Reacting to the Past
"I am not sure I have ever had a deeper learning experience" --English professor James Lang, on playing Nehru during the RTTP Annual Faculty Institute, as reported in the Chronicle.
"Reacting to the Past will revitalize your classroom, change you and your students—whatever you teach." José Bowen, President of Goucher College, after playing the art critic Joséphin Péladan during the Art in Paris: 1888-1889 game, as reported in his blog.
Reacting to the Past (RTTP) consists of complex games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas. Class sessions are run entirely by students; instructors advise and guide students and grade their oral and written work. Reacting seeks to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and improve intellectual and academic skills. Reacting to the Past was honored with the 2004 Theodore Hesburgh Award (TIAA-CREF) for outstanding innovation in higher education.
Pioneered by Barnard historian Mark C. Carnes, Reacting has been implemented at over 350 colleges and universities in the US and abroad. The initiative is sustained by the Reacting Consortium, an alliance of colleges and universities that promotes imagination, inquiry, and engagement as foundational features of teaching and learning in higher education. The Consortium provides programs for faculty development and curricular change, including a regular series of conferences and workshops, online instructor resources, and consulting services.
The following ten games are published in the "Reacting to the Past" Series by W.W. Norton & Company:
- Charles Darwin, the Copley Medal and the Rise of Naturalism, 1861-64
- Confucianism and the Succession Crisis of the Wanli Emperor, 1587
- Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945
- Greenwich Village, 1913: Suffrage, Labor, and the New Woman
- Henry VIII and the Reformation Parliament
- Patriots, Loyalists and Revolution in New York City, 1775-76
- Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791
- The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.
- The Trial of Anne Hutchinson: Liberty, Law, and Intolerance in Puritan New England
- The Trial of Galileo: Aristotelianism, the "New Cosmology," and the Catholic Church, 1616-33
In addition, two new titles are published by the Reacting Consortium Press, an imprint of University of North Carolina Press.
- Constantine and the Council of Nicaea: Defining Orthodoxy and Heresy in Christianity, 325 CE
- Stages of Power: Marlowe and Shakespeare, 1592
Another 80 games are in various stages of development, supervised by the Reacting Editorial Board.
Although the Reacting Consortium hosts dozens of campus and regional workshops throughout the United States and around the world, its main events are the Winter Conference at the University of Georgia in January and the Summer Institute at Barnard College in June.
For further information about Reacting, see the main website. Carnes’s book on Reacting, Minds on Fire: How Role-Immersion Games Transform College (2014) is available from Harvard University Press.