Projects in Reading & Writing

TOPIC: Paradise or Prison?: Exploring the Desert Island, from Robinson Crusoe to Lost

13213 2:30p-3:20p MWF TBA


From Lord of the Flies, Treasure Island, Pirates of the Caribbean, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Castaway to episodes of Family Guy, Futurama, and even Jimmy Buffett songs, the story of the desert island castaway has been retold again and again. It has appeared in everything from novels, plays, and poems to rock songs, films, and television. Through critical reading and writing about various retellings of the desert island scenario, this course will investigate possible reasons for the cultural fascination with the isolation of an individual in an unfamiliar place. What do these stories tell us about the self in relation to others, and why do they often involve an encounter with mysterious "natives"? How do we understand the self differently when it is isolated from the everyday world? What exactly does a "return to nature" entail, and why can it be both appealing and frightening? We will investigate these and other questions throughout the semester, engaging with both old and new versions of the desert island story, from fictional accounts like Robinson Crusoe, Pantomime, and the elevision series Lost, to "real-life Robinson Crusoes" portrayed in news stories and reality shows such as Survivor and Man Versus Wild.