[Milton-L] soliciting of reviews & etc.

richard strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Wed Dec 17 19:04:32 EST 2008


Dear Scott,

I am sorry that I have not had the time to participate in the discussion of 
reviewing-- a topic that I think enormously important.  I love reviews -- writing 
them and reading them -- and think that, as with anything else, really good 
ones are rare and wonderful.  Too often reviews are either summaries or puffs.

I am writing, however, primarily to describe our policy at Modern Philology, 
where, as you know, we review lots of books.

1) We do not review books by our (U of Chicago) faculty;
2) we do not assign reviews to grad students;
3) we do not generally accept unsolicited reviews, but we do consider requests 
that people make to review particular books.  In those cases, we try to 
determine who is making the proposal and whether that person has any 
documentable relationship to the author of the book in question (we read 
acknowledgments).

Mostly what we do is try to find someone who is competent and willing and has 
no known connections to the book's author.  We might go to the "usual 
suspects" first, but if they decline (as often happens), we ask them for other 
suggestions, which considerably widens the circle.  Lots of our reviews are done 
by younger scholars.

In my experience (about 4 years of editing MP), the problem of puffs or 
paraphrases is more serious than the problem of antagonism.  Genuinely 
thoughtful and critical reviews, reviews that really consider the issues that a 
book raises, are, as I said above, rare and wonderful things.

Richard Strier
Department of English
University of Chicago
1115 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637


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