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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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3 From Defoe to Foe: Representation and Power in the Colonialist Context

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3From Defoe to Foe: Representation and Power in the Colonialist Context

J. M. Coetzee is known for his uncompromising criticism of the ideology of colonialism as well as for the dazzling narrative strategies with which he carries out such critiques. As is the case with Tournier, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe figures most prominently in Coetzee’s politically conscious career as a novelist. Perceiving the text to be a central allegory for colonialist ideology, Coetzee repeatedly returns to it, as is evident in his essays, in his Nobel acceptance speech and, most importantly, in his novel Foe. Foe, like Tournier’s Friday, is another significant re-vision of Robinson Crusoe in the twentieth century.

According to Derrida’s “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” every repressive structure has a center, which is an organizing principle consisting of a binary opposition that arbitrarily privileges one and excludes the other. The validity of the center decides whether the structure can be taken as a truth or not. The ideological structure in the fictional world of Robinson Crusoe is presented as the binary opposition between Robinson Crusoe/the colonizer/the master and Friday/the colonized/the slave. The mystification of Robinson Crusoe indicates that such an ideological structure has been taken as a truth. Targeting this center or truth, Coetzee initiates a unique deconstructive freeplay through Foe. The first strategy he employs is to present such a freeplay in the form of a novel. By limiting the battleground to that of writing, he...

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