[Milton-L] soliciting of reviews

Hannibal Hamlin hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
Thu Dec 11 18:09:10 EST 2008


I'm intrigued by the idea of peer-reviewed reviews, which I've not heard of
before, but I'm inclined to agree with Mario DiCesare.  I tend to feel that
a contract of some sort is involved in the commissioning of a review.  For
instance (and this relates to another of the perennial problems of reviews
-- the bad review), in many cases, I'm not sure anyone benefits from a
totally savage, or even totally negative review.  But as review editor, I
wouldn't feel comfortable not printing any review that I had commissioned,
since that would seem unfair to the reviewer.  On the other hand, I can
think of one instance where a reviewer submitted a review and himself
expressed concern about how negative it was.  He suggested that there was
little to be gained from publishing it and left it to me.  In that case, I
decided not to print the review, and both I and the reviewer agreed that was
best.  Reviews certainly need to be critical when criticism is merited, but
perhaps most really bad books should best be just ignored.  I might feel
differently, though, about a really problematic book by a well-established
scholar.  (This raises another question, I know, but I really am interested
in the ethics of reviewing, and there are so many questions that seem never
to get discussed.  Nor, interestingly, does reviewing ever seem part of
graduate programs.)

Hannibal

On Thu, Dec 11, 2008 at 5:39 PM, Mario DiCesare <dicesare1 at mindspring.com>wrote:

> Dear Colleagues,
>
> I agree with Hannibal Hamlin and John Leonard on this matter.
>
> I would like to raise a related issue. When one -- let's say J.B. -- is
> asked to review a book, the request is presumably based on J.B.'s scholarly
> credentials. The review is J.B.'s work; he or she is willing to submit it
> for the judgement, agreement, criticism, whatever of those who read the
> review.
>
> Under ordinary circumstances, it seems to me improper for the editor(s) who
> requested the review to review it themselves and revise it or even reject
> it. I can think of exceptions, but I doubt very much that routine reviewing
> of reviewers' work is sound or defensible policy.
>
> Mario A. DiCesare
>
>
>
>
> John Leonard wrote:
>
>> I agree with Hannibal Hamlin.  It is a very bad practice to solicit
>> reviews.  Even if an abuse does not occur, the practice is open to abuse and
>> should be discouraged.  Hannibal is right to take a stand on this.
>>  John Leonard
>>
>>    ----- Original Message -----
>>    *From:* Hannibal Hamlin <mailto:hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>
>>    *To:* John Milton Discussion List <mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>>    *Sent:* Thursday, December 11, 2008 2:36 PM
>>    *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] Book Reviewer sought: _Is Milton Better
>>    thanShakespeare_?
>>
>>    Dear Scott, and other Miltonists,
>>        No doubt this will stir up some dust, but may I raise a question
>>    about scholarly reviewing?  Perhaps some of you attended the
>>    interesting roundtable on scholarly reviewing at last year's RSA, at
>>    which many practical and ethical issues were discussed.  One that
>>    occurs to me in this context, especially since I am a Book Review
>>    Editor myself, is whether it is a good idea to make an open call for
>>    reviewers for a particular book.  One specific problem I see is that
>>    such a call might attract someone with a particular axe to grind,
>>    perhaps even a personal one (whatever a "personal axe" is!), of
>>    which the review editor may not be aware.  I don't mean to pick on
>>    Scott either, since some journals openly list "books for review,"
>>    and the Sixteenth Century Journal actually had a table of such books
>>    at this year's SCSC, from which any passing scholar might make a
>>    selection.        Thoughts?
>>        Hannibal
>>
>>
>>        On 12/11/08, *Scott Howard* <showard at du.edu <mailto:showard at du.edu>>
>>
>>    wrote:
>>
>>
>>        Dear Colleagues,
>>
>>        We are looking for someone to review Nigel Smith's _Is Milton
>>        Better than Shakespeare?_ for Volume Two of APPOSITIONS: Studies
>>        in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature & Culture, which will
>>        be published in May, 2009.
>>
>>        If you are interested, please be in touch soon.
>>
>>        Appositions is an electronic, peer-reviewed, international
>>        journal for studies in Renaissance/early modern literature and
>>        culture.  ISSN forthcoming.
>>
>>        Yours,
>>        Scott Howard
>>
>>        ///
>>
>>        W. Scott Howard
>>        Associate Professor
>>        Director of Graduate Studies
>>        Department of English
>>        University of Denver
>>        http://mysite.du.edu/~showard/
>>
>>        ///
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>>
>>
>>
>>
>>    --    Hannibal Hamlin
>>    Associate Professor of English
>>    The Ohio State University
>>    Burkhardt Fellow,
>>    The Folger Shakespeare Library
>>    201 East Capitol Street SE
>>    Washington, DC 20003
>>    hamlin.22 at osu.edu/ <http://hamlin.22@osu.edu/>
>>    hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com <mailto:hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>
>>
>>
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>
> --
> Mario A. Di Cesare
> Distinguished Professor (emeritus), SUNY
> Founder & Director, Medieval & Renaissance Texts
>     & Studies (MRTS) & Pegasus Paperbooks (1978-1996)
> Director, Pegasus Press (1996-1998; 2002-2004)
> Member, College for Seniors, University of North Carolina
>     Center for Creative Retirement at UNC Asheville
>
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>   Phone: 828-628-3883
>
>
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-- 
Hannibal Hamlin
Associate Professor of English
The Ohio State University
Burkhardt Fellow,
The Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
hamlin.22 at osu.edu/
hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
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