Marcelo Ridenti

Dec 2014

Possibly the lightest, most relaxed class I've ever taken in the history department, and this was a seminar. Prof. Ridenti, visiting from Brazil, is incredibly nice, approachable and often comical. His English is just broken enough to be endearing, but it never really interferes with the class. When I emailed him with a paper topic, he replied with a list of possible sources, just like that. He also appears to be a generous grader, though I only have my own experience to go by. The seminar was essentially a small-group slide-based lecture with a good atmosphere. Prof. Ridenti claimed he wanted something like one hour of lecture and the rest for discussion, but it ended up being closer to ~90-100 minutes of lecture and 10-20 minutes for questions, which were mostly questions to the professor rather than inter-student discussion. The material was taught in an interesting and occasionally thought-provoking way, and Prof. Ridenti is excellent at presenting a balanced view and discussing multiple aspects of a fascinating period. He also inserts interesting historiographical comments sometimes. It would have been beneficial to know Portuguese and contemporary Brazilian society, but not at all necessary. The main thing to emphasize here is just how absurdly light this class is. Assignments involve one paper, as noted below, and even that is pretty limited. Readings are drawn from just a few sources, which are good for a broad grasp of the history but don't allow for much in-depth look at specific topics in the period. The readings are also entirely optional, given the lack of postings, discussion or any way of ensuring students actually read the texts. So if you want to learn about a fascinating period with a delightful and flexible professor and a ridiculously light workload, this is the class for you. If you relish the rigor and intensity of a typical book-a-week, intellectually challenging history seminar, you may be somewhat disappointed.