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Shining the spotlight on reviewing

For as long as there have been books there have (presumably) been book reviews. For as long as there has been an Internet, there have been amateur book reviewers. How does the practice of reviewing books accommodate itself to a world in which anyone with a computer and an Internet connection is free to tell the world how spectacular their spouse’s book is, and how lousy their high school rival’s is?

This is the subject of the 2009 Alexander Lectures, taking place today through Thursday at the University of Toronto. Lecturer Linda Hutcheon will talk about the uses and abuses of reviews in today’s connected world:

In the age of the ubiquitous blog and the constant online invitation to be a customer reviewer, it is time to review the task of reviewing. The review is usually considered a secondary, even a subservient, genre, but it can also wield considerable power across all the arts and even into the academy. That power explains why any investigation into the ethics and politics of reviewing today must engage the complicated interrelations of the reviewer “ either generous or with an Itching to deride (Pope) “ and the reviewed, whether lauded or libeled.

The lectures are at 4:30 p.m. each day in Room 140 of University College, 15 King’s College Circle.