Islands erased by snow and ice: approaching the spatial philosophy of cold water island imaginaries

Island Studies Journal. 2016;11(1):145-160


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Journal Title: Island Studies Journal

ISSN: 1715-2593 (Print)

Publisher: University of Prince Edward Island

Society/Institution: Institute of Island Studies

LCC Subject Category: Geography. Anthropology. Recreation: Physical geography

Country of publisher: Canada

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF



Johannes Riquet (University of Zurich)


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Time From Submission to Publication: 6 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Representations of islands in Western fiction typically revolve around tropical islands. Critical discourse tends to reproduce this tendency and rarely addresses the specific spatial poetics of cold-water island fictions. This paper discusses three texts that poetically deploy the geographical inventory of northern snow- and icescapes to challenge essentialist assumptions about islands: D. H. Lawrence’s short story “The man who loved islands”, Georgina Harding’s novel The solitude of Thomas Cave, and Michel Serres’s treatise Le passage du Nord-Ouest. It is argued that these texts reflect on the importance of the horizontal and vertical components of material and textual topographies for the conception and experience of islands. In all three, the physical transformation of the islandscapes by snow and ice serves to put the island concept itself into question. Serres’s philosophical text geopoetically portrays the Arctic archipelago of the Northwest Passage to explore the reciprocal relations between language and the material world. In Lawrence and Harding, the snow-covered islands cease to function as economically productive spaces and turn into complex spatial figures offering a philosophical meditation on islandness as a contradictory and multifaceted condition.