course
American Society in the Age of Capitalism 1819-1897

Feb 2005

Great TA, fun and interesting. However, he grades like a ... not fun guy.

Feb 2005

This class was the most traumatic experience of the past three years of my college career. The workload was rediculous, in addition to being rediculously boring. Reading 250 pages of absolute crap will really take a toll on you. Perhaps I am being too harsh, but everyone who I have spoken to about this class agrees that they spent all time associated with that class in a total daze. The lectures were so abstract and confusing that the TA's admitted that half the time they had no idea what was going on either. The readings were no less abstact and pretty much as confusing and useless. We read a couple of pretty good books, but spare yourself the pain and go read them on your own. The papers consisted of the TA's busting your balls and the final gave you the fun task of putting a sememster's worth of incoherent lecture and readings that had nothign to do with one another into some sort of coherent argument. I wish that I was just an angry person without any backing, but if you ask anyone who took the class, they will agree...Just thinking about the class brings me to a panic. Also, the grading was insane. I don't think one person in my section (perhaps the whole class) got an A or an A-, or so it would seem from the multitudes of history majors who I took the class with. We pretty much hypothesized that whether you did none of the work or spent 30 hours a week toiling over the total bs that was the Age of Capitol, you either got a B or a B+. Towards the end of the semster, as students had dropped out of lectures like flies, we were informed that the class had in fact been conducted and graded like a graduate class. While I enjoy the revelation and the excuse we were provided for the pain we had endured, It was no consolation since 1. I've taken graduate courses and they are nowhere near as painful, and 2. It was nice of them to tell us so far into the semester that we had no choice but to continue to endure the trauma. Finally, the TA's were nice people but unfortunately, willing accomplices to the crime...the graing and torture they provided was unbearable. For the course evaluations we all wrote that it wasn't that Prof. Blackmar was abstract and incoherent, but that we were probably too stupid to understand her. Well, there's no way 100 students (plus TA's) were that stupid. My friends and I have all developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to this class. Believe me when I say the pain is not worth it. I used to think it was because nothing interesting happened in the 1800s, but even when we got to the civil war and the progressive era, the pain continued. Thus anything i may have possibly learned in this class is repressed far back into my unconscious, and all I can do when something unfortunate reminds me of this class is cry. Take Foner's class on radicalism...sort of the same topic, yet feels like heaven.

Jan 2005

This class is really far too sophisticated to be taught at the undergraduate level, or at least the 3000 level. Blackmar is brilliant, and if ever you should have the chance to take a class with her, jump at it. Just be sure it is not this one. The reading list was VERY heavy, but fabulous. She is the first historian thanked in many of the acknowledgments at the beginning of several of the texts, so she has a firm grasp on many of the concepts here. Problem is, they are all disparate and markedly distinct concepts, so in trying to synthesize them into a coherent final examination (in which you had to incorporate 7 of the readings), frustration abounds. Furthermore, I am utterly baffled at how a 19th c. history course is taught at the UNDERGRADUATE level (!)with not a mention of the Civil War! Blackmar, hear this: your lectures were inspirational and listening to you, as an academician, take what seemed like personal responsiblity for the utterly incomprehensible election results is a moment that I will forever be humbled by. I attended each and every lecture, hoping that I would begin to believe what you believed about this course. Please go back to the drawing board and drum up some more tangible themes before teaching the course again.

Jan 2005

By far the best TA I have ever had. Intelligent, humorous, and well-spoken, he did a fine job leading discussion. He was more than willing to meet with students about papers and help generate topic ideas. I am sure he will be a great professor someday.

Dec 2004

Blackmar is an absolute star. And I really didn't want that to rhyme, but i could think of no other word. She is absolutely brilliant, and this class was wonderful. However it was easily the hardest class I have taken at Columbia. Not so much because of the work, but because of the concepts--the readings are impossible, and therefore the papers are impossible. This was the first time she taught the course, so it was lacking somewhat in the continuity department. Nevertheless, Blackmar is exceedingly nice, and extremely helpful in office hours, and REALLY REALLY cares what her students think. She is off next semster, but when she teaches this class again next year, make sure you take it. Incidentally, it's also a nice foil to Foner's classes--you sort of get all of the internal, social struggling that he leaves out.

Dec 2004

Jeremy is fantastic. He's brilliant, he's accessible, he's funny, and he's interesting. All of the above make being in his section really excellent. He goes out of the way to help out students and appreciates those who display effort to participate and improve. If you can, be in his section!

Dec 2004

Ben is sweetness. He seems nervous and shy the first time he teaches class, and he never loses that demeanor but you eventually learn he has some of the best nerdy humor around. At first I was afraid he wasn't going to lead a discussion well enough or be commanding enough but not only was he adequate to the job he also made discussion pretty relaxed and fun.