My Name is Red Paratext

In class we discussed how Orhan Pamuk emphasizes the importance of vision and seeing not only to experience illustration, but also to question the world around us.  I though it would be interesting to incorporate what we’ve learned about paratext from previous classes into how one sees and reacts to the cover art of this literary work. Below are a few covers:

The first one is most similar to the one I own. My initial reaction was that this is an eastern novel, but other than that it was difficult for me to predict what the plot could be. Now I realize that this was intentional because it’s a mystery that leaves room for a lot of interpretation.

The second cover also informs me that the novel embodies something of eastern culture, but shows this with more religious undertones than the first one. I think by incorporating the intricate arabesque as a major focal point, connotations of religion, specifically Islam, naturally drift into the viewer’s head. Also, it seems as if this cover is more wordy than the other three, but I think that may be due to the structural arrangement. By centering the words, it is evident that western ways of composition have influenced eastern publications.

The third cover is similar to the first cover in that by only showing half of the woman’s face and providing a collage of various natural elements, the plot and its’ meaning remain enigmatic. In my opinion, out of the four covers shown, this one is the least westernized.

For the final cover, my initial reaction was that it combined modern and aged elements. The font and structure makes it seem like an advertisement I’d see today in the west, but the aged style and color of the image makes me believe the novel eastern. Again, the battle between eastern and western ideas.

I think all of these covers show the main theme of the book that deals with conflict between western and eastern illumination.  What cover do you think is the best at representing the visual and textual messages of the novel? What were your initial reactions to viewing these covers?

Illustration & Meaning in The Secret of Kells

I loved the illuminated forest scenes in The Secret of Kells because of the bright colors and juxtaposition between sharp geometric shapes and lines, and the movement of the watercolor-like animation. As we mentioned in class, the forest resembled a place of wonderment outside the walled-in community of Kells. While watching the film I distinctly remember noting the interesting wall-like appearance of forest from the outside view. I paused the scene and looked at the following image:

This image could be interpreted in a variety of ways. At first glance I did not even notice the path or the entryway of the forest, I just saw a barrier of trees, but now looking at the image the entrance seems obvious. The trees were illustrated in a way that gave life beyond the walled in community a meaning of wonder and intrigue. As mentioned in class, illustrators actively make decisions on what to include, what to leave out, and how to style things in a way that articulates the right meaning. Viewing the forest entry as only slightly emphasized, I’m led to believe that the animators wanted to send a message about the characters’ relationship with nature and exploring outside of the norm. In the movie, Uncle viewed going into the forest as unacceptable because it seemed dangerous, but exploration of the forest was encouraged by Aiden and fascinated Brendan. I think the animators decided to present the forest as this barrier to show the Uncle’s feelings, but intentionally included beams of sunlight over the subtle entryway to represent Brendan’s underlying curiosity. The illustration of the exterior line of trees are all uniform and symmetrical, which represents order, and I though this was interesting because usually when one thinks of a forest it’s typically irregular and disorganized. Do you think this has any significance? I think the trees could have been illustrated in a totally different way that still invoked a place of wonderment, but it might have missed the forbidden forest symbolism. The animators were extremely thoughtful in creating scenes, like this one, that would represent important ideas surrounding The Book of Kells. What do you think this image represents?

Cover Art of Classics (Romeo & Juliet)

Paratext plays a critical role in shaping viewer’s perceptions of enclosed material in a book before even opening it. As mentioned in class, the range of book covers for Homer’s Iliad spanned from modern and stylized, to archaic and dark. Some were simple and others were heavily symbolized; all of which intended to emit some kind of message and reach a specific audience.

In comparing and analyzing some of the many book covers of Homer’s Iliad in class, I was interested in looking at another classic novel that has various versions of cover art: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In some of the pictures I have attached below we can see that some paratext highlights a specific symbol, such as the rose (just like some versions of the Iliad emphasize the shield), and others focus on the characters. Some Romeo and Juliet covers are dramatized and serious, while others are playful and romantic.

Is it necessary to continuously remake the covers of classic literature such as the Iliad or Romeo and Juliet? I think it may be. As time progresses and generational interests, norms, and values shift, it is important for editors, publishers, and even marketers to consider what exactly will attract their target audience to a classic work, because a book’s exterior is instantly, maybe even unconsciously, perceived in a judgmental way. If paratext of classic literature continues to adapt to attract certain readers, it will not only benefit the reader, who was intrigued by the artwork and soaked up the content, but the author as well seeing as they made a profit. While I recognize that creating new cover art for classic works can potentially take away from the history or origins of a piece, I believe it is acceptable for creative minds to construct alternate versions of paratext through their own interpretations.