Professor D'Altroy clearly knows a lot to the point where it's somehow simultaneously his biggest advantage and weakness. Obviously it's nice having a professor who is passionate about the stuff he is teaching, but he gets sidetrack really easily talking about minuscule details just because he knows them and he's excited to share as much information as he can with his students. This class is interesting in theory, but I wouldn't recommend it if you're just looking to fill the Global Core requirement (like me) unless you're really motivated. The entire history of five major ancient civilizations is a lot of history to cover and a lot to cram into your head prior to the midterm and the final. However, this is also coming from someone who only does the bare minimum in the classes not related to my major. I went to less than 10 lectures the entire semester, only did 10% of the required readings, and almost failed the midterm, but I ended up with a B+ which is a win in my books. I probably wouldn't have been as stressed about the class around exam time and in turn would view it in a better light if it wasn't for my own procrastination so take my view with a grain of salt. On the bright side, the exams are really broad in terms of the essay questions and he gives you practice ones beforehand that are practically the same as the ones you see on the exam. This means if you don't heed my warning and take this class anyways knowing you're a procrastinator like me then you can still pull off a decent grade by reviewing a couple of the readings really in-depth and writing outlines to the practice questions given a day before the exam. There's also a required discussion section for undergraduates, but the difficulty of that depends on the TA you get. Shoutout to Daniel because he was the best!
Piece of friendly advice: consider really seriously before taking this class. This is my first review on CULPA but I had an urge to do it for the people who intend to take this class in future. The overall structure looks fancy, 4-5 major civilizations but there is a fundamental problem with class organization and grading. I personally found it very disorganized class with not so much clear focus. I mean, the professor seems hands down a knowledgeable guy, an expert in the field but the problem is the course organized all over the place. That really puts so much pressure on midterms and finals. When the midterm and final approach, there are tons of information (i literally mean it), nitty gritty details and you just get so much frustrated by everything. As someone who attended almost every lecture and asked questions, I spent hours, even days to prepare for both of them, plus essays and still ended up with B. I really have no idea how people actually get A in class. Part of urge to write this review comes from that grade, tbh because I really think it was unfair, considering so much work I've put into the class. There should be a better, less subjective way of grading system for the class. I understand TAs are all PhD students but absolute dependence on TA's subjective opinions on every single components of the grade isn't really the best of giving out objective grades. What you learn at the end: basically very broad understanding of civilizations. There are better courses. Just a piece of warning: care for your well-being and don't take this course (so that you wouldn't say I didn't say it here)
I have such mixed feelings about this class. I am just finishing the fall 2017 semester of this class and i think at different times in the semester i have both loved and hated the class. let me break it down for you: The Lectures: The lectures are literally going to be your least favorite part of the class. The professor is pretty much just going over slides. There is always an outline of the lecture given ahead of time so you can follow along as well as all power point slide shows. These don't serve as a good representation of the all the information thrown at you in this course though. Professor D'altroy knows his stuff. He throws a huge amount of information at you in each lecture in large part just from the massive amount of knowledge he has in his head. he clearly is passionate about the subject and extremely knowledgeable. This format of sitting for an hour just looking at slides listening to someone speak is indeed incredibly boring, but its also the most important part of the class to ensure your success. if you want an A you need to attend because there is no source wether it is the book, recitations or all the youtube videos on the web that are going to encapsulate what you need for the exams as well as terrance's lectures. Take notes every lecture, ask questions and try your best to stay attentive and you will be fine. The readings: they were a mix of fairly interesting to incredibly boring. there were a ton of readings provided broken into different levels of importance, but truth be told if you pay enough attention in lecture and take good notes then most of the readings largely wont even be needed. youll need to draw upon them for the papers but beyond that you can easilly do well without them. Overall: honestly i feel like i learned alot in this class. It goes from a very laid back feeling to a very hectic class around midterms/finals because all of a sudden you need to contextualize thousands years worth of information and it can seem overwhelming. very little direction is given in terms of what exactly to study for exams and it can be stressful, but usually if you just study an overview of everything and few important sites/people from each region you will be set for the exam. dont take this class lightly, if you slack off too much you will find yourself lost.
When I took this class, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information presented in every lecture. But you know what, getting an A in this class is possible. People, this is not a joke class, so take it seriously. Don't slack off. Come to class; make sure you go to recitation. Also, pay attention to the stuff in the review sheet (especially for finals). The TAs were great this semester. If you have questions regarding the essay prompts, e-mail/meet with them. Stop complaining about this class, and do the work.
I am warning you, do not ever take this class. It is the most boring class you will ever sit in, and on top of that Professor D'Altroy is the least funny person on the planet. He tries to make it interesting but to be honest it does not really work. The midterm was super easy, just two civilizations, Egypt and Mesopotamia and the papers are easy if you put 1-2 hours into them. I did find the context interesting but Professor D'Altroy needs to figure his stuff out. Now the way he grades is very unique. I received a B- because I got a low B...that does not make sense. He was not sympathetic in a grade change. Do not take this class, it is way too boring, I watched television in class and did other class work. And the final is kind of difficult, it pulls on literally everything, the topics are very broad so you can sometimes BS but it depends what TA grades it.