I took this class because I thought it would be a good idea to take a course on American history, and this one / Professor Fields had "life changing" reviews. Having completed the course I would say those reviews are off. The only "life changing" info the course offered was Field's idea/book "Racecraft." Ideas related to this aspect of the course have definitely shifted my thinking (as someone who has already learned a lot about critical race theory, etc in college) but you could get it from watching an interview with her and/or reading her book. Her takes on the American colonies are also interesting— but that's only the first few weeks of the class. As others have mentioned it's a LOT of reading and most of it feels EXTREMELY specific/unnecessary. I'm talking like 10-15 pages about mules in Virginia specific. Also, I found her lecturing style kind of strange. It's exactly like she's just reading a book out loud— not very conversational or engaging. Unless you're majoring in American history or have some reason for being really into the South, I feel like your time could be better spent elsewhere... ALSO NOTE that she apparently has her own grading system (which I only discovered after I received my final grade because it was not referenced anywhere on the syllabus— NOT COOL!). You have to get above a 96 overall to get an A!
This is an extraordinary class that completely changed the way I understand America's founding myths. Professor fields is an absolute legend, surpassingly articulate and fearsomely smart. Her lectures read like cogent essays, sprinkled with moments of humor and even the occasional accent or impression--a welcome release during otherwise intense, adrenaline-pumping classes. The readings are long and dense but completely worth the time, and TA's help you figure out how to triage and summarize main points in discussions. It's an extraordinary look at a part of the country so often written off by New Yorkers and other Northeasterners like me, but it's more than that; Fields will reframe your entire perception of American history through the lens of race and class. Even if you don't take the class (WHICH YOU SHOULD), read her book, Racecraft, and you'll get an idea of her biting Marxist take on the American class struggle and the invention of race.
Professor Fields is one of the most incredible professors that Columbia has to offer. Although initially intimidating, she is a warm spirit that is truly interested in cultivating the next generation of future historians. While she does read from a sheet during lecture, her insights are so fascinating and particular that I never felt bored. With that said, Professor Fields expects a great deal from her students, particularly illustrated in her decision to assign on average 200 pages of reading a week. You are also expected to complete reading journals accompanying each of the texts and should be incredibly familiar with not the only major themes of the texts, but particular details. This is all made easier by the fact that Professor Fields has the most amazing TAs on campus. My TA was Scot McFarlane, and he not only had an incredible grasp on the material but also ensured that everyone felt encouraged to participate in discussion by not only having us discuss the material all together but regularly splitting us into small groups of 2-3 to tackle particularly difficult topics. Our discussion section became one of my favorite parts of the week. The TAs (Scot and Lindsey) also held two review sessions before both the midterm and final which I highly recommend attending as they give you a clear understanding of what they personally are expecting, and help clear up questions on IDs that may not have been covered. I absolutely recommend this class to anyone at Columbia, but particularly encourage History majors to take the opportunity to learn and listen to a leading individual in the field. I do warn that you must be committed to this class, particularly in keeping up with the readings, as it is necessary for the midterm, final, and research paper.
By far the best professor I've had at Columbia. If it weren't for this class, which, admittedly, I stumbled into during my sophomore spring and almost dropped after the first lecture, I wouldn't have decided to major in history and would have no idea what to do with my life. A Marxist of the old-fashioned sort that we don't see too often these days, Fields is explicit in her approach to history. I learned in her course what type of distinctions count as historically meaningful, what particular features of the past count as explanations rather than things to be explained, and how to begin to distinguish a particular society at a particular time from any other at multiple levels of analysis (economic, political, ideological, artistic, etc.). She is extremely attentive to detail, and insists on proper use of terminology (expect to be corrected on things you've never even thought of), especially concerning race. Having never previously questioned the validity of the concept of race, her lectures on the subject were particularly revealing for me. I could go on, but you can spare yourself my gushing if you simply TAKE HER CLASS. If you're a junior or a senior looking to find those classes you missed out on before you started digging into your major, this is one of them. If you're a freshman or a sophomore still figuring out what you want to study, take this class and the decision should be pretty easy (major in history).
All the bad reviews were clearly written by one person because this woman is one of the kindest most accommodating Professors at Columbia. Kindness, however, should not be mistaken for intellectual coasting -- she is a very opinionated and intelligent and she will tell you when you are being an idiot. She is very incisive in her historical analysis and made me look at history from a new perspective, but that being said, I can't call her one of the greats of the History department. There are some lectures that are fascinating in which she makes a decisive and insightful point about Southern history. But, at other times, it feels like I'm listening to the audio book of a high school text book, her just listing important events and dates. All in all, you'll learn a lot and her lecture and article on Race and Ideology is a must. She's really good, but not great.
This man is crazy, and horrible TA, and down right cruel to his students sometimes. He made a girl in my section cry because she didn't have "good manners" when entering the lecture late. He devoted an entire section to telling us why we had "bad manners." Sadly, he is not joking, and is dead serious. He will play favorites with the students, which can be nice if he likes you, but I got on his bad side early and it was down hill from there. It's not entirely clear to me why or how Gregory is allowed to lead sections as he is by far the worst TA I've had in the history department. Honestly, I have had great experiences and write very few negative reviews, but Gregory is a truly unique character. Steer clear if at all possible.
Fields is one of the great lecturers of the history department. If you leave columbia without taking her class, especially as a history major, you've missed something very special. Her lectures are pieces of literature that will probably be published as a book someday. You should probably have some background in American history before you take the course otherwise it might seem overwhelming, but if you have Matt Spooner as your TA, you should be fine as he is really good. If you have Gregory Baggett, however, look out. The man is insane and made a girl cry in my section because she didn't have good manners when entering the room. Baggett is the greatest danger in this course, but even if you have to brave his insanity, it might still be worth it to get to take the course with Fields. I know many people who became history majors after taking her course.
I found my immense satisfaction with History of the South due as much to the work of TA Matthew Spooner as Professor Fields. Donâ€™t be intimidated by his fast speechâ€”he is incredibly approachable and responsive, both before and after class, in discussion section, and by email. It pays to be prepared and engaged in discussion because Matt can pull out the best of the readings if youâ€™ve made a valid attempt to understand the material, even if you didnâ€™t read every page (which is the norm, given the classâ€™ ridiculously heavy reading load). He requires weekly response pages and in turn provides insightful comments on each. He also required a rough draft of the term paper then returned an entire page of incredibly helpful commentsâ€”an impressive feat considering the class had at least 30 undergraduates. He clarified what can be difficult subject matter while keeping the topic interesting, revealing his own nuanced understanding of Southern history. In contrast to the fairly serious classroom setting, his discussion sections were not overly intense and included the occasional pop culture reference, sound/movie clips, and admonitions that yes, it is midterms/finals/etc. and we are all stressed students, but we can still make use of the fascinating material.
Best class of my yearâ€”most rewarding, most interesting, and most insightful. A class, especially a history class, should be more than the sum of its reading list, and Professor Fieldsâ€™ History of the South excelled in that regard, an impressive feat considering the high quality of the assigned texts. Nonetheless, donâ€™t enter the class expecting to tackle the reading list. I doubt I finished half of it, and agree with other reviewers that it is an unreasonable amount. Iâ€™m far less likely to read even 200 pages a week if 450 have been assigned, which was not uncommon in this class, whereas Iâ€™m more likely to read 200 pages if only 200 pages are assigned. Weekly response pages increase the burden and hold you accountable for the reading, however attention in class, selective reading, and the occasional JSTOR book review can keep you on track and engaged. Professor Fields is an impressive and powerful lecturer and very open to undergraduates in office hours. Be warned thoughâ€”she is very particular about word choice, which can make asking questions difficult (â€œDo you really mean â€˜fundamentalâ€™? I donâ€™t think X was â€˜fundamentalâ€™ at all.â€), and she insists on using the phone rather than email. In this regard, having a great TA (as my class did) makes a huge difference, especially since s/he grades all undergraduate work. Workload and communication qualms aside, I highly recommend this class. A serious, honest effort can earn you an A, but more importantly give you a huge appreciation of Southern history.
This is still the best lecture class I have ever taken, even if it is at a much higher level than most any taught at CU.
Gregory runs a thought provoking and demanding section. Discussions usually veer away from reviewing the lecture material to dissecting a fairly specific question raised by the reading. Do the reading! Gregory will not summarize it for you. If you come to section prepared and interested, you will leave at the end of the semester with a complex understanding of the course material. This section is more appropriate to history majors, but IÂ’ve known non-majors to find it fascinating. If you are enthusiastic about learning, Gregory will be enthusiastic about helping you. Meet with him outside of class early to discuss your paper topic: he can recommend sources off the top of his head. He is also great at teaching how to write a history paper. Hand in a draft and youÂ’ll get it back drenched in ink. He runs extra review sessions before midterms and finals, meant to clarify the questions so that you can spend test time actually composing your thoughts instead of doing an information dump. Exams are graded more honestly than most at Columbia in order to push you to do your best. To sum up, Gregory is definitely the most responsive, dedicated, and knowledgeable person IÂ’ve had the honor of studying with at Columbia.
I'm pass/failing this class so that I can concentrate on other classes in my major. Having said that, I like Professor Fields. I don't think she's as mean as people claim because when she smiles her whole face lights up. Mean people dont smile that way. But she assigns a lot of reading material, takes attendence during every lecture (sign in sheet), politely requests that students not stuff their faces during lectures, and requests that students arrive on-time. I think those are reasonable requests. Habitually tardy students and food chompers are unbelievably annoying. Yes it's a hard class, but you will learn things not tought elsewhere and emerge from this class with a new outlook even if you pass/fail it. Besides, this is Columbia!
Okay, admittedly I took this class 13 years ago, but I can see things haven't changed for Prof. Fields since 1989. I admire her commitment to making students work hard, but it's the nitpicking I object to. When I took the class, she actually took points off essay questions if you wrote OUTSIDE THE MARGINS in the blue book! Jeez! Lighten up lady!