Review 19: Guidelines For Reviewers
Guidelines for Reviewers
  1. Defining and Assessing the Book. Normally a review should summarize the argument of the book, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and assess its contribution to a particular field. Note that stimulating reviews often spring from critical resistance to an argument or interrogation of it--whenever they are warranted. Feel free to question and challenge anything you don't find fully convincing, or at least to explain what sorts of resistance the book might provoke. For good examples of reviews that meet these criteria, see Mary Favret, George Levine, Patrick Fessenbecker, and Michael Slater.

  1. Contextualizing the Book. If you can, briefly explain the relation of the new book to one or more of the following: previous books by this author, other books recently published on the same topic, and one or more current debates about it. Framing the review in this way helps the reviewer get quickly and essentially to what is new about the book, and to say how it refines, challenges, or re-shapes our present view of its topic.

  1. Engaging the Audience. Striking a balance between specialized focus and breadth of perspective, reviewers should feel free to engage specialized studies in their own terms but should also point up--wherever possible--the larger implications of any book under review. They should try, in other words, to indicate what this book may offer to anyone interested in nineteenth-century literature. Key terms known chiefly to specialists should be either briefly explained or digitally linked to other websites (see item D), and the prose should be readable (see item L).

  1. Digital Links. Reviewers can enhance their work by linking key words to explanations and relevant documents furnished on other sites, especially The Victorian Web and Nines. All the reviewer needs to do is copy and paste the relevant web page after the key word, and we'll do the rest. Alternatively, the reviewer may link to long quotations posted at the end of the review by simply writing "quotation #1, #2, etc." in parentheses (we'll do the linking).

  1. Images. The title of every book reviewed on the site will be accompanied by a picture of the cover. In addition, reviewers may specify any images from the book that they wish to discuss so that the site can obtain digital copies from the publisher.

  1. Citations. Use no footnotes. Cite all sources parenthetically in a simplified MLA Style as follows:

    1. Cite the book under review by page number alone (23).

    2. Cite other critical books by author, short title, date, and (where necessary) page, skipping author's name if already mentioned in the text and abbreviating follow-up references:

    Susan Wolfson, Borderlines (2006)

    Jerome McGann, Fiery Dust (1968)

    (Kenneth Johnston, The Hidden Wordsworth [1998] 56)

      (HW 89)

    1. Cite short poems by title alone, long poems and plays by title (unless already mentioned in text) and relevant numbers:

    (Prelude [1850]: 6: 202-10) (Don Juan 2: 46) (Othello 3.2.46)

    1. Cite primary-source books by author, short title, bracketed publisher and date where needed, and page:

    (Stevenson, South Seas [Scribner's 1896] 81)

  1. Length: Normally 1500-2500 words, not counting any quotations reduced by digital link to material furnished elsewhere on the site. Reviews may exceed 2500 words, but reviewers should nonetheless aim for concision, avoiding redundancy whenever possible. There is no need, for instance, to use the full title of the book under review once it has been given at the head of the review. It's quite enough to say "the present book" or just use the author's name, as in "X here argues that . . ." And there is seldom any need to quote chapter titles.

  1. Timeliness. Please submit your review within ninety days of receiving of the book.

  1. Heading and Ending. Begin and end your review as shown here:



(Oxford, 2010) xvi + 148 pp.

Reviewed by Richard Lansdown



Richard Lansdown ( is Associate Professor of English at James Cook University, Australia.

Put your name in red with the link to your web page (if you have one) right after it. This link will be embedded in your name when the review is posted.

  1. Format. Please submit the review as a Microsoft Word file attached to an email message. If you have been assigned an editor, sent it directly to him or her. Otherwise send it to

  1. Readability. Last on this list but first in importance, strive to make your review as readable as possible. Here are a few tips:

    1. Start with a short, simple sentence such as the one that opens Noah Comet's review of Shanyn Fiske's Heretical Hellensism: "Hellenism has long been reserved for men."

    1. Break up a string of long sentences with an occasional short one, and break the forward march of declaratives with an occasional question. Why not?

    1. Whenever possible, use verbs of action rather than the verb to be:


    The final chapter {is a recapitulation of } the previous ones.

    1. Strive for concision, clarity, and coherence.
  1. Reviewing a Collection of Essays.   As much as possible, identify the aims of the collection as a whole, the chief topics investigated, and the leading points of contention. Do not tamely summarize every single essay, one after another.  Instead, showcase  a few that best exemplify what the volume as a whole has to offer, and treat the others more briefly—in one or two sentences or less.  For exemplary reviews of essay collections, see Elizabeth Helsinger and Laurence Davies.

  1. Reviewing Editions of Letters or Diaries. Here the most important question to answer is what the diaries or letters tell us about the writer and his or her milieu.For exemplary reviews in this category,  see Kenneth Johnston and Martin Meisel.

  1. Proposing a Review. If you wish to review any one of the books on the Books Announced page that has not yet been assigned to a reviewer, copy the title and description of the book, and along with your name, one page cv, and writing sample of not over 500 words, email it to