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This is one of the most interesting and easiest GEs that I've taken at ucla. Professor Duthie is incredibly knowledgeable and understanding about student stress, especially during online learning. There were no exams, just weekly writing assignments (500-700 words). The TAs help you with what to include in the weekly assignments, and you have a chance to rewrite all of them for a better grade.
I took this class during remote learning so the structure could be different from the class in real time. All I have to say is please take this GE!! It's literally amazing. Professor Duthie is a great lecturer with good humor and clear presentation structure. He expanded the content on the textbook and I've learned so much about Japan and its history in this class. The assignments are fairly graded, and you will get a good score as long as you write them carefully and integrate the class materials. Huge shoutout to my TA Kristin for teaching us how to write effective responses!!
As an incoming freshman to UCLA, I can say that this class with Professor Duthie was both interesting and a very good introductory to GE's. He is compassionate and displays clear care for his students mental wellbeing and academic success. If you take this course, I highly recommend TA Julia Clark as she was extremely helpful in writing the papers and overall very kind!
This class was a really nice GE to take during COVID since there were no tests just an assignment once a week. I pretty much waited until after the discussion to write the paper since my TA went through the prompt and what we should write about. I would say the class took me around 2 hours a week (minus the lectures) so I would def recommend if you are looking for an easy class. The content itself was also pretty interesting and lectures were a little long but prof duthie made it go by pretty fast :)
Prof Duthie is totally awesome! He's super chill and wants people to learn for the sake of learning and not for GPA's. So like, his class isnt hard, but it isnt easy. Basically, if you put in the work for your grade, you'll get the one you deserve. You wont study hard and then get a crappy grade.
As said below, Duthie builds his class around learning rather than grading. You could reasonably skip the lectures and just use the study guide he emails out. It has all the possible questions. The midterm and final are basically the same format and length, not cumulative. The TAs determine your grade so either hope you get a nice one or talk a lot in discussion (attendance and participation in discussions count towards your grade). He assigns a good amount of reading (20-50 pages per week + textbook) so if you don't particularly care for Japanese history it will bog you down and you do need to read for the tests as well as discussion.
Duthie has a British accent and talks fast but he's usually easy to understand and has a good sense of humor. He likes to show pictures and short video clips, which helped keep me awake. It should be an easy A if you do most of the work. I give him an 8/10 overall.
Even though I did not have much interest in Japanese Civilizations, I found that his lectures were very well prepared, filled with videos, sounds, and images to make them informative and entertaining. The readings for the discussion sections as well as the suggested reading from the textbook amounted to a lot of reading, although the readings for the sections were fairly entertaining. Pretty easy GE, although there is quite a bit of information to memorize for the midterm and final (non-cumulative).
The structure of this course is like a typical translation course except here you alternate days where you're the translator or the reader. There's a mid-term and final that aren't comprehensive and a final paper.
This course was a disaster, Duthie steamrolled too many texts and didn't ease students through the work at all. He'll start the class off talking about how he wants you to "just dive in" and "ease you into" the text, but he fails on so many levels.
First off, he'll never discuss grammar or any relevant aspects of the stories, you just get PDFs of Japanese textbook scans (with the original in the middle, footnotes at the top, and if you're lucky the modern version at the bottom), but these texts are usually out of date and contain numerous out of use kanji and 1930s spelling, not to mention that if you aren't a native Japanese most of the supplemental text that appears in the textbook will be a pain to decipher.
Second, he'll start you off with English translations for the readings, and make an effort to give you passages with no English translations later on. While I get the whole trying to make us better at Japanese idea, it fails because we never utilize the grammatical analysis you work so hard on for J110. As a result, homework usually comes out being a copyfest with a couple of students doing the actual work and the rest mindlessly regurgitating translations.
Third, the tests are either too easy or too hard. There's 3 sections, 2 passages from previous readings and a third, brand new section. The third section he said he'd give us supplemental vocabulary for but the midterm was a disaster and only 1 person could actually understand the passage. He compensates for the difficulty by grading generously. Overall you don't utilize any Japanese skills, just memorize all the translations from class and you'll ace the tests.
On a final note about the English translations he gives you, I don't know if he intentionally chose to use the WORST English translations or what, but the English translations are very unfaithful and thus, make the readings that much more painful. If you're smart you'll research the stories beforehand and check to see if its translated by more than one author, usually the more modern versions are faithful.
I got an A, but this class wasted too much time and I don't feel like I learned anything at all.
This class is basically memorization of time periods and participation in discussion. I showed up to every single lecture and I think that the information from lecture was the only thing really needed to do well in the class. The textbook reading isn't very necessary if you show up to class. Lectures sometimes have videos and music which makes them interesting. Professor Duthie brings up some discussion points in the lecture that are insightful. He could get a little boring now and then, but I enjoyed his class and I thought it was an okay GE.
30% Discussion (involves weekly response papers around 300 words each)
35% Final (not cumulative)
5 short response questions (around 10 sentences each) about certain time periods or important concepts (40% of the test)
10 identifications (2-3 sentences each) of people or important concepts (40% of the test)
5 passage identifications (from the discussion and lecture readings). You need to include the title of the article, author, time period it’s from, and 1-2 sentences about the article (20% of the test).
One of the easier GEs with a manageable workload. The readings for discussion sections were very interesting. I definitely recommend this class if you don’t mind the weekly response papers and exams that are all writing. When you’re preparing for the exams, go to the test bank. Seriously, I found it quite helpful. It gives you an idea of the format of the exam and the amount of detail the graders are looking for. The study guide professor Duthie provides is kind of not very helpful…so go to the test bank lol.
The rest of this post is going to be more of my opinions about the class, so you can stop reading if you’re not interested lol.
I honestly had very low interest in Japanese history because I just have a low interest in all history lol. But the class turned out to be quite interesting and I’ve developed a much greater appreciation for the concepts covered in class.
The readings required for discussion section were really thought-provoking/enjoyable to read and helped create a more personal tie to the time periods. Discussions about the readings for weekly sections were quite enjoyable as well, but that may have been because my TA was super nice.
The last two posts said that you could only go to lecture or only read the book to do well. I went to all of the lectures and read every page in that book (because I’m a try-hard) and I think that they’re both kind of important. The lectures give you an idea of what’s important/what you need to memorize for the exams and the textbook gives you more detail/greater understanding about the concepts emphasized during lecture. I suppose to don’t have to read every word in the textbook though. I have to admit that I still had to Wiki a lot of concepts to better understand the relationships between time periods/concepts, but I don’t think it was entirely necessary. I found this website pretty useful if you're intersted: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2126.html
I thought the lectures up to the midterm were pretty good. They emphasized a lot of important concepts and it was pretty easy to study for the midterm as a result. I did really well on the midterm because I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But I didn’t think the lectures relating to the final were as thorough because there were quite a few things on the exam that I had no idea about. The lectures kind of just listed a bunch of stuff without elaborating much. There was a lot I studied for that wasn’t on the final and a lot of stuff I didn’t even know existed that was in the identification section. I definitely studied more for the final and did way worse than the midterm lol. People in the previous posts mentioned that the lectures were boring, but I really didn’t think this class was all that boring. I won’t go so far as to say that the class was fun, but the lectures weren’t bad and professor Duthie showed some videos, which were nice.
If you’re still reading this, I’ll give you some brownie point advice and mention that you should pay attention to the TA lectures (each TA lectures on a topic of their choice) because their topics are still covered in the exams (at least for the final they were – the identification portion). I really didn’t think they were that important, so I just listened to the TA lectures and enjoyed them without really taking the time to memorize to the important concepts in the lecture. So I ended getting owned on the final because I could only remember which topics were mentioned by which TA, but I had no idea what to write about the topics….heh.
Also, make sure you do all of the readings on the syllabus. Especially the additional readings for lecture. I don’t know if it was just me, but the formatting of the syllabus or the font threw me off. I would look at the readings and only see the textbook readings and totally glance over the additional readings for lecture. So I got owned again on the final because there were additional reading passages that I didn’t know I was supposed to read. Whatta tragedy.
Overall, I was a try-hard and spent way more time on this class than I should have. But I enjoyed it! Even if I didn’t do as well as I hoped lol. Meh.
Final grade: A