course
A New World of Goods: Consumer Culture in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800

Apr 2017

If you love history, take this class. If you're interested in modern consumerism, gendered ideas of consumption, the rise of capital, the idea of the dandy, philosophical understandings of trains, or the evils of Walmart--take the class. The readings are wide ranging and the subject matter is super applicable to tons of stuff today. The seminar is relaxed and there's plenty of room for students to step in and contribute. Tiersten's focused on text sources, but she brings in relevant art and movies to the class. You'll get a great feel for early Europe and there's discussion about modern consumerism in America too. Whether you like consumer culture or not, the best reason to take the class is Tiersten. She's funny, down to earth, dedicated, and altogether a great historian. She knows her subject matter like the back of her hand. Ask her a question about any place or time in history and she'll spout off the top sources to read and things to know. More importantly, she wants you to succeed and is there to help you do it. Trust me, you want this class.

Sep 2013

I just want to preface this by saying that I practically majored in Tiersten. I was a history major, and I've known Professor Tiersten for the last four years. This won't be too specific to a class because I've taken so many and my opinion of her is consistent across all classes. I've taken two lectures -- her Modern Europe class, her Colonial Encounters, a Consumer Culture seminar, AND she was my senior thesis adviser... so anything I'm about to say is not based on one class where I might've gotten lucky with a kind TA, etc. She is awesome. She is brilliant, she is entertaining and charismatic, and in response to some of the other less than glowing reviews, she is only intimidating because she does remember everything she's ever read. If you find her condescending, it's probably because you didn't read the readings or pay attention, and therefore said something absurd OR worse-- you googled ID's instead of citing unique information she told you herself--at which point, I'm sure she DID tell you off. There is no doubt that she doesn't sugarcoat anything, but that's what makes her so effective and so helpful. If her emails seem "rude" or "condescending", they aren't. She just has a million things that she has going on during her days and yet she still responds to emails in record time so... not sure what more students want. And if you reach out to her, she will be there to help you find the resources you need for writing papers, etc. In response to the reviewer commenting on how she doesn't like questions about ID's on the study guides she gives before midterms and finals, it's because everything on there has been covered in lectures and readings, so if you're asking for more than just a clarification, she knows you weren't there or weren't listening, so why SHOULD she tell you again? She is approachable, helpful, and really doesn't make it hard for you to do well, especially in her lecture courses. Both Modern Europe and Colonial Encounters cover a lot of time and places, but you learn a lot. And to everyone commenting on how fast she talks -- no doubt this is true. Just don't be lazy and type your notes instead of trying to write down every word she says. I don't want anyone to think I'm being "rude" or "condescending" myself in this mini-rant, but I just really think it would be a shame if anyone shopping for classes, especially freshmen, who haven't yet been exposed to professors like Professor Tiersten and don't know better than to solely rely on CULPA, were convinced that she wasn't worth taking. She is, and I would know, because I chose to do it four times... and I WOULD have taken more if there had been more.

Nov 2009

Professor Tiersten is, hands down, the best history professor offered at Columbia. She is so knowledgeable; the information she is able to convey coherently in a lecture setting is astounding. More importantly, she doesn't assign impossible amounts of work. For either lectures or seminars, her paper assignments are focused on quality, not quantity. Lectures require a crisp 5-7 page paper, and seminars a 15 page paper, both of which are very manageable. As for her reading assignments, I admit that she does demand a large amount of reading, and expect for it to be done. However, the reading material is always carefully selected and interesting. Perhaps the best aspect of her reading lists is that she rarely requires the reading of a whole book, but rather selects choice chapters which highlight the author's key points and argument. Professor Tiersten wants you to enjoy and learn from her classes, which is one of best traits. A true gold nugget!

Dec 2003

While this course was not fabulous (the reading left a lot to be desired), Professor Plaa is amazing. He is one of the nicest professors I've ever had. He is quite knowledgeable about the subject-matter and was a wonderful help in suggesting valuable resources for our research paper. He also cares about his students; who else brings 3 boxes of Krispy Kremes on the last day of class?