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Cruising with Robert Louis Stevenson
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

“Overall this sophisticated approach to Stevenson’s writings offers an admirable heuristic for bringing into conjunction his literal and literary journeys.”

Romanticism & Victorianism on the Net

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.

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.

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Hardcover
978-0-8214-1756-0
Retail price: $55.00, S.
Release date: June 2007
352 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for Cruising with Robert Louis Stevenson

”Oliver Buckton’s informed and sophisticated book skillfully combines...theoretical preoccupations with a meticulous exploration of Stevenson’s writing, probing the influence of travel on his fictional and nonfictional prose works.... A valuable addition to the study of nineteenth-century travel writing and fiction.”

Journal of British Studies

“Highly recommended.”

Choice

“The first book centered on the influence of travel on Stevenson’s writing from the beginning to the end of his career.... By largely exempting the most often examined of Stevenson’s texts, it focuses necessary attention on the others, particularly the juvenile fiction and the travel writing.... Thoroughly researched both historically and critically.”

The Victorian Web

“Oliver Buckton’s lucid study moves with grace and discernment from close analyses of literary texts to informed and consistently informative investigations of culture and colonial politics in the Victorian fin de siècle. Buckton shows how a commitment to ‘cruising’—as a mode of travel, a cast of mind, and a method of composition—enabled Stevenson to produce a body of literature that is at once historically aware and aesthetically sophisticated. Cruising with Robert Louis Stevenson will be indispensable not just to scholars of Stevenson but to all readers interested in the literature of modern empire.”

Stephen Arata, University of Virginia

Cruising with Robert Louis Stevenson makes a vital contribution to the resurgent critical interest in Stevenson’s increasingly fraught career. By tracing Stevenson’s enduring interest in ‘cruising’—the mobility that characterizes his travel narratives, historical romances, and writings on Samoa—Buckton unravels this great writer’s sharpened awareness of imperial oppression. Among its many achievements, this fine book makes it strikingly clear why the wandering protagonist of the historical romance David Balfour has profound political links with Stevenson’s own troubled excursions in the South Pacific.”

Joseph Bristow, UCLA

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