Robinson’s Anthropo-Poiesis

by Simona Corso

Three hundred years after its first publication Robinson Crusoe continues to stand out as a powerful reflection on culture and nature. The novel re-draws the boundaries between humanity and animality and insinuates a very modern idea: human nature is not a given, but the result of a lengthy process. The idea is taken up and explored in some contemporary re-writings of the Robinson myth. By drawing examples from Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and from two contemporary re-writings of the novel – Michel Tournier’s Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique and J. M. Coetzee’s Foe – I will explore some aspects of the nature-versus-culture debate and show how Defoe’s hypotheses – and those of the artists who were inspired by him – are in tune with the most recent anthropological theories.