University of East Anglia
Project Title: Chasing Fragments, Writing the Island: A novel, Bodeg, and a critical essay, Female Artists and Castaways in Contemporary Island Literature.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, ‘the stable antinomies of earth and water have been disturbed in a number of ways in [the twentieth] century in our understanding of the island.’ This refers to a growing body of inter-disciplinary research, from theories of island biogeography to the work of thinkers such as Deleuze. The notion of islands as bounded, graspable totalities firmly entrenched within imperialist discourse is challenged, and instead they are presented as more elusive signifiers, worthy of critical interest – something conveyed by the newly emergent discipline of nissology; the study of islands for their own sake.
This project comprises both a creative and a critical response to this shift in perception. The former is a novel, Bodeg, which tells the story of an English family’s visit to a fictional island in the Arctic Circle. Whilst the majority of the story is written in the third person perspective, the island of Bodeg narrates parts of the story in the first person point of view. It has been given a voice, providing an alternative to its historical position as a marginalised territory.
The critical thesis, Female Artists, Phantasms and Castaways in Contemporary Island Literature, draws upon this theme of marginalisation, examining the interaction between female subjects and island territories in four contemporary texts.
The first chapter, Looming through the Glim: Approaching the Island, introduces contemporary theoretical approaches to mapping the island, exploring its perceived position on the margins. The second chapter, The Footprint in The Sand: Modern Female Crusoes, is a study of the enisled female protagonists in J M Coetzee’s Foe and Jane Gardam’s Crusoe’s Daughter. The third chapter, Female Artists, Phantasms, and Ultima Thule, uses John Burnside’s A Summer of Drowning and Sarah Moss’s Night Waking to investigate female subjects’ creative representations of island territory. The order of these chapters replicates Bodeg’s structure of a visit to an island, from the first glimpse on the horizon to setting foot on the shore – a phenomenological experience and its subsequent artistic recreation.
The thesis as a whole operates as an “alternative history” of the island.
It challenges the way in which islands have traditionally been depicted in literature by exploring how two of the most pervasive tropes in island literature – ghosts and castaways – have been rethought and re-interpreted.
A nissopoetic approach to understanding the island is adopted; exploring its aesthetic, semiotic and geographical constructions in contemporary literature both creatively and critically. Ultimately, it is a contribution towards the construction of an interdisciplinary nissological lexicon, a narrative resistant to cultural and historical bias.
Supervised by Henry Sutton and Karen Schaller.
Islands, Modernism, Feminism, Derrida, Kristeva, Robinsonades, Isolation, Psycho-geography