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Reviewed by:
  • Weltliteratur im Bilderbuch
  • Sibylle Weingart
Marlene Zöhrer. Weltliteratur im Bilderbuch, (World literature in picture books) (Series: Kinder-und Jugendliteraturforschung in Österreich; 12) Wien: Praesens-Verlag 2010 249 pp ISBN 9783706906227 € 38.90

There is a long tradition of transferring “world literature”—either the original text or adapted versions—into the system of children’s literature. Whereas they used to be published predominantly in anthologies and digests, there is a recent trend for picture books to take up texts of world literature. In her study, Marlene Zöhrer examines how world literature is transformed or “translated” into picture book format. To do this, she analyzes the picture books on three levels, looking at the text, the paratext, and the pictures and paying close attention to the interplay and changing functions of these elements.

Zöhrer focuses on picture books and illustrated children’s books that showcase literature from German—and English—speaking authors, such as Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Shakespeare. Considering the wealth of material, this limitation is understandable, but nevertheless regrettable. In determining the target audience of the picture book adaptations, Zöhrer observes that they generally address children as well as adults and demonstrates that the change in medium can open up new perspectives on world literature. Which productive tensions, shifts, and new references between the original and adapted text (or paratexts) result from this cross-writing technique and change in medium? Do the illustrations rejuvenate or update the text? Which strategies motivated the choice of this new presentation? Which opportunities arise for the promotion of literature from “world literature in picture book form” and how does this form influence the shaping of the literary canon?

Stylistically, this insightful study is brilliant and also an enjoyable read for non-academics; Zöhrer works with concisely defined terminology and follows a clear, convincing outline. The argumentation is informed by the latest academic debates, touching on issues discussed by research in world literature and the literary canon on intertextuality and intermediality and productively relating these debates to current scholarship in children’s literature. [End Page 81]



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