A study of the construction of cultural authenticity in children's picture books portraying Chinese people and Chinese culture
This study investigated the construction of cultural authenticity in children's picture books portraying Chinese people and Chinese culture as well as the verbal, visual, and verbal-visual resources that were used for such construction. The study adopted theories of intertextuality and Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) as the theoretical framework. Using both qualitative analysis and analytical tools developed under SFL, the study examined eighteen picture books depicting the Chinese people and their culture published in English in North America. Qualitative analysis was first applied to the texts of the picture books for the identification of general themes on the construction of cultural authenticity. Then the texts, pictures and text-picture interactions were examined to reveal the verbal, visual, and verbal-visual resources that authors and illustrators used to construct cultural authenticity. A total of ten themes were identified that covered a wide spectrum of issues pertaining to cultural authenticity: filial piety and sibling love, insider children's perspective, representation of cultural insider, deliberate use of elements of Chinese culture in the narrative, cultural as product, process, and meaning, mixing and contrasting of cultures, construction of maturity and emotions of the protagonists, cultural continuities and variations, and the changing meaning of the U.S. as the land of opportunities, etc. These themes revealed possibilities on the construction of cultural authenticity in picture books portraying Chinese people and Chinese culture and provided insights into intertextuality in multicultural children's picture books, the construal of insider perspectives, experiences, and worldviews in Chinese children's literature. In addition, analysis of the texts, pictures, and text-picture interactions further revealed the verbal, visual, and verbal-visual resources that the authors and illustrators used in writing and illustrating these picture books. In particular, the authors used a variety of Appraisal resources to construct interpersonal meanings in the texts. They also employed Marked Themes to highlights significant transitions in the texts and cultural events in the narrative. The illustrators, in their attempt at cultural authenticity, deviated from mainstream conventions. For instance, they used long shots not to construct distance or objectivity but to construe the character's withdrawal from society as valued in Taoism and Buddhism. Additionally, most of the texts and pictures complemented each other in the construction of the narrative, despite occasional contradictions in their tone. These findings of the study were used to provide both implications for research in multicultural children's literature and for the teaching of multicultural literature and literacy in general in classroom settings. Future studies can address the themes identified in this study in more depth; for instance, their investigation can focus specifically on the portrayal of filial piety in multicultural children's literature.
Oliveira, Purdue University.
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