All Ratings and Reviews for Vinay Lal
God... Please do trust the 1.6 easiness score of this class! This quarter has already been hard, and this class made my day even harder. Our TA is a nice guy and he does have some cool opinion, but he really scored us to harsh. I follow every instruction he gave me based on the first paper but still got a B for my second paper. If you need a pretty good GPA, please do not attend this class!
tl;dr: not an easy A, but not difficult either. Attend lecture and you'll be fine.
Full Disclosure: I'm from India, so I learnt Indian history in high school. Having said that, I found this class really interesting.
The final grade was 20% participation in the discussion section, 30% from the take home midterm exam and 50% from the final.
Some of the other reviews of this course seem to complain about the reading workload (~150 pages per week), but you don't really need to do the reading. I personally found that attending class was far more rewarding. He tells you the stuff that is important/ unimportant, and if you pay enough attention, you can easily predict the questions that will come on the exams.
Professor Lal's lecturing style itself is quite engaging, but he gets distracted a lot and tends to go off on tangents quite often. Also, he sometimes doesn't explain certain terms that people who aren't Indian may not intuitively understand. He also liberally mixes in his opinions with facts.
We had a take-home midterm over the weekend in week 6, 2 essays, each 2-3 pages double spaced. The exam itself wasn't difficult, and he asked the most obvious questions in it. It's important to cite the reading material (he scans it to the class website) if you want an A instead of a B. About a week before the midterm, he went over a "hypothetical midterm question", which was on the actual midterm, so once again, attend lecture.
The final was answering 4 out of 9 essay questions. The questions on the final were NOT ID questions, since the material was so vast. Instead, the questions were about the major themes he covered in the course. In section, the wonderful TA Vipin literally listed out 5 major themes that he thought were important, and all 5 were on the final.
Professor Lal himself is a cool guy, and some of his ideas are pretty radical. As a Professor, he was very kind and even offered to have lunch with us after class one day. He has office hours twice a week and lets you pick his brain.
This isn't really a throwaway easy GE, but if you attend lecture and put in a weekend of effort for the midterm and a few more days of studying for the final, you'll get that A pretty easily.
Prof. Lal presents a very biased view of Indian history - he often states his own opinions as facts, and does not respond well to students questioning his statements. If you want to gain an objective overview of India, don't take this class with Professor Lal.
I am a grad student who attended this class on the recommendation of a friend and enrolled immediately after the first lecture. I admit to generally being uninterested in history, yet this class is one of the best that I have taken hands down. The lectures were always engaging, often challenged/changed my opinion on beliefs I previously held, and every argument made by prof. Lal held solid ground. I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in South Asia or is of South Asian descent as the class sheds light on a lot of intertwined history and culture that makes the region, and its people, what it is today.
One of the most authentic depictions of South Asian history. I am a Poli Sci & IDS major so History isn't my strongest suit, but I loved this class and found it very easy to follow despite not having a history background. Professor is incredibly funny and his lectures are fun and engaging. Would love to take a class with him again before graduating.
I took a fiat lux seminar with Lal, "Essaying America." Seminars are suppose to be based in student discussion but this professor talked for about 80% of the time. He even went over the class time limits with his long rants. His rants were often political, and he would raise his voice which was very uncomfortable for such intimate settings. I was hoping to get more back and forth discussion between students, but majority was the professor questioning student’s comments, sometimes in an interrogative manner. I think he is trying to be socratic in this, but it comes off as arrogant because he obviously holds his opinions as superior to those of the students. I wouldn't take any class that involves discussions with him as the overseer. Also, beware of disagreeing with him politically, when I mentioned gun rights as being written by the “forefathers” as a mode to defend against tyrannical governments, he almost blew a gasket.
Loved this class. The readings were interesting and lecture helped to break down the historical back story. If you have a good TA and can keep up with the readings you will be fine in this class. Go to every lecture as Prof Lal points will help you construct your papers. Although he goes off topic sometimes about his personal experiences I believe this is his way of giving real life examples of how history has affected us in the modern era. The final and mid terms are all essays. It's not hard to prepare for as the TA usually gives you the general topics of the multiple essay questions Prof Lal will give.
Prof. Lal definitely knows what he is talking about and is an expert on Indian history and culture, however he talks really quickly and the lectures can get quite disorganized because he literally just says whatever he thinks. He also fails to elaborate on or define many Indian terms which makes the lectures that much more difficult to understand if you don't have previous knowledge of Hindi or the course material. It's just so much material to learn in such a short time that it gets really overwhelming. There also aren't very many dates or times which makes a lot of what you learn seem very circumstantial. Ultimately, it's an interesting course however there is just too much you are expected to know that isn't explained well enough. Also, Dan Newman as a ta is absolutely no help.
I took this class after reading the previous evals, thinking it would be great and interesting. Well, I don't have much to say on how interesting it is but I can say that I switched the grading to P/NP and I can't even imagine how other people with letter grading feel. Lectures are super boring and he does talk fast and sometimes it's difficult to figure out what's important and what's just random. Midterm was take home, two essays which weren't all that bad. Essay is 10 IDs, and he DOESN'T give you the terms ahead of time, and a bunch of essays (he gives you 9, 5 of which are on the final, 4 of which you have to do). Unless you're super desperate to fulfill this GE, I don't rec taking this class.
Not at all an easy GE. Lectures were extremely hard to follow, amount of assigned reading was absolutely ridiculous. Final is worth 50% of final grade and is incredibly difficult. Basically, do not take this class unless you... nope, just don't take it. There is no reason why you'd want to.
Did this review contain...
Thank you for the report!
We'll look into this shortly.