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The Mind's Isle

Imaginary Islands in English Fiction

Adrian Kempton

Taking as its point of departure The Odyssey, Plato’s account of Atlantis and The Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor, this book examines the profound influence of these works on the development of island fiction as a genre specific to English literature. Close readings of island fictions from the past four centuries reveal the many ways in which they adapt, rewrite and refer back to these foundational texts, forming an important and intriguing literary tradition. Examples of the genre include such universal classics as Utopia, The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Treasure Island and Lord of the Flies.

Islands have always attracted travellers, writers and dreamers. This book leads the reader on a voyage of exploration to understand exactly what lies behind the island’s powerful appeal to the literary imagination. Along the way, it explores the cultural and historical background to Britain’s island status and its legacy of colonialism and imperialism.

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Chapter 9: Robinsonades: Golding and Spark


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Robinsonades: Golding and Spark

In the closing paragraphs of Robinson Crusoe, Defoe’s narrator-persona mentions some of the events that might be included in a follow-up to his story: ‘All these things, with some very surprizing Incidents in some new Adventures of my own, for ten Years more, I may perhaps give a farther Account of hereafter’ (p. 306). Defoe produced two sequels to Robinson Crusoe, only the first of which, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe is, properly speaking, a novel. In rapidly exploiting the success of his first novel with a continuation of his hero’s adventures, Defoe set a precedent as a novelist, and one that would be imitated by the author of the next best-selling novel in the history of the English novel, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740).1 In both cases, the sequel is disappointing: Richardson’s because Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, Part 2 (1741), relating Pamela’s married life, is more of a family instruction manual and moralizing treatise than a novel; Defoe’s because it is episodically disparate, Crusoe’s brief return visit to his island commonwealth forming only an interlude in a ten-year global voyage. Without a solitary castaway, without even having as sole inhabitants the father-son couple formed by Crusoe and Friday, Robinson Crusoe’s colonized island no longer has any hold on the reader.

The open-endedness of Defoe’s novel gave rise, two centuries after its publication, to several other sequels. Among the many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century...

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