Research Repository

Islands in the (main)stream : the desert island in anglophone post-war popular culture

Samson, Barney (2017) Islands in the (main)stream : the desert island in anglophone post-war popular culture. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

[img] Text
Islands in the (main)stream.pdf
Restricted to Repository staff only until 5 November 2022.

Download (48MB) | Request a copy


This thesis examines the motif of the desert island in anglophone post-war popular culture as it coincides with the destabilisation of modern conceptions of identity. The extent to which desert island narratives either reify or challenge normative societal ideals is charted through the analysis of a range of texts across media: novels, radio, advertising, magazine cartoons, television, films and video games. Each text is placed into the context of a dialectic between discipline, the coercive method of state control theorised by Michel Foucault, and seduction, the technique of market dominance described by Zygmunt Bauman. Semiotic, psychoanalytic and spatial approaches are also used in close readings. The relationship of ‘home’ to ‘the Other’ was transformed by the advent of affordable international travel and communication; the thesis considers desert island texts since 1942, from the period since our planet has been opened up to tourism and global capitalism. This post-war timeframe maps onto the development of a self that is increasingly understood as fragmented, reflexive and alienated. A chronological approach is used in order to chart the ways in which desert island texts reflect this trend during what Bauman calls the liquid modern era. Power structures are examined but, rather than taking an overtly postcolonial stance, the thesis explores relationships between the ‘mainland’ and the castaway. The desert island is a useful site for exploring such concerns precisely because its desertedness, (presumed) Otherness and distance from ‘home’ allow it to function as an analogy of both the subject and the Other, and as an altered reflection of ostensibly normative continental life. Desert islands are often revealed to be inhabited; if the desert island represents a fantasy of agency in self-creation then the appearance of the Other represents the anxiety that that fantasy intends to dispel or seeks to embrace.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: desert island fiction twentieth-century bauman foucault discipline seduction
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Barney Samson
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2017 14:12
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2017 14:12

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item