“Subverting Christian Iconography in the Design of Book Covers for José Saramago’s Novel The Gospel according to Jesus Christ” é o título da Tese de Doutoramento da investigadora israelita Bracha Elhassid Grumer, na Universidade de Tel-Aviv — The Yolanda and David Katz Faculty of Arts. Apresentada em agosto de 2014, e nas palavras da autora: This research studies the design of book-covers, both as visual interpretations of literary ideas, and as reflectors of visual culture in the 21st century — an age characterized by global and digital capitalism that has bred unprecedented visual overload. The focus of my research is The Gospel according to Jesus Christ (O Evangelho segundo Jesus Cristo) — a “new gospel” that appeared in Lisbon in 1991. […]
In my dissertation I claim that the book-cover’s designers have followed, in visual language, Saramago’s novel that is marked by neo-Marxist and anti-religious ideology; moralistic, humanistic (even feminist) ideas; existentialist thoughs and semiotic inquires.
The novel was translated into many languages around the world and its cover was designed differently in each country. I examine the visual interpretations of these covers offered by the various designers, artists, painters, illustrators, typographers, and photographers, for the subversive novel. Analysis of these different cover designs, which relate to Saramago’s critical thought, reveals contemporary interpretations of the traditional Christian narrative, and at the same time reflects the visual culture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
A book-cover designer is the servant of two masters, the literary work, and the publisher: he attempts to convey the book’s main theme with one image that is viewed at a glance, and at the same time, treat the book as a “product”, and design a cover that is marketable and commercially attractive. In other words, the designer is asked to narrate, announce, interpret, explain, and deliver “what the book is about” through shapes, colours, lines, composition, texture, and typography. He attempts to convey the book’s genre, its promise, and convince consumers to purchase it. Book-covers, like other products’ packaging, are made to improve marketability, and to serve as the products’ luring showcase. Therefore, I examine how the various designers from around the world chose to portray the creation of the “international brand” God, embodied by his son Jesus, his Earthly representative, on the book covers of The Gospel according to Jesus Christ.