• Postcolonial pictures examining the Penguin edition book covers of Paul Theroux's travel writing through a visual social semiotic lens

      Waller, Rhian; University of Chester
      Travel literature, Paul Theroux writes, “moves from journalism to fiction, arriving […] at autobiography” (2008: 332). Perhaps because of this hybridity, travel writing is an enduring genre, and its texts are subject to fertile academic interpretation and re-interpretation. However, less attention has been given to the paratextual elements of the travel book. Book covers play a key role in establishing the nature and context of a written work. They operate as visual social semiotic forms, comprising textual and visual signifiers that stand “for an object or concept” (Moriarty, 2011: 228). The argument here is the resulting signs may encode meanings beyond the commercial purpose of the book cover. Semiotic analysis is therefore applied to the covers of Paul Theroux’s novel-length travel books. It is argued the Penguin book covers that feature on editions released over the last 40 years frequently include covert signifiers of unequal power relationships between western travellers and the peoples and cultures they encounter.