It baffles me that the reviews of Polletta are so overwhelmingly negative. I just wanted to vouch for how brilliant and eye-opening she is; certainly one of the best profs in the soc department. Take any class with her that you canÂ—especially the seminars.
The readings are long, dense, and probably the best part of this class. Polletta engaged the class from the first with her lectures, but problems arise when she tries to mix lecture with discussion. When she tries to control the flow of discussions so that the class "discovers" on its own the point she is trying to get across, often she responds to students' comments as if they had said something completely different (what she wanted them to have said). She avoids addressing opinions that differ from those of the sociologist currently being studied, or she explains why the student misunderstood the argument. Often, she refers to a dissenting statement as a "question," implying that the student was confused. However, even with the rough spots, the mix of discussion into the lectures seemed to help the class to digest the readings in smaller pieces, and sometimes gave life to the topics. Polletta helped the class analyze elements of everyday life, and used the conclusions to explain some old sociological theories. Since TA's do much of the grading, papers and exams often seem to receive arbitrary marks. Talking to Polletta after a grade that seems arbitrary can be effective.
For the most part, I agree that Polletta is definitely overrated. Sure, she is a very dynamic person and really tries to make lectures exciting but I still dreaded this class each and every time. Theories were hardly given any analysis; instead, she let all the cocky freshmen babble on and on and on. While I understand that it is an intro class and the material shouldn't get too dense, this does not make up for the fact that the class taught me nothing. Frankly I don't even know why this class is required for sociology majors--Classical Social Theory covers everything you need to know and then some. Sociological Imagination is an embarrassment. As a sociology major I feel insulted that I have to sit through such elementary subject matter and Polletta doesn't make things better by handholding all the whiney crybabies in the class. Why do we have to get into groups? Why does she field us the same exact discussion questions for every reading? One thing I will say though is that I really enjoyed the readings for what they were worth. They were very interesting and not dense at all.
Am I 3 years old? So why are you talking to me like I am? Oh, are you talking to the 20 people in the back row who are unabashedly reading the Spec? Sorry. Ok. Here's the deal. The readings are very dense, and she explains them thoroughly (or thoroughly enough for an intro level class), but then she delves off into the lame stuff that makes me embarrassed to be a soc major. For example, of course race theory is important, but do we have to go around the room and all name our ethnic identity? Or do we have to separate into groups in order to discuss a Michael Moore movie? Or do you have to keep calling on the loud-mouthed stooge in the back row? Ok, now I'm being overly harsh. Here's the deal. Don't listen to these other sycophant reviewers. I am a soc major, for Moses' sake. Polletta is nice, but not the best teacher in CC as the other reviewers seem to think. If you want the bomb soc professor, take Barkey's Historical Soc class. No major qualms, and above average, but no sociological god. If you want a sociological god, beg Tilly to tell you about the good old days of Sutherland and Merton.
Though she (at first) came off as a bit intimidating, Professor Polletta is definitely "in this" for her students. She answers any question, and if someone is too shy to ask it in class (as there are about 70 people in there), you can email her and she respnds fully and quickly. Her lectures are usually dynamic, and the subject matter is interesting (some of the Durkheim stuff gets a bit dull). Awesome class overall.
Tries hard to engage the whole class, but with 40 or more students, its hard. Assigns lots of reading. Well, actually. Doesn't assign it, just puts it on the syllabus and then gets mad when you don't have it read by the date on the syllabus but never actually tells you to read it.
Thoughtful, intelligent and commited. Here's a departmental Rep. who also happens to care about students. Discussions are free-flowing, always animated, and often quite fascinating. Lectures tend to cover the same material as the readings, which allows you a choose either one. Good availability for paper advice; she may try to sic the TA on you at first, but make the effort to track her down -- she's willing and worth it.