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Différance in Signifying Robinson Crusoe

Defoe, Tournier, Coetzee and Deconstructive Re-visions of a Myth

Haiyan Ren

Deconstructive rewritings are re-visions. This monograph engages Robinson Crusoe in tandem with two of its re-visions, Michel Tournier’s Friday and J. M. Coetzee’s Foe, from the perspective of the Enlightenment ideology. Basing the argument upon the assumption that Robinson Crusoe is a myth of the Enlightenment ideology representing the master narrative of the Enlightenment discourse, the book examines how the major ideological themes of the Enlightenment master narrative as manifested through the myth of Robinson Crusoe are rearticulated in Friday and Foe. It dismantles how these two re-visions, through deconstructive freeplay, question and more importantly deconstruct the basic premises and principles, or the concepts that enjoy the full presence of an absolute signified in the myth of Robinson Crusoe. Thus these re-visions not only transform the logocentric repressive structure in Defoe’s text into open-ended and dialogic discourses, they also partly constitute a chain of différance in signifying the myth of Robinson Crusoe. The author desires to generate large-scale understandings from small-scale insights through this research.
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1 Robinson Crusoe: A Problematic Myth of the Enlightenment

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1Robinson Crusoe: A Problematic Myth of the Enlightenment

A seminal novel whose influence would finally reach the entire Western world and beyond, Robinson Crusoe has become a cultural phenomenon.3 At the center of this story is the image of a heroic ← 25 | 26 → English man single-handedly surviving on an uninhabited island and transforming it into a utopian garden resembling England, the real island on which the fictional island is based. This image created by Daniel Defoe is meanwhile an image at the center of a modern myth. According to this myth, Robinson Crusoe’s feats are unparalleled. During his over twenty-eight years’ solitary residence on the island, he is able to domesticate the island and establish a colony, all by himself. In his transformation from an individual being deprived of almost everything to the king of the island, we witness in the “heroic” deeds of this single person nothing short of a supposedly historical progress of human society, albeit at a microcosmic scale, from the primitive nomadic society to a more organized agricultural society which is seconded by a capitalistic industrial society as we can surmise, considering that the colonization of the island is finished at the end of the novel. Since the eighteenth century, this fictional version of Robinson Crusoe has been regarded in the Western world, or maybe even in the whole world through the influence of Western cultural powers, as a positive role model exemplary in his dauntless courage, resourcefulness, perseverance, and versatility, a “hero” who...

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