Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts

Degree Name

Composition, Rhetoric, and Digital Media

First Advisor

Juliette Kitchens, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mario D'Agostino, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Janine Morris, Ph.D.


Within the book publishing industry, purchase statistics often determine a book’s success. This metric neglects crucial factors of reader engagement (i.e., reception and anticipation of current and future work) such as level of interest and appreciation. By blending key concepts from work on assemblage, ecology, reader-response, audience invoked, and media studies, this thesis attempts to (re)invigorate the discourse of book paratexts’ role in inspiring reader engagement. As a manifestation of various voices performing and contextualizing a core text for readers, paratexts are a key component to the discursive uptake of books by readers and their publics. Book covers, specifically, are the most front-facing paratexts and have considerable potential to inspire lasting engagement in audiences. Specifically, this project uses a stylistic analysis of 3 prominent books from the independent press imprint Algonquin to examine the choices made in the composing, production, and initial uptake of these texts as they attempt to move into spheres of discourse. In this manner, this thesis investigates the potential for cover matter to inspire engagement in theory, in intent, and in practice. By asking what potential functions book paratexts can perform, scholars and industry professionals can better gage what paratextual choices correspond to quality instances of public and reader engagement.