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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 14, 2021

A multimodal analysis of Jane Eyre book covers

Contextualizing the acceptance and gradual rediscovery of a Western Classic in China

Jie Wu and Qinghong Wu
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies


This paper applies visual grammar theory to make a multimodal discourse analysis of book covers of the different Chinese versions of Jane Eyre. It illustrates the relationship between the social environment and social changes in Chinese society and culture in relation to an increasing social acceptance of the novel in China. This research not only validates the applicability and practicability of visual grammar in analyzing book covers, but also helps to show an ideological change in Chinese readers and publishers over time from the 1930s to the 21st century. Indeed, the connotations of book covers of the different Chinese versions of Jane Eyre seem to be closely related to different historical and social contexts. They document and bear witness to, in their particular way, the tremendous changes in Chinese society from early last century on. They also show that Jane, the heroine of the novel, seemed to be re-discovered over and over again in China, depending on the main social features of different periods. She seems to have been portrayed as the gray presence, the feminist, the lover and protagonist, and finally the icon.

Corresponding author: Qinghong Wu, Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, China, e-mail:


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Published Online: 2021-01-14
Published in Print: 2021-02-23

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