"Island Fictions" with Dr. Daniel Schümann

Course description:

Islands have captivated generations of poets and writers, as well as readers. Multi-faceted like the reasons for this age-old fascination are the poetic creations that are set on islands. It can be argued that it is essentially the 'amphibious' quality of islands as border zones between land and sea that has made them into favourite fictitious testing grounds for philosophic ideas and literary plots. Since islands are prime destinations of explorers, conquerors, and modern-day tourists, it can also be safely claimed that every island has its own myth(s). What is more, even non-existent islands have kindled the imagination of authors, as can be seen in the myths of Atlantis and Vineta, supposedly submerged into the Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea, respectively. 

This seminar will approach the literary motif of the island from different angles both in terms of the cultural background of the authors whose texts will be dealt with and in terms of the historical perspectives adopted. The tales and novels selected for discussion were originally written in four different languages English, Russian, Polish, and German. Consequently, a wide range of cultural traditions is reflected in these texts even if they refer back to certain common ur-texts of insularity (e.g. Thomas More's Utopia). The main focus will be on the following texts: 

  • Thomas More: Utopia (1516)
  • Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe (1719)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island (1883)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle: The Lost World (1912)
  • Evgeni Zamiatin: The Islanders (1917)
  • Jan Józef Szczepa ski: Die Insel (1968)
  • Vasili Aksënov: The Island of Crimea (1979)
  • Lutz Seiler: Kruso (2014