Last quarter in my colonial literature course, we had an abstract book project assignment and it was, by far, one of my favorite projects of the quarter.
We were to take a post-colonial theorist and apply it to a colonial or post-colonial text and arrange our analysis in the form of a book. This book could have been made from an existing book or we could make the book from scratch.
My group chose to make the book from scratch, and what we came up with was rather obscure, but hey, if you say “abstract” to me, I’m going to take abstract as literally as possible.
My group decided to take the four theorist we read in our post-colonial literature class along with four post-colonial stories we’ve read and analyze them alongside the colonial text, Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell. The themes from the post-colonial stories in our class would match with the themes we pulled out of the story Shooting an Elephant. And, for the hell of it, we all decided to use found poetry as a way of appropriating the texts for our own purposes just as colonialism appropriated the goods, culture, and natives of the colony for their own purposes.
All of this analysis, of course, would take place in a hand-bound book that would fold out to look like an elephant.
I did say abstract, right?
Our group totaled four people, so each person in my group took a part of the elephant – one of the two ears, the head, and the trunk, along with one theorist and one story, and made their abstract interpretations of the two texts through the lens of the theorist onto their part of the elephant.
Let me show you some pictures to help (literally) illustrate my point.
Lauren, a former blogger here on The Poetics Project, took one of the ears of the elephant.
Kelsey took the other ear.
Jonathan took the head of the elephant, which opened up to look more like a traditional book – at least when compared to the other parts of the elephant.
I took the nose, because why wouldn’t I take the trunk? I did a previous post on the found poetry on my specific section of elephant, and this is the follow up blog that shows the project once completed.
I’m pretty proud of it. Our teacher commented that this was one of the most creative book projects she had seen. When you tell four sleep-deprived English majors hyped up on caffeine to do something abstract, well, this is what happens.
While our elephant shaped book and our binding method (me crocheting it together) is not traditional in bookmaking, it was a great experience to make my own book. I think, if I find the time to do so in the future, I’d like to take this task on again and create other homemade books by hand.