Robinson on the Island of a Page. The Poetics of a Social System in the Island Literature of Postwar Europe  

In the island literature of postwar Europe, notably in retellings of Robinson Crusoe, the island creates the landscape of a social science laboratory, thus describing a topos at the crossroads of geography and the imaginary and examining the socio-political issues of postwar society.


Robinson Crusoé

Robinson Crusoe, illustration.

Source : BNF.

This research concerns the island literature published between 1954-1982 in Western Europe, with works such as Huxley’s “Island” (1962), Michel Tourner’s “Friday and Robinson: life on Esperanza Island” (1971) or Marguerite Yourcenar’s “An Obscure Man” (1982). In an original mixture of fiction and collective memory, robinsinades and island utopias have esthetic, cognitive and mental functions. They are works filled with the preoccupations that after the war were part and parcel of changes in the perception of the nation, of social time, the mastery of space, and identity as it was perceived in the European imaginary. In these narratives, the main characters are all marked by internal rupture: their ideas, principles of life and even of civilization are redefined, if not radically transformed. Most often, postwar island literature clearly bears a historical trace, mirroring the socio-political issues of European (re-) construction as well as having an imaginary dimension, evidence of a desire for evasion and the dream of an “elsewhere”. 

Corpus of works studied


  • The island utopias, such as Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954) or Island, by Aldous Huxley (1962);
  • Island novels, such as The Magus by John Fowles (1965) and Friday, or the other Island by Michel Tournier (1967);
  • Texts that see the island as a poetic of the self, such as An Obscure Man by Marguerite Yourcenar (1981) or Insula by Ioan Grosan (1985).