Book Covers and State Translation Programs: A Multimodal Approach to Book Covers in the Panda Books Series

SAGE Open, Volume 13, Issue 2, April-June 2023.
In the era of globalization, institutional translation has become increasingly important. The Panda Books Series (PBS) is an exemplar of institutional translation that translates and disseminates Chinese literature to other parts of the world. The present study provides a multimodal analysis of the book covers in the PBS in terms of their visual meanings and intersemiotic relations. Analysis of 129 front covers and 64 back covers reveals that a positive and non-threatening image of China is constructed by characterizing China as a gender-equal, peaceful, and rural country, while a modern and approachable image of Chinese writers is created to highlight the authorship. The verbal and visual modes that are present on the covers often repeat the same information to reinforce positive images of China and Chinese writers, which is instrumental in realizing the goal of the PBS. It is argued that the agency of subjects at different levels, that is, the political ideology of the state, the governmental institutions involved, and translators and editors, all combine to shape the book cover designs of the PBS. This study contributes to research on institutional translation, especially state translation program, from a multimodal perspective.

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