Book reviews: The role of metadiscourse devices and generic structure

A comparison of two reviews


Term Paper, 2013
16 Pages, Grade: 2,3

Excerpt

Table of contents

Introduction

Methods of analysis

Data set

Structure analysis of the sample reviews

Comparison of the reviews' structures

Classification of metadiscourse devices

Comparison of the role of metadiscourse devices

Conclusion

Bibliography

Introduction

The book review is a remarkable type of text. Despite the fact that it is a highly common short genre, little attention has been paid to it by genre analysts until the end of the last century (Motta- Roth 30). In the academic context the genre is often considered unremarkable, because book reviews are rarely a source of citations in books or journals. Nevertheless, the genre has its merits, for example as an opportunity to write for inexperienced authors, who would be overwhelmed by the demands of longer academic texts (Motta-Roth 31).

This paper deals with the analysis of the short genre book review. It aims to answer the following research questions: Do the two texts differ in terms of a) their structure and b) the role of metadiscourse devices which negotiate the relation between authorand reader?

For this purpose two book reviews will be examined and compared. This comparison can be expected to be fruitful, since the texts were published online and therefore usually allow for a great variety writing styles and opinions than printed media.

Methods of analysis

Two major concepts play a role in this research paper. First, the generic structure of book reviews will be examined and compared. Second, the metadiscourse resources are analysed.

For the first part, the work of Motta-Roth (1998) is central. She developed a model of the generic structure of book reviews, which will be used to examine the specific structures of the texts at hand. The model comprises four major stages that each contain a number of correspondent sub­functions. The latter are not obligatory, that means they may or may not occur and the omission of one or two sub-functions does not disqualify a text to be classified as a book review. The transition from one stage to the other is usually signalled by a paragraph shift as well. The first major move is the introducing of the book. It may contain information about the topic, author and potential readership of the book. Moreover, topic generalizations can be made and the book is inserted into the field, which means it is put into a relation to other books of the same category or topic. The second step is the outlining of the book. Here, more detailed information is provided, for example on specific chapters or the organization of the book. Citations from other resources than the main text (i.e. the appendix) are another optional constituent of this stage. Whereas the first two moves usually have the function of describing the book, the steps 3 and 4 aim to evaluate it. In the third stage, this is often done by highlighting certain passages which are then commented on in a positive or negative way. By closely examining the 'highlights' (the best or worst parts of the book), reviewers create a basis and support for their closing evaluation, which is performed in the fourth and last move. This final assessment is designed in one of two ways. Authors can decide to take a definite position of either recommending or disqualifying the book. The alternative is a recommendation despite deficits that have been mentioned before. The fourth stage also serves the purpose of rounding up the review and is therefore often introduced by metadiscourse markers like 'altogether', 'in summary' or 'finally'. Although the model shows a chronological order of the four major moves, a variation of the order of the sub-functions is said to be possible (Motta-Roth 30­42).

The second major part of this paper is the concept of metadiscourse. It can be defined as follows. "Metadiscourse is the cover term for the self-reflective expressions used to negoatiate interactional meanings in a text, assisting the writer (or speaker) to express a viewpoint and engage with readers as members ofa particularcommunity."(Hyland 37)

Although this is a very detailed and refined definition, it is difficult to comprehend for anyone who does not deal with these problems on a regular basis. An easier way of defining the term is by saying that it is discourse about discourse and refers to the author's linguistic manifestation of interaction with the reader in a text (Vande-Kopple, 1985 in: Amiryousefi 159).

The analysis of the metadiscourse devices contained in the sample texts will be based on the classification scheme proposed by Hyland (2008). It consists of two broad dimensions with 5 sub­categories each. The first of the former is denoted as the interactive dimension. Its purpose is to design the text in a way that it is comprehensible for the reader. Moreover it helps to steer the reader to the author's preferred interpretation of statements and arguments. Also, the interactive dimension serves the function of organizing the text. The interactional dimension, on the other hand, is concerned with an imagined dialogue between writer and reader. The author anticipates possible reactions to the messages contained in his text and responds accordingly (Hyland 49).

The corresponding sub-categories of the aforementioned dimensions are depicted in the table below, which also provides a short explanation of each resource.

Table 3.1 Ал rnterpersono/ model of metadiscourse

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Data Set

The data comprises of two texts which are book reviews on the book Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I chose book reviews, because obviously this genre is central to my term paper. Moreover, in order to make sense of quotes and references in the texts, I selected reviews on a book that I myself have read. It is a book that I consider both interesting and provocative, which results in a wide range of varying opinions on the book. For two reasons, the data has been derived from the internet. First, it is easily available and since the book has been published as recently as 2012, I couldn't be sure if any printed reviews existed at all. Second, I expected that online there is a greater diversity of texts in terms of extreme positions and writing styles. Since the comparison of the two reviews is an essential part of my work, I deemed it more interesting to have texts with lots of differences. For that reason I also made sure to select one review in favor of the book as well as one against it.

Structure analysis of the sample texts

I will now go on to analyse the two sample texts in terms of their structure. For that reason, I try to identify the main moves and their sub-functions that were developed by Motta-Roth (1998) in the sample reviews. Subsequently, there will be a comparison of the two texts and an interpretation of potential divergences in the structure.

A Julian Baggini, The Guardian

Move 1 - Introducing the book

Sub-function 1 - Defining the general topic of the book

Baggini starts his review with an example that illustrates the key concept of the book and fortifies it with a short explanation ofthe phenomenon. (Bindweed is a thing...!. 1-4)

Sub-function 2 - Informing about potential readership

There is no evidence of information on the potential readership. However, in line 5-9 Baggini connects the concepts of 'Antifragile' to those of 'The Black Swan' (the previous and very successful book of the same author, Nassim Taleb). So one could assume here that readers who liked 'The Black Swan' are potentially interested in 'Antifragile' as well.

Sub-function 3 - Informing about the author

In line 5-9 the reader learns that the author has published at least one more book in the past and that he has become popular in the process, (...dealing with the subject of the book that made his name: black swans. l. 5-6)

Sub-function 4 - Making topic generalizations No evidence ofsub-function 4 has been identified.

Sub-function 5 - Inserting book in the field No evidence ofsub-function 4 has been identified.

Move 2 - Outlining the book

Sub-function 6 - Providing general view ofthe organization ofthe book

No passage has been identified which contains information about the organization ofthe book. The author only provides an impression of the book's content in the sub-headline: '...book is full of important warnings and insights - and a whole lot of hubris' (sub-headline)

Sub-function 7 - Stating the topic ofeach chapter No evidence ofsub-function 7 has been identified.

Sub-function 8 - Citing extra-text material No evidence ofsub-function 8 has been identified.

Move 3 - Highlighting parts ofthe book Sub-function 9 - Providing focused evaluation About two thirds of Baggini's book review belong to this category. Much of the descriptive elements that could have been expected in the outlining portion can be found here. In this section, the author roughly summarizes specific concepts of the book and comments on them. He includes positive

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Move 4 - Providing closing evaluation ofthe book

Sub-function 10B - Recommending the book despite indicated shortcomings This sub-function is reversed in Baggini's review, as he is disqualifying the book despite indicated merits. This becomes obvious in line 36: 'Despite its many virtues, Taleb's book is hard to like...' Apart from that, the closing evaluation is quite similar to the theoretical model. It can be found at the end of the text (l.36-42) and appears in a paragraph of its own. On top of that it serves to round up the text.

B Albert Wenger, Continuations (Weblog)

Move 1 - Introducing the book

Sub-function 1 - Defining the general topic of the book

The general topic is not defined in the introduction of the text. However, a sentence that would serve this purpose can be identified in line 62: 'Much of Antifragile examines different areas of life such as education, medicine and government and analyzes them in this framework.' Yet, as this is the closing part of the review, I do not consider it an introductory element.

Sub-function 2 - Informing about potential readership

Wenger does not explicitly inform about the potential readership. Still, an indication of a potential audience can be found in line 2. By defining Antifragile as a non-fiction book, one can at least deduce that readers who exclusively read fictional genres are not adressed.

Sub-function 3 - Informing about the author

The reader learns about the author's name in line 1, no additional information is provided apart from that.

Sub-function 4 - Making topic generalizations No evidence ofsub-function 4 has been identified.

Sub-function 5 - Inserting book in the field No evidence ofsub-function 5 has been identified.

Move 2 - Outlining the book

Sub-function 6 - Providing general view ofthe organization ofthe book

Wenger states that the book is divided into the main text, which is based on logical arguments. Apart from that, there also is a separate mathematical document, which supports the arguments of the main text. (l.20-23)

Sub-function 7 - Stating the topic ofeach chapter

About 50% of Wenger's review consist of this section. Although the author is not explicitly stating the topic of each chapter in a fashion of 'chapter 1 deals with..., chapter 2 is about...'., there still is a long stretch of text with little or no explicit evaluation which summarizes the main arguments. This portion reaches from line 27 to 60 and clearly aims to outline the book in a relatively objective way.

Sub-function 8 - Citing extra-text material

There is a reference to the separate mathematical document that acompanies the book in line 21­25.

'For those who really care about math...'

Move 3 - Highlighting parts ofthe book

[...]

Excerpt out of 16 pages

Details

Title
Book reviews: The role of metadiscourse devices and generic structure
Subtitle
A comparison of two reviews
College
University of Potsdam  (Anglistik Amerikanistik)
Grade
2,3
Author
Year
2013
Pages
16
Catalog Number
V232474
ISBN (eBook)
9783656489702
ISBN (Book)
9783656490609
File size
489 KB
Language
English
Tags
book
Quote paper
Georg Funke (Author), 2013, Book reviews: The role of metadiscourse devices and generic structure, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/232474

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