Skip to main content
Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster logo
COVID-19 information and updates

Find the most recent updates here, as well as FAQs and information for students, faculty and staff.

Dr. Phillipa Chong

Phillipa Chong talk: October 25, from 10:30-noon (Hamilton Hall 305).

Phillipa Chong, an assistant professor in McMaster’s Sociology department and an expert in studies of cultural practices, valuation, work and qualitative methods, will be giving a talk on her forthcoming book, “Inside the Critics' Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times”, on October 25, from 10:30-noon (Hamilton Hall 305).

Oct 22, 2019

Philippa’s book reports on her fascinating qualitative study of how book reviewers go about their work. Here’s a quick description of the book:

“Taking readers behind the scenes in the world of fiction reviewing, Inside the Critics Circle explores the ways that critics evaluate books despite the inherent subjectivity involved, and the uncertainties of reviewing when seemingly anyone can be a reviewer. Drawing on interviews with critics from such venues as the New York TimesLos Angeles Times, and Washington Post, Phillipa Chong delves into the complexities of the review-writing process, including the considerations, values, and cultural and personal anxieties that shape what critics do.

Chong explores how critics are paired with review assignments, why they accept these time-consuming projects, how they view their own qualifications for reviewing certain books, and the criteria they employ when making literary judgments. She discovers that while their readers are of concern to reviewers, they are especially worried about authors on the receiving end of reviews. As these are most likely peers who will be returning similar favors in the future, critics fears and frustrations factor into their willingness or reluctance to write negative reviews.

At a time when traditional review opportunities are dwindling while other forms of reviewing thrive, book reviewing as a professional practice is being brought into question. Inside the Critics Circle offers readers a revealing look into critics responses to these massive transitions and how, through their efforts, literary values get made.”