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Crusoes and Other Castaways in Modern French Literature

Solitary Adventures

Joseph Acquisto

Crusoes and Other Castaways in Modern French Literature: Solitary Adventures by Joseph Acquisto examines the many ways in which the castaway, particularly in the form of engagement with Robinson Crusoe, has been reinterpreted and appropriated in nineteenth through twenty-first century French literature. The book is not merely a literary history of the robinsonnade in France; rather, Acquisto demonstrates how what he calls the genre of “solitary adventure” becomes a vehicle for exploration of much larger questions about the reception of texts, modes of reading, and the relationship between popular and serious literary traditions. The heart of Crusoes and Other Castaways in Modern French Literature examines a crucial moment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the history of cultural perspectives on reading and solitude intersect, catalyzing a reconsideration of Defoe’s tale. Acquisto’s philosophically inflected readings of works by writers from Rousseau to Balzac, Verne to Gide, Valéry to Tournier enhance intertextual and cultural approaches to the castaway myth and broaden our appreciation of the dynamic relation it has to modern French literature writ large. « less more »
University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 282Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-61149-406-8 • Hardback • August 2012 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
978-1-61149-506-5 • Paperback • June 2014 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
978-1-61149-407-5 • eBook • August 2012 • $37.99 • (£24.95)
Joseph Acquisto, PhD is an associate professor at the University of Vermont, specializing in nineteenth and twentieth century French literature.
Note on Translations
Chapter One: Children of Rousseau: Castaways and Solitaries in the Early Nineteenth-Century Novel
Chapter Two: What is the Moral of this Story?: The Popular Robinsonnade in the Nineteenth Century
Chapter Three: Toward the Inner Solitary Adventure: Reading, Adventure, Solitude
Chapter Four: Turning Inward: The Robinson of the Poets
Chapter Five: Adventure in New Territory: The Solitary Adventure Novel 1921-1972
Chapter Six: Children of Tournier: The Late Twentieth Century and Beyond
Works Cited
About the Author
In the introduction to his innovative, intertextual study of the French castaway narrative, Acquisto (French literature, Univ. of Vermont) discusses the Crusoe story and its cousins from a French perspective, which deemphasizes a Protestant, imperial reading and the proto-colonial aspects of Crusoe's relationship with Friday. As Acquisto argues, the French tradition succeeds in turning the solitary adventure of the castaway into a heightened, attentive introspection, thereby transforming popular novels into serious works of art, andmost interestinglynarratives aimed at women and children into narratives intended for men. Beginning with Rousseau, the author traces the solitary adventure throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in both poetry and prose. Jules Verne, Paul Valéry, André Gide, and Michel Tournier all receive extended, worthwhile attention. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

Acquisto argues convincingly that in successive French rewritings from the nineteenth century to the present day the practical and essentially pragmatic concerns of Defoe’s hero are gradually infused with an exploration of the mental terrain of the protagonist. The castaway story is interiorized as the space of the remote island is metamorphosed into the space of the mind: experience becomes imaginative, activity becomes contemplation, and the voyage is transformed into the exploratory adventure of reading.
French Studies