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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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2 De(Re)-Mystifying the Subject: A World without Others Re-visioned


2De(Re)-Mystifying the Subject: A World without Others Re-visioned

Friday7 results primarily from Tournier’s need to respond to the subjectivity of the Enlightenment man as portrayed in Defoe’s novel. From the psychological point of view, it problematizes Defoe’s heroic protagonist and his incredible productivity and raises an astute yet unanswerable question to Defoe: How is one supposed to keep sanity and reproduce a world consistent with the real world when he is all alone in a world without Others? Taking this problem as the starting point, Tournier’s novel leads the reader to the realization that the desert island is not an earthly paradise, but a limbo in the Pacific where people struggle in what Fornasiero terms “existential anguish”(7) against dehumanizing conditions. In this limbo, it would be questionable to maintain a heroic self and it is more logical to expect a process in which one would become perverted.

Identifying perversion as the logical outcome in extreme isolation marks the overturning of the ontological self so fundamental to the subjectivity of the Enlightenment man. In Positions, Derrida suggests that the binary opposition in classical thought is nothing short of a “violent hierarchy.” Deconstruction, therefore, means “first of all, [to] overturn the hierarchy at any given moment” (Derrida, Positions 41). To do the overturning well, one should continue “to operate on the terrain of and from within the deconstructed system” so as to “[bring] ← 71 | 72 → low what was once high” and bring forth a new...

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