Cruising with Robert Louis Stevenson — 2007

Travel, Narrative, and the Colonial Body

By Oliver S. Buckton

“Buckton’s scholarly synthesis pushes us to reconsider the relationship between travel writing and fiction in Stevenson’s body of work and to examine the intersections between issues such as colonialism and same-sex desire across genres.”

Victorian Studies

“Buckton convincingly argues for continued consideration of Stevenson as a writer who productively engaged with the social concerns of the contemporaneous moment.”

Rocky Mountain Review

“Buckton’s book offers a series of original, and at times, provocative reappraisals of some of Stevenson’s most undervalued writings.”

English Literature in Transition

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Cruising with Robert Louis Stevenson: Travel, Narrative, and the Colonial Body is the first booklength study about the influence of travel on Robert Louis Stevenson’s writings, both fiction and nonfiction. Within the contexts of late-Victorian imperialism and ethnographic discourse, the book offers original close readings of individual works by Stevenson while bringing new theoretical insights to bear on the relationship between travel, authorship, and gender identity in the Victorian fin de siècle.

Oliver S. Buckton develops “cruising” as a critical term, linking Stevenson’s leisurely mode of travel with the striking narrative motifs of disruption and fragmentation that characterize his writings. Buckton traces the development of Stevenson’s career from his early travel books to show how Stevenson’s major works of fiction, such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Ebb-Tide, draw on innovative techniques and materials Stevenson acquired in the course of his global travels.

Exploring Stevenson’s pivotal role in the revival of “romance” in the late nineteenth century, Cruising with Robert Louis Stevenson highlights Stevenson’s treatment of the human body as part of his resistance to realism, arguing that the energies and desires released by travel are often routed through disturbingly resistant or darkly comic corporeal figures. Buckton gives extensive attention to Stevenson’s writing about the South Seas, arguing that his groundbreaking critiques of European colonialism are formed in awareness of the fragility and desirability of Polynesian bodies and island landscapes.

Cruising with Robert Louis Stevenson will be indispensable to all admirers of Stevenson as well as of great interest to readers of travel writing, Victorian ethnography, gender studies, and literary criticism.


Picture of Oliver S. Buckton

Oliver S. Buckton is an associate professor of English at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, where he teaches Victorian literature, critical theory, and film. He is the author of Secret Selves: Confession and Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Autobiography and has published essays on Dickens, Stevenson, Wilde, and Schreiner.