Islands and the Modernists

The Allure of Isolation in Art, Literature and Science


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About the Book

This study examines five modernists in different disciplines—biology, painting, drama, fiction, and anthropology—whose work on islands made them famous. Charles Darwin challenged every presumption of popular science with his theory of evolution by natural selection, derived from his study of the Galapagos Islands. Paul Gauguin found on Tahiti inspiration enough to break through the inhibiting traditions of the Parisian art world. John Millington Synge’s experience on the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland gave birth to a new style of drama that defied classic divisions between tragedy and comedy. D.H. Lawrence’s life-long search for a utopian community culminated in his famous short story, “The Man Who Loved Islands,” that poignantly portrays the tension between idealism and realism, solitude and human intimacy. Finally, Margaret Mead began her career in anthropology by studying the remote South Sea Islands and through her work acquired the sobriquet “Mother of the World.” The text explores the extent to which islands inspired these radical thinkers to perform innovative work. Each used islands differently, but similar phenomena affected their choice of place and the outcome of their projects. Their examples illuminate the relationship of modernism to alienation and insularity.

About the Author(s)

Jill Franks teaches English literature and film at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Bibliographic Details

Jill Franks

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: 12 photos (4 in color), notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2457-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v

I: Introduction: The Lure of Isolation      5
II. “Isolated Countries”: Darwin and the Galapagos      19
III: “To Dream Before Nature”: Gauguin in Tahiti      37
IV: “Those Three Lonely Rocks”: John Millington Synge and the Aran Islands      73
V: “The Man Who Loved Islands”: D. H. Lawrence and His Island Scheme      105
VI: “The Cure for a Family Is a Family”: Margaret Mead and Samoa      139
VII: Island Dreams: Pitcairn as Paradigm      181

Notes and Works Cited      189
Index      203

Book Reviews & Awards

“well-researched”—The D.H. Lawrence Review.