught by Dr. Bernard Kavanagh.

To illustrate my admiration for this course and the man who teaches it, I’m going to start with a quote from the original Renaissance man, Leonardo Da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

As a fourth-year history major, I can’t tell you how many professors I’ve watched frantically claim—or proudly scoff—that their course “surely won’t consist of any memorizing of dates and names” and proceed to teach the most unnecessarily complex material imaginable. Case in point: why this class was so refreshing for me. Even if you’re not partial to Roman history, I highly recommend you give this class, or the professor who teaches it, a look.

Every lecture is like sitting around a campfire for an hour and a half—just sit down, listen, and enjoy yourself. Although, yes, you’re going to have to memorize some dates and names, this is one of those extremely rare Arts courses where you don’t have to write any essays. Instead, you take four fill-in-the-blank tests that are straightforward, fair, and pretty damn rewarding.

If all that isn’t enough, take this class for the professor. He wants you to succeed and does every imaginable thing to make sure you share his impassioned vision for a subject that’s well worth your attention.

—Angus Merry, Assistant Sports Editor

My favourite course I’ve taken in my four years at Queen’s is Dr. Dan Vena’s FILM 210: The Horror Film.

The course content was super interesting: understanding why society fears certain things and some of the psychology behind those phenomena. But more importantly, Dr. Vena is caring when it comes to the way he teaches. He fosters a sense of community in his classroom, often starting the class by asking how everyone's week or day is going.

I’ve taken four courses from him in my undergraduate journey, and although The Horror Film was my favourite, the kindness and enthusiasm for teaching he brings into every classroom has always managed to make going to class exciting for me.

—Jodie Grieve, Photo Editor

One of my favourite courses I’ve taken at Queen’s was ENGL 496: Topics in Literary Criticism and Theory.

I cannot recommend the course enough to any English student. It introduced me to structuralism and many other close reading techniques that I can now confidently apply to future papers. It’s also a must-take because of its professor, Angela Facundo.

I appreciated how, despite online teaching restrictions, she organized the seminars to largely resemble in-person seminars. We met twice a week, and I can genuinely say each class was a highlight of my week and gave me a sense of normalcy amidst the pandemic. I find sometimes online classes are awkward because no one wants to talk, but her class made it so that everyone felt the thoughts they had to share were interesting, valid, and appreciated.

Her courses always yield fascinating conversations, and I felt energized after every lesson. It re-affirmed my love for English literature and theory. Not only was she enthusiastic and engaging, but she was understanding about deadlines, and always available to chat about upcoming assignments.

—Tessa Warbuton, Production Manager

Last semester, I took the course POLS 230: American Elections. We had the greatest Case Study occurring alongside the course in the form of the US presidential election. I remember emailing my TA, Andrew MacLean, when I heard Trump contracted COVID-19 to ask what would happen to Donny’s campaign if he died before Nov. 3—turns out, America’s Sweetheart and everyone’s favourite bigot, Mike Pence, would’ve become the candidate.

Overall, the class helped me make sense of all the chaotic headlines about American politics I was seeing. While Trump was spouting disinformation about mail-in ballots, I was learning how voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and even before Trump put a megaphone to the issue, Republicans have been using the myth of voter fraud to justify racist voter suppression. 

My professor, Paul Gardner, adapted to online teaching really well. I was never confused about where to access the material or what was expected of me.

Also, for one assignment, we made a campaign ad, which was fun for me because I love editing. My group and I made an ad for a hypothetical reality where Bernie Sanders was the democratic candidate instead of Joe Biden. For the mere fact I got to live out that fantasy, I give this course an A+.

—Nathan Gallagher, Arts Editor

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