A translated volume and its many covers – a multimodal analysis of the influence of ideology

Long Li, Xi Li*, Jun Miao

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    The front cover is often indicative of the overall theme. This sets up an interesting problem about the ideological investment in the cover of controversial books. Ideology is context-specific, and translation studies may offer a unique perspective in viewing how different cover designs may reflect ideologies. So far, a gap remains between multimodality and translation studies, especially from a social-semiotic approach. This paper therefore bridges this gap by applying Kress and van Leeuwen's visual grammar to an English cover of Jung Chang's Wild Swans and the Chinese and French translations. Wild Swans is a politically controversial family chronicle by a Chinese female writer in the UK, and has been critically acclaimed in the West but banned in Mainland China. This study has found how visual and linguistic patterns suggesting the Orientalist ideology have motivated the design of selected Western covers to increase the likeability and to “back-stage” the anti-Mao motif in the book.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)261-278
    Number of pages18
    JournalSocial Semiotics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


    • book cover
    • translation
    • ideology
    • orientalism
    • Wild Swans
    • Kress and van Leeuwen


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