Byron’s “The Island”: Dialogism of Genre and Gender


Often dubbed as a romance, a Polynesian fantasy, The Island is one of Byron's finest examples of Romantic dialogism, prefiguring the indeterminate nature of modern literature. However, Byron scholars have shied away from a serious reading of this poem due to its slippery and supposedly “un”-Byronic quality. Written concurrently with Don Juan, The Island enjoys much of Byron’s poetic maturity and social concern with the liberal/radical individualism, represented by Christian Fletcher and anti-social existence of his fellow mutineers. The paper will argue that in this poem, the cultural, political, and gender/genre dialectics of binary oppositions are playfully deconstructed and that Byron, by overriding the femininity of the romance genre and transgressing the "politically correct" master narrative of the imperial discourse, anticipates in The Island Bakhtin’s chronotope through the title of the poem, the overlapping of history and fiction; and the opposition between the narrative and the genre. Hoodwinked with the romance formal trappings and entangled with Byron’s polyphonic voices critics have undervalued The Island as one of the mature poems of Byron, which actualizes Hume’s fear of the romance genre’s threat of subverting the power politics of gender/genre/race, in an attempt to project possibilities of a new social order.


May Maalouf




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