University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada
I do not have any relevant financial / non-financial relationships with any proprietary interests.
Participants should be aware of the following financial/non-financial relationships:
Renren Yang: No disclosure data submitted.
A print book cover is often regarded as a protective skin, a mnemonic device, and a compelling advertisement of the book. But book covers for Chinese web novels defeat such expectations. How does the rise of the Internet remold the functionalities of book covers? Achieved what kind of socio-political effects? This paper studies the relationship between Chinese web novels and their digital covers. I first historicize the shift from rough to polished cover design for Chinese web novels around 2009-10 and discuss how designers have tried to escape the flatland of two-dimensional paper while layering the cover information on computer screen. Then I examine a number of spoofy book covers for web novels (p.e. Wife’s Husband by Fennu de xiangjiao, Travelogue of Unusual Creatures by Yuan Tong, Uneasy Game by Woye hen juewang). By exploring the rhetoric figures of appropriated memes, awkwardly drawn words and broken lines, and ventriloquist speeches on the cover, I demonstrate that these covers celebrate a carnival of playful flatness, crude superficiality, and childish naivety, which harks back to an earlier innocence of Chinese Internet literature. Such cover designs not only contradict the complex world-making narratives in the novels, but also resist digital phantasmagoria in the society of industrial spectacle. Yet meanwhile, our trivial emotions elicited by the minor differences of these covers against more generic ones, ranging from enthusiasm to boredom, from tenderness to aggression, mirror our readerly responses to Internet serialization and index the parasitic yet excessive modes of media circulation in digital China.