Transcript of the first meeting of HIST 417a: “Agriculture and Artillery in Post-Revolutionary France Imagining Each Other.”

Professor: All right, it’s about 10 minutes past the hour, so I think we’ll get started. I realize that it’s shopping period, so there will probably be lots of students coming in late, but for now let’s just go around the room and all introduce ourselves. Let’s start on my left.

Student 1: I’m Justin Drake and I’m a senior humanities major in Pierson College.

Student 2: I’m Melissa Willingham and I’m a sophomore in TD.

Professor: And I’m Professor Havermeyer. It’s very nice to meet all two of you. Welcome to the first day of “Agriculture and Artillery in Post-Revolutionary France Imagining Each Other.” Today I’ll just give you a quick overview of the syllabus and assign you several hundred pages of abstract, contextual readings. Before I begin my description though, I’d like to hear a bit more from all two of you about why you’ve selected this course in particular out of the wide panoply of courses available to you. Let’s start on my left.

Student 1: Oh. Um … well, I need to take a 400-level seminar to graduate, but I forgot to preregister for anything, so most of them are full. My DUS told me there’d probably be room in this class.

Professor: Really? So the DUS recommended my class to you, eh?

Student 1: Yeah, sure.

Professor: Excellent. Perhaps my published work is finally being valued here at Yale as highly as it is by my peers at other institutions. And you? Why have you chosen this course above all the other, less significant offerings in the History Department?

Student 2: I have three classes in this room earlier on Tuesdays, and I thought it’d be cool if I didn’t have to, like, go anywhere else for class, you know? I wasn’t even really sure what was being taught in here at this hour, but I just stayed in this same chair all day.

Professor: Wonderful! Well, this is very exciting: All two of you different reasons for being here … that should give us a wide variety of perspectives on the task at hand. And what precisely is that task? This course aims at nothing short of a complete understanding of how farming techniques and newly-developed military technology formed their mental conceptions of each other in the turbulent world of late 18th-century France. Now I’m sure all two of you are familiar with the seminal works on this subject by the great Cornelius Ungerland, who pioneered this field several decades ago here at Yale. Can I get a quick show of hands, who’s read Ungerland? Nobody? Really?

Student 1: Nope.

Student 2: I have to pee.

Professor: My goodness! Really, all two of you have never been exposed to Ungerland? This is disappointing, indeed … well, he can be added to our syllabus as supplementary reading.

Student 3 (entering): Hello?

Professor: Ah, welcome! I knew some more of you would trickle in.

Student 3: Is this Chem 115?

Professor: Ah, ha ha ha. No, I should say not.

Student 3: Oh. What class is this?

Professor: “Agriculture and Artillery in Post-Revo—

Student 3: Okay, bye. (Exits.)

Professor: —lutionary France Imagining” … well, all right, come back anytime. Now, where were we? Ah, yes — Ungerland! Well, I hadn’t anticipated assigning Ungerland to you, so I haven’t ordered any copies of his books, but I have several dozen of each in my office that you can use. Just drop by my office hours from 7-7:20 a.m. on Fridays and pick up a copy.

Student 1: Do you have any syllabi?

Professor: Oh, yes. Sorry about that. Let’s see … I’ve only made one, so you all might have to share.

Student 1: Thanks. Oh, wow, look at the time: I’ve got to get to another class. It was very nice to meet you, professor.

Professor: And likewise, I’m sure. I’ll see you next week — no, no, on Friday morning in my office.

Student 1: Yeah. Sure. Whatever. (Exits.)

Professor: Well, let’s talk a bit about the assessments in this course. There will be three papers, two midterms, a take-home final and an in-class final, all of which will culminate in a final project which you’ll have to present during the first week of Winter Break. I’ll write the grading rubric on the board for you. (He turns and begins writing.)

Student 2: I’m sorry, I really have to pee right now. I’ve been sitting here since 10:30. (Exits, running.)

Professor (continuing to write with his back to the room): As you can see, the weighting of the different assignments will fluctuate depending on how you perform on each. Assignments on which you receive high marks will count less than assignments on which you have a bit more trouble. I’ve been teaching this course for a little over 20 years, and of all the systems I’ve tried I find that this really brings out the best in my students. (He turns back to face the room.) Ah, I see you all have gone. Excellent. Capital. Tremendous. All right. Well. All right. I suppose we’ll end there for today. Any questions about anything … the readings … grading … anything about my published works … anything? Anyone?

Stenographer: Can I go now?

Professor: No.

Stenographer: I’m going to go now.

Professor: Please stay. You have such pretty eyes.

David Chernicoff is a contributing columnist and senior editor on the Record. He usually brings a plastic bottle to particularly riveting seminars on post-revolutionary France, so as not to fall victim to his bladder.