I don't review ever.. but this semester was so hard with virtual learning, and professor Reider was unbelievably understanding. He was super approachable and understanding of exterior circumstances and/orheavy workloads. The class itself, though he may sometimes wander off in his own thoughts, is super interesting. He pushes the norms of what most professors teach at Columbia. He challenges the liberal notions many students and faculty hold, and really push students to take themselves outside their comfort zone and put themselves in other's positions. He was the, by far, best professor I have had at Columbia. The class itself touches on, through his lectures and class discussion, about culture in America, explaining the divisions in the country and the newer dynamics of cultural and poltic identities. I learned a lot about the other 'America,' and the cultural explanations for a lot of the structures of today's current culture. You will have to look at a situation from an entirely different position, but it blurs the lines in culture and generalizations. Take the class, but if you actually put some effort into attending lectures and readings, you will actually see the world and culture through a different light.
I do not recommend taking his class. (Crossover Culture) You'll only get a good grade if you agree with his opinions and demonstrate them in your writing. Moreover, he is not at all organized. The syllabus mentioned a 5-page midterm paper, with no date. Then one Wednesday we were notified that it will be an 8-10 page essay due by Monday. Last thing, the main text he used for the class had homophobic undertones he completely ignored. The content is interesting. It was fun learning about the history of mainstream American music. But it does not make up for the rest.
I would say both the positive and negative reviews on Rieder are right. He does disseminate the broad topic of culture in America into smaller topics that are meaningful to analyze, which is good, but he also too frequently rely on high-flown, unreasonably abstract language at lectures. Some of his languages would be hard to understand even in written form. It's not that I'm slow to understand, friends, his language is often something that you would take 10 minutes to dissect when written on paper. It's like he's speaking an esoteric academic article. I don't think this is "well-spoken". We are taught at university to NOT rely on abstract words that save you the trouble of really making a point even in essays, not to mention when speaking. Why then does this professor lecture this way? Pardon my rage but I think it's either narcissism or laziness on his part. That said, he is really nice in person. He does want you to learn. It's just his speaking habit really sucks.
Honestly, I think the hype is a little overrated. Professor Rieder often dominated seminar discussions and told students they were wrong when their opinion differed from his. This is a first year seminar, the point is for students to share their ideas, and there can be multiple interpretations of literature. The reading list was good for the most part, however we spent a lot of time reading and discussing an old issue of a magazine Professor Rieder was the editor of. This made critiquing what we were reading and expressing our opinions even harder. Professor Rieder will meet with students about all their essays to go over them, and that's really helpful. However, many students were frustrated that these meetings would often result in Professor Rieder telling them their ideas were completely off, and directing them to write an argument that he believed in, but the students didn't.
Professor Rieder was one of the best professors I've had during my time here. He took the most broad topic "American Culture" and created a syllabus that synthesized material in an incredible way and that covered a wide range of topics without losing depth and nuance. He was able to broach very difficult topics (race, religion, the Trump era) by focusing on methodology - ie how we should read into these things. He always presented two sides to every topic of study and treated both with the same importance and intellectual rigor. Overall, this class taught me how to think. It challenges common liberal assumptions and really makes you a smarter consumer of culture. I wish I took this course when I started school - it would have made me a much better student in all my other classes. Professor Rieder is one of the kindest and most invested professors I've met here. He truly cares about his students - he is so open to all opinions and perspectives and really makes students feel like their voices are valued in the classroom. Each lecture is captivating - he infuses music, humor, pop culture, relevant journal articles, and engaging anecdotes into each. The hour and 15 minutes fly by. I give the highest recommendation for this class - I truly have no idea where the negative reviews come from. If you just pay attention in class, you will have a firm grasp of the material and will think the midterm and final are a breeze.
I cannot sing Rieder's praises enough! He seriously cares about his students and makes time to meet with each student in his seminars personally to revise/brainstorm their essays. He is passionate about his areas of research, and is genuinely interested in people (refreshing and unfortunately too rare for sociologists). I will emphasize that he is much better in seminar format than lecture; it's a more manageable format for the types of discussions he tries to have. He is not super-organized, which can be frustrating, but I still think his classes are very worth it, for his expertise and the questions he makes you consider. If you care about identity politics, pop culture, music, and the human side of sociology, TAKE A RIEDER SEMINAR.
Oh God. As a recent Barnard alumna and sociology major, I feel like the best thing I can do to give back to my alma mater is write this review and hopefully prevent another student from ever taking this class. This review only applies to Professor Rieder--other professors have taught this course, and from what I've heard, they have been good lecturers. However, if you are considering taking Professor Rieder's course, STOP now. I took Culture in America during the fall semester of my senior year. As a sociology major, I needed to take just one more sociology course to complete the major requirements . Because I hadn't taken a 2000 level class yet (yes, this devil class is 2000 level, I don't know why), I chose Culture in America. I thought "I'm a sociology major, I've taken like 8 seminars, written 25 page papers,--this whatever lecture will be a breeze!" I was wrong and naive! This class is not sociology- it is a cluster f-ck. I can't give you a lot of detailed info about how difficult the midterm and final were--I don't know because I withdrew (the smartest thing I have ever done, probably). As another reviewer said, I was dazzled by the positive culpa reviews--during his first lecture, he was so eloquent, so smart, etc. Listening to his class is like listening to a lecture in a foreign language you have a vague familiarity with, like you've heard it in a foreign film with sub-titles before or something. It sounds really pretty and you wish you understood what was going on, but you have no idea what is going on. He often threw out crazy terms on the board and never unpacked what they meant. Before taking this class, I didn't even realize you could throw the prefix "neo" onto so many words. He assigned basically a whole book a week, and sometimes wouldn't even discuss the material in class. Also, I can't afford to buy this many books. I can speak confidently that his tests were monsters and made about as much sense as his lectures did. Do with this information what you will. Don't even bother PDF-ing it, because you will have to put more effort into that "C" then you can even understand right now. TLDR; DON'T Take this class. Withdraw if you already have. Pray if it's too late.
Do not take Culture in America. I was accidentally placed in this class as a first year and the first two lectures he was amazing. Then, slowly over the semester, he deteriorates into random anecdotes, weird stories, discussing readings we never did and more. He will write random words on the board, and just completely confuse us. His tests were IMPOSSIBLE. I did all the readings (mind you, which are A LOT) and got a C on both the midterm and the final. He's a nice guy- I met with him during office hours and he tried to give me advice about the tests but it did not help a bit. He'll pick random stories from the readings for the tests, and it's impossible to 1. remember that much 2. answer them the way he wants. Unless, of course, you meet with the TAs constantly. Do not take this class.
DON'T BE FOOLED BY THE SILVER NUGGET I, like you, read Rieder's reviews before deciding to take Culture in America in fall 2014. I, like you, was pleased! He sounded funny, smart, and engaging, plus when I got the syllabus for the class the readings looked interesting and relevant and original. I was excited! I was wrong. Rieder is a TERRIBLE lecturer who can turn even the most interesting/relevant/original of reading into an impenetrable mess of esoteric buzzwords. In case you don't believe me, I've included an actual i-shit-you-not direct quote from my lecture notes that should give you a fair idea of what the average Rieder lecture is like: "the protracted oedipal inversion of taste membership is profoundly evident as a methodological concern in [X reading name]." Do you know what that means? It means this guy is full of shit. Do yourself a favor and don't take this class unless you like treating sociology like you're learning a new goddamn language.
Professor Rieder is a sweet, funny, laid-back dude who knows more about sociology and politics than just about anyone. The structure of each class goes something like this: 1. He gives a mini-lecture (about 10 min), which is, unfortunately, VERY confusing. He sometimes writes on the board, but that doesn't help much... and often makes things even hazier. Rieder knows a TON about the subject matter and is clearly very passionate about it, but he does not do a very good job of breaking down concepts or explaining things in general. 2. Class discussion building off of his mini-lecture, centered on the readings for that day Rieder constructed the course so that we'd do all of the readings in the first ~2/3 of the semester, so the last ~1/3 of the semester would be dedicated to paper-writing and discussing the papers. Advice: --If you know a good amount about politics, you'll succeed in this class. If you don't, you will struggle. The seminar students have differing amounts of background knowledge, and Rieder knows this, but it's still rough if you don't have a strong grasp of current political events and political party movements/shifts. --It feels much more like a PoliSci class than Sociology. --Go to him for advice on your paper if you have questions about the readings/class discussions/whatever. He's very accommodating and likes talking outside of class. The frustrating part is that he won't really end up being much clearer outside of class than he is during his mini-lectures, but it's always worth a shot. Plus, he's a really nice guy and wants to hel you out.
Shapes and Shadows of Identity with Professor Rieder is an amazing first year seminar!!! The course material is interesting, there was a relatively light amount of reading, and Professor Rieder truly tailors the class to first year students. Many of my friends in other seminars received typed or written feedback on drafts from their professors, but, in addition to written feedback, Professor Rieder met with every student between the first draft and final draft of each essay. During the meeting, he always gave substantial feedback and read through the whole paper, line-by-line, with me. He corrected sentence structure and style, revised the structure of the essay, and helped talk through my ideas and ways to develop more nuanced arguments. At the beginning of the semester, Professor Rieder told us that participating in seminar-style class discussions is a college skill that we need to learn, like writing a paper or taking an exam. We did not necessarily arrive at college with the ability to effectively contribute to discussions. Throughout the semester, he provided tips on how to properly participate - for example: be concise, focus comments on specific textual evidence, and try to respond to arguments that have already been made. Because participation is 25% of the FYS grade, it makes sense that he TEACHES students how to improve in that area! When students made unsupported comments, Professor Rieder would gently ask them to provide support from the reading, and even give them a minute or two to find it. He encouraged students to speak during class even if they weren't sure whether their answers were 100% correct, and was never harsh or shot down students ideas.
I am a full-on Rieder groupie. I took a seminar with him freshman year and Culture in America sophmore year. I recruited about 5 of my friends who fell for Rieder the same way I did. He's the kind of Professor that makes you want to work hard for him. And you will do really good work. I could go on for hours about Rieder... just do yourself a favor and take this class, if you can get in. I pulled from the course's books and topics in many, many classes throughout college. They really stuck with me.
I loved this class--for any Barnard first-year who is looking for a great seminar, I recommend him. Rieder is really nice but is also really focused on helping you improve your writing and your analysis in general. He is truly a great scholar in his field--often, as we were discussing racial leaders, he would refer to something one of them had said when he met them. I think my writing really improved through him--there are three papers, and you meet with him for all 3 after a rough draft. He also truly cares about his students and really got to know us. The readings were carefully chosen and rich, and although I had already read some of them prior to the class, I learned new things about them through Rieder. Really recommend him, and I hope to take another class with him in the future.
Professor Reider is a great professor. He definately has his pros and cons, but overall you will do well by paying attention to key points in class and focusing on those concepts for readings and exams. Some of the readings seem lengthy, but think basic concepts and terms. Don't get caught up in meticulous details. As far as cons, some students are frustrated by his waivering syllabus changes, but he updates the class daily at the lectures or via e-mail and the changes are necessary in most cases to keep up with the flow of the class. The advantage, is that the test are not really intended to trick you. Know the main concepts and be able to write about their significance in the readings. If you are confused, ask for help. For the papers, he is VERY open to letting you chose a topic and simply support your opinion. The class is not a breeze, but it is definately fair. Also, don't let his terminology overwhelm you. Sometimes he uses complex terms to explain ideas that seem simple, but this will only help you dissect over simplified information better and guide you on what terms you should know for exam purposes. I highly recommend going to class or getting notes if you miss because he covers a lot in one class. Challenging, but I truly loved the class and his teaching style. You will do well if you try. Bottom line.
I very strongly disagree with the previous review. This class was a huge disappointment and I do not felt like I learned anything new. Rieder's lecture style is dry and he over complicates pretty straightforward concepts. Rieder would challenge students' views by twisting what they said and posing questions in order to complicate ideas on race and identity. Although he is undoubtedly a pro in the world of sociology, I would highly recommend NOT taking this course. The syllabus was disorganized and lacked unity surprisingly enough. I still am left confused as to what he actually wanted on the exams.
This class is absolutely phenomenal. Rieder is extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and very engaging in lectures. The discussions and lectures in class usually made me wish they would go on all day rather than be confined to an hour and fifteen minutes. The class deals with issues of unity and division in contemporary America in the areas of politics, race, immigration and cultural identities, all of which are topics that are extremely current and useful to understand and think about for everyday life. Rieder typically explains difficult readings, and asks questions to stimulate input, making doing the readings (which are by and large very interesting) useful and productive. He is very encouraging of ideas and provokes discussion in class whenever time allows. Definitely take this class.
This class should be renamed "The Art of Stating the Obvious". Apparently, things you do in everyday life that you don't even think about warrant 100 pages of reading and a 3 hour discussion. Despite, Rider is a good professor--very intelligent, nice (brings cookies) and allows for class arguments. He also thinks that everything you say is brilliant, even if it ain't, so it's good for self esteem. Recommended professor.