July 20, 2006

Somerville, Robert Silver_nugget

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

As many reviewers have said, Bobby Somerville (as I affectionately came to call him), is a great professor. He does deliver whole lectures without notes, filled to the brim with facts, helpfully writes the main points on the boards, tells adorably corny jokes, and is an overall nice guy.

The TA's too: nice and approachable, if just a little awkward, guys. Extremely, if just a little scarily, intelligent too. Who speaks 7 languages including Aramaic?
That said: the class. Its a little boring. For the sake of your grade, you should probably attend every lecture, but sometimes that seems overwhelmingly painful to do. But you should do it. The class can be interesting (especially if you are at all familiar with modern Catholicism), but sometimes spending a whole class on the inclusion of two words into the Nicaean Creed can be.... excruciating (etymology joke for y'all). At other times though, like I said, if you're familiar with modern Catholicism, the reason for some obscure thing will just click, and you'll find yourself noticing it in every mass you go to thereafter. If you're not Catholic though, I don't know how interesting that would be.

There's not a lot of work, that's true. But that's not to say the little bit of work you have is graded easily. Its not. Two midterms worth 25% each, and a final worth 50%, with the question "read this passage and relate its importance to Christianity" sounds easy, but you're expected to include EVERY RELEVANT PIECE OF INFORMATION. A text analysis, text summary, historical context (past, present, and future consequences of the text), other movements it was related to, etc. Really hard. I think most people were unpleasantly surprised at the grades they received on them (especially since these expectations weren't related to you till after the test). Easy A? Pah. 16% A's does not an easy A make.

Final word of caution: the syllabus will craftily inform you that attendance of discussion sections is not mandatory, and not attending "will not hurt your final grade". But that's not entirely true. Say you received B+'s on your two midterms, and a B on your final. 50/50. If you attended discussion sections, your final grade will be a B+. If you didn't, B. This criterion as part of your final grade is also conveniently never mentioned. And sucks. Go to the discussion section. There's only 4 anyway.

Overall: Bobby's great, the TA's are great, but going to a pretty boring class twice a week where 84% receive less than an A? Why would you do that?