ABSTRACT

Since the first publication of Johann David Wyss’s The Swiss Family Robinson, illustrated editions have directed audiences to identify particular scenes, situations, and adventures as key to understanding the Swiss pastor’s narrative for children: illustrations—from the nineteenth century to the present day—have defined the ways in which to read and make sense of the text intermedially. This article will focus on a visual narrative consisting of six woodcuts that was commissioned for the first Chinese translation of the work, which was published in installments in the Shanghai-based magazine, The Tapestry Portrait Novel (绣像小说) in 1903. This translation was based not only on a rewriting of Wyss’s work, a rendering in monosyllabic words by Mary Godolphin, but the locally produced woodcuts also shaped the Chinese readers’ understanding of the text, at times not following details of the original and departing from earlier (western) illustration practice. The article will offer a detailed study of these woodcuts, their storytelling, and the visual interpretation they advance, at the same time focusing on how the illustrations adapted the narrative to the iconic-representational conventions of the target audience.

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