Fascinating class and incredible professor!!! I loved this class so much. We went through 4 religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism) and discussed their approaches to evil and suffering. The classes were a mixture of lecture (no slides, just a handout with bullet points/terms) and large-class discussion. I'm not a huge fan of trying to have discussions in large lecture classes, but it honestly went okay. I just really loved the material of the course. It felt like everything that we learned about actually mattered, and I was also introduced to many religious concepts I had never heard of before (I'm neither a religion or South Asian/Middle Eastern studies major.) Pro McDermott also went above and beyond this semester. Her lectures were engaging and nuanced. She always acknowledged her shortcomings on any religious tradition she was less familiar with. She even organized a panel of speakers from the different religious traditions to speak with us on the last day. Beyond that though, she stepped in with the grad-student strike and began grading all of our discussion posts and papers, returning them to us even more quickly and with much more detailed comments than the TA's did. She also held our weekly TA discussions for us. I have no idea how she found the time, truly a mystery. Overall, she is such a kind-hearted professor and it's obvious how dedicated to her students and their learning she is.
Did Prof Como suddenly decide to not care? I took this class because I read the amazing reviews about his teaching. That's the problem: he didn't teach. The student-led discussions were a complete disaster. Its laziness obscured as pedagogy. He would speak for maybe 15-20 minutes at most per class--and most of what he says is either so simplistic or some dumb anecdote none of us care about. Don't take this class unless you want to basically pay thousands of dollars for a book club.
Based on Professor Como's performance in Colloquium on Major Texts, I am confused by his silver nugget. While Colloquium on Major Texts is largely a student-led discussion class, Professor Como did only a sub-par job framing the issues found in the texts and guiding the students who ultimately led the discussion.
I'm here for Elleza. Sorett was decent though... Elleza was such a good TA. Honestly, she (or Rhonesha) should have been the head TA and not Alex (no disrespect to him). Where is her golden nugget? Elleza made this class bearable. For discussion sections, she often included presentations and other materials to help us to contextualize the week's assigned readings in a historical, social, cultural, and political context. I felt very equipped to tackle the class material. She was also super helpful in clarifying the readings and facilitated invigorating discussion around the reading. Discussion sections with Elleza were the highlight of my day. Moreover, she provided useful feedback and comments on our essays and even met with me to help me plan how to write the final exam, as I found the assignment somewhat challenging. Not only is she an effective instructor discussion facilitator, but she also is incredibly caring. She expressed concern for our general wellbeing and mental health and advocated for us to have trigger warnings for readings with explicit content. She was also somewhat flexible with the deadlines for response papers. She fostered an environment in which students felt supported and motivated to engage with the course material. If you can take a course with Elleza, please do. It will probably be the highlight of your undergraduate studies. I get sad thinking about how happy I was takin
I would highly recommend taking this class! Professor Berkowitz is a great lecturer and I felt like she really tried to keep the lectures fun and engaging while we were on Zoom. I took this class without much background in Judaism and was still able to follow along (a few terms here and there weren't clear to me at first but I would just Google them). This course discusses Jewish history, culture, ethics, law, philosophy, Judaism and race, etc, and I thought it covered a really wide range of interesting topics. Normally, your assigned TA will grade your assignments, and Professor Berkowitz would grade a few students at random for each assignment (the prof actually graded both my midterm and exam, and the rest of the assignments were graded by my TA). Very generous grading - with some effort this course is super manageable and you can do well in it.