Posted: September 17th, 2017
book review of Jonathan Israel’s A Revolution of the Mind
This paper is a scholarly book review of Jonathan Israel’s A Revolution of the Mind. Note that a scholarly book review is not a book report — summarizing the book is just one small part (about a paragraph), and it’s not particularly important whether you enjoyed the book or not.
A good scholarly book review should do several things, including: 1) explain/summarize what the book is about, 2) give its argument, 3) evaluate its use of evidence to support that argument, 4) place it in context with other books on similar topics by comparing its argument to other scholars’ arguments, and 5) evaluate whether/how it is useful to scholars (what it contributes to historical understanding and debates). In this case, for #4, you may not have read other books on the enlightenment. However, you should note how Israel says his book compares with other scholarship, and what makes it unique.
I suggest that you organize your paper something like this, transitioning seamlessly between sections:
I. Introduce the book and your assessment of it – what is it about, what is its argument, and what are its major strengths and weaknesses? Your “thesis statement” is your assessment of the book’s argument and its ability to support it. (about a paragraph)
II. Give a brief summary of the book, explaining how the author demonstrates the book’s argument across its chapters (1-2 paragraphs)
III. Evaluate how well it supports that argument. What examples are particularly convincing? Where does the argument or evidence seem to fall short? Is there other evidence you are familiar with that might lead to a different assessment of the Enlightenment (think of other things we’ve read in class)? This should be the longest and most developed part of the paper. (several paragraphs)
IV. Assess what constitutes the book’s most important contribution to knowledge about the Enlightenment, and/or what its greatest weaknesses are. (1-2 paragraphs)
Remember, you are writing about Israel’s interpretation of the Enlightenment – not about the Enlightenment itself. The book is the topic of your paper – write accordingly.
*~4 pages, double spaced, standard font/margins
*You will only need information from this course. Cite your sources, including Israel and anything else you use for quotations, ideas, words, or information with either footnotes or parenthetical citations.
*As outlined in the syllabus, papers must be submitted on Blackboard, under “Handouts and Assignments,” “Paper 1.” Note that Blackboard automatically checks your paper for passages from sources like books, journals, websites, etc. It will give you feedback as to what percentage of your paper is quoted from any of these sources. Additionally, you will also have the option of entering your paper into a database to guard against others somehow using it in the future.
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