This site relates to Castaway Tales, which will be published by Wesleyan University Press in May 2016.
At present, it can serve to entice you to buy the book when it comes
out; after that, it will provide interesting by-ways and extras for
readers of the book. Stories of castaways, real or imagined, written
or filmed, have a long history and a fascinating one. When we played
in a cubby-house in the backyard as children, we enjoyed the
pleasures of being apart and making do, and almost all stories of
castaways offer these pleasures. But almost all castaway tales –
including stories for children and including Defoe’s
, the pioneer story – also offer solitude, danger, violence, and cannibalism. Castaway Tales discusses a set of novels and stories from Robinson Crusoe to the present, keeping its eye both on the innocent pleasures and the darker aspects of the tales.

There’s a summary of Castaway Tales at ‘What’s
Castaway Tales. Here’s a summary of the summary – what the book does and what it doesn’t do:

  • looks at a lot of texts, from Robinson Crusoe to Yann Martel’s Life of Pi
    and Terry Pratchett’s

  • concentrates on the twentieth century and beyond, with just a sample of eighteenth and nineteenth century novels and stories

  • argues that the most influential, and the most often imitated castaway tales are Robinson Crusoe and H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau

  • suggests that we can divide the history of the castaway tale into three phrases: Settlement, Violence, and Reconciliation

  • argues that the history of the castaway tale tracks the history of colonialism, through confidence to disillusionment and withdrawal

  • argues that the history of the castaway tale tracks changing attitudes to work and to nature

  • looks at how castaway tales are changed – sometimes subverted – when the castaway is female rather than male

  • looks at what happens when
    modern authors revise the figure of Friday, introduced by Defoe as
    Robinson Crusoe’s servant and companion

  • gives attention to recent castaway stories about children, and to recent science fiction versions of the castaway tale

  • gives attention to castaway tales from France and Spain as well as England, Australia and the US

  • makes use of feminist and postcolonial criticism, but doesn’t attempt to be a contribution to Theory

  • regretfully passes over films of castaway stories, except for the occasional aside

Here are links to: 

  • a note about the author, Christopher Palmer, with links to some of his other writing, notably his book on Philip K. Dick

  • What’s In Castaway Tales (a chapter summary, with information about the novels and stories discussed)

A collection of comments on castaway tales that didn’t make the cut for the book, though, like many an athlete who fails to make the cut, they are all exceptional and interesting as (in this case) stories: —

  • Andy Weir’s The Martian, as castaway tale

  • Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island in relation to castaway tales

  • Michael Crummey’s Sweetland as castaway tale

  • Diana Souhami’s Selkirk’s Island, a non-fiction account of the marooning of Alexander Selkirk, thought to be a model for Robinson Crusoe

  • Muriel Spark’s Robinson

  • Stephen King’s ‘Survivor Type’

  • Iain Crichton-Smith’s poetic sequence, The Notebooks of Robinson

And also attached is a set of comments on various aspects of castaway
tales in general:

  • The Castaway as Orphan

  • Confinement,
    Transformation, Abundance

  • Insecure Spaces

  • Versions of the Invader

  • Names and Maps

  • Tantalising Others



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