Review Comment

[BC2001] Reacting to the Past

April 14, 2020

Worth, Jennifer
[BC2001] Reacting to the Past

SO SWEET AND FUN!! Reacting to the past is my favorite class I have taken at Barnard and Professor Worth is as great as they come. She is engaging, interesting, and makes the class feel much more like a game than school. She is extremely invested in her students and if you put in the work you will do well. Can not recommend this class enough!


No tests. four 6 page papers and four speeches (which are not scary!)

April 09, 2020

Sheppard, Joe
[BC2001] Reacting to the Past

Jesus christ this man CANNOT STOP TALKING. This course was supposed to be student-lead discussion-oriented, but the man took up at least half of the class every time ceaselessly talking about absolutely nothing. It comes to the point where it actually becomes fascinating how he is able to talk for such length while communicating such minimal content.

If you are put in the situation where you have to have a one-on-one with him, make sure to set a clear time limit (which he will go over anyway) because otherwise you will be stuck for hours. I once had a meeting with him and he would ask me a question and interrupt me on the very first word I spoke, to answer the question himself and then proceed to speak for the next 30 minutes straight.

He is very knowledgeable about ancient Greece and Rome.


A lot of reading assigned, but 70% of it is never discussed or used.

January 07, 2020

Postlewate, Laurie Gold_nugget
[BC2001] Reacting to the Past and Reacting to the Past - First Year Seminar

Gamemaster Laurie, as she has us call her, is awesome, as is this class. At first, I was afraid about what I signed up for when we were given a bunch of dense primary source readings about Athens for our first game, which is Athenian Democracy, but once you get through the stage of reading and discussion before the game starts (which is not very long), it's amazing. Anyone who likes arguing and debating will like this class, and there are all kinds of fun things thrown in to lighten up debates when things get tense, such as snacks, and random tasks like wearing a certain outfit or writing a poem. The last game, which is Greenwich Village 1913 during the suffrage and labor movements, is personally my favorite unit, since the characters are often people you have heard of and you can talk about interesting issues. Being that it's a small class, you also get to work with people and get to know them, something I could not get in any lectures. GM Laurie is very kind and also has a good sense of humor, and really makes an effort in working with her students by encouraging one-on-one meetings. The class is quite a bit of work at some points in the semester - the Athens game, for instance, has a lot of reading and a strict format for speeches, and sometimes you'll have a speech and a writing assignment close together, but it's one of those rare classes where it is still manageable and working hard often yields good results. I highly recommend this class for FYS.


Readings - heavier before game starts, less during them
Speeches - 3-4/semester, about 2-3 pages
Writing Assignments - 4 in the semester, varying length but usually 1500 words or so. First three you there is a mandatory revision where you meet with GM Laurie, none for the last paper.
Group/Faction Meetings - it's not a mandatory thing, but you'll find yourself doing this a few times in the semester since there are often factions in the games where everyone has the same goal, or has to present something together
Field Trip to Museum

Generally speaking, grading is not harsh - meet with her before revisions are due for the writing assignments to ensure clear feedback, as sometimes what is written on the paper she gives back isn't clear.

Took Reacting to the Past with him- LOVED IT SO MUCH. This class was literally the highlight of my freshman year and I have never been in a class like it before. Our roles really take over our lives and sometimes things get personal but at the end of the day, it's an amazing experience. I'm a STEM major and this was super super fun. It definitely wasn't an easy workload compared to other Reacting classes- it actually seemed to be much more work. But, an A is possible! If you want to learn like you've never learned before, take this class with Carnes. He's fantastic and will change your experience in the classroom forever. However, you will need to speak in front of the class and embody your character well so if you aren't into public speaking or get super scared of talking in front of people, maybe the class isn't for you.


Quite a bit of work. Essays and speeches that you can't read off. You also have to read speeches beforehand if you're an indeterminate and depending on your role, you might have a lot more work to do. A lot of planning/ scheming after class.

January 05, 2018

Carnes, Mark Silver_nugget
[BC2001] Reacting to the Past

I learned two important lessons this past semester... (1) The structure of a class will entirely define your experience in it. (2) The instructor and people in your class (especially a small seminar) will also completely determine how well you learn and how much you will enjoy the work.

If one thing's for certain, Reacting to the Past with Mark Carnes will change the way you think about history, work, and the entire college pedagogy. In Reacting, you and your classmates engage in intense, complex "games" that transport you in time and make you empathize with the roles of people whose work changed the course of history. While there are numerous games out there (and all of them have been created by Carnes), my class played two games: one based in 1945 India at the Simla Conference, and the other based in the Athenian Assembly in 403 BCE.

Each game was played over the course of six class sessions, though strategizing and speech/essay writing spilled into plenty of out of class faction meetings and caucuses. Our Athens game witnessed the infamous trial of Socrates, debates on diplomatic missions and social welfare, and an intense attempt at democratic sabotage. In India, the Sikh leader was arrested after calling for mutiny, a rivalry broke out between the communist leader and the Nizam of Hyderabaad, and the British Governors-General proposed a plan for a unified India. Mark Carnes occasionally arrived to class in a purple cloak, dressed as the goddess Athena, and many of us wore togas or character-specific uniforms. Each game was filled with dramatic surprises, teamwork, strategy, and lessons in persuasive speaking and writing.

The 18 students in this class became some of my closest friends, which was especially meaningful as a first-year. I witnessed genuine growth in my speaking and writing abilities, as well as a heightened sense of confidence. The class had its many downsides -- hurt feelings, intense stress, embodying a character one disagrees with -- but it also bonded our class and transformed us into stronger leaders.

Therefore, I pass on a shining recommendation of Mark Carnes and Reacting to the Past!


4 essays, approx. 5 pages -- In order to write effectively for this class, you typically have to write more than five pages.
4 formal speeches -- No note cards and minimal time to prepare; a lot of thinking on your feet.
Participation is key! Speak up in class! Make a comment! Strategize! Make big moves in the game!

December 23, 2017

Stokes, Patricia Silver_nugget
[BC2001] Reacting to the Past and Reacting to the Past - First Year Seminar

At first I also thought this course with Professor Stokes was HIGHLY overrated, but (thankfully) I wasn't allowed to drop this class so I was forced to stick it out. For the first 2 weeks or so it is very difficult to follow what's going on in class because it's not explained. However you'll soon realize that your classmates feel the exact same way - no one knows what's going on or what's expected of her - but you will eventually figure it out together.

I highly recommend taking Reacting To The Past for First-Year Seminar. And of all the Reacting classes, this one is definitely the most chill and enjoyable. You will learn a lot about history and improve your public speaking and writing. And as Professor Stokes will tell you, this is her second career so she truly likes what she does or else she would not do it.

Professor Stokes expects effort, attendance, and respect - all reasonable. She genuinely cares for her students to do well and is a very generous grader. One time we were stressed about an assignment because we all had midterms and Professor Stokes said we can just start a rough draft and not worry about it until the following week.

Towards the second and third games, the group has bonded and the game sessions become fun. Definitely recommend!!


Speech or other writing assignment due every class or every other class. Graded leniently, based on demonstrated effort.

January 22, 2002

Russell, Thaddeus Silver_nugget
[BC2001] Reacting to the Past

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Thad is a fantastic teacher. I would major in him if it were possible. He is both interesting and knowledgeable and is an expert at creating interesting class discussions. He is so smart, and funny and he is so so so great. I cannot stress enough how awesome he is! Take any class you can with him.


Standard, he is a great grader, he might be a little tough but gives good comments and suggestions.

December 16, 2001

Russell, Thaddeus Silver_nugget
[BC2001] Reacting to the Past

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I LOVED this man. He finds out where people stand on issues and then pits them against each other, stands back, and lets them argue. I took a role playing class with him, so he didn't lecture much (only a total of six classes), but the lectures he did give were amazing, and I loved the class. If you like public speaking and debate, reacting is definately for you.


6 papers (2 per game), 4 pages each, and 6 books that have to be read in really short amounts of time in order to play the games. He was a really nice grader, and he gave the winning bonus if you win the game.

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