Crafting a Book Review (LIT4176.01)

Sandra Simonds

Writing a book review requires a complex set of skills from keen observation to close reading. In this course, we will survey the changing landscape of book reviews by reading book reviews from the 1960s to the present. What biases did reviewers from decades past hold? How does the reviewer’s subject position affect or not affect the way that they interpret the text? Is it appropriate in a review for the reviewer to include personal anecdotes? How does the reviewer include all that they need to say within the outlet’s specified word limit? We will analyze contemporary reviews from major outlets such as The New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Los Angeles Review of Books to assess which reviews seem overly positive and function more like advertisements, which reviews are overly negative or “take-downs,” and which ones attempt to interpret the books on their own terms. Several prominent critics will come to talk to the class about best practices. Assignments will include reviewing reviews, writing reviews, and pitching to magazines, journals and newspapers.

Learning Outcomes:
Evaluate book reviews from a variety of historical and cultural perspectives.
Build writing skills by drafting book reviews and taking them through a peer-review for feedback.
Apply peer-review feedback to create well-written final drafts of book reviews.
Explore contemporary issues and controversies in book reviewing.
Work independently to find books to review and write reviews to communicate your thoughts, ideas, and opinions, in written work.
Develop unique writing style within the genre.

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Interested students should submit a critical writing sample (5 pp.) and a statement of interest via this form by November 17. Admitted students will be notified by email on November 22.
Corequisites: Students are required to attend all Literature Evenings, Bennington Translates, and Poetry at Bennington events this term, commonly held at 7pm on most Wednesday evenings.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
TBA (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , Literature
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