On Associations and Cover Art

What is evoked in any of us when we see illustrations and cover art for classic books? Not much probably, unless you’ve read the book.

There are also associations to be made from this imagery if one happens to know something about the book without having read it, such as with many of the classics, which are often such a part of the culture that the basics or even the details of the story are common knowledge.

Spontaneous associations are made through viewing illustrations and cover art; the imagery takes you to a deep place within your memory, and collective cultural memory where everyone knows what you know, and the only reason that is possible is that the story, including the action, characters, values, plot and mood were locked away there the entire time.

If you haven’t read the book, or if there is no popular, collective consciousness around it, there are no associations to be made. There is nothing there but a cognitive dead-end.

How many times are we forced to relive misogynistic literature, or porn, or any other piece of woman-hating popular culture — literature and narratives which were often forced on us to begin with, such as in mandatory primary or secondary-school reading lists, or abusive relationships, or just plain abuse — by having our memories refreshed, or constantly refreshed through imagery? How many times do we see an image that is potentially or actually female-positive but we don’t even know it, because there is no memory there to be refreshed?

Currently, and deliberately, misogynistic values, including culture and literature are the sediment and the bedrock — and too often, the totality — of our individual and collective memories, and this is harmful to girls and women who experience a cognitive dead-end unless we see something that is directly deleterious to our own interests: there, and only there, it seems, the associations, memories and knowledge run deep, rich and wide. Sickeningly, these associations are often positive, and they are meant to be.

We need layers to our female-positive understanding, and vast holds full of imagery, experience, characters, plot, value and mood and to have our memories refreshed of this constantly. If there is not enough female-positive imagery and culture there from which to construct deep, spontaneous associations that benefit us instead of harming us, we must make more.