I'm sorry hear that. I understand your pain. My biochem class had an oral pop quiz but it wasn't as intense.
Is everyone else in your class having a hard time? If yes, that's probably just the nature of that class. If you think you're the only one having trouble, (Due to other courses etc) you should always go talk to your professor and let her know. I always make it a rule to go talk to my professor about my concerns before I start worrying or complaining about a course.-Not that you're complaining
Rice is a very good school (I'm assuming from your user name?) and a lot of my friends who went there told me the classes are very intense. But just remember that by survivng through this, you will get the best of it. I personally envy you because I go to a really big public school and don't get to have much interaction in class.
I wish you luck!
Form a study group. Every night, get a bunch of people from that class and read out loud the material. Explain things as you go. Write notes. If you don't know something, someone else will. If no one knows it, you can bump heads together and figure it out.
Sounds really elementary, but it will work. Trust me.
It is always helpful to think how the author feels or is trying to convey in your readings. I don't know if you have taken the MCAT yet but the whole verbal section is based on what I just told you. And of course, it is done in an ambiguous way.
What kind of class or text are we talking about? I take it there are no supplementary materials or a synopsis online? What about reaching out to people who have taken it previously?
I had a similar situation in my neurobiology class. T/Th 8-12 AM, but there wasn't a book! Oh no, mofo had so much material he had to give a custom made CD-ROM. 650+ MB of text/images/powerpoints! The only way I made it out alive is by having old exams/quizzes to gauge the material by.
This truly sucks. Every once in a while you'll have those teachers who just want to prove (or try) that they're "smarter" than you. They will hand out ridiculous amounts of work, that even they couldn't complete.
I recently had a professor in biology who said "you know, I hand out these tests, and I'm not even sure I could pass them myself." Luckily, we talked to her in the beginning and she straightened out (going from high school level bio questions to PhD level bio questions, and back again). But many teachers are far too stubborn.
Point being, don't beat yourself up about it too much. I know it's hard, in the short term, not to get discouraged, but work your butt off, and know you did everything you could to combat her/his wicked, self-affirming teaching style.
sounds like the only way you or anyone else is gonna get through this class is by forming a study group to divide the reading up. Everyone reads their section, takes notes, and at the end, everyone trades their notes with everyone else. problem solved (hopefully).
of course, there is also learning to BS a little. this should work in a humanities or social science (unless it's way upper level and it's hard to get away with making vague statements.)