Hmm yes… I feel like I’ve finally had my fill of deconstructing book reviews! Just need to pull all this analysis together and then it’s time to try my hand at my own…
This last one is from the March 2012 issue of IJAD – it is Jean Rath’s review of Learning in the global classroom: a guide for students in the multicultural university, written in 2011 by Carol Dalglish, Peter Evans and Lynda Lawson.
P1: Sentence expanding upon and contextualising the title of the book. Brief outline of content, form and purpose: ‘provides…illustrative quotes from students to provide a sense of the lived classroom experience’.
P2: Describes the intended (student) audience. Casts gentle doubt on the authors’ claim of the book’s utility for educators, mitigated through hedging and abstraction; ‘it is likely that…educators would wish to engage critically with…more disciplinary specific pedagogies’.
NB this is the only time the authors are referred to directly in this piece – elsewhere the grammatical subject is always ‘the book/text/chapter’. This may be a device to depersonalise the criticism in the review.
P3: States number of chapters, lists the foci of the first four chapters without comment, and concludes by suggesting how developers might use these early chapters. There is a sense that the writer is clutching at straws to find practical utility for the academic developer, but if the limited praise is intended to mitigate criticism then it is very subtle.
P4: Summarises – very briefly – chapters 4 to 8. Acknowledges the relevance and utility of the cited references, which may also be an example of limited praise, particularly given the concluding comment, which suggests a lack of congruence between the nature of these references and the book’s intended audience.
P5: Summarises chapters 9 & 10. The statement that ‘it is probably not the place of such a book to deconstruct the unstable monolith [of] ‘Western thought’’ may initially be interpreted as a comment on the book’s delusions of grandeur, but is subsequently revealed as a device to mitigate the criticism that follows, in acknowledging the scope and boundaries of the text. However, it is possible that it is intended as both.
P6: Summarises final two chapters, praising the clarity of the section on plagiarism and noting the superficiality of the final chapter; here, as in the previous paragraph, the criticism is also mitigated by acknowledgement of the scope and boundaries of the work.
P7: Notes the significant contribution of authors’ previous work. There is the hint of an accusation here that content has been inadequately repurposed, and that the language of the core text is too complex for the intended student audience. This criticism is paired with a positive note on the relative (although still limited) accessibility of the accompanying activities and resources.
P8: In noting the occurrence of bias towards the business classroom, the writer strengthens the accusatory implication of the previous paragraph. In following a comment on its lack of relevance for laboratory work, the recommendation of the book for students in the social sciences and humanities is an example of limited praise.
P9: Reiterates the aim of the book without acknowledging that this aim has been met – an example of criticism by omission? Underlines the book’s limited utility for the academic developer, suggesting its primary use may be in seeing the kind of material our students might be reading – which is slight praise indeed. Concludes – somewhat controversially – with a praise-criticism pair and a final negative comment on the neglect of disciplinary nuance that is only marginally (‘many academic developers…’) mitigated through abstraction. Hedging is noticeably absent.