On the companion website to her book, The Book, which we will read together early 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.

This semester you will prepare a book report, though a very different kind than you might have written in primary or secondary school. You will choose one definition from the The Book website and use this definition as a prompt for research. In this process you should:

  1. Answer the following 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?”
  2. Identify, examine, and analyze 2-3 books that exemplify your chosen definition. These can come from from the archives we will visit, your own collection, another source, or (most likely) a combination of these. We will discuss what these investigations should include together in class, but in brief you will examine their form and content in light of your chosen definition, gathering evidence that will help you illustrate its meaning and relevance.
  3. Contrariwise, identify, examine, and analyze 2-3 books that challenge your chosen definition.
  4. Choose a second definition from The Book website that encapsulates how your ideas about the book have evolved over the course of your research.
  5. Articulate your own definition of “the book” informed by your research.

You will gather your research into a 8-10 page report that summarizes your findings to illustrate how you have come to understand the book. This report should fully elucidate your original chosen quote, as well as your final, original definition. In addition to this written report, you will prepare a five-minute presentation summarizing your report, which you will present to the class. Reports will begin in the fourth week of class, and you can claim your day on this spreadsheet. You must sign up by Friday, September 13.