December 17, 2009

Balmer, Randall Silver_nugget
Religion in American Culture

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

This class was most definitely a survey of American religious history from colonization through the Civil War. As such, we covered a lot of ground only sometimes in depth, I learned a lot, and it was very easy. Professor Balmer's greatest fear (as he demonstrates with repeated apologies for his lack of up-to-date humor or for his hilarious anecdotes that he's sure no one will be interested in) is that the class will be bored or overworked. I thought he was hilarious in that kind of awkward, professorial kind of way. At the same time, he knows all about American religious history, and if he doesn't have a full answer to a question, he will research it and give a better answer in the next class.

Classes consisted of powerpoint lectures that are not posted online, so take notes! Luckily, Professor Balmer goes very slowly, leaving plenty of time to copy out almost every slide in full (not that you'll need that much detail for the exams, but it comes useful in papers and is interesting). On top of going so slowly, class was almost always let out 15 minutes early, so I never had to sprint to my next class.

There were two 4-6 page papers, graded by TAs who seemed to have no role but grading these papers (no discussion section), with given topics. The midterm and final both have three sections: multiple choice, match the term with the answer (in lieu of writing IDs), and an essay question or two. Again, easy. Weekly reading was important for the exams and for the papers, and ranged anywhere from 20-150 pages per week, though only a few times did it hit 150 pages, and those books were easy to read.

Workload:

20-150 pages reading per week (you need to read the books that keep coming up in the syllabus, as well as some of the smaller ones, but you don't have to do everything). 2 4-6 page papers. Easy midterm, easy final.