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Rereading Robinson Crusoe (Defoe) and Friday (Tournier) – An Ecocritical Approach

Integral Ecology and Sustainable Business

ISBN: 978-1-78714-464-4, eISBN: 978-1-78714-463-7

Publication date: 6 September 2017


The worldwide environmental crisis has also influenced the field of literary studies. Posthumanism and ecocriticism is a new way of reading in which the anthropocentric approach and the binary oppositions such as human/non-human, wild/tame and natural/cultural are overcome. Posthumanism pays attention to all sorts of non-human life, animals, for sure, but aliens and robots are included too, while ecocriticism is concerned with the role and function of nature in literary texts. The chapter offers an ecocritical approach of Robinson Crusoe (Defoe) and Friday (Tournier). Rereading these novels we see that nature, or the elements, make up an ‘actant’ equal to the human characters and a special interest is created in the mutual conflicts which arise between nature and the human characters.

Robinson Crusoe (Defoe, 1719) is considered by many as an appropriate book to allow pupils to escape from or be shielded from the negative influence of civilization. Like Robinson on his island pupils should learn from experience. Defoe’s work was so popular it inspired a whole series of imitations called ‘Robinsonnades’ and many of them were edited specifically for children. But is Robinson Crusoe a valuable book from an ecological point of view? How does Robinson relate to nature? Does the novel focus on nature or rather on the human hero seeking to control and tame the environment?

In 1967, the French author Michel Tournier reworked the Crusoe myth in Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique (Friday or the Pacific Rim), followed by a parallel text for children Vendredi ou la vie sauvage (Friday or the Wild Life, 1971). In both novels Robinson’s black servant, Friday, initiates his colonial master into alternative ways of living, dismantling civilization and restoring nature. That same deconstruction of the idea of Western superiority fits well with the postcolonial philosophy that attacks the logic of domination and its hierarchical dichotomy: white above coloured.



Ghesquiere, R. (2017), "Rereading Robinson Crusoe (Defoe) and Friday (Tournier) – An Ecocritical Approach", Integral Ecology and Sustainable Business (Contributions to Conflict Management, Peace Economics and Development, Vol. 26), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 123-145.



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