Review reviewing

The film workshop was interesting, and I got a lot out of it, though I did really feel the differences in disciplinary identity acutely. It was very clear that I was more a literary scholar than a film scholar, at least in a room full of people who work on film full time. I don’t think my paper went over all that well. I’ve been having trouble with that recently. For some reason, I’m not communicating my arguments very well, and people end up with not much to say about them. I really need to work on that.

I was quite interested to learn that a review I had written a few months ago came up in the discussion at the author’s dissertation defense. Apparently I was really the only critical voice among otherwise positive reviews of his book. To be honest it triggered a bit of an impostor syndrome outbreak, so I went back and re-read the review this morning. I still think it’s a valid criticism, though I can see that it perhaps doesn’t do a good enough job of covering what’s good about the book.

On the way home I was massively delayed by a scheduling snafu, so I had an extra four hours to kill on top of the seven hour train ride home. I actually put that time to pretty good use. I finished reading the Witoszek book in the Gothenburg train station, and started right in on writing up my review. It’s currently closing in on 3,000 words, and I imagine it will reach about 3,500 by the time I’m done. My guess is that the journal editor won’t be totally opposed to that, though one never knows.

It’s been a really interesting process to review the book, in part because we use so many of the same texts, but to quite different purposes. To a greater or lesser extent Witoszek examines Maurits Hansen’s “Luren,” Henrik Wergeland’s periodical For Almuen, Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, Knut Hamsun’s Pan and Markens Grøde, as well as Bjørstjerne Bjørnson and Fridtjof Nansen as cultural figures–all of these are central to the cabin book (well, I use texts from For Arbeiderklassen rather than For Almuen, but same difference). After feeling a bit like a fish out of water at the film conference, it was very reassuring to dive into a discussion of texts and personages I know like the back of my hand.

Words written: 2,761

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