- An original book project students will conceive, develop, and produce over the entire semester
- Students work individually or in groups
- Prompt due February 24
- Proposal due March 10
- Prototype due March 31
- Final Book presented & submitted with artist’s statement on Thursday, April 27 or Tuesday, May 2
The central work of this class will be an original book project you will conceive, develop, and produce over the course of the semester. As we will see in our readings and other investigations, the word “book” can mean many things. Your projects can likewise take many forms and include a range of media: e.g. a letterpress chapbook, a zine, an altered book, an interactive digital book, or something else. I strongly encourage you to develop a book project that blends at least two of the media we will discuss together, but you could do more, and you might choose to use a medium we do not cover in class.
The content of your book will be entirely up to you. You might draw on your home discipline, a favorite hobby, or a cultural interest, among other possibilities. Your book can contain original content or remediate existing material (though if you choose the latter we will need to work together to ensure we follow intellectual property laws). Your final book will be due in time for class presentations during the last two days of class. You may work individually or collaboratively on these projects, with the understanding that collaborative projects should reflect more work in proportion to the size of their respective teams.
A major challenge for this project is scoping it appropriately. The shape of these projects varies widely, and so too do the areas to which students devote effort: the work of some projects is largely devoted to aesthetic creation, while other projects require significant technical development. In brief, however, this is the central assignment of this class and the most important expression of your engagement in our work together. I expect you to devote significant time to this project, however that time must be allocated for your particular project. You should anticipate devoting at least 1/3 of your course time developing this project early in the semester, and 1/2 to 2/3 of your course time to the project in the final half of the semester.
In order to keep this project on track, we will observe several milestones throughout the semester. We will determine the precise dates for these milestones together in the early days of class, but you should expect to submit the following:
On the companion website to her book, The Book, which we will read together in our course, Amaranth Borsuk collects definitions of the word “book” from authors, publishers, bookmakers, artists, and many others. These definitions do not all agree, and in fact the point of this collection is to push readers to consider many possibilities for this familiar form.
By Friday, February 24, you will choose one definition of “the book” from this website that you hope to engage in your project. You may choose a definition you hope your project will embody, or you may choose a definition you hope your project will reject, but you should choose a definition that prompts thought as you begin developing your project. You will submit a brief reflection that does the following:
- Answer the questions: who wrote your chosen definition? What do they do? How does their art, research, or other work intersect with the book, and how might that work help us understand their definition of “the book?”
- Unpacks the definition, explaining the reasons you find it compelling—or, by contrast the reasons you find it unsatisfying.
By Friday, March 10—essentially, just before spring break—you will submit a proposal outlining the book project you hope to complete, as well as the steps required to do so.
Regardless of how they are prepared, each proposal should describe:
- The content of your book. What will it be about?
- The format of your book. Will it be printed and bound? A zine? An ebook? A hybrid? Something else?
- The skills you will need in order to execute your project, as well as a plan for acquiring those skills, particularly if they are not skills we will formally study together. There will be class periods devoted to individual learning that can be used to facilitate such supplemental skill development.
- The materials you will need to complete your project, as well as a plan for acquiring these materials.
- The equipment you will need in order to complete your project, as well as a plan for accessing that equipment.
- The team working on your book. Is this an individual or group project? If the latter, what does each member bring to the group?
- A plan for evaluating the project. What are your goals for this book, and how will we know whether and to what extent those goals have been met?
We will evaluate your proposals together in order to ensure they are well outlined and scoped appropriately. All proposals need to be accepted before you move on to the next stage of development.
By Friday, March 31 you will submit a prototype demonstrating the viability of your project concept. What you will submit during the prototype stage will vary widely by project, but it should essentially be a proof of concept: evidence that the plan you outlined in your proposal is feasible and that you are on track toward completion. Among other possibilities, you might submit:
- A few pages from a longer printed project
- A set of conceptual drawings or wireframes from a graphic project
- A stylesheet and sample page(s) from a digital project
The primary goal for the prototype is to demonstrate steady progress on your project up to the point of submission, likely around mid-semester. If your project has significantly shifted from what was proposed and accepted at the proposal stage, the prototype stage will also be the point at which you will submit a revised project proposal.
4. Final Project
Your project should result in a final object, set of objects, or digital artifact, as well as an artist(s) statement describing what you have accomplished in your project. These will be due a little before the end of the semester, in time for the final project showcase during the last two days of class.
Your final project must include an artist(s) statement, likely a few pages in length, outlining the aims of your project and how you achieved those aims. Like the projects themselves, these statements will vary widely, but they should help readers/users understand the theories of the book your project seeks to instantiate, the methods and materials you used in producing your book, and any habits of reading required to fully understand your book project. In short, your statement should summarize the intellectual work of your semester so that the labor of your project—both physical and mental—is clear. Include in your final statement your own definition of “the book,”” adapted from our discussions, your writing throughout the semester, our readings, and the insights gleaned from working on your book project.
Final Project Showcase
During the last days of class you will present your projects to each other and to interested members of the campus community. We will discuss this event in more detail as the end of the semester approaches.