Review of Literature

In the literature world, three major camps exist: the writers, the critics, and the theorists; for the most part, people who write reviews of literature fall into the critics’ camp for their work in thinking about various specific texts. A review of literature serves a necessary purpose, because it provides feedback to writers and critics, causing writers to produce clearer, more in-depth, or more daring work and causing critics to think more carefully about what the writers have produced.

Reviews of literature first and foremost interact with the text. After selecting a work of literature, the student should read it once casually and then two or three additional times, taking notes of possible points of discussion. The student should try to identify anything that makes the work of literature prominent, such as a unique writing style, glaring factual errors, or exceptionally poignant characters. The student may have to exercise some creativity here, because many works of literature seem blase or forgettable at first; however, the student who looks carefully can always find something that is worthy of mention, even if it seems minor compared to the greatness of other texts.

Once the student has taken some notes on points of interest within the text, he or she may begin writing the review of literature. The student should assume that the readers of the review are also probable readers of the book; for example, one need not try to convince inveterate nonfiction readers of the value of a particular work of fiction. In writing the review, the student may articulate comparisons with other well-known works of literature; draw out details or elements of artistry that the reader may not have noticed; explain allusions; or criticize the writer’s use of language, fact, or technique. Most importantly, however, reviews of literature must state whether or not one should read the book and why. The reviewer should come to a fair opinion about the work of literature, state it boldly, and support it with solid examples and evidence.

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