Saturday, May 28, 2011
What is the purpose of reviews?
Since one of my methodological commandments is to "read more", I also wrote several book-reviews. Writing helps me think in a clearer way and encourages me in reading more.
However, I cannot overlook the fact that I have received many review-offers also because most of the well-known Sanskrit scholars are too busy to write just a simple review. Hence, their younger colleagues and students are asked to write on their behalf. Younger scholars, however, might tend to be more indulgent, since they might be afraid of attacking a senior colleague. Or, they might tend to be less indulgent with scholars belonging to a different "school" but not with the ones belonging to their own one.
This is human and might also have some positive effects. If only one first considers this preliminary question: What is the use of reviews?
In my opinion, reviews are written for the sake of readers and authors and one of the reasons why contemporary Indological studies are in need of improvement is that their weak points are not consistently pointed out by acute reviewers. I understand that one might not want to ruin one's academic career from the very beginning, but one can surely find a way to both avoid being too harsh and make one's point in a persuasive way.
If they just praise their objects, reviews may loose their social and ethical significance. Hence, I suggest that one should avoid personal criticisms and have as many interesting remarks as possible, so that the bare data could speak. In this way, reviews may also become interesting in their own right and not just a sub-genre.
Good luck with your reviews!
What strategies do you adopt?
As for my commandment of reading more, read here. As for my other methodological commandments, see here.