[Milton-L] soliciting of reviews

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Thu Dec 11 21:40:43 EST 2008


This time I have to disagree with Hannibal and Mario.  The whole point of 
reviewing is to distinguish the good from the bad.  If "really bad books" 
were always charitably "ignored," the only reviews printed would be 
laudatory.  It is pointless to have reviews if all reviews are guaranteed to 
be laudatory.  It is a reviewer's duty to tell the truth.  The reviewer  is 
the canary in the mine.  The reviewer's duty is to the potential purchaser 
of the book, *not* to its author.  If a reviewer is unwilling to fulfil this 
duty, he or she should not write reviews.

John Leonard


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Mario DiCesare" <dicesare1 at mindspring.com>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2008 8:16 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] soliciting of reviews


> Hannibal has it just right, I think. Even down to the withdrawn review. I 
> was once asked to review a book which, in the end, I thought was a poor 
> piece of work. I finally wrote to the editor saying no good would come of 
> printing a negative review of the book. He agreed, but very reluctantly. 
> As Hannibal puts it, "really bad books should best be just ignored."
>
> Mario
>
>
>
> Hannibal Hamlin wrote:
>> 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 
>> <mailto: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
>>         <mailto:hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>>
>>            *To:* John Milton Discussion List
>>         <mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
>>         <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> <mailto: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/>
>>         <http://hamlin.22 <http://hamlin.22/>@osu.edu/ <http://osu.edu/>>
>>            hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com <mailto:hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>
>>         <mailto:hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
>>         <mailto:hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>>
>>
>>
>>          ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>
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>>         Internal Virus Database is out of date.
>>         Checked by AVG - http://www.avg.com <http://www.avg.com/>
>>         Version: 8.0.138 / Virus Database: 270.5.2/1562 - Release Date:
>>         7/19/2008 2:01 PM
>>
>>
>>         ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>
>>
>>
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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
>>
>>     101 Booter Road
>>     Fairview, NC 28730-8727
>>       Phone: 828-628-3883
>>
>>
>>     _______________________________________________
>>     Milton-L mailing list
>>     Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu <mailto:Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu>
>>     Manage your list membership and access list archives at
>>     http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>>
>>     Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> -- 
>> 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>
>>
>> Internal Virus Database is out of date.
>> Checked by AVG - http://www.avg.com Version: 8.0.138 / Virus Database: 
>> 270.5.2/1562 - Release Date: 7/19/2008 2:01 PM
>>
>>
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>
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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
>
> 101 Booter Road
> Fairview, NC 28730-8727
>    Phone: 828-628-3883
> 
> _______________________________________________
> Milton-L mailing list
> Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
> Manage your list membership and access list archives at 
> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
>
> Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/
> 



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